Blue Wave Fading to Aqua?

As a non-republican … an independent voter who, at this point is leaning heavily toward the democratic platform … I have been buoyed by the confidence of many in the “blue wave” that many see as sweeping the mid-terms.  At first, I was skeptical, thinking we were perhaps becoming cocky, over-confident, and that there were yet many hurdles to be either knocked down or jumped over.  But, I eventually became a bit more optimistic and felt certain the democrats will take over at least one of the chambers of Congress in November.  Turns out, my skepticism was justified.  According to a piece in The Washington Post yesterday …

“With the Republicans’ House majority at risk, 47 percent of registered voters say they prefer the Democratic candidate in their district, while 43 percent favor the Republican. That four-point margin compares with a 12-point advantage Democrats held in January.”  — 16 April 2018

Where did the other 8% go???  I wrack my brain, such as it is, trying to think why this should be the case.   The republican candidates in a number of races are notably bad candidates with sometimes outrageous views and histories.  Surely there hasn’t been any bright shining light from our current Congress, nor from the executive branch that would have driven a push to the right.  So … WHY???

According to the analysis in the Post article, one reason is that Trump’s approval rating is hovering at right around 40%, as compared to 36% in January.  Let us make note here that 40% is not a great approval rating by any standards, but it would seem that Trump set himself such a low bar to begin with that 40% now inspires the masses … somehow.

One issue that is almost certain to play largely into the equation in November is that of gun regulation.  In the wake of the February 14 Parkland Florida mass school shooting, young people have taken the proverbial bull by the horns and made their voices heard around the nation.  They want something done … now … before more of their friends die such a tragic death.  And they are a force, for certain.  But … before we become too cocky over that one, remember that there is also a push-back factor among those who see their right to own guns … any and all guns … as sacred.  From the Post article …

“… three-quarters of voters who prioritize enacting new gun laws support Democrats for Congress, while 8 in 10 of those who give protecting gun rights greater significance support Republicans.”

So yes, more people, especially those who will be eligible to vote for the first time in their lives, will turn out to vote and will likely vote for a candidate who supports stricter gun laws.  But at the same time, more people who might have let a mid-term election pass them by, will turn out to ‘protect’ their 2nd Amendment ‘right’.

It is the way of political campaigns to find a chink in the armour of the ‘enemy’ and blow it into a full-size chasm.  The democratic party is not without its Achilles heels, one of which is Minority House Leader, Nancy Pelosi.

“Pelosi has a negative image, with 32 percent of Americans holding a favorable view of her, and 44 percent unfavorable. Among Republicans, she is well-known and widely disliked, with 74 percent holding unfavorable views of her, 63 percent strongly.”

CNN Politics has referred to Pelosi as ‘the Republicans’ secret weapon in 2018’.

As I noted in my three-part project last week, one of the biggest hurdles we face in November is getting people to the polls.  I firmly believe that if we could get 85% of eligible voters to actually vote, the Democrats would sweep the mid-terms, but that is unlikely.  Still, it behooves us all to work toward getting more people to vote, getting more people interested, reminding them what is at stake.  We also face hurdles of gerrymandering, and while I applaud the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for their firm stance on re-districting, I don’t see other states following suit as I had hoped they would.

The Republicans are poised to play a dirty game of pool, and they are likely to continue to have the help of their friends, the Russians.  Although it has been proven that the Russians did, in fact, interfere in several ways in the fairness of our democratic processes in 2016, the Trump regime has declined to take aggressive steps to avoid such interference this year.  The Democratic Party must proactively counter the falsehoods and mud-slinging that is sure to start in earnest any day now, but it must do so without lowering itself to those standards.  We must show the public the face of integrity, the face of values, ethics, compassion and intellect.  Rather than engage in a mud-fest, we must prove why our candidate is the better one for the job.

So, why are the Democrats losing ground in the polls?  Why is the ‘blue wave’ fading to aqua?  I don’t have the answer, but we need to be finding it … SOON!  There are 203 days left until election day.

The November mid-terms are too important for us to sit back and assume that anti-Trump sentiments will carry the Democratic candidates into a majority position in the House and/or Senate. It is said by many that Trump, himself, will doom the Republican candidates in November, and it is a comforting, appealing idea, but … it would be a mistake to become overly-confident.  Remember 2016?  We were so sure that a ‘man’ with no experience, no knowledge, and a big, loud, obnoxious mouth could never be elected to the most revered office in the land.  Well, guess what, folks?

On Voters Not Voting – Part III: Solutions

In Part I of this project, we looked at the reasons people give for not voting, and in Part II, we looked at the demographics … who isn’t voting, and why.  When we put those two together, we see why some people aren’t voting, for the system is designed to make it difficult for them.  In this, the final part of the project on voters not voting, we will look at some ways to effect change.  There are actually two distinct groups of non-voters:  those who are at least partly disenfranchised, for whom the system has made voting a difficult task, and those who are either too lazy or apathetic to stir themselves to vote.  The solutions are different for each of these groups, so we need to look at them separately.  But first, a disclaimer.  There is no panacea, no simple, single solution that will all of a sudden solve the problem of nearly half the eligible voters failing to vote.  We must find a multitude of small steps that all contribute toward bringing us closer to the goal.

Registration

The first step in the process of voting is to register.  At present, the onus for registering lies solely with the voter. Every state’s registration rules are a bit different.  In 37 states, one can register online, but in the other 13, registration must be done in person.  For many, this means taking time off work, and possibly difficulties finding transportation.  Online registration is a great idea, but it needs to be made well-known to all, for many are not aware that it is possible, or how to begin the process.There are ways to remind people:  workplaces and churches could place posters reminding people to register and listing places, such as DMV as well as the website.  Schools could send home flyers reminding parents to register.  And to be really proactive, districts could mail registration forms to all homes in the district.  Another, even better idea is automatic registration, such as is used in countries like Canada and Germany where voter turnout rates are in the 90 percentile range.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Eleven states and the District of Columbia have already approved automatic voter registration, and 19 states have introduced automatic registration proposals in 2018. In addition, the New Jersey Legislature passed automatic voter registration on April 12th, and the bill is awaiting Governor Phil Murphy’s signature.”

Registration may well be half the battle and some combination of the above ideas would likely have a significant impact on voter turnout.

The Disenfranchised

This group consists of people who are typically lower income or minorities, for whom just getting through the day and feeding their family is hard.  State regulations have made the process of voting harder for these people by closing polling stations in their neighborhoods, shortening the hours of polling stations, and requiring a driver’s license or other state-issued identification that they may not have.  The solution is simple, right?  But with the repeal of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, there is no longer a requirement for federal oversight, and the states are largely free to do whatever they want, within certain boundaries.  Section 5 needs desperately to be reinstated, but that will not likely happen soon, if ever.  Meanwhile?

With a republican majority in Congress, it is unlikely that legislation to help make voting easier for the disenfranchised would fly, for those it would benefit are more likely to vote democrat.  One partial solution is what happened in Pennsylvania recently, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state’s district map must be re-drawn in order to be more fair.  The ruling was unsuccessfully challenged by republican lawmakers, and the map has been redrawn.  While gerrymandered maps are not technically a barrier to voting, in the sense that they may cause polling stations to be farther from a person’s home or workplace and thus require greater travel time, the reality is that they can be a barrier.  I would like to see the Supreme Courts in every state follow the lead of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

One thing that many of us can do is actually help people get to their polling places.  There are many volunteers who spend the entire election day driving elderly people and others without transportation to and from the polling stations.  A reader of this blog left me this comment yesterday:

“I have a listing of homeowners and rental units in the town in which I live..and together with other “ladies” from the Resist Movement in OK, go door to door and hand out voter registration papers..we will offer to assist in filling them out, and we then offer a ride to the polling places on voting days. You’d be amazed how many do not vote because they thought they “weren’t allowed to vote” after having misdemeanor convictions!”

I just wanted to hug this lady!!!  She is doing something to make the world a better place, and to her, my thumbs are all up!

Other measures that have proven helpful in getting voters to the polls include:

  • Early voting, which allows any qualified voter to cast a ballot during a specified period prior to the actual election day.
  • Absentee voting, whereby voters may request an absentee ballot and return it either by mail or in person, with or without an excuse. Presently, 27 states and the District of Columbia allow absentee voting without needing an excuse, 20 others require an excuse.
  • All-mail voting, where a ballot is automatically mailed to every eligible voter (no request or application is necessary). Three states, Oregon, Washington and Colorado currently use all-mail voting.  Funny story about this … I periodically make comments to my girls about projects I am working on, usually unsolicited and out of the blue.  As I was working on this one, I asked the girls if they were aware that 3 states actually had all-mail voting.  Daughter Chris’ jaw dropped to the ground, thinking I meant “all-male” voting!

early voting map

Voter Apathy

Those who are simply either too lazy, don’t care, don’t like the candidates, or believe that it is a lost cause, may be the most challenging to get to the polls.  To do so will require a plethora of different things, starting with voter education, and involving large amounts of motivating and inspiring techniques.  Unfortunately, these constitute the largest group, some 65% of all the non-voters.  This translates into roughly 58.2 million people!

While I personally believed … still believe … that Hillary Clinton would have been a good president, I admit that she came with some baggage, and was not a particularly ‘lovable’ candidate, did not run an inspired campaign.  Thus, in 2016, it is understandable that many did not like either candidate.  But how to convince these people that it is better to vote for the lesser of two evils than to simply shrug their shoulders and stay at home watching television?

I think the starting point must be in education.  According to Donald Green, a political scientist at Columbia University in New York City, it is up to parents and teachers to stress just how important it is.  Common sense, yes?

I don’t know the answers, but somehow we must find ways to convince these 58.2 million people that their vote counts, that they make a difference, but not sitting home on their patooties.  Talk to friends who say they don’t care.  Join a volunteer group that is going door-to-door talking to people.  Sport a t-shirt with your favourite candidate (I still wear my Obama t-shirt!!!), put a bumper sticker on your car.  Help people to better understand the issues, the candidates.

A recent quote I saw in the New York Times seems apropos:

To many African-American voters in Alabama, Cecil said, “Donald Trump is the living embodiment of the idea that voting doesn’t matter.” Trump is profoundly unfit to be a president — a congenital liar and racist who lost the popular vote by 2.9 million votes. And yet president he is.

This is, I think, one of the biggest hurdles, and while I disagree with the thought process, I understand it.

Conclusion

Given our current system, we will not likely achieve 90% turnout, but I think we can damn well do better than 56%, especially given that those who voted in 2016 were a majority of wealthy, white people, leaving behind a large portion of the citizens, equally important citizens, of this nation.  Because of the results, we have all but lost our voice in our government.  Sure, you can write and call your members of Congress, but I haven’t had a personalized response yet, and I’m never even sure if they hear, but I’m sure they don’t care.  Until November 6th, and then they will care.  We must send a message, but in order to do so, we all need to speak.  Let’s help make sure more people vote this year.  Let’s all do a few things within our own circle of friends, family & neighbors:

  • Make sure they are registered. If they aren’t offer to help with filling out forms, taking them to register if they cannot do so online.
  • Help them understand the issues and what each candidate stands for.
  • Keep talking about how very important it is that everyone get out and vote, without necessarily pushing a specific candidate.
  • Volunteer to drive people to the polling stations on November 6th.

It is up to We The People, for we cannot rely on the government to work toward increasing voter turnout.  We need some new blood … let’s make it happen, folks!  And thus concludes this project on Voters Not Voting.  I hope you have found it useful.  Thanks for reading!!!

On Voters Not Voting – Part II: The Demographics

Only 67% or all eligible voters are even registered to vote.  That is only two out of every three adults.  In Part I of this project, I looked at the reasons people gave for not voting, some of which were ludicrous, such as “forgot”, “weather”, and “too busy”.  But there are some legitimate reasons that people do not vote.  To understand these, I think it is important to look at some of the demographics of the non-voters.

Race

Among white voters, 73.5% of eligible voters did actually vote in 2016.  But minorities were much less likely to vote, with only 69.7% of African-Americans, 59.4% of Latinos, and the lowest group being Asians at 55.3%.

Age

Not surprisingly, the percentage of eligible voters who vote increases with age:

Age 18 to 24       58.5%

Age 25 to 34       66.4%

Age 35 to 44       69.9%

Age 45 to 54       73.5%

Age 55 to 64       76.6%

Age 65 to 74       78.1%

Age 75 or older 76.6%

I suspect, with the heightened awareness of young people in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting in February, we will see an increase in the 18-24 age group this November.

Education

There is absolutely nothing surprising in this set of statistics:

Less than high school graduate  50.5%

High school graduate      64.1%

Some college     75.3%

Bachelor’s degree            81.2%

Advanced degree            85.8%

Income

Again, no real surprises here:

Income less than $20,000              63.7%

$20,000 to $29,999          67.1%

$30,000 to $39,999          71.1%

$40,000 to $49,999          72.6%

$50,000 to $74,999          78.2%

$75,000 to $99,999          81.9%

$100,000 and over          79.6%

While this one isn’t surprising, it is disturbing, for the very people who most need fairness from our government are the least likely to vote to make a difference.

Taken together, when we look at the demographics, look at who is and who isn’t voting, is it any wonder that we currently have a government that is “Of the wealthy white people, By the wealthy white people, and For the wealthy white people”?  They are the ones who vote!

All of the above statistics are understandable when put into context.  There are a number of things that have led to the disenfranchisement of lower income and minority voters.  Consider gerrymandering, redistricting states so that most minorities are grouped into as few as districts as possible so as to be given a much weaker voice than their white counterparts.  I have shared this graphic before, but it is still the clearest, most understandable explanation of how gerrymandering can change the outcome of an election:And then there are the various efforts by many states to make it more difficult for lower income and minorities to vote, such as shortening the hours that polls are open, and closing polling places in poorer or predominantly minority areas. Twenty states do not allow a person convicted of a felony to vote while serving a sentence or while on probation.  Two states, Florida and Virginia, permanently disallow convicted felons voting privileges.

In some cases, voter I.D. may be difficult to obtain.  Consider these cases:

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before. – New York Times, 10 March 2018

In 1965, Congress passed, and President Lyndon Johnson signed into law, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, perhaps the single most important piece of legislation to come from the Civil Rights movement.  It eliminated certain barriers to voting, such as literacy testing and other requirements that denied many blacks the right to vote.  Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act precluded certain states and districts that had a history of disenfranchising blacks, from implementing any change affecting voting without receiving preapproval from the U.S. Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for D.C.  But in 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 5 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.  Chief Justice John Roberts said, essentially, that times had changed and the Court believed racial discrimination was no longer the problem it was in the 1960s.  Almost immediately on the heels of this ruling, Texas announced new voter identification laws and redistricting maps.  Other states in the South followed suit.

Referring back to Part I of this project, we looked at some of the reasons people gave for not voting.  When we look at the 6% who said they did not vote due to ‘registration problems’, or the 2.7% who claimed ‘inconvenient polling place’, or the 2.6% who said they had ‘transportation problems’, perhaps we can understand those reasons.  Consider the single mom who is not allowed to take time off work, so she goes to vote after work. The polling station in her neighborhood closed last year, so she now has to take a bus to her new polling place 45 minutes away from where she works.  Meanwhile, her children are home alone with nobody to cook their supper, or supervise them.  What would you do?

It is obvious that there are some people who do not vote with good reason.  We need to find solutions to the barriers for minorities and others who are truly disenfranchised.  We also need to find ways to inspire and motivate those who make excuses not to vote, to convince them that their vote is important.  And we need to make voting more accessible to all.  In Part III, we will take a look at some things that may contribute to increasing the numbers of people who vote.  There is no single panacea, but I believe there are a number of things that can be done at the federal and state levels, as well as by people like me and you, people who care about our country.  Stay tuned …

This is Part II of a 3-part project on Voters not Voting.  Part III will look at some things that can be done to help solve the problem and get people to the polls on November 6th.

On Voters Not Voting – Part I: The Problem

In the 2016 elections, U.S. citizens stood to lose a lot.  As we now know, we stood to lose our voices.  And yet, with so much riding on a single day, with our very futures and those of our children on the line, a huge number of Americans could not be bothered to take an hour out of their day to go vote.  In fact, according to a Pew Research Center analysis,  U.S. voter turnout was very low compared to other nations’ recent elections.  In Belgium, 87.2% of eligible voters actually voted, and in Mexico, 66%.  The U.S.?  55.7%.  Just over half of all those who could have voted, actually did.  Where were the rest of the people who might have been able to save us from the chaos our nation has become?  Let us take a look at some of the excuses reasons that are offered1:

  • Too busy conflicting schedule  17.5 %
  • Illness or disability  14.9 %
  • Not interested 13.4 %
  • Did not like candidates or campaign issues  12.9 %
  • Other  11.3 %
  • Out of town  8.8 %
  • Don’t know  7 %
  • Registration problems  6 %
  • Inconvenient polling place  2.7 %
  • Transportation problems  2.66 %
  • Forgot  2.6 %
  • Bad weather  0.2 %

Too busy.  Not interested.  FORGOT??? With all the non-stop news on every media outlet, both legitimate and social, for fully 18 months before the election, how the Sam Heck could anybody, let alone some 2.3 million people, simply forget???  We must surely qualify for the nation with the poorest memories in the world!

Nearly 90 million people who were eligible to vote in 2016 did not.  What might our nation look like today if those 89.7 million people had gotten off their butts and done what is known as their civic duty?  I, for one, might not have bags the size of Oklahoma under my eyes!  We might actually have a functional government in Washington.  Perhaps there would be heads of agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, and the State Department who not only knew and understood their jobs, but were also willing to do them!  We might not be making threats to other nations that stir the angst of all and put the U.S. and its allies in danger.  We might be participating in working to establish peace, rather than to start a war.  And we might still have the respect, rather than the derision, of other nations. But no … people were too busy, didn’t want to get rained on, didn’t like the choices, or just weren’t interested.

There are, certainly, some who did have legitimate reasons for not voting.  If a person was in an auto accident, or had a sudden heart attack and found himself unexpectedly in the hospital on November 8th, that person is not to blame for the current mess.  I have a friend who lives with an oxygen tank and is confined to a wheelchair, yet she voted, so overall, I am not inclined to buy the excuse of ‘illness or disability’ except in certain circumstances.  Where there is a will, there is a way.  Especially given the fact that almost every state offers some combination of early voting, absentee voting, and mail-in ballots, so people who are too sick or otherwise incapacitated, were still able to cast a vote.

The 13.4% who said they were ‘not interested’ puzzle me.  How can one not be interested in who makes the decisions that affect all of our very lives?  Do these people pay taxes, get sick sometimes, send their children to school, have jobs?  Do they breathe???  I wonder how many of those who were not interested are even functional human beings?  I wonder if they will be interested when their son gets his draft notice to go serve in the Korean Peninsula?  Will they sit up and take notice when their kids are sent home from school because of a lack of funding?  Or when they suddenly cannot breathe the air?

Those who ‘did not like the candidates or the campaign issues’ (12.9%) are just as bad.  So what?  You do some research, you inform yourself of the issues, and you choose the one that is least obnoxious to you.  It’s called the ‘lesser of two evils’, and it has been the de-facto way of voting for decades, if not centuries.  No candidate will ever be perfect, and no candidate can appeal to everyone, for we are humans, not automatons.  But if you cannot even be bothered to give it some thought and make a choice, then you are simply too lazy.  That’s right … lazy!

The bottom line is this … with some exceptions that I will discuss in Part II, the 89.7 million people in this nation who were eligible to vote, but didn’t, must claim much of the responsibility for all the chaos and dangerous politics happening in our country today.  These people who did not vote are every bit as guilty as those who voted for Trump.  Those who voted for Trump made a mistake, but those who did not bother to even vote because they were too lazy or uncaring deserve the wrath and scorn of us all.Voting is a right, it is a privilege, and most importantly, it is a responsibility.  If you eschew this right, if you shirk your responsibility, we are all losers.  This nation will not remain a free nation if nobody cares enough to vote for the people who will keep it free.  It is my opinion that we are currently on the very brink of losing our status as a free nation, that our very Constitution is in danger of being shredded, and I lay the blame for that right at the feet of those who failed us all in November 2016.

1 Statistic Brain 

This is Part I of a 3-part project on Voters not Voting.  Part II will take a look at the demographics — who isn’t voting and why. And finally, Part III will look at some things that can be done to help solve the problem and get people to the polls on November 6th.

The Rats Know

Blogger-friend Erik Hare of Barataria has some interesting thoughts about the November mid-term elections. Some I had already considered, but one point he makes that I hadn’t thought about is valid, I think: the election “won’t be about policy or anything substantial, it will be about getting rid of Trump. ” I think he is spot on! As is the title of his work … every time another member of Congress announces that he/she won’t seek re-election, the very thought comes to my mind, “rats deserting a sinking ship”. Please take a minute to read Erik’s post … it is food for thought. Thanks, Erik, for implied permission to re-blog!

Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

Like all mariner tales, the story slips in like a schooner on a foggy, becalmed day. Rats, the story goes, might leap off the lines that held a boat fast to the dock if they knew the next voyage was doomed. And rats, as creatures of the bilge, always knew. When you see them on the lines do not sign on to that ship for she is bound for Davy Jones’ locker.

People today are rarely as superstitious as ancient sailors. But when you have far too many hours adrift at sea with no winds, like this Congress, the mind does wander. A change of leadership isn’t always up to the voters, as it were, but up to the crew and their desire to not miss the message of the rats.

View original post 562 more words

An Open Letter To Congress …

 

09 April 2018

Dear Member of Congress,

I am told that you have concerns about your upcoming performance review on November 6th, as well you should.  Your employers, I and many others, are very displeased with your job performance and frankly, I am already seeking your replacement in the event you do not turn things around very quickly.  It appears the problem lies with the fact that you have forgotten to whom you owe your allegiance.  It was I and my fellow citizens who hired you, and it is to us whom you have a responsibility … all of us, not just some.

First, allow me to make one thing perfectly clear:  Donald J. Trump is not your employer!  He may have given you to believe that he is, but he is not.  He is merely another employee of the organization that is run by We The People, and his job is also in jeopardy, so you would do well to put distance between you, lest you be caught up in the maelstrom that is in the making, even as I write this.  Your mandate is not to do his bidding, but to do the bidding of the citizens of this nation.

Second, you are not employed by industries such as the oil & gas industry, the auto industry, nor the manufacturers of firearms.  If you are taking money from these in exchange for pandering to them, then you are in breach of your employment contract with your constituents.  The aforementioned industries provide no benefit for the citizens of this nation other than that for which we pay dearly, so there is no justification for your close ties to them.

Third, while it is true that you have many employers, and that we may not always agree on what we expect of you, we all trust that you will make sound decisions that benefit the nation as a whole. You got this job because we believed you had the ability to do that. To date, you have failed miserably in this task.  You seem to believe that the few with the most wealth are the only employers to whom you are accountable, and nothing could be further from the truth.  When the time for your performance review comes in November, those with great wealth will have only one, single vote, that will count no more than mine will.  You would do well to remember that.

Frankly, I would terminate your employment tomorrow, were it in my power, but per the terms of your employment contract (the U.S. Constitution, Article I), I must wait until November.  Understand, however, that I and my fellow citizens will be watching you even more closely than ever for the next seven months and there are certain expectations that must be met, else you will be seeking employment elsewhere.

Here is a partial list of the things that you must work on before November:

  • We The People have made it clear that we want stricter control over firearms in the hands of civilians. We want a ban on assault weapons, waiting periods, and stronger background checks that are actually enforced in all venues.

  • We want you to re-instate the environmental protections that have been rolled back over the course of the past year, for we believe that our health and the health of our planet are more important in the long run than the profits of the fossil fuel industries.


  • We want you to work on making necessary repairs to the Affordable Healthcare Act so that all of us will be able to receive medical treatment when we or our family members are ill.


  • We want you to serve as a safeguard, just as the framers of the Constitution intended, against radical and damaging policies put forth by Donald Trump. You are supposed to challenge him, hold him accountable, but instead, when he says, “jump”, you are asking “how high?”  This cowardly behaviour must stop once and for all!


  • We want you to legislate campaign finance rules that will severely limit the amount of money you and your fellow legislators may receive from wealth donors.  It appears that your conscience shrinks in direct proportion to the amount of monies you receive, and this is not conducive to good governance.


  • We expect to see, prior to November, your plan for a balanced budget. You have unconscionably cut revenue, while at the same time increasing expenses.  Even the most uneducated among us can understand what a disaster this is going to be.  You will likely find that you need to repeal your ‘tax cuts’ to the wealthy in order to increase revenues. It was just announced that the national debt will top $1 trillion by 2020!  This is disaster in the making and does not give us much credibility in the eyes of the world.


  • We want you to work on a realistic and fair proposal for immigration reform, including protections for the young DACA immigrants. There are far too many Middle-Eastern refugees for us to simply ban people from certain countries.  Other Western nations are trying to help these people, and we must do our fair share.


  • We expect you to block nominations of persons who are not qualified for the positions for which they are nominated, and that includes both cabinet members and judges/justices. Political party should not be a consideration.  Education, experience and other qualifying factors should determine whether a person is confirmed or not.  We all know that Trump would nominate an ape if he thought said ape would do his bidding.  It is up to you to be the voice of reason and block such ignominious nominations.


  • We demand protections for Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team, who are investigating the possibly treasonous activities of Donald Trump and many of those in his inner circle. We cannot trust that the executive branch will step back and allow Mr. Mueller to finish his job and issue a final report, so it is up to you to draft legislation with all due haste to protect this investigation.

As I said, this is a partial list, but if you manage to clear even as much as 85% of this list by November, we may consider allowing you to stay on the job.  Otherwise, I’m afraid the writing is on the wall and you might do well to polish up your resume.  Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have questions or concerns, for it is our opinion and ours alone that you need to be concerned with.

Sincerely,

 

 

We The People of the United States of America

Happy Dancin’ and Mud Fightin’

Arizona … home to Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake – both republicans, but of the lovable sort, if there is such a thing.  And I just discovered another Arizonian to love, based on a single sentence.   His name is Ruben Gallego (think of it as ‘guy-eggo’ for pronunciation) and he is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona.  The sentence that won me over?

“I will gladly work with the president when his ideas aren’t stupid and detrimental to the United States. Unfortunately this is what this plan is.”

I was just trolling various news outlets, half asleep in the warm afternoon sunshine when I saw that and immediately felt Snoopy doing a bit of a happy dance in my heart!We all know the backstory … Trump has signed an order to send the National Guard to ‘guard the Mexican border’ until such time as his wall can be built.  We also all know that, despite Trump’s rants, there is no immediate threat on the border, there are no ‘caravans of evil’ threatening to cross the border with the intent of raping and pillaging, and it is all a big hoax on the part of Trump.  A potentially costly hoax for a number of reasons.

While many republicans were busy licking the Donald’s boots, praising his ‘strength’ in this matter, most democrats were less over-joyed, but perhaps none so outspoken as Mr. Gallego.  Of course, the mouthpiece, Ms. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, had to speak:

“If that congressman’s so concerned, maybe he ought to show up and actually support legislation that would fix these problems instead of blaming the president that’s actually doing something about it.”

To which Gallego responded with a tweet:

“Hey @PressSec – Unlike your boss, I did show up and served my country in the Marines. Now, I show up in Congress to serve my country again and act as a check to some of your boss’s worst plans.”

Okay, okay … it’s mud-slinging at its finest, accomplishes little if anything and is beneath us.  But …

 

I’m the kid who got kicked out of kindergarten for fighting … I can get down & dirty with the best of them sometimes!

But now, let me just wipe some of this mud off and let us take a closer look at Ruben Gallego.

Gallego has been in office since 2014, when he won 74% of the vote in Arizona’s 7th district, a district that is heavily democratic and majority Latino.  In his first year, he earned a B+ rating from the NRA, but ever since has an ‘F’ rating … a plus, in my book.  He has the endorsement of Mayday PAC, a super PAC that seeks to reduce the role of money in politics.  Another score, in my book. On February 28, 2013 Gallego voted against an amendment that sought to raise campaign finance limits for federal candidates and abolish all limits for state candidates.

Gallego is a relative newbie, but so far, I like what I see.  I see no barriers to him winning re-election in his district in November, so no real need to highlight him, other than that he ‘walked the walk’ in standing firm against Trump’s ludicrous waste of our resources to combat his fairy-tale threat on our southern border.

Arizona seems to turn out people with good sense, on both sides of the political aisle.  I wonder … is it something in the water?

Not Another One … 🙄

Pastor Mark Burns … ever hear of him?  He is a televangelist from South Carolina, which should tell you just about all you need to know.  Yesterday, Pastor Mark Burns threw his hat in the ring and announced his candidacy for the seat in the U.S. House of Representatives that is being vacated by Representative Trey Gowdy. Burns was, and is, a staunch supporter of Donald Trump.  He claims he had usually voted Democratic, which included support for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election, saying “I’m not ashamed to say that as a black man I wanted the first black man to enter the office.” But he later said, in 2016, he had “seen the light.” Of Trump he said “He’s a smart man. He knows authenticity. I believe he knows and recognizes real character.”  Hey, Burns … if you really believe that, I have a beautiful bridge I’ll sell you real cheap!

Now, Burns is likely to fit right into today’s Congress, for he is a well-experienced liar. Here is just a sampling of his many lies:

  • Burns claimed to have held a bachelor of science degree from North Greenville University. According to the University, Burns attended only one semester.
  • He said he spent six years in the U.S. Army Reserve. He actually spent four years in the South Carolina National Guard, an entirely different and unrelated organization.
  • He claims to have attended Andersonville Theological Seminary, though there is no evidence of it and he is unable or unwilling to clarify.
  • Burns claimed he was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, a national historically black fraternity, but again, there is no evidence. When confronted with this one, he replied that he had “started the process” but did not complete even the initiation.

When confronted with all these lies on his church website, he admitted that he had lied and had unacceptably exaggerated his education, but said he was attacked because he is “a black man supporting Donald Trump for president.”  Awwwww, pobrecito!

In addition to being a liar, he is not a very nice man.  At a Trump rally in North Carolina, he mocked and criticized Bernie Sanders for being Jewish.  In 2016, he retweeted a digitally manipulated image of Hillary Clinton in blackface.  He was later interviewed on CNN and asked about the tweet.  His reply?

“I think at the time I did my initial tweet was to reinforce my position as to point out why this particular candidate Hillary Clinton is not really good for the African-American community, because the Democrat party automatically assumes they own the black vote, they own that voting bloc. And because they already know that voting bloc belongs to them, very little change takes place.”

I didn’t sense any apology in there, but he did tweet a half-assed apology:

“I’m so sorry for the offensive #Blackface image of @HillaryClinton but stand by the message that we Blacks ARE being Used by #Dems for VOTES”

In my view, an ‘apology’ that contains the qualifier “but”, is no apology at all.

Back in November 2017, ahead of the Alabama special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions, Burns actually defended Roy Moore, saying that morality isn’t the only quality that makes a good leader.  This, from a church pastor? Wouldn’t you expect a self-proclaimed Christian to have a bit of a problem supporting a pedophile?

Mr. Burns also fails to understand the word racism, if this tweet from January is any indicator:

“Racism isn’t really about COLOR, Racism has always been about the HAVES verses the HAVE NOTS. And President @realDonaldTrump is raising the HAVE NOTS to the same level as the HAVES.  In Today’s society, A Poor White Person gets treated the same as a Poor Black Person.” – 9:45 AM – Jan 24, 2018 · Easley, SC

SAY WHAT????

In announcing his intent to run for U.S. House of Representatives, he stated his reason, at least in part, as “We need to combat the leftist, liberal and even socialist ideology that’s dividing our nation.”  Rather reminiscent of the speech he gave at the Republican National Convention in 2016, where he thanked God for “guiding [Trump], giving him the words to the unite the party, this country, that we together can defeat the liberal Democratic Party.”  Unite the country?  Did he really say that?

And good old Mr. Burns attempted to defend Trump’s recent remarks about “shithole countries”.  I won’t even repeat his rationale there, for even after reading and re-reading it multiple times, it made no sense.

There are, at present, 13 other republicans running for this seat, and 4 democrats.  It is almost a certainty that the district will remain in the hands of the republicans, since all 4 democrats are newcomers with no government experience … they include an electrician, a businessman, a graduate student and a financial expert.  District 4, like almost all of South Carolina, is predominantly republican.  Some believe that Burns has the best chance, due to his close ties with Trump.  Let us hope that the voters are fed up enough with Trump for that alliance to work against, rather than for, Mr. Burns, for we do not need his ilk in the Capitol next year.  He is exactly the type we are trying to get rid of!

Why Goats Can’t Vote … Redux

Recently I was having a conversation with our friend Hugh about voters and how so many are uninformed … should we even encourage those who haven’t taken the time to learn about the candidates, their  platforms and the issues, to go to the polls and cast a vote?  Later, as I was thinking about that conversation, I remembered a piece I wrote last spring, and thought that, with the mid-terms coming up in a few months, perhaps it was appropriate to run this one again.  (Yes, laziness/tiredness and my frequent companion, mind-bounce, all play a role here too.)  One of our goals in the coming months needs to be to encourage people to vote, certainly, but we need to also strive to help people understand the issues, understand the candidates’ views.

What if voters across the U.S. suddenly decided to read the Constitution, to educate themselves in the ways of our democracy?  What if they took their right to vote responsibly, instead of simply responding to bluster and television ads? What if they actually took the time and trouble to seek the knowledge that would enable them to make wise decisions in November? I read the following quote earlier today, “Never have so many people with so little knowledge made so many consequential decisions for the rest of us.”  It resonated with me, because that is precisely how I see the upcoming election.  Citizens, some of whom have never voted before, will be going to the polls armed, not with knowledge of how our government operates, not with knowledge of what the candidates actually stand for, but with what they have heard from television, their friends, and social media blurbs.

When a person from another country wishes to become a U.S. citizen, there is a process, a road to citizenship, at the end of which they must pass a citizenship test.  I have no issue with this … if they are going to live, work and vote in the US, they certainly should have some knowledge of the history and inner workings of the country.  Just for fun, let’s look at some of the questions that have appeared on this test from time-to-time and see how we do:

  1. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803? (Louisiana Territory)
  2. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years? (2 years)
  3. What is the economic system in the United States? (Capitalist economy)
  4. What year was the Constitution written? (1787)
  5. If both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve, who becomes President? (Speaker of the House)

Now granted, these are not rocket-science questions, but there are 100 of these questions, plus an applicant for U.S. citizenship must survive an interview which includes 10 oral questions, of which 6 must be answered correctly.  Now for the interesting part.  In 2011, Newsweek asked 1,000 citizens/voters to take the citizenship test.  Only 62% of those who took the test passed!  If we extrapolate those numbers, it would appear that 38% of the voters headed to the polls in a few months do not have even basic knowledge of the government for which they will be selecting a leader!

More than 60 percent did not know the length of U.S. senators’ terms in office. And 43 percent couldn’t say that the first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. Only 30 percent knew that the U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land. only 36 percent could name all three branches of the U.S. government. Only 62 percent knew that the U.S. Supreme Court was tasked with determining the constitutionality of legislation. Fewer than half of Americans knew that split decisions in the Supreme Court have the same effect as 9 to 0 decisions.  This is pathetic. These are the people who are going to pick, not only the president, but also 34 senators and all 435 representatives.  The people who will make the decisions that will affect our lives, are going to be elected by people who do not even understand what our federal government does or how it functions!  If you aren’t scared yet, you should be!

PrintI could go into a whole spiel about why people are so ignorant of the basics of our government, ask questions about exactly what the schools are teaching in civics classes, but there is, I think, a better question:  Why do people not care enough to educate themselves?  100 years ago, even 30 years ago, this might have been forgivable.  But today, with the vast resources available to every man, woman and child via the internet?  No, there is simply no excuse for not having a basic understanding of how government works, or at least is supposed to function.  No excuse for not understanding what the issues facing the nation at this time are, or what each candidate believes, and learning whether their past actions actually support their claims.

When the framers of the Constitution wrote the document back in 1787, they purposely made the language simple enough for We The People to understand.  That included farmers and craftsmen.  One could reasonably expect that if it was understood by a farmer 229 years ago when the average person had less than 8 years of formal education, almost every registered voter today should surely be able to understand it.  And it doesn’t take long to read … it is, after all, only 7,591 words, including amendments.  An easily readable document, yet it would appear that a large percentage of voters have not done so.

There have been numerous attempts recently at ‘voting reform’ that serve to disenfranchise certain groups, such as the poor, Hispanics, and African-Americans. I would propose instead of requiring certain forms of identification that are likely to disqualify voters based on race or income level, we mail each registered voter a ‘voter-aptitude’ test similar to the citizenship test.  Any voter who scores below 75% would not be eligible to vote in the November election. Even if they cheated by looking up the answers on the internet, at least they would have learned something, expanded their knowledge and become more worthy of making the decisions that will ultimately affect my life … and yours.

I honestly am not trying to sound like a snob.  I am simply appalled at the number of people in this country who will be choosing a president, senators and representatives based only on what they see on television or read on Facebook memes. I think we should have the right to expect our voters to be at least as qualified as we expect immigrants to be in order to make these choices. Knowledge is what sets humans apart from goats … it’s why goats can’t vote.

informed-voter-is-good-voter

Voting In America

The New York Times has started a series on voting in America, which will run up to Election Day in November.  I thought the first part of the series, originally published on 10 March 2018, was worth sharing with you.  It is a bit lengthier than my average post, but there are points here that I think we all need to consider as we head into the midterms.  Please take a few moments to read and think about these things.


Vote. That’s Just What They Don’t Want You to Do.

This is a fragile moment for the nation. The integrity of democratic institutions is under assault from without and within, and basic standards of honesty and decency in public life are corroding. If you are horrified at what is happening in Washington and in many states, you can march in the streets, you can go to town halls and demand more from your representatives, you can share the latest outrageous news on your social media feed — all worthwhile activities. But none of it matters if you don’t go out and vote.

It’s a perennial conundrum for the world’s oldest democracy: Why do so many Americans fail to go to the polls? Some abstainers think that they’re registering a protest against the awful choices. They’re fooling themselves. Nonvoters aren’t protesting anything; they’re just putting their lives and futures in the hands of the people who probably don’t want them to vote. We’ve seen recently what can happen when people choose instead to take their protest to the ballot box. We saw it in Virginia in November. We saw it, to our astonishment, in Alabama in December. We may see it this week in western Pennsylvania. Voting matters.

Casting a ballot is the best opportunity most of us will ever get to have a say in who will represent us, what issues they will address and how they will spend our money. The right to vote is so basic, President Lyndon Johnson said in 1965, that without it “all others are meaningless.”

And yet every election, tens of millions of Americans stay home. Studies of turnout among developed nations consistently rank the United States near the bottom. In the most recent midterms, in 2014, less than 37 percent of eligible voters went to the polls — the lowest turnout in more than 70 years. In 2016,

The problem isn’t just apathy, of course. Keeping people from voting has been an American tradition from the nation’s earliest days, when the franchise was restricted to white male landowners. It took a civil war, constitutional amendments, violently suppressed activism against discrimination and a federal act enforcing the guarantees of those amendments to extend this basic right to every adult. With each expansion of voting rights, the nation inched closer to being a truly representative democracy. Today, only one group of Americans may be legally barred from voting — those with felony records, a cruel and pointless restriction that disproportionately silences people of color.

In the months leading up to the midterm elections on Nov. 6, when the House, Senate and statehouses around the country are up for grabs, the editorial board will explore the complicated question of why Americans don’t vote, and what can be done to overcome the problem. The explanations fall into three broad categories.

SUPPRESSION

A 96-year-old woman in Tennessee was denied a voter-ID card despite presenting four forms of identification, including her birth certificate. A World War II veteran was turned away in Ohio because his Department of Veterans Affairs photo ID didn’t include his address. Andrea Anthony, a 37-year-old black woman from Wisconsin who had voted in every major election since she was 18, couldn’t vote in 2016 because she had lost her driver’s license a few days before.

Stories like these are distressingly familiar, as more and more states pass laws that make voting harder for certain groups of voters, usually minorities, but also poor people, students and the elderly. They require forms of photo identification that minorities are much less likely to have or be able to get — purportedly to reduce fraud, of which there is virtually no evidence. They eliminate same-day registration, close polling stations in minority areas and cut back early-voting hours and Sunday voting.

These new laws may not be as explicitly discriminatory as the poll taxes or literacy tests of the 20th century, but they are part of the same long-term project to keep minorities from the ballot box. And because African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, the laws are nearly always passed by Republican-dominated legislatures.

In a lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s strict new voter-ID law, a former staff member for a Republican lawmaker testified that Republicans were “politically frothing at the mouth” at the prospect that the law would drive down Democratic turnout. It worked: After the 2016 election, one survey found that the law prevented possibly more than 17,000 registered voters, disproportionately poor and minority, from voting. Donald Trump carried the state by fewer than 23,000 votes.

FAILING TECHNOLOGY

The legitimacy of an election is only as good as the reliability of the machines that count the votes. And yet 43 states use voting machines that are no longer being made, and are at or near the end of their useful life. Many states still manage their voter-registration rolls using software programs from the 1990s. It’s no surprise that this sort of infrastructure failure hits poorer and minority areas harder, often creating hourslong lines at the polls and discouraging many voters from coming out at all. Upgrading these machines nationwide would cost at least $1 billion, maybe much more, and Congress has consistently failed to provide anything close to sufficient funding to speed along the process.

Elections are hard to run with aging voting technology, but at least those problems aren’t intentional. Hacking and other types of interference are. In 2016, Russian hackers were able to breach voter registration systems in Illinois and several other states, and targeted dozens more. They are interfering again in advance of the 2018 midterms, according to intelligence officials, who are demanding better cybersecurity measures. These include conducting regular threat assessments, using voting machines that create paper trails and conducting postelection audits. Yet President Trump, who sees any invocation of Russian interference as a challenge to the legitimacy of his election, consistently downplays or dismisses these threats. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump’s State Department has not spent a dime of the $120 million Congress allocated to it to fight disinformation campaigns by Russia and other countries.

DISILLUSIONMENT

Some people wouldn’t vote if you put a ballot box in their living room. Whether they believe there is no meaningful difference between the major parties or that the government doesn’t care what they think regardless of who is in power, they have detached themselves from the political process.

That attitude is encouraged by many in government, up to and including the current president, who cynically foster feelings of disillusionment by hawking fake tales of rigged systems and illegal voters, even as they raise millions of dollars from wealthy donors and draw legislative maps to entrench their power.

The disillusionment is understandable, and to some degree it’s justified. But it creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. When large numbers of people don’t vote, elections are indeed decided by narrow, unrepresentative groups and in the interests of wealth and power. The public can then say, See? We were right. They don’t care about us. But when more people vote, the winning candidates are more broadly representative and that improves government responsiveness to the public and enhances democratic legitimacy.

These obstacles to voting and political participation are very real, and we don’t discount their impact on turnout. The good news is there are fixes for all of them.

The most important and straightforward fix is to make it easier for people to register and vote. Automatic voter registration, which first passed in Oregon just three years ago, is now the law or practice in nine states, both red and blue, and the District of Columbia. Washington State is on the cusp of becoming the tenth, and New Jersey and Nevada may be close behind. More people also turn out when states increase voting opportunities, such as by providing mail-in ballots or by expanding voting hours and days.

The courts should be a bulwark protecting voting rights, and many lower federal courts have been just that in recent years, blocking the most egregious attacks on voting in states from North Carolina to Wisconsin. But the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. has made this task much harder, mainly by gutting a key provision of the Voting Rights Act in a 2013 case. Decisions like that one, which split 5 to 4, depend heavily on who is sitting in those nine seats — yet another reason people should care who gets elected.

In the end, the biggest obstacle to more Americans voting is their own sense of powerlessness. It’s true: Voting is a profound act of faith, a belief that even if your voice can’t change policy on its own, it makes a difference. Consider the attitude of Andrea Anthony, the Wisconsin woman who was deterred by the state’s harsh new voter-ID law after voting her whole adult life. “Voting is important to me because I know I have a little, teeny, tiny voice, but that is a way for it to be heard,” Ms. Anthony said. “Even though it’s one vote, I feel it needs to count.”

She’s right. The future of America is in your hands. More people voting would not only mean “different political parties with different platforms and different candidates,” the writer Rebecca Solnit said. “It would change the story. It would change who gets to tell the story.”

There are a lot of stories desperately needing to be told right now, but they won’t be as long as millions of Americans continue to sit out elections. Lament the state of the nation as much as you want. Then get out and vote.