The Iowa Straw Poll, a fundraising event for the Republican Party of Iowa that advertised itself as a pivotal proving ground for the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, died on Friday. It was 36.
The governing board for the Republican Party of Iowa voted unanimously Friday to cancel the straw poll, a milestone on the path to the White House that had passed the strategic tipping point. It was no longer a political risk for presidential campaigns to walk away from the straw poll, and too many of the 2016 contenders had opted to skip it for it to survive.
It was a brilliant scheme while it lasted—at least for the state party. Candidates would shell out tens of thousands of dollars to cover the cost of admission for supporters (or people who claimed to be supporters). They'd even bus them in from distant corners of the state in the hopes that the free ticket, transportation, and food would buy them loyalty in the voting booth. If it happened on Election Day, it'd be a scandal. (This is a state that spent $250,000 to prevent people from voting.) But in August in Iowa, it was just folksy.
The straw poll was not a good predictor of who would win the GOP primary, though. Only one victor (Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 1999) ever went on to win the party's nomination. Maybe that's why Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, two of the GOP's leading candidates, decided not to participate. (Even Mike Huckabee, whose strong straw poll performance in 2007 presaged his victory in the caucuses, said he wouldn't spend resources to compete at the event.) The straw poll was a test, and the only way to pass was to recognize that you didn't have to take it.
But it was also a victim of its own success. Now conservatives don't have to wait until the straw poll to see their favorite candidates in one place, and interest groups within the party are getting into the business themselves. Weekend cattle calls are the new normal, whether it's a meet-and-greet with the Koch donor network, ribs at Sen. Joni Ernst's motorcycle barbecue, an appearance to Erick Erickson's RedState Gathering, or even a trip to Disney World.
John Doar (right) escorts James Meredith to his first class as the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962.
Few people in the federal government did as much for the civil rights movement as John Doar. As a lawyer in the Department of Justice, he rode through the South with the Freedom Riders in 1961, investigated the murders of three civil rights workers in 1964, and at one point in Jackson, Mississippi, put himself between police and demonstrators to defuse a violent situation using only his reputation. As the New York Times recounted in his obituary last year:
"My name is John Doar—D-O-A-R," he shouted to the crowd. "I'm from the Justice Department, and anybody here knows what I stand for is right." That qualified as a full-length speech from the laconic Mr. Doar. At his continued urging, the crowd slowly melted away.
The FBI's files on Doar, which was released to Mother Jones this week under the Freedom of Information Act, included a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse of how J. Edgar Hoover's FBI viewed this civil rights crusader. When he was promoted to head the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, for instance, agents noted that Doar had been "straightened out" after complaining about the bureau's slow response to civil rights violations in the Deep South:
His file also contained an interview with a former colleague of Doar's which revealed a persistent character flaw—he cared way too much about civil rights and prioritized such cases over other issues:
All was not forgiven, despite what the memo to Hoover suggested. In 1967, after Doar had resigned from the Civil Rights Division and taken a new job in Brooklyn, an agent proposed using the former adversary as a liaison in handling racial unrest in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Hoover and his deputy, Clyde Tolson, gave the proposal an emphatic rejection:
UZO ADUBA KNEWOrange Is the New Black would be a hit when strangers started calling her "Crazy Eyes." That's the nickname of her character in the Netflix prison drama, which starts its third season June 12 and has been renewed for a fourth. The 34-year-old actress was raised in Medfield, Massachusetts, where her parents settled in the wake of Nigeria's civil war. After training as a classical vocalist in college, Aduba landed roles in Coram Boy on Broadway and in a New York City Godspell revival. In 2012, she auditioned for what she believed was a bit part in Weeds creator Jenji Kohan's latest series; it has culminated in 2014 and 2015 Emmy wins for her portrayal of Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren, the enigmatic, eyeball-popping inmate who writes bad poetry to express her (unrequited) love for main character Piper, and even responds to one rejection by peeing on the floor of Piper's sleeping area. Aduba also recently scored roles in the musical movie Pearly Gates and the period film Showing Roots, in which two women try to unite their small town around showings of the Roots miniseries based on Alex Haley's 1976 slavery epic.
Mother Jones: Did you ever imagine, when you signed up for a two-episode gig as a character called Crazy Eyes, that you'd one day be talking to a reporter about season four?
Uzo Aduba: Not at all. All I wanted was to make it through—I was told two episodes, maybe a third. My only goals were to do good work and not get fired.
MJ: At what point did you know the show would be a success?
UA: I was up in Utah in the mountains, and I had no phone service. I was like, "Wow, I'm getting a lot of Twitter followers—that tweet I gave yesterday must have been really sassy." When I came down from the mountain I realized, meeting people on the street, that people watch our show and they're really enjoying it.
"I don't think Netflix goes to prisons. But we have former inmates who have said that they watch the show."
MJ: So strangers call you Crazy Eyes?
UA: Not as much as they did initially. I hadn't worked on TV before, but now, because people have seen my face in a different way more, they're like, "Your name is Uzo, right?"
MJ: Do you hear from women who have been in prison or are currently doing time?
UA: I don't think Netflix goes to prisons. [Laughs.] But we have former inmates who have said that they watch the show. I have been so impressed when they say how much is spot-on—men and women.
MJ: How has working on Orange Is the New Black changed your view of prison life?
UA: When I read the second script, I remember physically stopping and realizing, "Wow, we are telling human stories. This is someone's mother, this is a daughter, this is a neighbor, this is a friend." When it stopped being about their crime or their number or their jumpsuit, I could see them fully as people.
UA: I identify parts of myself in Suzanne—as foreign as she is to me. I think that's why people are drawn to the show. When you start to see that Jenji is telling the story of people rather than "criminals," you start to realize, "Oh, I am that person." It's a minimum-security prison. A lot of these people, it was only a small choice that led to them being in this world, and I think that makes it highly relatable.
"When I read the second script, I remember physically stopping and realizing, 'Wow, we are telling human stories. This is someone's mother, this is a daughter, this is a neighbor, this is a friend.'"
MJ: Suzanne is childlike but also kind of intimidating. How do you get to that place?
UA: I did a lot of walking to invite her in—and to put her down. With Suzanne, all the toys need to come out, like a treasure chest, you know. You're not just looking for the one toy on top of the chest, because that innocence, that purity children have—there is no agenda or positioning that goes into their activities. They just do. All of the toys need to come out, and we'll think about cleaning it up afterward.
MJ: Where would you walk?
UA: I lived so close to where we shot that I would walk there and have a meditation to get my mind open and give myself permission to make bad choices. She's such a freeing character, so open and unrestricted. I feel irresponsible if I don't try everything with her. I give myself permission to fall, like a baby trying to learn to walk.
MJ: Did you always want to be in showbiz?
UA: I thought I was going to become a lawyer—that's the more traditional immigrant path. It was through the encouragement of my mom, who exposed me to the arts—and my teacher during my junior year of high school changed my life. She was my drama teacher and also my creative-writing teacher. I was going to apply to study international relations, and she told me that I should go to art school instead. I'd never even thought of that.
MJ: What did your mom expose you to?
UA: She made me get up with her every Sunday morning to sing in our church. I liked to sing, but I didn't know I was decent. I'm one of five, and she never made any of my siblings be in the choir. I was always so irritated, because it was like a half hour earlier than service. Mr. Hersee, my sixth-grade music teacher, had me sing in a recital that year. It wasn't until that recital, when I was singing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," that I was like, "I think I can sing!" I remember having that thought because there was applause and everybody stood up.
MJ: How did being a child of immigrants affect your upbringing?
UA: You can't live in a town like Medfield and not be keenly aware that your name doesn't sound anything like anybody else's. And even more to the point, you look like absolutely no one else there. It's a very homogeneous community—a beautiful community—but I was very much aware that this was not an immigrant hub. At my high school graduation, my whole family came. Up until early adolescence, everybody wants to fit in. But by then, I wanted everybody to come dressed like where I'm from, in traditional clothes. It was amazing, all these beautiful colors and fabulous traditional dress. Everybody felt so proud to be able to show up at an event in Medfield and know that their daughter, their niece, was proud to have them there as they are.
"African stories are missing. First-generation stories. Female-driven stories. I would love to see my own story, because I know I'm not alone in being where I'm from."
MJ: So what's your dream project?
UA: I want to tell the stories of the missing—the people we don't see in our daily narratives, whose voices aren't heard. In terms of biopics, I'm drawn to the Nina Simones of the world, the Leontyne Prices, the Marian Andersons. African stories are missing. First-generation stories. Female-driven stories. I would love to see my own story, because I know I'm not alone in being where I'm from.
MJ: Your latest film involves the Roots miniseries. When did you first see it?
UA: I watched it after I read the book because I was so fascinated—and my mom was so impacted when it came out because she had never seen that story before. When I watched it again for Showing Roots, I was like, "I can't even believe, at a time so close to when the Civil Rights Act was passed, something like this was made with such honesty." The book is phenomenal. It's an amazing story.
MJ: You took a selfie with Hillary Clinton at this year's EMILY's List gala in Washington, DC. Are you ready for Hillary?
UA: I was born ready. [Laughs.] She's a remarkable candidate. I was giving a speech, and you're looking out and there's Hillary Clinton, and she wasn't just listening and nodding at the right moment, but really listening. When we were able to chat behind the scenes, I was like, "Wow, what an incredibly gracious, down-to-earth, thoughtful woman."
MJ: Does she watch Orange Is the New Black?
UA: I didn't ask. We weren't really in that sort of world.
MJ: With Pearly Gates under your belt, can we expect more singing roles from you?
UA: It's in me. I don't think I could even stop it if I wanted to. I never felt like I wanted to only be an actor or a writer or a singer. I just like to make things. I want to tell honest stories, good stories, whether through music or pen or through words or actions. That's all I want to do.
Lincoln Chafee kicked off his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination on Wednesday in Virginia by promising to fight climate change, curb extra-judicial assassinations, and switch the United States to the metric system.
The Rhode Islander, who served in the Senate as a Republican before joining the Democratic party after being elected governor, unveiled his left-leaning, if idiosyncratic, agenda in a wide-ranging address at George Mason University. His continued opposition to the Iraq War, which he voted against authorizing as a senator, could put him in conflict with the party's front-runner, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. As a senator, Clinton was an early supporter of the invasion, though she has since called it a mistake.
National defense was just one area in which Chafee advised heeding the wisdom of the international community. (He likewise proposed ending capital punishment entirely, and praised Nebraska for its recent ban.)
But then Chafee went a few feet—er, meters—further:
Earlier I said, let's be bold. Here's a bold embrace of internationalism: Let's join the rest of the world and go metric. I happened to live in Canada as they completed the process. Believe me, it is easy. It doesn't take long before 34 degrees is hot. Only Myanmar, Liberia, and the United States aren't metric, and it it'll help our economy!
Finally, a presidential candidate with a foolproof plan to bring down rising temperatures.
This wasn't the way Bernie Sanders expected to conclude the first week of his presidential campaign—comparing a 1972 essay he wrote for the Vermont Freeman to E.L. James' Fifty Shades of Grey. But the article, first reported in Mother Jones, quickly caught fire because of its description of a woman who "fantasizes being raped," and by the weekend, Sanders had taken steps to renounce it.
"This is a piece of fiction that I wrote in 1972, I think," the Vermont Senator said, appearing on Meet the Press. "That was 43 years ago. It was very poorly written and if you read it, what it was dealing with was gender stereotypes, why some men like to oppress women, why other women like to be submissive, you know, something like Fifty Shades of Grey."
But if the 1972 essay ruined his media tour, it didn't do anything to suppress the enthusiasm of the progressive activists Sanders aims to make his base. Sanders spent his first week of the campaign speaking to overflow crowds across the Midwest (3,000 people in Minneapolis) and New Hampshire. And, evidently, he's turned some heads. Here's the New York Times:
DES MOINES — A mere 240 people live in the rural northeast Iowa town of Kensett, so when more than 300 crowded into the community center on Saturday night to hear Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, many driving 50 miles, the cellphones of Democratic leaders statewide began to buzz.
Kurt Meyer, the county party chairman who organized the event, sent a text message to Troy Price, the Iowa political director for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Price called back immediately.
"Objects in your rearview mirror are closer than they appear," Mr. Meyer said he had told Mr. Price about Mr. Sanders. "Mrs. Clinton had better get out here."
Clinton's strategy, to this point, has been to act as if her other prospective Democratic primary opponents don't exist. Sanders might have just changed that calculus.