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We now turn our attention to that most vexing of America’s regions, the South. It has gone from being dominated by Jim Crow-enabling Dixiecrats in the 1950s to being competitive in the 1970s and 1980s in terms of House and Senate elections, to becoming the bedrock of GOP support from the Newt Gingrich revolution of 1994 onward. Many districts in the South, even under the best of conceivable circumstances, are simply not in play. Yet not all is lost. Many parts of the South are trending toward Democrats, particularly in places with younger and more diverse populations. Suburbs in Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida offer some of the most promising opportunities- at least on a national level. And remember, in 2016, Clinton-Kaine did better in Georgia than in Ohio, in Texas than Iowa, and in Virginia than Minnesota. So here are some of the most competitive districts in the South- along with my suggestions of some candidates that can win them.

Florida- 02: This is definitely a district favorable to Republicans; although it has a piece of Tallahassee, it also encompasses much of the state’s conservative panhandle. Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum could make a race out of it, however. At only 37, he is one of the party’s brightest young talents. In his capacity as mayor, he has refurbished civic life in Tallahassee, sponsoring mentorship programs, championing early childhood education, and working to reduce criminal recidivism. Interestingly, Gillum may have his sights higher than a mere congress seat- he is being encouraged to run for governor, and was reportedly on Hillary Clinton’s original list of vice-presidential choices.

Florida- 15: This district is also friendly to the GOP, but I’d think that many Republican voters would give due consideration to United States Attorney A. Lee Bentley, whose jurisdiction covers the middle section of Florida. He’s got bipartisan credentials- including pursuing corruption charges against a Democratic congresswoman.

Florida- 18: Pat Murphy was expected to win Florida’s Senate race last year, until Marco Rubio decided to seek re-election after all, and ended up winning handily. Murphy’s old congressional district was then won by a Republican. But in 2018, Murphy is poised to make another run for the 18th, which covers much of Palm Beach. At only 33 years of age, Murphy has a great career ahead of him if he gets a couple more lucky breaks.

Florida- 25: On paper, the 25th, 26th, and 27th districts look competitive. Yet each of them is currently controlled by Republican congressmen, and each is home to a large population of Cuban-Americans. While younger Cubans are questioning their parents’ historic alliance with the G.O.P., movement in this direction can be encouraged by some good candidates. Mario Diaz-Balart is a Miami institution, but in a big election, popular incumbents can fall. This is especially so if the Trump administration continues to alienate Hispanic voters. I have chosen a candidate who can mobilize an impressive grassroots army and reframe the conversation. Lucas Benitez helped found the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to end the exploitation of field workers in the region’s tomato farms. From there, he launched the Campaign for Fair Food, a massive grassroots campaign that successfully got several restaurant chains to agree to purchase tomatoes only from certified, approved growers who paid fair wages. He’s a Cesar Chavez for the 21st century.

Florida- 26: Key West, the Everglades, and south Miami are all covered by this district. I only have one Kennedy in my list of congressional prospects, and it’s this one. For years, Anthony Kennedy Shriver has been a bastion of Miami civic life. Like his mother Eunice, he is an activist for the mentally handicapped; he has chaired the Best Buddies organization, which helps the developmentally disabled win friends and make connections.

Florida- 27: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is another true Florida institution, but she might face a close race- especially if someone like Guillermo Fernandez challenges her. Fernandez was the head of the Latin Builders Association. He’s one of Miami’s most highly regarded businessmen and his construction industry ties are in the best entrepreneurial spirit.

Kentucky- 06: The Cook PVI rates this as Republican +9, but Kentucky is a weird state. It elected a Democratic governor twice- by landslides- in 2007 and 2011, and still has a greater percentage of registered Democrats than many blue states. In fact, this district was held by a Democrat, Ben Chandler, for a decade up to 2012. Former Kentucky secretary of state Allison Grimes would be a solid choice to take on incumbent Andy Barr. She lost a highly touted Senate race against Mitch McConnell back in 2014, but one should keep in mind that 1) she was up against the freaking Senate then-Minority Leader, and 2) it was a deeply Republican year in a deeply Republican state. When she isn’t required to distance herself from President Obama, she’d be a formidable candidate.

South Carolina- 07: This race may be another pipe dream, but the Palmetto State is slowly trending blue, and becoming better educated, more suburban, and more like legit swing states North Carolina and Virginia. This district itself is new, apportioned after the 2010 census, and so its incumbent, Tom Rice, hasn’t had the time to become a part of the furniture. Vincent Sheheen, a state legislator who made his two races against Nikki Haley far more competitive than they should have been, could have what it takes to win.

Texas- 23: Amazingly, this district’s population is two-thirds Hispanic and still has a Republican congressman. Encompassing part of San Antonio to part of El Paso, it’s a massive district- about the size of West Virginia- and should be part of any attempt to get progressives the House Majority. While I’ve tried to avoid picky gimmicky celebrities, I think the best choice would be San Antonio Spurs legend David Robinson. If this seems kooky, hear me out: Robinson is one of the very best citizens and teammates in NBA history- a Naval Academy grad, always soft-spoken, polite, and thoughtful. Since he retired, he’s worked hard to set up a school for inner-city kids in San Antonio and has learned a lot about finance and administration along the way. There’s nobody in NBA history I’d be happier with as a neighbor, as a fellow citizen, as my representative, than David Robinson. I surely hope he’d consider a run.

Virginia- 02: Generally, we can divine a trend from the 2016 election: Donald Trump’s message played out very well in the Rust Belt, in Appalachia, and in already blood-red sections of the South. It was most heavily resisted in suburbs- including many suburbs that were friendly to Mitt Romney four years earlier, in places with growing minority populations, and in areas with high levels of college graduates and jobs that supported them. Into this mix, Virginia’s 2nd district, covering much of Virginia Beach, should be considered in play. It’s only slightly more Republican than the nation as a whole, I have the perfect candidate in mind. Given the strong naval presence in this area, Rear Admiral Gretchen Herbert would be a compelling candidate. Lately the head of Naval Cyber Forces, her postings on the Virginia shore and mastery of national defense issues would make her the candidate to beat. She’s also clearly not timid about getting into the political fray, having joined 94 other high-ranking military officials in endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Virginia- 05: Difficult to win even in good circumstances, this district runs like a thick vertical line through the middle of Virginia and was once held by Tom Perriello, who was my pick to become Virginia’s next governor. Presently, however, I think a strong case could be made for a man who went from obscurity into a figure of national stature during the DNC– Charlottesville resident Khzir Khan. (It speaks volumes that Khan lives in the same town as Monticello.) You may remember him as at the man who tragically lost his son in Iraq, challenged Donald Trump’s anti-Islamic rhetoric, and stood up for the Americanism of his country’s Muslim community.

Virginia- 07: This looks like an extremely Republican district- Cook’s PVI lists it as R+10. Keep in mind that it’s representative is David Bratt- the Tea Party enthusiast who successfully primaried Eric Cantor for not being conservative enough. This district is fairly well-to-do, highly educated, and unlikely to sustain this kind of foolishness for long. Kelly Thomassen could make a solid run in a tough race. She is presently the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and her long history of working with Terry McAullife and Mark Warner would give her the inside track.

Virginia- 10: Political junkies watch this district with great interest, it’s a rare dead even on the Cook PVI and it is often described as a swing district among swing districts. Republican Barbara Comstock won in a close race last year, and she might have her eyes on higher office, perhaps challenging Tim Kaine in 2018. Whether or not this is a fight for an open seat, Aneesh Chopra is well suited for this affluent, highly suburban congressional district. Chopra has served as the Chief Technology Officer of the United States, and is an expert on making government more responsive to innovation.

So…not as many competitive districts as some of the other regions we will explore. This is partly because some sections of the South are prohibitively bad for progressives. But moreover, two states that were competitive in last year’s the presidential election, North Carolina and Georgia, do not have any true swing districts due to both partisan gerrymandering and a certain amount of racial and political “self-gerrymandering.” If Roy Cooper is able to hold on in the 2020 election, his governorship can serve as an effective leverage to carve out some more fairly drawn districts in what may well become America’s premier swing state.

Welcome to the third installment of our series on rebuilding the strength of the Democratic Party in preparation for 2018. In our first post in the series, we explored several optimal chances to win governorships in competitive states. In the second, we looked at far more difficult prospects- keeping a batch of seats that are already overwhelmingly Democratic in progressive hands.

For this installment, we turn to the House of Representatives, which has been under Republican control since the 2010 midterm elections. Here, progressives are playing the game on a board designed by the opposition: Republicans controlled many of the state legislatures that drew the congressional districts after the 2010 census. For that reason, very few truly competitive “swing” districts exist, so taking back the House will require strong candidates, peerless fundraising, listening to constituents, and most importantly of all, fervent grassroots activity. We need to make phone calls, knock on doors, donate, drive people to the polls, and do the sorts of things that can swing elections. To win the House, we need to keep the seats we have, and win 25 additional seats. That is a very challenging objective, but here is my roadmap for accomplishing this task.

To help this process along, I’m making some endorsements for House candidates. In all, I have identified 74 pick-up opportunities. Since that would make for a very long and unwieldy post, I’m dividing it into four posts, looking at one segment of the country in particular: the Northeast, the South, the Midwest, and finally the Prairie and West Coast. Today, we explore the Northeast. In doing my research for this, I was surprised at how many Republicans held fairly neutral congressional districts, especially in what I regard as safe “blue” states: New York and New Jersey. But it’s a good example of how Trumpism has made its greatest inroads in Rust Belt areas with lots of discouraged, frustrated, and anxious blue-collar workers.

So without further ado, here are the Northeastern districts that I believe are winnable- and the candidates that can help win them.

Maine 2: It might surprise you to know that one of the most rural congressional districts in the nation isn’t on the prairies or the mountain states- it’s right in the northeast. Maine’s 2nd covers most of the state outside of the Portland metro area and its “Vacationland” south coast. For years, Michael Michaud held onto this district easily, but when he ran for governor in 2014, Bruce Poliquin ran for the empty seat and won it. In fact, it’s the only congressional district in New England held by a Republican. To make matters worse, Donald Trump won the 2nd congressional district and it’s accompanying electoral vote, since Maine apportions theirs by congressional district. There has recently been a movement to encourage scientists to run for office, and in such a rural and environmentally-conscious district, I think that’s a wise choice. My pick is Jacquelyn Gill, a professor of biology and ecology at University of Maine, Orono. As an expert on climate change, she’s in a great position to become a strong public voice from one of the most naturally beautiful congressional districts in the country.

New York- 1: The eastern half of Trumpy Long Island leans slightly Republican, but if the public sours against him, this can be a prime pickup opportunity. As a former state senator, Brian X. Foley has succeeded in winning in historically Republican territory and is a devoted advocate for victims of domestic violence.

New York- 11: This downstate district is also slightly Republican as per the Cook PVI index, and comprises Staten Island and parts of a couple other boroughs. My endorsement goes to Matthew Titone. As a lawyer and state assemblyman, adoption and LGBT issues are his stock and trade, and would work well in a fiscally-conservative/socially liberal area such as this.

New York- 19: I am all for giving worthy candidates a second chance. The fightin’ 19th winds down much of the Hudson river valley, and I’d love to see a rematch between professor and campaign finance reform activist Zephyr Teachout and incumbent John Faso.

New York-21: I grew up in this district, which covers much of the Adirondack Mountains as  well as my home town of Gloversville. After a few terms of a Democratic congressman, this seat fell to Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She’s a Paul Ryan protege and a very tough candidate to beat, even in a district that is theoretically evenly matched between Republicans and Democrats. I pick former congressman Scott Murphy, who is still young, sharp, and a conscientious venture capitalist who knows more about creating jobs than Stefanik ever will.

New York- 22: This district is on many peoples’ watch list of pickup opportunities, and incumbent Claudia Tenney is looking shaky and may not win in a year favorable to Democrats. In such a situation, I would be inclined to give a second chance to Kim Myers, who ran a close race in 2016.

New York- 23: Tom Reed is slowly losing steam and not listening to constituents. In fact, a professor at my old college, Houghton, has been trying to get a hold of him for months now to no avail, as she documents in her very thoughtful blog, “May I Call You Tom?.” I’d love for this professor to run for office, but if she doesn’t, I’d like to suggest an out-of-the-box pick for this district, which winds through the affluent Rochester suburbs down to the poverty-stricken Southern Tier.  Svante Myrick would be a terrific candidate who could attract loads of positive publicity. His tenure as mayor of Ithaca has been nothing short of incredible, and he was even a finalist for the World Mayor Award. The only question is- can he connect to rural voters?

New York- 24: This is a slightly Democratic-leaning district which nonetheless has a Republican incumbent. Since it contains most of the Syracause metro area, I don’t see how one could go wrong with Syracuse mayor Stephanie Miner as a challenger. She is a dynamic speaker, as you can see from her talk to the women’s march in Seneca Falls last month. She’s made no bones about opposing Trump’s policies on refugees, and would be a feisty, dynamic, and conscientious candidate.

New York- 27: The 27th serves many of Buffalo’s north suburbs as well as Niagara County. Its congressman, Chris Collins, was one of the first to endorse Donald Trump’s candidacy in the primaries, and his fortunes are, for better or worse, now yoked to his. It’s a tough district for Democrats- Jack Kemp covered much of the same territory for many years, as Barry Goldwater’s running mate William Miller did before him. So we need to bring out the big guns. There aren’t many Buffalonians who were more revered than the late journalist Tim Russert, and we need to bring his young son Luke– a solid journalist in his own right- to harness Buffalo’s blizzard-like rage against economic injustice.

Pennsylvania- 06: This bizarre, gerrymandered monstrosity of  a district meanders across the exurbs and smaller cities orbiting around Philadelphia. Judy Schwank could be a compelling candidate that could make inroads into its agricultural areas; she’s a professor whose scholarship focuses on agricultural and responsible land use. She also sits in the Pennsylvania State Senate, and has been elected to office from competitive Berks County.

Pennsylvania- 07: The 7th also leans- ever so slightly- Republican, and could easily be won under good conditions. Like the 6th, it is heavily gerrymandered and barely contiguous. Katie McGinty, who lost in a squeaker of an election to Pat Toomey in last year’s Senate race, would be a terrific candidate who should be able to generate the money and the interest to take out incumbent Pat Meehan.

Pennsylvania- 08: Covering much of suburban Bucks County, this is yet another district designed to give the Republicans a slight advantage. Patrick Murphy held this seat for a while, then lost in 2010, but he’s an even stronger candidate today. He served as Undersecretary for the Army, developing a close rapport with soldiers and becoming a champion on veterans’ issues.

Pennsylvania- 15: Lehigh Valley is nestled in this congressional district, one of the areas most hostile to environmentalism, and heavily dependent on fracking and coal. It’s representative, Charlie Dent, is one of the most sensible Republicans in Congress, but he still needs a challenger. (With apologies to my friend Chris, who once worked at one of his offices.) Jennifer Mann. She has represented the city for 14 years in the Pennsylvania House, and has recently moved into the private sector with a consulting company.

Pennsylvania- 16: I also feel bad about suggesting a challenger to this seat– I went to college with the nephew of its new congressman, Lloyd Smucker. Nevertheless, enter Ephrata native Lindsay Holst, who has covered digital strategy for the White House the last several years, and was recently named one of the 50 most beautiful people on Capitol Hill.

Pennsylvania- 18: According to the Cook PVI index, Republicans enjoy a six-point advantage in this district, all other things being equal. It’s rural, it’s 96% white, it borders West Virginia, and its congressman, Tim Murphy, has rarely faced a serious challenger. In such a scenario, I would pick Rick Fernandez. Never heard of him? He’s the director of the Fred Rogers Center at St. Vincent College in Latrobe. And he would be perfectly poised to bring Mister Rogers’s values of neighborliness, kindness, peace, and social justice to Washington. Especially in an era where PBS is in danger of encroaching privitization.

New Jersey- 02: The second district of the Garden State hugs much of Atlantic City and south Jersey. Frank Lobiondo has represented this seat since the Gingrich Revolution way back in 1994. He might meet his match in Bob Andrzejczak, who is only 30 years old, a Purple Heart recipient who unfortunately lost his leg in Iraq, and a promising young member of the New Jersey General Assembly.

New Jersey- 03: One recent article called this district a carpetbagger’s paradise, unable to attract candidates- from either party- with substantive ties to the area. Although it is heavily urban and covers much of south-central Jersey, it experienced a wild swing– it went from giving 52% of its vote to Obama in 2012 to giving 54% to Trump in 2016. Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt has worked hard to cut down on wasteful bureaucracy and make local government more manageable. She would have a message that would really deliver in this region, which the PVI index lists as tilting +1 Republican.

New Jersey- 07: Although this district is rated Republican +6, its suburban and affluent character makes it a prime takeover opportunity; it voted for Clinton over Trump while re-electing a Republican congressman, Leonard Lance. Seeing as how this is the case, maybe a smart move would be to run…a rogue Republican. Christine Todd Whitman has served as governor of New Jersey and as George W. Bush’s first EPA administrator. But in the intervening years, she has slowly become disillusioned with her party. She wrote a book, It’s My Party Too about the marginalization of moderates such as herself, still supports environmental activism strongly, and hates Donald Trump so much that she bit her lip and endorsed Hillary for president in the general election. Now 70 years old, she might very well make the last act of her political life a conscientious run for Congress as a Democrat-caucusing independent or however she wants to fancy herself.

New Jersey- 11: Since the dawn of the republic, the Frelinghuysen family has loomed large in New Jersey politics. Various members of this dynasty fought in the American Revolution, served as secretary of state, ran as Henry Clay’s running mate, and perennially controlled a seat in Congress. Such is the case with Rodney Frelinghuysen, whose district includes, like the 7th, some of the most affluent areas in the country. My pick to challenge him is another solid educator, Helen Streubert. As the newly minted president of St. Elizabeth College, she oversaw the college’s transition to lay leadership and a co-education model. (It had been the last all-women’s college in New Jersey.) She’s a redoubtable Pope Francis Catholic who could really make waves in New Jersey politics.

I appreciate all the kind comments and constructive feedback on my first addition to this series. I do, though, intend to make one change, which will become more relevant later on in this post. For Texas Governor, I’m going to save William McRaven for later, and suggest…

Mark Cuban: Being filthy rich is no impediment in Texas politics, where populism isn’t quite so…populist. So, why not pick Mark Cuban to run against Tea Party darling Greg Abbott in 2018? Cuban has been expertly trolling Donald Trump, brought an NBA championship to Dallas, and can frame himself as a job creator. Sure, Cuban’s a jackass, but given that we’ve entered the age of inexperienced billionaires with reality shows being viable candidates, for better or worse- let’s roll with it. I’m more comfortable putting him in Texas’s historically not very powerful governorship, and he can open the door for future Democratic wins and carve out a path to victory in a tough state.

So…with that change, let’s move to the Senate in 2018. It sucks. Because Democrats did well in the 2000, 2006, and 2012 elections for this batch of seats, there aren’t very many truly competitive opportunities to flip red seats blue. To the contrary, the Democrats are mostly playing defense, with tough races in states that went to Donald Trump by wide margins: Indiana, West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, and other unfriendly territories- on top of races in shaky states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. I repeat- this set of races sucks. Team Blue will be lucky if they can cut down the net losses to maybe two or three.

I’m also proceeding with the assumption that there will be some retirements. I tentatively project that Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Dianne Feinstein of California, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Tom Carper of Delaware, possibly Bill Nelson of Florida, and Orrin Hatch of Utah will forgo another run. (All but Hatch are Democrats.) I will therefore treat these as open seats.

There’s no need to cover the Democrats seeking re-election in any depth: they simply need to win. Given the benefits of incumbency, the probable unpopularity of Donald Trump, and the usual midterm doldrums for the party in the White House, I’m not terribly worried. Barring unforeseen developments, things cautiously look good for:

  • Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota- and someone who should be on any short list for vice-president in 2020)
  • Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts)
  • Maria Cantwell (Washington)
  • Martin Heinrich (New Mexico)
  • Bob Casey, Jr. (Pennsylvania)
  • Tammy Baldwin (Wisconsin)
  • Sherrod Brown (Ohio- and just the kind of populist that can win Ohio)
  • Debbie Stabenow (Michigan)
  • Tim Kaine (Virginia- oh, what a great V.P. he would have made…)
  • Sheldon Whitehouse (Rhode Island)
  • Mazie Hirono (Hawaii)
  • Kirsten Gillibrand (my fantastic senator and possibly presidential timber…)

In the “danger zone”- states that went for Trump by more than ten points- we have:

  • Jon Tester (Montana)- a great, gruff candidate that’s true to his roots. I think he’ll win a third term, but he’s smart enough to not take it for granted.
  • Joe Manchin (West Virginia)- he’s already hedging his bets by voting for some Trump nominees. But Manchin’s already figured out how to win handily in a state that’s trended red at supersonic speed. I think he’s fine too.
  • Joe Donnelly (Indiana)- he got lucky by drawing a ridiculous Tea Party opponent Eric “even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” Mourdouck. The fact that Evan Bayh lost a race here in 2016 should worry him deeply.
  • Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota)- the only Democrat holding statewide office in the Peace Garden State, Heitkamp’s in a tough spot. A decade ago, North Dakota’s entire congressional delegation was moderate, bet-hedging Democrats like her. But the oil boom- and the inevitable oil bust that followed- changed the calculus drastically.  As Alaska, Oklahoma, and Texas can tell you, nothing kills progressivism quite as quickly as oil.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at the projected open seats currently held by Democrats. Here are my endorsements:

California: Dianne Feinstein will be 85 when the 2018 midterms roll around, putting her in Strom Thurmond territory for legislative geriatrics. She’s had a long, and mostly praiseworthy, career; as President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, she told the world about Harvey Milk’s assassination, and was vetted as a running mate by Walter Mondale back in 1984. California has a long bench of politicians hungry for one of the state’s rare openings for higher office. My hope is that it will go to Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti. Garcetti’s done a great job in L.A. and was reportedly one of the people Hillary Clinton looked at as a potential running mate. He’s helped make L.A. more environmentally friendly for bikers and commuters, nurtured a construction boom, and has a Cory Booker-ish adeptness at using social media.

Connecticut: Now, of course, this is only in the scenario that I’m imagining on this blog. You may remember that last time, I suggested that Chris Murphy run for governor in 2012 to clear out the stank of Dan Malloy’s unpopular administration. If that somehow happens, and this seat becomes open, I would happily endorse Carolyn Miles. Miles is the CEO of Fairfield-based Save the Children, one of the world’s most important charities. She’s helped get nutritious food, education, and medical care to countless children both at home and abroad.Recently, People magazine named her among the 25 Women Changing the World.

Delaware: Tom Carper just doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who deserves a fourth-term- a moderate-ish corporate-friendly Democrat from a safe blue state. Assuming Carper, who will be 71, calls it quits, his replacement already represents Delaware in the Congress. I’m talking about Lisa Blunt Rochester, recently elected to Delaware’s at-large district. She is resolute in her support of refugees and a staunch critic of Donald Trump’s treatment of women. If elected, she would be only the third African-American woman to serve in the Senate.

Florida: Bill Nelson may very well run for re-election, but he’s now well into his seventies, and the astronaut-turned-senator may avoid another race that always seems close and contested. If that’s what happens, I’d suggest Stephanie Murphy, who was just elected to Florida’s Orlando-based 7th district. She took out an incumbent in a Republican-leaning district, no small accomplishment in 2016, when Trump carried Florida. Murphy has a fascinating biography, including a harrowing childhood escape from Vietnam and rescue by the U.S. Navy. A national security specialist, she’d be a great addition to the Senate.

Maryland: Cardin will be 75 when this midterms roll around, and after two terms in the Senate, he may want to hang it up. Although an institution in Chesapeake politics, his vote against the Iran deal will not endear him to a party base mobilized by the 2016 primaries and a hotly contested Senate primary race. Maryland has become one of the most Democratic states in the country over the last few decades, and it’s probable that whoever gets nominated by that party will succeed Cardin. It’s only fair that it should go to Donna Edwards, who lost said Senate primary to Chris Van Hollen last year. If elected, Edwards will join the ranks of the Senate’s most redoubtable progressives. She brings grassroots chops as a community activist and is strongly against the Citizens United decision.

Missouri: I love Claire McCaskill- feisty, forthright, and sensible. But with her health scare last year, she may want to avoid a third term in the Senate, and pass things off to a Democratic successor in a year with favorable tailwinds. That being the case, Jason Kander surely deserves another shot at the Senate. Kander ran 15 points ahead of Hillary Clinton in Missouri, losing to powerful incumbent Roy Blunt by only 3 points. The Secretary of State of Missouri- who assembled and dissembled a rifle during one television ad- had a bright future and can help rebuild the Show-Me State’s moribund Democratic Party.

New Jersey: Bob Menendez is a crook. Even if he does run for the Senate again ,he deserves a hearty primary challenge. Either way you slice it, I strongly recommend Steve Fulop. He’ll be only 41 when 2018 runs around, and he’s already carved out a terrific career as Jersey City’s mayor. Under his leadership, he’s revived the city’s parks, bolstered it’s artistic community, and oversaw a $15 minimum wage for all city employees- in addition to his masterful handling of Hurricane Sandy.

Vermont: Bernie is showing no signs of slowing down, but he will be 77 in 2018, and might want to oversee his revolution in a different capacity. His approval rating is one of the highest in the country, and no doubt, he’ll want to hand off his seat to someone of a similar disposition to himself. I’d recommend his chief of staff, Michaeleen Crowell. Her public visibility has only increased during a primary campaign that exceeded everyone’s expectations- and even played Hillary during Bernie’s debate prep. She shares much of her boss’s commitment to social democracy while being much more of a serious policy wonk. Although it’s one of the most leftist states in the country, Vermont has never been represented by a woman in Congress- Crowell would be the first.

What about playing offense then- seats that are currently played by Republicans? Unfortunately, only one and a half- Nevada and Arizona- look even remotely realistic. But I think every seat should be in play, so here are my picks.

Arizona: Flecks of reasonableness and a certain anti-Trump demeanor have characterized Jeff Flake’s first term in the Senate. But Arizona is slowly tilting blue- Romney won the state by 9 points, while Trump won by only 3.5. In such an environment, we need a heavy hitter, and I strongly recommend that Democrats recruit Mark Kelly. Kelly has been an astronaut, and has been in the news recently as scientists compare his body’s readings with his twin brother’s, who recently spent an entire year in space. Of course, he was most visible as the husband of Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman who survived a near-fatal assassination attempt. Since then, Kelly has surfaced as her caretaker, an author, a public speaker, and a strong advocate for sensible gun laws- while still owning firearms himself. He’d be a terrific candidate and a good way to inaugurate a more Democratic era in Arizona.

Mississippi: “Hey, you for eight years, ran the naaaaavy, so here’s my number, so call me Mabus.” Roger Wicker has this seat more or less locked up, but Ray Mabus would be a very formidable candidate in bad circumstances. He was the last Democratic governor of Mississippi, spent eight years as Secretary of the Navy, and was Ambassador to Saudi Arabia for part of the Clinton administration. But he’s in a tough spot, given that 1) Mississippi has virtually no white Democrats outside of the Ole Miss campus, and 2) Nostradamus actually made some prophecies about a mysterious guy named Mabus. Eerie.

Nebraska: When this batch of seats was up in 2012, Nebraska was the only one that switched from blue to red, when Deb Fischer beat out former senator Bob Kerrey for Ben Nelson’s open seat. Nobody knows yet whether Fischer is running, and whether or not she does, this will be a tough race for Democrats. Nevertheless, Kate Sullivan would be my pick. She’s one of the only Democrats in Nebraska’s unicameral legislature to not hail from either Omaha or Lincoln, and it’s crucial that the party expand beyond the state’s only two real metros.

Nevada: This is the only ostensibly solid pickup opportunity for Democrats on the map, and even that is far from a sure thing. Republican Dean Heller won a close race against a flawed Democratic candidate in 2012. In 2018, he will have all the benefits of incumbency, but his profile isn’t high enough to render him unbeatable. Ruben Kihuen would be a formidable opponent, however. He won Nevada’s swing-y 4th district in 2016- and was one of the few congressional candidates to successfully take out an incumbent that year. That augers well for Kihuen, and at 36, he has a long career ahead of him.

Tennessee: Bob Corker is up for re-election, and he’s likely to cruise into another term. Tennessee is, of course, solidly Republican, and Corker is the chair of the prestigious Foreign Relations Committee. But what happens if, say, Rex Tillerson’s conflicts of interest with Russia become burdensome and Corker replaces him as Secretary of State? Then the seat could potentially become competitive. In that case, Megan Barry, the first female mayor of Nashville, could make a serious run. She’s an enthusiastic booster for her city and her state, and is pointedly good at criticizing Trump while remaining authentically Tennessean. Even in the best of circumstances, this is a long shot, but Barry is the best choice.

Texas: The last thing Ted Cruz expects is a serious challenge for re-election in 2018. I’d love for the aforementioned William McRaven to take him on. Cruz’s irresponsibility and callousness need to face their consequences. He nearly sent us off the fiscal cliff, and endorsed Donald Trump after he threatened to reveal incriminating information about his wife and implied that his father took part in the JFK assassination. Compare Cruz’s sanctimonious and joyless strict constitutionalism with McRaven’s real sense of accomplishment and sacrifice- as you may know from the last installment, McRaven was the admiral who oversaw Operation Neptune Spear that took out Osama bin Laden. Even in Texas, this race shouldn’t be close.

Utah: Is Orrin Hatch running for an 8th term? Or isn’t he? Either way, this seat probably won’t be competitive. The only question will be whether someone reasonable like Jon Huntsman runs or someone unreasonable like Jason Chaffetz. The best we can do, I think, is former congressman Jim Matheson– for years, the only Democrat to represent Utah in Washington. Realistically, Utah’s fourth congressional district race ought to be more competitive.

Wyoming: Another long shot among long shots. John Barrasso is running for another term, and there really is no bench to challenge him. Pete Gossar would probably be the best choice. He is a former University of Wyoming football hero and currently the head of the state’s board of education. Incidentally, his brother is an arch-conservative congressman from Arizona who boycotted Pope Francis’s address to Congress because he was afraid he might talk about climate change.

And that’s where we are. Again, the 2018 midterms look like a dumpster fire for Democrats in 2018, even if everything goes their way. They are simply defending too many competitive seats, and there aren’t many pickup opportunities to be had. But I think these choices, if nominated, could cut down on losses, make gains where possible, embolden a grassroots army, and lay the groundwork for an effective challenge to President Trump. For my next post, I intend to look at candidates for the House in 2018, exploring swing districts in four regions: the Northeast, the Midwest and Prairie, the South, and the West.

While it is certainly possible that I may have the odd conservative reader on my blog from time to time, I am a proud and unrepentant progressive, and I suspect that many of my regular readers are the same. To be sure, their ~brand~ of progressivism can vary from all-out Bernie Bros to old-fashioned trade unionists, to kickass feminists, to ravaged veterans of the Christian Left such as myself. For many of us, the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have been disheartening times. We lost the presidency, most obviously, but we also failed to retake the Senate, lost winnable governors’ races in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Missouri, and continued to hemorrhage seats in state senates and assemblies.

Encouraged by yesterday’s marches across the United States, I have decided to take part in the conversations that will hopefully establish a sustainable, fair, equitable, and sustainable future for all Americans. And we can start by fielding the best candidates we can for office. There are two governors’ spots being vacated in the off-off-year of 2017 (New Jersey and Virginia), and thirty-six that are up for election in 2018- only nine (nine!!) of which are presently held by Democrats.

So for the first time ever, the Northumbrian Countdown is going to wade into the Democratic primaries and endorse some candidates, in many cases before the candidates themselves have declared that they will run for office. 2018 is a ripe pick-up opportunity for many reasons. For one, the opposition party almost always does better in off-year elections. 2010 and 2014 are recent examples, but the one I want you to keep in mind is 2002. Even only one year after 9-11, with President Bush enjoying widespread popularity at the time, the Republicans took a beating in statewide offices. That year, Democrats won the governor’s mansion in Wyoming, Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and other unfriendly territories. Given that Donald Trump already has an underwater approval rating during his supposed “honeymoon” with the public, I can’t imagine an outcome that looks good for the GOP in 2018, assuming we still have a functional democracy by then.

Here, then, is my list of candidates. Given that we are seeing what my friend Donnie calls a “Cards Against Humanity” cabinet, the need to put qualified, experienced men and women who see holding office as a true public service and a sacrifice of their time and talents is paramount. But I also looked for candidates who were inspiring, eloquent, and progressive in ways that wouldn’t alienate moderate voters. I was especially hesitant to choose candidates who were too urban- Democrats need to work hard to win back suburbs and lower the gap in rural areas. We have to make it possible for a roofing contractor in Altoona without a college diploma to vote for this party again. When I could, I tried to choose younger candidates in order to build up the Democratic bench and cultivate future presidential, vice-presidential, and cabinet timber. Finally, I tried to pick candidates who could benefit from strong grassroots support, avoiding milquetoast consensus candidates. These factors weren’t always easy to square, but I did the best I could.

2017 Governors’ Elections:

New Jersey: The Garden State’s blue tilt and growing religious and racial diversity would make this a challenge for Republicans even if Jerseyans didn’t basically view Chris Christie as the devil incarnate by now. Having lived in Jersey City during the first summer of my marriage to Heather, I love what Steve Fulop is doing, but I want to save him for a future chapter- holding the line in the Senate. Instead, the Northumbrian Countdown endorses John Wisnewski of New Jersey’s General Assembly. He led the investigations into Bridgegate against Governor Christie that led to his descent from Republican frontrunner to tragicomic Trump lapdog. As the chair of Bernie Sanders’ Jersey campaign, he can count on the significant grassroots momentum that comes with it.

Virginia: This state, home to many of our founding fathers, still has an unusual law on the books that prevents governors from serving more than one term in a row. This eliminates Terry MacAuliffe, who wasn’t an especially strong candidate anyway, and whose demeanor reminded many of Clinton-era cronyism. Instead- and this is one of my favorite people on the list- I’m delighted to endorse Tom Perriello. Perriello was briefly a congressman from the state’s largely rural 9th district before a disheartening loss in 2010 and was one of President Obama’s favorite congressmen. Both before and after his time in Congress, Perriello has been on the forefront of global human rights. He helped prosecute for crimes against humanity in Sierra Leone, Darfur, and Afghanistan, served as a special envoy to the Great Lakes region of Africa, and has worked for the International Center for Transitional Justice and the National Council of Churches. He is a man of deep thought and rare conviction, and can help Democrats reclaim the conversation on religion, morality, and ethics in government.

2018 Governors’ Elections:

Alabama: This is a tough election, one that’s probably impossible to put in the Democratic column. I considered Jim Folsom, Jr., longtime Alabama lieutenant governor who barely missed out on holding higher offices about a half-dozen times. Instead, I went with my conscience and picked civil rights legend Gwendolyn Webb. She marched in Birmingham, ran afoul of Bull Connor, and spent some nights in jail. After that, she chose to reform the system from within, becoming the first black woman to serve in an Alabama police department. Given that there’s an decent chance that the Republican nominee will be loony “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore, this election needs to be Alabama’s opportunity to take a moral inventory of themselves. Webb’s candidacy can provide that opportunity.

Alaska: This is another very tough race, and this one has an interesting twist. Alaska’s current governor is a reasonably competent Independent, Bill Walker, in a state with a high number of independent voters. But if the Independent and the Republican cancel each other out or draw votes away from one another, that creates a window of opportunity, one that could be filled by Mark Begich. Begich won a close Senate race in 2008 against beleaguered incumbent Ted Stevens- and this was with Sarah Palin on the national ticket! He lost his re-election in 2014, but only by 2% in a deep-red state in an extraordinarily bad year for Democrats. All of this suggests that he’s by far the best candidate on very unfriendly terrain. The former Anchorage mayor is only 54 today and did a good job of representing Alaskan interests in the Senate, departing from his party on energy and gun issues.

Arizona: When I cover the Arizona Senate race in 2018, I have a choice that will blow. your. mind. For now, I’m getting behind Kyrsten Sinema, who represents the swing district that consists largely of Phoenix suburbs. In a state whose demographics are trending blue but with agonizing slowness, Sinema is the most likely candidate to cut the gordian knot that keeps Democrats from breaking through. Sinema can also benefit from large amounts of grassroots activism in Arizona, whose forces recently celebrated a key victory in 2016 by toppling longtime bigoted sheriff Joe Arapio. She’s a moderate “blue dog”, but still holds orthodox progressive views on reproductive choice, immigration, and gun rights, and is skilled at framing her positions for middle-of-the-road voters.

Arkansas: How far Democrats have fallen in this state. In the last 8 years, they’ve managed to lose the governorship, both Senate seats, and every congressional office. In a state that made Bill Clinton, the Democrats’ lack of appeal among rural, Southern, undereducated and religious white voters has become shockingly manifest. The only chance is to try and let lightning strike again; hearty populists do well in Arkansas- from Dale Bumpers to Bill Clinton to Mike Huckabee- and the present group of Republicans holding office are no populists. My pick, therefore, is Bill Halter. The former lieutenant governor came shockingly close to primarying Blanche Lambert-Lincoln in 2010, and knows full well that a message that is friendly to the everyman plays well in Arkansas, and can make clean energy and affordable health care sell down there.

California: Jerry Brown’s two terms are up, and he has overseen a revival in California in terms of economic prowess, clean energy, and fairer taxation in a notoriously anti-tax state. But Brown, Feinstein, and Boxer’s longevity have led to a massive backlog of worthy Democrats in our country’s most populous state. Xavier Beccara, Eric Garcetti, and Antonio Villaraigosa are all worthy candidates, although I suspect that the Democratic governor’s race will be won by Gavin Newsom. He’ll probably be fine, but his closeness with Silicon Valley tech giants, and his blatant disregard for the law (even a very bad law like Prop. 8) makes me worried. Instead, I’m supporting Delaine Eastin, one of our country’s very best education reformers. In an era where Betty DeVos may well become our next Secretary of Education, Eastin has worked hard to strengthen public education in the Golden State. As California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction she slashed class sizes and revamped curriculum standards. She’s still not satisfied, though: she aims to increase California’s chronically low per-student spending and implement universal pre-K and full-day Kindergarten. I’m forfeiting youth- Eastin will be over 70 when 2018 rolls around- but I honestly believe she’s the best choice.

Colorado: This mountainous state has officially joined the ranks of blue-leaning swing states, capped off by three consecutive victories for governor. I hope we can keep the streak going, and Mike Johnston may be the man to do it. Long considered an up-and-comer in the Aspen Festival circuit, he is- like Senator Michael Bennet- an education specialist; he once served in rural Mississippi for Teach for America. He’s an ambitious legislator, with some worthwhile concepts for making sure every Coloradan can achieve a debt-free higher education experience.

Connecticut: While Connecticut is a reasonably blue state, Democrats’ gubernatorial prospects are imperiled by the stank of Dan Malloy’s unpopular administration. Given that someone directly associated with his administration would be likely to be dragged down, I happily endorse Carolyn Miles. Miles is the CEO of Fairfield-based Save the Children, one of the world’s most important charities. She’s helped get nutritious food, education, and medical care to countless children both at home and abroad.Recently, Peoplemagazine named her among the 25 Women Changing the World.

Florida: For the last three races, Democrats have secured can’t-lose nominees that still, remarkably, found a way to lose: Jim Davis, Alex Sink, Charlie Crist- you name it, they lost it. The key is to be unconventional, and I think I found a candidate in Grant Hill. This longtime Democrat was, of course, an NBA legend. And given the success of Kevin Johnson, Bill Bradley, and Mo Udall, basketball players have a great track record. Soft-spoken, friendly, contemplative, and ethical, Hill won the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award three times. With deep pockets, business savvy, and an appreciation for teamwork, it would be great to see what Hill could accomplish on this stage.

Georgia: Like Arizona, Georgia is a state that is trending blue, but at a glacial pace. Statewide office holders who could appeal to the wide public are scarce, but I think a second chance should be given to Jason Carter. In a very red year with terrible turnout, in a blue-trending red state, Carter took on an incumbent governor and still kept the loss within double digits. And he’s no mere legacy pick- he is a state senator, a prominent ethics reformer, and like his great-grandmother Miss Lillian, served in the Peace Corps. In a more favorable climate, where he won’t be facing turn-limited Nathan Deal, Carter has a real chance.

Hawaii: This one is easy, since the islands already have a Democratic governor who has only served one term. David Ige for re-election it is!

Idaho: This is another potential hopeless cause. Although Idaho once elected Democratic governors readily- remember Cecil Andrus and John Evans- those days are long over. The best I can do is Dave Bieter, the mayor of Boise. Read his courageous statement defending refugees and immigrants in defiance of President Trump. If every state is on the table in 2018, Bieter is a Basque-speaking, take-no-shit champion of his city, battling chronic homelessness and showing what someone in a minority party can do in a blood-red environment.

Illinois: This is a state that sometimes makes me ashamed to be a Democrat. Bruce Rauner won a squeaker of an election in 2014, and his approval rating has been underwater for most of his term as Illinois lurches from financial crisis to financial crisis. The smart money is on someone like Lisa Madigan or a Friend of Obama like Penny Pritzker or Valerie Jarrett or Arne Duncan. I would make bold to look in a different direction, someone who can rehabilitate the depressing, moribund state of Illinois politics-Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein. Think it’s crazy? Think again. Epstein has a genius for the deal, an ability to ferret out underrated talent, and took the basement-dwelling Chicago Cubs, who hadn’t won a pennant since Theodore Roosevelt was president, into World Series champions. He’d be the perfect choice to shake up Illinois politics for the better.

Iowa: Few states turned blue to red so alarmingly quickly as Iowa, with lots of rural, evangelical voters. If current governor Terry Branstad is confirmed as Ambassador to China, the Democrat will have a strong new incumbent in the form of Kim Reynolds, presently the lieutenant governor. I endorse Rob Hogg. He not only has the perfect name for Iowa, he’s a 40-something state senator and climate change expert. Although he lost the Senate primary to Patty Judge, his earnest, grassroots style and wonkish demeanor has drawn comparisons to Paul Wellstone.

Kansas: Kansas is a damn mess and a clinic in Republican mismanagement. Governor Sam Brownback defied expectations and got re-elected in 2014, but since then, budget crises, cutbacks of essential services, and general dissatisfaction imperil Republicans in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since the New Deal. Although Paul Davis did an admirable job in the 2014 race, this blog endorses Mark Parkinson, who served briefly as governor of Kansas when Kathleen Sebelius was appointed the HHS secretary. On the “who were you better off with?” question, Parkinson wins considerably, and as a former Republican, he is well poised to understand the average Kansan’s frustration and frame the race in a non-partisan way. As president of the American Health Care Association, he would be capable of offering solutions if the health care system is thrown into turmoil with Obamacare’s repeal.

Maine: As with Iowa, Democrats should be concerned about their poor performance in rural blue states. Trump carried Maine’s forested 2nd district and almost carried Vacationland wholesale. However, Maine has also had one of the worst governors in the nation, Paul LePage, a cranky Nixonian misanthrope  who twice failed to break 50% of the popular vote due to independent candidate Eliot Cutler. Maine’s Democratic bench is uninspiring, unfortunately, making me look elsewhere. I therefore endorse Yellow Light Breen (yes. that’s his real name.) Having grown up in rural Maine, he went on to become an executive in Bangor Savings Bank and found the Maine Development Foundation, determined to bring sustainable growth to the state. He’s a great public speaker in the TED-talk style, a staunch education advocate, and a strong tonic for people sick of politics as usual.

Maryland: In this dark blue state, the Democrats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory in 2014, as businessman Larry Hogan beat lieutenant governor Anthony Brown. Hogan has proved fairly popular since then, and has thankfully survived a cancer scare. But if the Democrats want a chance to win, they need to bring out the big guns. Enter Tom Perez. He may very well be voted DNC chair next month, but failing that, he would be a strong choice for governor. He was, after all, President Obama’s last Labor Secretary, and reportedly one of the finalists for Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential search. He’s a cautious results-oriented man who nonetheless has a command of detail and is as strong an ally of Black Lives Matter as one will find in the highest echelons of government.

Massachusetts: Another heartbreaking loss in 2014. Charlie Baker is now the incumbent, and one of the more popular governors in the country. But if 2018 is a wave year, then the governor’s race in one of the most Democratic states in the country should most certainly be on the table. My pick is state attorney general Maura Healey. Don’t confuse her with Martha Coakley, the previous attorney general, who botched both the 2014 race against Baker and the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat. Coakley is a much more natural politician and has a fascinating biography that includes captaining the Harvard women’s basketball team. She’s technically declined to enter the race, but the day is still young.

Michigan: The Wolverine State shocked the world by going for Donald Trump by a sliver of a percentage last November. It’s a warning sign that Michigan, long a Democratic bedrock, is now a legit swing state, one that cannot be taken for granted. But tailwinds favor them in the 2018 midterms in Michigan. Unpopular governor Rick Snyder, he of the Flint water crisis and kneecapping labor laws (in Michigan!) is retiring. Gretchen Whitmer has already thrown her hat in the ring, and I heartily endorse her. She’s a fiery orator, a staunch critic of right-to-work, and is young (45) and photogenic. Whitmer’s a winner and a great choice to help Michigan regain its progressive mojo.

Minnesota: Mark Dayton’s successful two terms as a governor will come to an end, and it’s as yet unclear as to who his successor will be. My endorsement goes to the state’s attorney general Lori Swanson. Swanson has been elected and re-elected easily into statewide office, and has gotten behind a number of key issues that enjoy widespread agreement. Her investigations into price-fixing for generic drugs and medications met with great approval, and her lawsuits against for-profit universities make her a great foil in the era of Trump University.

Nebraska: Whoever gets the Democratic nomination for this spot faces a herculean task- facing an incumbent governor in a ruby-red state. In fact, Nebraska’s third district, which covers most of the state outside Lincoln and Omaha, is one of the most Republican in the country. Still, Nebraska is a weird state. Members of its unicameral legislature are technically nonpartisan, and it recently ended the death penalty through an unlikely alliance of conservative Christians and urban liberals. Nebraska had no problem electing Democrats to the Senate and the governor’s mansion in the 1980s and 1990s, and it’s trends- including two big urban centers and some high college graduation rates- make it more likely than its prairie neighbors to swing Democratic. I’d like to see Howard Warren Buffett– yes, the 33-year-old grandson of the Sage of Omaha. He’s already a noted philanthropist, and worked in the Department of Defense to help restore Iraq and Afghanistan’s agriculture sectors. He owns a farm in Nebraska and is also an alternative energy guru. We are the same age, and I’m embarrassed at how little I’ve accomplished in comparison!

Nevada: Despite trending blue and staying blue in 2016, Nevada has a strong tendency to elect Republican governors. Its current one, Brian Sandoval, is by far the most able Republican governor in the country. Sandoval, however, is term-limited, and in this heavily Hispanic state, an unpopular Trump will cause tremors in statewide elections. In such an environment, my endorsement goes to Ross Miller. At the age of only 30, he was elected Secretary of State of Nevada, and lost the attorney general race by only one percentage point against a well-funded opponent, Adam Laxalt. He’s tough, has a tendency to delve into mixed-martial arts, and has a reputation for being non-partisan.

New Hampshire: New Hampshire and Vermont are the only two states to vote for their governor every two years- which actually used to be how most states did it around the turn of the last century. Despite leading in the polling for the last few weeks, Chris Van Ostern lost by 2%. New Hampshire usually doesn’t toss out incumbent governors, but Van Ostern is still our best choice for a rematch against Chris Sununu in 2018. Methodical and strategic (and plenty youthful at 37), he’s a steady choice, as steady as New Hampshire granite.

New Mexico: No state has transitioned from swing state to blue state quite so hard as New Mexico, thanks partly to major demographic changes that have made it majority-minority. Susanna Martinez, a Hispanic Republican, has served as governor for the last eight years. Her popularity has waned and waxed, but New Mexico may be tiring of her acerbic style. Hector Balderas, long considered one of the nation’s best up-and-coming politicians, is the prohibitive favorite. In fact, he may already be in Huey Long’s “dead woman or live boy” territory. He’s served as the state’s attorney general and its auditor, gaining a reputation as a champion of special-needs children (his daughter has Down’s Syndrome.)

New York: Some people think that Andrew Cuomo is entrenched in corrupt Albany politics, and they aren’t entirely wrong. But when I was 26, I was trying to get off of my COBRA’d health insurance when I rejoined my grad school full-time after a year of field research. No matter what happened, no matter what I did, I couldn’t get my insurance company to remove me and kept getting costly COBRA bills. Unsure of what else to do, I wrote to my governor. Within 72 hours of my sending the letter, I got a hasty, panicked, apologetic call from my health insurance provider. That’s the sort of thing that wins a man’s loyalty.

Ohio: Long considered the consummate swing state, Republicans won decisive victories here in the 2014 gubernatorial election and in the 2016 presidential election.  Economic populism sells here, and with John Kasich retiring, opportunity knocks for Tim Ryan. Rumor has it that he was on the longform list of Hillary’s veep prospects. He unsuccessfully ran against Nancy Pelosi- an empty gesture- but one that decisively marks out his dissent from coastal liberalism. Representing Youngstown and Akron, he’s from the buckle of the Rust Belt and has called for tariffs against countries like China that manipulate their currency. I’m not totally convinced that he isn’t more show-horse than work-horse, but we need to do better in the Great Lakes states, and Ryan is our best shot.

Oklahoma: Remember, Democrats won the governorship of this state in 2002 and again in 2006. It’s not impossible, especially with flagging Mary Fallin coming to the end of her two terms. Scott Inman is, like Brad Henry before him, the kind of guy who could win if conditions are right. He’s spent four terms as the Democrats’ leader in the Oklahoma House- and he’s only 38.

Oregon: The last time a Republican won the governor’s race in Oregon was in 1982, the year before I was born. Now, that trend has to come to an end eventually, but I don’t think it will be in 2018. Kate Brown, the nation’s first openly LGBT person elected governor (Brown identifies as bisexual), won a special election after the resignation of John Kitzhaber in the light of his wife’s illegal activity. Brown earned high marks for her treatment of the “Yee-hawd” conducted by Bundy and other activists in seizing a wildlife refuge. With both chambers of the state legislature run by Democrats, Brown has the opportunity to consolidate gains in the state and continue making Oregon an attractive place for young people.

Pennsylvania: This is one of the rare swing states that Democrats presently hold. Tom Wolf beat out the incredibly unpopular Tom Corbett in the party’s only gubernatorial pickup in 2014. Wolf has butted heads with Republicans, who control both branches of the state legislature, and Pennsylvanians- who voted for Trump by a small margin- may get tired of the gridlock. But an important historical trend helps him: Corbett is the only incumbent governor in a century to have lost re-election in the Keystone State.

Rhode Island: This is another state that gives me fits. The last two elections have seen mediocre talent carrying the day: independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee (yes, the guy who tanked so memorably in the first Democratic debate) and now Gina Raimondo. Raimondo has marketed herself as a financially savvy reformer but to little avail. She might not run, but if she does, I would support a primary challenge from Angel Taveras. Taveras was the first Hispanic mayor in Rhode Island’s history, and helped Providence avoid bankruptcy in the wake of a massive deficit he inherited. Proudly Latino and a real success story (“from Head Start to Harvard”) he could be the face of one of the nation’s most rapidly changing states.

South Carolina: Elizabeth Colbert Busch gets my endorsement. Although she lost a congressional race to adulterous ex-governor Mark Sanford, Busch has many of the requisite tools for success. Aside from her famous late-night host brother, she’s worked for Charleston’s Chamber of Commerce and has helped turn Clemson into a center of energy research. She’s just the ticket to help South Carolina slowly break out of stereotypes and join its neighbors as a reasonable, far-sighted east-coast state.

South Dakota: This is also going to be a very tough one; Republicans have held the governorship since the 1970s. Nevertheless, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin is the best choice out there. She has won statewide office four times before as South Dakota’s at-large congresswoman and has made choices friendly to her region, coming down more moderately on gun rights and voting against the ACA. It’s likely that she will face Kristi Noem, the woman who bested her in the 2010 election.

Tennessee: The Volunteer State had a Democratic governor from 2003 to 2011, so it can be done. I have selected Fort Knox mayor Madeline Rogero as the Northumbrian candidate in this election. She’s a strong union advocate, having worked with Cesar Chavez, and has plenty of community development accolades as head of the Dollywood Foundation and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise organization. This is a woman who knows nonprofit work, grassroots momentum, and municipal services through and through. Maybe a 60-something Catholic woman might not seem like the best candidate for hill country, but a tough race can sometimes call for an unconventional candidate. And don’t forget– the outgoing governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, was also mayor of Fort Knox in his time.

Texas: In 2014, Lone Star Democrats ran Wendy Davis, a brave woman who famously stood up for reproductive rights in pink sneakers in a long filibuster, and was nevertheless a terrible choice to win in Texas. Team Blue hasn’t won a statewide office in two decades now, so a change in strategy is called for. As much as I like former HUD secretary and San Antonio mayor Julian Castro, I don’t think he’s going to win either. So, I’d like to suggest an unconventional choice: William McRaven. Yes, that’s right. The man who commanded the SEAL operation that killed Osama bin Laden. A man with wide respect from soldiers who served under him. The current chancellor of the University of Texas system. Assuming we could get him to run as a Democrat, how does this guy lose? You need a candidate that, for better or worse, a white, male Texan in a ten-gallon hat can vote for, and McRaven’s the man.

Vermont: Unbelievably, the Democrats lost the governor’s race in Vermont in 2016. Republican victor Phil Scott doesn’t appear to be a bad fellow at all, but in a state where a socialist senator has a 70% approval rating, his position cannot be considered very secure. Like New Hampshire, Vermont holds gubernatorial elections every two years, an enduring vestige of the New England town hall tradition. My choice to challenge Scott in 2018 is Chris Louras– in fact, the only Republican on this list. Louras ought to challenge Scott in the primaries or run as an independent. This Rutland mayor is a very brave man who put his career on the line to settle a hundred Syrian refugees in his city while continuing to make Rutland a center of tourism and commerce.

Wisconsin: Democrats are licking their chops for a chance to take down Scott Walker, who looks for all the world like he’s running for a third term. After heartbreaking losses in the recall election and in 2014, there’s never been a better time to kick out archconservative Walker. Wisconsinites won’t forget that he basically moved to Iowa for his forgettable candidacy for president. But right now, Wisconsin is heavily divided between liberal Milwaukee and Madison and basically everywhere else. In fact, in terms of geographical segregation- persons of color in cities, whites in the suburbs and exurbs- Wisconsin is the worst in the nation. So while I’d love to support someone like Jennifer Shilling, I somewhat reluctantly endorse Ron Kind. He handily wins election year after year in Wisconsin’s sprawling third congressional district, which is 97% white.  I think he was wrong on his opposition to refugee resettlement, but this is an office that has to be taken back.

Wyoming: Our final governor’s race is in America’s least populous state, and one of its most Republican. Although Wyoming elected Democrat Dave Freudenthal as governor in 2002 and 2006, this is a remarkably tall order; Republicans outnumber Democrats in every single county in the state. But a strong candidate should be run nonetheless, and I choose Chris Rothfuss. He’s one of just 3 Democrats in the Wyoming state senate, holds a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and teaches at the University of Wyoming. His boyish appearance and infectious enthusiasm belie a serious policy wonk-mentality and a refreshing change if Wyoming decides to buck it’s deep Republicanism in 2018.

So…those are my endorsements- and this is, at 5,000 words, the longest post I’ve ever done on this blog. In future installments, I’ll hopefully get to the Senate, House and 2020 presidential race. What are your thoughts? Do you have other candidates in mind? Let’s work together in solidarity to make America live up to its promise and stand up to bigotry, callousness, and cruelty- especially in our public officials.

I think I’ll start a mini-countdown to commemorate the end of a project that took me over a year: watching every Star Trek: The Next Generation episode in sequence. That’s right, we went from the rough, badly-written first season to some of the finest Sci-Fi ever made in seasons 4 and 5, to the iffy conclusions of season 7.

Watching these episodes made me realize what a salutary show this has been. It was encouraging in difficult times to see the principal characters collaborate, devise creative solutions, and active work to better not just humanity but all the species they encountered. It also made me aware of a number of its flaws. The show was famously preachy and kneecapped itself by not allowing meaningful conflict between the characters. The female characters- not just Troi and Crusher, but also Yar, Pulaski, Ro, Guinan, were seldom written well and it’s astonishing how often a show this progressive fails the Bechdel test. Troi, especially, is rarely given much to do. She’s often absent when a counselor would be most useful, rarely gives good advice, and doesn’t evince much intelligence or sharpness of mind until she starts wearing a uniform mid-season 6 that covers Sirtis’s cleavage.

But gosh, when this show was good, it was really, really good. Here’s the bottom half of my top 20- I’ll continue with the top 10 later, and conclude with a survey of the bottom twenty episodes.

20. “Parallels” (Season 7, Episode 11): It’s the best episode in a very inconsistent final season, aside from the show’s sterling finale. It’s a great parallel universe story, but rather than taking the easy way out and redoing “Mirror Mirror” it has Worf flit in and out between universes, often realizing only belatedly that the change has taken place. It has Dorn’s best acting in the series; having such an straight-arrow, easily flustered character like Worf at the center of this madness was an inspired choice. Additionally, unlike “Mirror Mirror” it has a strong emotional core, as Worf learns that he is wed to Troi in some of the parallel universes and their relationship advances through the dimensions. I especially love the little underplayed differences in each universe, ranging from a Ferengi bridge officer to a blue-eyed Data.

19. “Relics” (Season 6, Episode 4): Ironically, Scotty gets more to do here than he ever did in the original series. (I don’t mean to bash TOS so often, but it’s weaknesses- particularly its parochialism, it’s grating masculinity, and it’s neglect of the supporting cast- turn me off big time.) Using a convenient plot twist to allow the miracle-working engineer to appear in an episode set 70 years after his last canonical appearance, it ruminates on the need of the old to feel useful and needed. The scene where Scotty conjures the original Enterprise bridge on the Holodeck and commiserates with Picard is one of my favorites in the series. It’s a great love letter to the original series and boasts strong sci-fi credentials with the appearance of a Dyson sphere.

18. “Data’s Day” (Season 4, Episode 11): Brent Spiner’s Data is delightfully curious and childlike in this episode where he records his observations during a 24-hour period that sees a Roman espionage plot, a childbirth, and Miles O’Brien’s wedding. This novel approach gives meat to the android’s series-long arc of becoming more human. Like “Relics” it has an iconic scene that rates among TNG’s best as Dr. Crusher teaches Data to tap dance (for which a pregnant McFadden did her own choreography). It’s Spiner’s best performance as Data that doesn’t involve him acting out of character or playing multiple personas.

17. “Unification, Part 1” (Season 5, Episode 7): As great as it is to see Spock in the second part of this story, I always felt it was a wasted opportunity centered around obvious betrayal and a weak villain in Sela. Part 1 though, is pure magic, as Les Landau gives it a cinematic scope. Mark Lenard gives his final performance as Sarek, giving the stentorian Vulcan a heartbreaking farewell. And for all the show’s pathos, it plays off its humor well, particularly as Picard endures an uncomfortable Klingon ship and its begrudging commander, and Riker and crew track down a Romulan plot with the help of a dour alien bureaucrat. It gives us some of our best looks yet into the Vulcan and Romulan psyches.

16. “Deja Q” (Season 3, Episode 13): One of the sharpest-written episodes that uses comic effect very well indeed. Q is kicked out of the continuum and is forced to seek refuge on the Enterprise. It’s a great premise, but made better by Guinan’s total lack of sympathy, some great deadpan one-liners from Worf, and Data’s attempt to inculcate the defrocked immortal into the ways of humanity.

15. “The Wounded” (Season 4, Episode 12): The Cardassians are introduced in this tightly-written episode that finds Picard and crew tracking down a rogue captain violently pursuing his own agenda. Given his later role on DS9, we forget how bold and trusting it was to give Colm Meany the lead in this episode as he struggles through his loyalties between his former and present commanders, while combatting his own prejudices. Between Bob Gunton as the tortured Captain Maxwell and Marc Alaimo as proto-Dukat Gul Macet, the guest acting is some of the series’ strongest as it explores the deep damage war exacts on those who survive.

14. “Q Who” (Season 2, Episode 16): Another key villain is introduced in this episode, the Borg in this case. Q decides to teach the crew a lesson and sends them to the farthest reaches of space. I love that, because it refutes Picard’s humanism in a subtle way, as the captain himself notes at the end of the episode: the Borg encounter, which exacts the highest number of crew deaths we’ve seen on the series so far, is needed to kick the Federation out of its smugness and complacency. The most dramatic scene, where a desperate Picard has to admit that he is out of his league and beg for help, is profound, and Riker, Worf, and Data’s exploration of the Borg Cube is pure sci-fi greatness as we learn about this hive species.

13 and 12. “Best of Both Worlds, Part 1 and 2” (Season 3, Episode 26; Season 4, Episode 1): This is often considered the high point of the series. It’s a smart two-parter that takes big risks that mostly pay off, but I can’t rank it that high for a few reasons. Part 1 is bogged down by a deeply uninteresting storyline about Riker’s promotion and his sense of competition with Commander Shelby. While it does have a rewarding climax, as Riker makes a truly command-level decision by firing a potentially lethal weapon at a ship holding an assimilated Picard, much of the build-up is shrill, obvious, and botched. Part II is a bit better, and succeeds because of a greater sense of its own bigness; it freely throws out phrases like “Wolf 356” as if it knows that they will become ensconced in Trek lore, and we can feel the palpable desperation of the crew through strong acting from the supporting cast, dramatic pacing, and an intense score.

11. “Cause and Effect” (Season 5, Episode 18): This episode could have been a disaster, as the crew is stuck in a time loop, and relives the same few days over and over again. Branon Braga writes his first of many mind blowing, reality-distorting episodes, using some clever conceits- a glass broken by Crusher, a card game that evinces a sense of deja vu. Frakes, too, does the right thing by shooting each round through the time loop differently, as slowly, the crew becomes aware of their dilemma and is able to communicate a message to their future selves. There’s a great payoff at the end too, as we see Frasier Crane arrive from the Original Series movie-era as a time-displaced Starfleet captain.

What do you think so far? I’ll reveal my top 10 soon, but to list my five honorable mentions of episodes that barely missed the top 20: “Lower Decks,” “Frame of Mind,” “Loud as a Whisper,” “The Emissary,” and “The First Duty.”

It’s way too early, but since others are posting their lists of possible Class of 2018 nominees, here’s mine. I proceeded on a perhaps-mistaken assumption: if you look closely at this year’s ballot, there were no acts that had been nominated in both of the previous two years, except for the perennial Chic. Nine Inch Nails? Absent. The Spinners? Gone. The Smiths? AWOL. I think they will follow that trajectory again, with the important exception of Janet, who becomes the new Chic. So, lots of worthy acts that were nominated the last two times out- The Cars, Chaka Khan- are going to be passed over, if that’s true. I assumed- maybe wrongly- that there would again be 19 acts on the ballot, with a great deal of chronological and stylistic breadth. I do think, though, that the Hall will back a bit away from70s/80s  classic-rock dominated ballots after the last two years. You can still get good ratings and still generate strong classes by incorporating other genres.

1. Radiohead: A near-undeniable first-ballot nominee

2. Beck: Lots of critical love, lots of longevity, ticks the country box  (FRL noted that Beck may not be eligible until the ballot for 2019. If that’s the case, cue Rage Against the Machine.)

3. Janet Jackson: a new baby, a big name, the strongest netroots Rock Hall campaign ever, and a matriarch of modern R&B. She’ll be back.

4. LL Cool J: There’s going to be a rap artist on every ballot from now til kingdom come. With NWA and Tupac in, the first great solo rapper returns to the ballot and becomes the man to beat.

5. A Tribe Called Quest: Of course, there might be two rap acts…

6. Nina Simone: I’m still shocked this has never happened given the recent documentary. She becomes the Baez/MC5 super-political pick.

7. War: Curiously, War gets nominated every time the ceremony is in Cleveland, and in three year intervals…

8. J. Geils Band : Our requisite critics’ pet blues act.

9. Eurythmics: The Rock Hall loves soulful singers. With my “two noms and a bye-week” trend in play, The Cars sit out and Annie Lennox makes her first appearance on the ballot.

10. Nine Inch Nails: With a ceremony in Cleveland, expect Trent Reznor to come roaring back on the ballot.

11. Moody Blues: Given the last two classes, the Nom Com must surely realize that classic rock bands have a significant leg up- 7 out of the last 11 artists fell clearly into that category. I’d expect the Hall to pull back in favor of other eras and genres, but give that crowd an important sop: a long-overdue nom for The Moody Blues. Our fan ballot winner.

12. Kraftwerk: A progenitor of modern electronica, and in my opinion, the most important act not in the Hall. Thankfully, lots of people at the Hall realize this as well.

13. The Cure: Unlike fellow 80s alternative act The Smiths, The Cure is actually likely to show up for a ceremony reasonably intact. Jane’s Addiction and Depeche Mode were the closest acts in their M.O. last time, but we’ll probably see the return of teen angst.

14. Motörhead: I think this will be who Dave Grohl will champion. With Deep Purple in, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and solo Ozzy seem next in line, and it’s anybody’s guess which of them they will nominate.

15. Big Star: Holly Robinson is an underrated influence on the committee, and she recently wrote a book on Alex Chilton. If Steppenwolf and MC5 can show up on a ballot, is Big Star really that great a stretch?

16. The Spinners: They were absent last time around, but Dave Marsh and Cliff Burnstein want them in.

17. New York Dolls: Last nominated way back in 2001, The New York Dolls’ mixture of early glam and punk are too influential to be ignored.

18. Devo: Another important new wave-ish, electronica-based act, and it’s strong connections to Ohio give them an advantage this year. (Two of its members were at Kent State when the infamous shootings happened, leading them to believe in humanity’s DE-eVOlution.)

19. Link Wray: I’ve got to believe there is still a critical mass of aficionados of early rock and roll on the committee. Maybe Wray’s coverage in the recent Sundance film will help him return to the ballot for the first time since the Class of 2014.

 

Obviously, these aren’t my ~official~ predictions, just my attempt to figure out the front-runners in this new year. If I had to guess who would get in out of this lot, I’d say Moody Blues, Radiohead, Janet Jackson, Nine Inch Nails, Nina Simone, and maybe Eurythmics or LL Cool J if there’s six. What do you think?

At 8:00 on Tuesday morning, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced their Class of 2017, which will be formally inducted in a ceremony in Brooklyn in April. The ballot for this class was immensely competitive and stylistically diverse, ranging from punk, alternative, disco, and electronic. In the end, however, the class was:

  • Pearl Jam
  • 2pac
  • Electric Light Orchestra
  • Joan Baez
  • Journey
  • Yes
  • Nile Rodgers (Musical Excellence Award)

What do I think? It’s a very good, but not quite great, class. It avoided being all-male–barely. And it avoided being all-white:–again, barely. There’s greater stylistic breadth than last time, and all six performer inductees are more than deserving. Pearl Jam and 2pac are both iconic 90s artists and profoundly influential in ways that reached beyond their genres. The other four artists were all easily in the top 50 of my 100 Greatest Rock Prospects project from earlier this year. Yes was highest at #10, then Journey at #14, Baez at #29, and ELO at #46. (Pearl Jam and 2pac weren’t eligible at the time I made my list, but if they were, they probably would have been somewhere in the top 15.)  Yes scratches the Prog Rock itch, Journey and ELO are fun, populist guilty pleasures only a curmudgeon could object to, and Baez was a critical part of introducing social consciousness into midcentury popular music. The massive and financially lucrative classic rocker crowd will be pleased, while critics can delight in the sustained artistic excellence of the others.

But lots of great artists on the ballot didn’t make it. My four-year trend of having my favorite artist on the ballot inducted ended when The Zombies fell short. Kraftwerk and Janet Jackson are respectively my 2nd and 3rd greatest Rock Hall Prospects, and neither made it. And there was an absence of a truly surprising inductee, like Miller or Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Many Rock Hall watchers-myself included- got four or five of their predictions correct. (I got all five right, but flubbed my “if there’s six” pick, eschewing Yes for alternately Janet and Chic.) As usual, out-of-mainstream acts like MC5, Bad Brains, and even Jane’s Addiction were left out in the cold.

But by far the most controversial news bite was inducting Rodgers under Musical Excellence without the rest of Chic. Now, I’ve advocated for this in the past- so I’m hardly blameless- but now that it’s happened, it’s disappointing, especially now that I’ve come to better appreciate the band’s ensemble sound. It was clear by now, however, that the voters just weren’t going to bite, no matter how many times Chic was nominated. Rodgers, in an interview with Rolling Stone, is trying to be gracious, but I can’t imagine how hurt he must feel to see his bandmates- most of whom he’s outlived- passed over. I guess it’s better than having nobody from Chic in, but there’s no doubt that the 900+ members of the voting committee collectively screwed up. Again.

Which brings me to my larger gripe about what is, I reiterate, a pretty good class. By this, I mean the lack of R&B. Let’s put it this way: the last four classes had exactly one black R&B artist inducted: Bill Withers. And the last four classes had upwards of a dozen 70s/80s classic rockers, depending on the breadth of your definition of classic rock. Certainly Chicago, KISS, Deep Purple, Cheap Trick, Steve Miller, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Yes, Journey, and ELO, but maybe Cat, Joan Jett, Lou Reed, Linda Ronstadt, and Stevie Ray as well. And that’s fine- pound for pound, every one of those artists deserves to be enshrined. Yet, we’re exhausting the list of 70s classic rockers who really need to be there. After The Moodies, Dire Straits, The Cars, and a few others, we are close to exhausting that decade’s B-list and moving into the C-list.

But in those same four years, voters have passed over Chic, The Spinners, Joe Tex, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, War, The JBs, and The Meters. Worse, this contributes to what some have already identified as a self-perpetuating problem: baby boomers inclined toward the 60s and 70s inducting bands from that era who in turn become voting members, who in turn become inclined toward their fellow 60s and 70s acts. Only two black men- ‘Pac and Nile Rodgers- got in this year, and the former is in no condition to vote!

Even worse, we haven’t had a woman of color get in during the last three classes (Ronstadt- the last such person in ’13- is partly Hispanic), and no living black woman all the way since Claudette Rogers Robinson got in with the other Miracles in 2012. So- again- this is a good class; every inductee deserves to be there. But the Hall needs to find a way to get over its lack of stylistic diversity as of late.  And not just R&B: we need more alternative, EDM, country-rock, punk, and other genres too. The Hall seems to have added many more critics to the voting rolls this year,- including the great Chris Molanphy- but it doesn’t seem to have affected the results all that much. Perhaps adding still more younger voters to a group whose average age rivals that of the College of Cardinals would be a good idea. (By the way, Cleveland- I’m 33, the third-best Rock Hall blogger out there, and a historian of the 1970s. Just sayin’.)

Okay! Having said that, let’s speculate on who will be chosen to induct these artists in April:

  • Pearl Jam: Some early buzz circulates around Neil Young. I see the appeal- he was a hero to the grunge movement- but go replay his awful induction speech for McCartney in ’99. Pearl Jam deserves better. Others have suggested David Grohl, and I agree– it would be a fine way to put to rest the bizarre feud between Nirvana and Pearl Jam, a key component of Steven Hyden’s recent book, Your Favorite Band is Killing Me.
  • 2Pac: The instinct here is to get a rapper- either the obvious Dr. Dre or someone like Nas. One site has a great suggestion- Janet Jackson. It’s counterintuitive, but remember, Jackson starred in Poetic Justice together. It’s rare that a nominee who wasn’t inducted makes a speech for someone who was, but I think Janet is classy enough to do it. And if she does it well, she might grease the skids for her own induction next time around.
  • Yes- I agree with the consensus- get Rush’s Geddy Lee to fill in for the late Chris Squire on bass.
  • Journey- I have an unusual suggestion: Carlos Santana. He would be a great tribute to the more arty early days of Journey, particularly since a couple founding members such as Gregg Rollie were also inducted as part of Santana many years prior.
  • ELO: Tom Petty is a good choice but too obvious. I propose a cross-generational induction: Duane Eddy, who has worked with Jeff Lynne before and connects ELO to rock’s pioneer generation, and Dhani Harrison, who will be returning the favor after Lynne inducted his father.
  • Joan Baez: Everybody wants Bob Dylan to do it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. If Dylan can’t be guaranteed to show up for his own Nobel Prize ceremony, and was AWOL from other major accolades of Baez’s career, he’s not going to go out of his way to participate in a corporate music awards show. He don’t work on Wenner’s farm no more. Instead, they might choose fellow Greenwich Village folkie Peter Yarrow, or even better, The Indigo Girls. They recently toured with Baez, and are her most obvious heirs in terms of merging folk-rock with political advocacy.
  • Nile Rodgers: There’s no shortage of great artists that Rodgers has worked with over the years, but I suspect they’ll want at least one current hitmaker, so I’d predict Pharrell Williams.

I’m starting to like this. Imagine a jam with Santana, Nile Rodgers, Steve Howe, Eddy, and, um…Eddie trading guitar licks; Pharrell, Janet, Joan, and Steve Perry on vocals; Jeff Lynne and Rick Wakeman on keyboards; Geddy Lee on bass and Alan White on drums. They might do “Don’t Stop Believing,” followed by “Roll Over Beethoven”, “Little Red Corvette” in tribute to Prince, and closing with an a cappella “We Shall Overcome” led by Baez. Are you feeling chills?

And just for the hell of it, my first-take predictions for #RockHall2018, to be discarded later: Radiohead, Rage Against the Machine, Beck, Janet Jackson, LL Cool J, New York Dolls, Motorhead, The Spinners, Nine Inch Nails, War, The Cure, Kraftwerk, The Shangri-Las, Nina Simone, Moody Blues, Eurythmics, A Tribe Called Quest, Big Star, and J. Geils Band.