Sen. Tommy Tuberville, aka “Coach,” has released a new video statement demanding that the Biden administration move forward with transferring U.S. Space Command headquarters from its current Colorado location to his state of Alabama. At least that's what we think it's about—he takes his good sweet time meandering up to the point, but from his tweet we know that's what he thinks he was talking about.
Before we go any further: go ahead and watch the video, and let's all take a moment to acknowledge that this take, in which Coach Tommy stumbles over the words on the teleprompter like a concussed linebacker trying to find his way back to the sidelines, is apparently the best take Tuberville and his staff could muster. This evidently qualifies as one-take outrage for Tuberville, and not the sort of lasting outrage that might require a bit of rehearsal time first.
What Tuberville is complaining about, just to clarify, is not the U.S. Space Force, America's newest and most ambiguously premised military branch. He's talking about U.S. Space Command: the unified, all-services command headquartered in Colorado that runs spy satellite operations and other dreadfully ambiguous, not-gonna-talk-about-it missions. During the last days of his administration, Trump took a small break from acts of sedition to announce that the command's headquarters would be moved to Huntsville, Alabama. While that sounds like the sort of skeevy move the Trump administration's archconservative underlings became known for as they sought to move major government agencies and offices into Republican-held states in an attempt to literally "capture" the workings of federal government, two Biden-era reviews insisted that it had all been on the up and up, and that Alabama had won out as a venue for reasons not related to sedition or crookery.
Then, Roe v. Wade fell. Alabama was one of the many Republican states to swiftly implement strict new abortion bans, and businesses and federal agencies alike had to scramble to come up with solutions for workers that didn't want to live in states that now mandated, among other things, that they be half-dead of sepsis before a doctor could remove an already dead or dying fetus. It suddenly became much, much harder to recruit employees or military personnel; if being employed means moving to a state that may or may not kill you in a fit of theocratic mysticism rather than recognize an unviable pregnancy for what it is, then it’s easy to pass on that offer.
Recognizing those new recruitment and retention dangers, in mid-May the Biden administration began a reevaluation of the Trump administration's announced move of Space Command from Colorado to Alabama. If the mission is to recruit the best and the brightest, those people may not want to live in a Football Theocracy—and the easiest and cheapest solution to that new problem is to simply keep U.S. Space Command in its interim headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base, Colorado.
So that's what "Coach" Tommy Football is now fuming about: the consequences of Alabama Republicanism's own actions. Religious extremism costs jobs, and if that's all it costs, then its opponents aren't trying very hard.
But there's another reason Tuberville, in particular, is probably more responsible than almost anyone else for Alabama potentially losing Space Command headquarters. Tuberville has been singlehandedly blocking nearly all top-level military promotions in the country, a blockade that he says will continue until the military retracts its new post-Roe policy of granting U.S. servicemembers administrative leave and travel cost reimbursements if they're stationed in an abortion-banning state and need to travel to another state to receive abortion care.
Tuberville is infuriated by the notion that military members stationed in Alabama might not be held fully hostage to the state's new abortion ban, and whether or not his attempt at widespread career blackmail is endangering U.S. military readiness is none of his concern. Tuberville was immediately convinced that the administration's desire to scuttle the Space Command relocation was not based on genuine new concerns, but simply an attempt to blackmail him.
The real story here is actually pretty simple. Republican states are proudly signing religiously premised laws into place that even their own citizens oppose and that Americans in other parts of the country are not bound by. Businesses and the federal government are having trouble convincing those Americans to move to those pro-sepsis states, trying to work around the new problem by boosting medical leave and travel options for Americans they're trying to recruit, and companies like the Walt Disney Company are canceling new projects in red states outright rather than fight with Republican legislators demanding those companies abide by their new extremist edicts.
Rather than admit that workers have every right to decide to tell conservative states to pound sand when there are plenty of other, better states where it's easier to live and you're not going to die of sepsis because a senator holding up a football in his official Senate photograph thinks he has a more direct connection to the Great Space Fairy than you do, Republicans are insisting that workers don't have the right to avoid their states and corporations and the federal government doesn't have the right to respond to those market forces by choosing other options.
This isn't exactly a hard leap for Republicans already willing to back anti-democratic propaganda, attempted coup, and the targeting of schoolchildren in order to advance their aims, after all. You're not going to convince them that extremism costs jobs—and it's not a conspiracy against them, it's just how the world works. You're not going to convince Tommy Tuberville of anything, for that matter. Even his own family knows that.
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Countless progressive organizations seek to engage and mobilize voters, but coordinating those efforts is a mighty task. On this week's episode of "The Downballot," we're joined by Sara Schreiber, the executive director of America Votes, which works with hundreds of partners at the national and state level to deploy the most effective means of urging voters to the polls. Schreiber walks us through how coalitions of like-minded groups are formed and how the work of direct voter contact is divvied up between them. A special focus is on "blue surge" voters—those who, in the Trump era, joined the rolls for the first time—and why ensuring they continue to participate in the political process is the key to progressive victories.