Steve Newton on Mike Matthews

Filed in National by on October 10, 2018

There is nothing to say about Mike Matthews that Steve Newton doesn’t cover in this facebook post.  I’ve reproduced it in its entirety without a block quote for readability. 

So let’s think about Mike Matthews for a few minutes. Not only is he my friend, I can say that I am one of the people currently around who knew him well “way back when” his blog “Down with Absolutes” was among the first half-dozen edgy political blogs in Delaware.

In publishing DWA Mike said things that nobody today would ever think about saying and expect to keep a job or a public position of trust, let alone leadership. As a 22-year-old radical literally blogging from his basement he was the enfant terrible of the blogging world.

I know better than almost anybody else (with the possible exceptions of the entire Delaware Liberal crew, Dave Huber, Dana Garrett, Dave Burris, Kilroy’s Slower Delaware, David Anderson, Nancy Willing, and the anonymous kavips) about what he published. I read it, laughed at some of it, winced at other parts, argued with segments, and even agreed with him at least in substance.

Blogging back then would have curled your hair today.

Flame wars filled with profanity and just plain disturbing images reigned supreme. Anybody remember the time Delaware Liberal gleefully published a picture of a Hillary Clinton nutcracker in 2008? I do. Anybody remember the blogger who called for all of his political opponents to be stood up against a wall and shot for treason? I do. Anybody remember the ones who ran obituaries for prominent people with tag lines like “I’m glad he’s dead,” or the prominent Delaware blogger who said all Catholics who didn’t leave the church had just admitted they were child abusers? I do.

(And a reasonably well-crafted Google search could find all of that–except that I didn’t give anybody but an old-timer quite enough information to do it.)

I’m not defending those times, I am remembering them. I ran a blog (with several partners on and off) in which the all-time most highly viewed posts were on Thai “ladyboys” and the civil liberties of the Missouri Militia. (I didn’t write the first one, which has to date 230,000 hits, but I did write the second one that actually ended up anthologized in a series of college Political Science readers.)

And then, one day, Mike decided to walk away from it.

He wanted to grow up and get a job. He wanted to teach kids, not just any kids, but special needs kids. He wanted to get out of the basement, lose a ton of weight, and get into the game of actually doing something positive for society instead of … whatever happens to people who blog too long.

His past was no secret. Red Clay was fully well aware of it when he got hired, and it is not especially confidential to say that a lot of people in power did not want Mike hired (his online faux-love-affair-from-afar with Christine O’Donell didn’t help), but his passion and his skills convinced them to give him a chance. That probably wouldn’t have happened today.

(Side note: Mike took down his blog not because it might harm the future of the political career he’d never thought of having by that point, but because it wasn’t something he ever wanted his students to stumble across. He was in deadly earnest from Day Zero that if he was going to teach kids, he had to become a role model for them. So he set about, systematically, becoming that person.)

Even Mike’s political enemies will have to admit he’s one helluva teacher. There are dozens if not hundreds of kids out there today (I know some of them personally) who are out there today in jobs (or went to college) who would never have made it to–let alone through–high school without having been in his class. Mike won’t tell you about them, even if that costs him everything, because it’s their lives and their privacy, and he wouldn’t compromise that to save himself from a lynching.

Down with Absolutes was never a secret as his career, first as a union grievance officer, then as RSEA President, took off. Anybody who was around back then who tells you they didn’t know about it is, frankly, either lying or at least suspiciously amnesiac. Having DWA in his past was, in fact, one of the reasons that he did not rise to prominence faster.

At every step of the way he had to prove himself, at each point he had to live down his irreverently misspent youth.

By the way, in case you doubt me, the bloggers who were trading insults with Mike back then today include senior Democratic and Republican Party officials; elected legislators and city council members (Dem and GOP) from around the State; and prominent attorneys.

At least two current bloggers who go back that far who seem to have mysteriously forgotten that they were not only there at the time, but that they participated avidly in the mudslinging of questionable taste. Both of them know exactly who I am talking about–I won’t “out” them because bloggers from that era never did that.

And he did. I am on record as not agreeing with a lot of Mike’s politics, but then I am the original iconoclast. But I cannot fault Mike for the courage of his convictions; his work ethic; his genuine concern for the welfare of everybody’s children; his push for good government; his outright advocacy of LGBTQ issues long before it was cool.

He has knocked on doors and carried signs. He has attended meetings and fundraisers, and gotten out his own checkbook time and again. He and his husband, Jose Avila, have dedicated their joint life to the causes they believe in.

Nope, he ain’t perfect. DWA aside, Mike can be pompous, overbearing, and self-righteous (sorry, guy, but we both know it’s true) and that makes him the kind of person that people want to go after.

They’ve tried it before.

Delaware’s right-wing social media attempted to crucify Mike as an enabler of child molesters (if not worse) over his stand for transgender rights for students.

One Delaware blogger (who’s at the movies) allowed himself to become the unwitting tool of a national right-wing smear campaign against unions to take some of Mike’s correspondence out of context.

There are certainly members of DSEA who resent the fact that he will not check his progressive credentials at the door, and continues to criticize President Trump, march for a $15 minimum wage, and stand up for LGBTQ rights.

He’s withstood that, and–as a person–he will withstand this, even if it costs him the DSEA presidency. Because you can’t really defeat a man like Mike Matthews, you can only kill him.

I will not stooge for forgiveness of his writings back then–I don’t think he wants that, and I think that to do so would disrespect both the young man he was, and the man he has become. He wrote some pretty horrific shit by today’s standards, and if you want to go back through all the blogs from the 2007-2010 period (that are mostly still actively archived) you can still find a lot of that, and a lot of responses in kind from many of our current political leaders.

(Is that the sound of scrubbing archives I hear? I truly hope not. I thought better of all of you.)

The difference between Mike Matthews and, say, a judge who now sits on the highest bench in the land, is that Mike has never lied about his youthful errors, and has lived a life that makes clear his atonement and growth.

So take your best shot at the man.

If you miss, you’ll probably hit me, because I will be standing beside him. I hope–and expect, damnit–to find a lot of other people who were part of that raucous conversation also willing to get into the line of fire.

Don’t make me have to go all Around-the-Horn on your asses to get you into the fight.

About the Author ()

Jason330 is a deep cover double agent working for the GOP. Don't tell anybody.

Comments (45)

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  1. Martha W says:

    Are people seriously justifying the vile things he said? Statements like the ones outlined in the news article are obviously indicative of deep seated beliefs. He wasnt a kid when he posted those. He was in his 20s.

    • Paul says:

      Martha: I read 22. Just finished his undergrad. Human frontal cortexes are not fully developed until as late as 25. I understand your anger at his behavior. It is irresponsible behavior. He now claims to have the chops to be president, figurehead, and public face of DSEA. But to your point, at what age would you be willing to discount the lack of consideration of his choice of words? The age and mental age of young humans is indeed problematic, taken in conjunction with their choices and behavior.

      • jason330 says:

        Paul, that’s playing their game. Fuck these people. They are either easily & happily duped, or a part of the hatchet job. Either way, there is no appeal to reason with them.

  2. Alby says:

    If you read the essay, you’ll see Steve specifically did not condone the vile things he said. My enemies justify, my friends provide context, but they’re doing the same thing.

    • Alby says:

      I should also note that those vile statements were just the ones suitable for print, and that, in Mike’s defense, Ruth Ann Minner, unlike most male politicians, always looked more at home at the State Fair than at chicken dinners.

      • Lebay says:

        An acquaintance of mine referred to Ms. Minner as “A Cadillac with tits.” He wasn’t wrong.

        She was a corrupt old hag, but no one could convince the Blue Delaware folks of that. Sorry/not sorry Cassandra and pandora. You two need to get over your phony “righteous indignation” bullshit.

        That said, Mike Matthews should crawl away silently and pray to the great and holy Jeebus that Frederika Jenner doesn’t punch him in his dumb face. She’s done MORE over the top shit for less important reasons

        • Alby says:

          Well, I more than once described her as Sherman Tribbitt with tits, but that wasn’t quite true, as Sherman Tribbitt had man-tits.

        • I don’t think that Cassandra and Pandora were cheerleaders for Minner.

          Clinton, yes. Minner, no.

          Just tryin’ to keep it real.

          • Lebay says:

            @ El Som-
            I never said they were cheerleaders:

            She was a corrupt old hag, but no one could convince the Blue Delaware folks of that. Sorry/not sorry Cassandra and pandora. You two need to get over your phony “righteous indignation” bullshit.

  3. RE Vanella says:

    I read Mike’s shit as satire. It’s crass and the racial/misogynistic aspect ain’t great.

    But if he were a stand-up comic in his early 20s it wouldn’t be a story.

    It’s writing not action. That’s the bit you miss.

    I wrote yesterday I hope Markell crashed his bicycle.

  4. jason330 says:

    The easily played seem to loved being played.

  5. RE Vanella says:

    I feel like I don’t even understand what’s happening. Can I not call Carney a worthless cunt anymore? Comedy died with Carlin.

    • jason330 says:

      Of course it was satire. I love how “the left” loves to jump when the fucking a-holes on the right whistle for fear of being called hypocrites.

      You know who doesn’t give a fuck about being called hypocrite? Every Republican.

  6. RE Vanella says:

    I feel threatened. I’m logging off…

  7. puck says:


    I skimmed through the WHYY story on the web, glanced at those horrible quotes, and thought how out of context they seem now. Back in the day, DWA was on my regular rounds of blog reading. I guess I read the awful stuff too, but I found it cringeworthy and it was quickly forgotten. In the end that’s not what I remember about DWA. I was mostly drawn to Mike’s political posts, including interviews and in-person coverage of the late-night end of session at the General Assembly, and the occasional outbreak of world-class humor writing.

    Those who were there knew it wasn’t about misogyny or racism. But there’s no point now trying to explain that to newcomers.

    • jason330 says:

      Right. Proof texting is some lazy as shit journalism. Cris B should know better. He is a piece of shit in my book.

      • jason330 says:

        I’m replying to my own comment because fucking Cris Barrish allowed someone else to proof text the post and simply provided some stenography. OMG – WHAT A FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT. That’s not journalism.

        The more i think about this the angrier I get.

  8. Hey, Steve might’ve been writing about me in his coded comments about bloggers, I honestly can’t remember. I am sure that I’ve written stuff that I would be embarrassed to admit I wrote.

    What I know about Mike is that he is an invaluable advocate for the most disadvantaged students in Delaware. He is a fierce fighter for what’s right.

    I honestly wonder why someone thought to dredge this stuff up. Who planted this bug in Barrish’s ear? No, you can’t really defend it. But look at the person today and what he does. I can guarantee you that whoever pissed into Barrish’s ear can’t come close to matching Mike’s value to our community. I guess Cris is missing the big time, because that hit piece is totally bush league.

    • jason330 says:

      The blog had millions of words of context.

      Hey Cris Barrish – I have a scoop for you. The novel “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” contans the word nigger. That means Mark Twain was a racist. Run with it.

    • Check this out: “Some of those older blog posts, especially about women and minorities, WERE RECENTLY DISCOVERED AND SHARED WITH WHYY. Questions are being raised in Delaware education and political circles where some are calling the comments sexist and racist. The posts reviewed by WHYY contain graphic descriptions readers might find offensive.”

      In other words, someone who was out to get Matthews contacted Barrish, and Barrish ran with it WITHOUT IDENTIFYING WHO WAS OUT TO GET HIM. That would have provided context to the story, don’tchathink?

  9. puck says:

    Here’s a link for those (like me) who had to look up “proof texting” :

    “Prooftexting (sometimes “proof-texting” or “proof texting”) is the practice of using isolated, out-of-context quotations from a document to establish a proposition in eisegesis (introducing one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases). Such quotes may not accurately reflect the original intent of the author,[1] and a document quoted in such a manner, when read as a whole, may not support the proposition for which it was cited.”

  10. puck says:

    Recently discovered my ass. I’m certain Cris Barrish was a loyal DWA reader too, and knows better.

  11. Paul says:

    I need a program to know who is who in the story. DSEA I know firsthand.

  12. Bane says:

    This is awkward

  13. puck says:

    Well, that’s the last time DSEA endorses someone who audits charter schools.

  14. Steve Newton says:

    Here’s the truly fascinating (appalling) part of this story:

    Jason, Liberalgeek, Alby, Pandora, Hube, Nancy Willing, Dana Garrett, Brian Shields, Puck, et al ad nauseam. … We all know exactly how many political leaders of today–elected officials and movers and shakers–were on the blogs way back then, reading and commenting. Strangely, they weren’t offended. Even more strangely, they’ve never remembered to be offended in retrospect. Perhaps strangest of all, they are all sitting around silently praying that nobody finds a way to do real investigative reporting to discover that they were all in the room.

    Jason–remember Governor Markell’s first blogger summit with his press secretary? Mike Matthews was invited by the Governor’s office to participate. This is really interesting. If they didn’t read him and believe he was influential, they wouldn’t have invited him. But if they did read him, why weren’t they so offended? And where are they now? Hoping nobody remembers?

    But those of us who were there, we remember. …

  15. disappointed says:

    Sorry, Mike. You deserved much better.

    I hated some of the stuff you wrote back then. Hated. It. But not you. I always felt that you were more talented than the mean stuff.

    And you were.

    And you are.

    But some of the stuff you wrote back then was what your worst critics says it was. No getting around that, and you have owned up to that.

    I was one of your worst critics back then.

    But I never wanted to believe that blogger persona was who you really were, and your life after DWA, I think, proved it wasn’t.

    You grew up.

    You became a fierce fighter for children’s education, all children, regardless of race, gender, or special needs.

    I became a believer in who you really are. Every time I read something about you, I would smile inside in thinking about how far you have come.

    You are amazing.

    The world needs people like you. Don’t give up. This wave will past.


  16. This smells and feels like Atnre Alleyne. Hates DSEA. Hates Mike. Helped develop the god-awful RTTT teacher evaluations based on standardized tests that Mike fought like hell against. Worked for the DOE. Now runs the Delaware chapter of 50CAN, a right organization that… you guessed it… rails against traditional school districts and loves charter schools. Add in the Kavanaugh/metoo stuff, some timing in the face of Delaware elections, and boom! Tell me I’m wrong Atnre. You sure put Barrish’s articles up real fast on some education Facebook pages.

  17. Scuttlebutt302 says:

    This is a hit job plain and simple and it’s too bad. If those A-1 shitbags Trump and Kavanaugh can be POTUS and on SCOTUS, then this shitbag (and yes, he’s still a shitbag) can be DSEA prez. The left needs to not be so quick to eat its own (e.g. Franken). A little fortitude please. Who/what are you worried about – being called a hypocrite by the GOP? F that.

  18. Past endorsements says:

    Nice try jason. If you stumbled across a blog from 12 years ago by carper, Bethany, carney, or another middle of the road boring dem from delaware, you and RE would be in the street with pitchforks.

    You don’t get it both ways. Sucks for your friend, it’s fun to dabble in being a punk ass when you are young, but that shit does not go away, and for a hater of so many like you, you don’t get to try explain away fuck ups.

    We saw old white guys do that all September in Congress. It does not work for them, and it doesn’t work for you.

    Good news is that with Mike out of work, with not much to loose (in the short term at this point), I bet/hope we could see some fucking awesome stuff come out of him where he just lays waste to what he has dealt with. More Ruth ann jokes. Some jokes about how many educational non profits Longwood can start and have compete with each other before people reale it’s a non profit cage match, and There and Rod Ward are the only ones in on the game. Maybe some posts about the legislators with the lowest reading and math proficiency, or why Kim Williams has crazy hair. Or maybe he remains a grown up and doesn’t blog about it. That would be the high and smart road for him, but boring for us.

  19. Steve Newton says:

    @past endorsements–//If you stumbled across a blog from 12 years ago by carper, Bethany, carney, or another middle of the road boring dem from delaware, you and RE would be in the street with pitchforks.//

    If you believe anyone “stumbled across” Down with Absolutes, you’re either incredibly naive or a sock puppet. The Powers That Be have known about this since many of them were commenters and readers way back when.

    Ask rather: “Who decided it was finally time to take Mike Matthews out, and what specifically are they trying to deflect interest away from?”

  20. W C Fields says:

    Catholics that don’t leave the church may not be child abusers but the priest that they follow may be.

  21. Alby says:

    There is at least one “punk-ass blogger” from the early days who now works in the office of a highly placed Delaware politician. I think that job would be in jeopardy should their writing ever be connected to the person.

    We should at least acknowledge that this is a weapon developed by the left that is now being used against it.