The single most important issue in the 2020 election (apart from unseating Trump, of course) is climate change. We have stepped back 20 years in the last three years under Trump, and quite frankly, time is running out. The earth’s resources are finite and we are using them at an alarming rate. For this, Part XI of our series Discord & Dissension, Jeff discusses where we are, where we need to go, how we can get there, and what happens if we don’t.
While the Republican and Democratic Parties disagree on most things these days, nothing epitomizes the significant divide more than does climate change. And it’s not just those who sit in Congress either. According to a recent Pew Research poll conducted in February of this year, among Democrats and independents who lean to the Democratic Party, 78% said climate change should be a top priority.
However, among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, only 21% felt the same way. To put that in even more stark terms, Democrats view climate as a top priority by nearly three times that of Republicans.
And, it gets even worse when registered voters were asked whether climate change is a problem for the country today. 77% of Democrats/lean Democrat said yes, it was a huge problem, and 17% said it was a moderately big problem—a net of 94%. On the flip side, Republicans/lean Republican answered 13/27% for…
Although Hillary Clinton actually won the 2016 election by nearly three million votes, thanks to gerrymandering and the anomaly of the Electoral College, Donald Trump now occupies the Oval Office. There were a number of factors that allowed him to gain as many votes as he did and win the electoral vote. One, of course, was the influence of Russian propaganda intended to denounce Hillary Clinton with misinformation fed to the unwitting public. There was significant voter suppression in a number of states that denied the vote to poor, minorities and youth. Another was FBI Director James Comey’s ‘October Surprise’, and yet another was Hillary Clinton herself. Despite the fact that it makes no sense, you would be surprised how many people vote for a candidate based on looks or that “warm, fuzzy” persona. Clinton was highly qualified, had both the experience and education to have made an excellent president, but for some her forthright manner was off-putting. And then, of course, there was that moment when she used really poor judgement in her comment about ‘deplorables’.
But the biggest single factor that handed Donald Trump enough votes to win the Electoral College was the fans of Bernie Sanders. Let’s take a brief walk back through those times, shall we, for there are large parallels between 2016 and 2020.
Although Bernie was an Independent, when he threw his hat into the ring on May 26, 2015, he did so as a member of the Democratic Party, for the odds are so stacked against an Independent that most often they cannot qualify for debates, and will not be allowed on the ballots in many states. Bernie ran his campaign much as he has this year, on a platform of populist, socialist, and social democratic politics, which gave him the support of a large portion of the under-40 crowd. Then, as now, he focused on income and wealth inequality, which he argued is eroding the American middle class, and on campaign finance reform. Unlike most other major presidential candidates, Sanders eschewed an unlimited super PAC, instead choosing to receive most of his funding from direct individual campaign donations.
By the time of the final primary election in June, it was obvious that Clinton would be the nominee, and on July 12th, Sanders officially endorsed Clinton at a unity rally with her in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But then … On July 22, 2016, various emails from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the Democratic Party, were leaked and published, revealing apparent bias against the Sanders campaign on the part of the Committee and its chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I have always believed this was part of the Russian campaign to put Trump into the Oval Office, but as far as I know, there is no evidence to support it, so I can only speculate.
Although the race was close, with Clinton leading by only 291 delegates before the superdelegates weighed in at the nominating convention, Hillary won the party’s nomination. Sanders threw his support to Clinton, campaigned with her, and asked his supporters to please vote for Hillary Clinton. But … his supporters were bitter about a number of things, especially the leaked DNC emails. They also believed that the media had short-changed Bernie by covering his campaign significantly less than Clinton’s or Trump’s.
And thus began ‘Bernie or Bust’, a movement by some of Bernie’s die-hard supporters with the goal of taking votes away from Hillary Clinton. They urged Democrats to write in Sanders, vote for a third-party candidate such as Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or not to vote at all. Sanders repeatedly said he would vote for Clinton in the general election in order to avoid a “disastrous” Trump presidency and encouraged his supporters to do the same, but few of his supporters listened. If every Bernie supporter had given his or her vote to Hillary Clinton, we would have been talking and writing about President Clinton these past 38 months, even despite the Russian interference, despite Jim Comey, despite Hillary being “anatomically incorrect” in the eyes of some, and despite her lack of a ‘warm & fuzzy persona’.
All of which brings us to today and the looming 2020 election. This year, it is Joe Biden vs Bernie Sanders, or as I’ve been calling it, the Bernie & Joe Show. The circumstances are much the same as they were four years ago, with Biden leading in delegate count and almost certain to become the Democratic nominee in July. Just this past Tuesday, in the three states that held Democratic primary elections – Illinois, Florida, and Arizona – Joe Biden was the clear winner in all three. And already, “Bernie or Bust” and “Never Biden” movements are in full swing.
Allow me to share with you some of the comments from Bernie supporters …
“I can’t vote for Joe Biden. It feels like the party doesn’t want us — the people who were pushing for Bernie Sanders and were enthusiastic about it. I think it just means I don’t vote for president.”
“The rationale for us is that our votes need to be earned and that we’ve been taken for granted, and the party never moves to us. If they install Joe Biden, I will not vote for Biden. … This is not democratic what’s happening in the Democratic primary.”
“If we lose to Trump then hopefully within the next four years maybe an AOC or Rashida Tlaib would be able to run. Maybe there would be a better chance to save the planet.”
“I don’t think that I should put aside my values and vote out of fear. The DNC needs an overhaul, it lacks values, real leaders that represent the people not its donors.”
“For me not voting would be to send a message: what you’ve done is not OK. I wish there was a way to vote for Biden and still send that message.”
And those are just a sampling. But I think what those comments tell us is that the Democratic Party has some work to do. Unity. The party is deeply divided at present, and you know that saying, “United we stand, divided we fall”? It’s true. I think that Joe Biden stands a very good chance to beat Donald Trump, especially considering that Trump has been shooting himself in the foot these past few weeks. BUT … it will not happen unless both the party and the man get busy and unify the party.
The best-case scenario probably would have been for Joe Biden to pick Bernie to be his running mate, but that is not going to happen. To his credit, Biden did say in Sunday night’s debate that he would chose a woman to be his running mate, which should help with women voters, at any rate. The most likely is Kamala Harris, second most likely is Stacey Abrams.
My own personal choice was Elizabeth Warren, and when she dropped out, it became Bernie Sanders. However, I believe Joe Biden to be at least as qualified as Hillary Clinton was in 2016, I believe that Bernie will support Joe if Joe is the nominee, and I will most assuredly vote for Biden. I think that many of the younger voters who comprise “Bernie or Bust” fail to understand what another four years under Donald Trump would mean. I think, based on all the comments I’ve seen, that they want to shake things up within the Democratic Party, and I understand that, for I share their frustration with the Party. However, having watched the progressive destruction of our constitutional democratic republic over the past three years, and having studied at some length the current incumbent, his lack of values, lack of intelligence, and his monumental ego, I will throw my full support behind Joe Biden if he is the Democratic nominee, because I honestly believe that by 2024 the United States of America under Donald Trump would be a full-blown dictatorship, plain and simple. If Trump is handed another four years, I do not believe there will be an election in 2024, but that Trump will have found a way to circumvent or disavow the U.S. Constitution and extend his term. Nope, I am neither a conspiracy theorist nor a drama queen, but rather I am an observer with enough knowledge to understand what we are seeing.
What I ask of you is twofold. First, please VOTE on November 3rd for whomever the Democratic nominee is. Second, please, when you hear someone say they will throw away their vote either by staying home, writing in Bernie Sanders, or voting for a third-party candidate, try to talk to them. Try to explain the dangers for the future if Trump is re-elected.
Our apologies, but Discord & Dissention – Part X will be delayed by one week. As you can imagine, the news cycle of the past two weeks, with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the daily plunge of global financial markets, and the Bernie & Joe Show have kept us a bit off our feed. We needed just a bit of a break, to step back and re-focus on this project that we expect to last through election day on November 3rd. This likely won’t be the last time we take a week off, but we don’t plan to make it a habit, either. We will be back in one week with Part X or our project, and we hope you’ll join us then.
Today, Jeff has outdone himself on Part IX of our project, Discord & Dissension — The Courts. Many people don’t give much thought to the courts as a rule, but Jeff shows us just why it is so very important to consider the impact a president can have on the Judiciary. Thanks Jeff … this one is a real eye-opener!
Now that Super Tuesday is behind us, and we’re down to a two-person race between Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, it’s time to start thinking about what it’s going to take to get out the vote. If yesterday is any indication, with massive turnout all around the country, it’s apparent that defeating Donald Trump is on everybody’s mind. But it can’t be the only reason.
Jill and I began our project several weeks ago, and it’s still evolving. But, we’ve indeed entered a new phase in the campaign to defeat Donald Trump in 2020. And today, with Part 9 in our series, I’m going to discuss a subject that rarely gets covered, especially in Democratic circles: The Courts.
And, in my view, it’s time for both of our Democratic candidates to start addressing how important it’s going to be to not only win the presidency but also take back the…
Let’s talk a little bit about voters and issues. While we could categorize voters in numerous different ways, there are basically two kinds of voters: those who vote based on issues, and those who vote based on personality.
It was often said that the biggest reason John F. Kennedy won the 1960 election was his charisma. I was nine years old at the time, and I certainly found him charming … I loved listening to him speak (my family didn’t have television yet in 1960, so I rarely saw him)! And that’s fine for a nine-year-old child, but by the time one reaches voting age, one really ought to be considering what the candidate stands for rather than what he or she looks like, or how they speak. I also heard it said in 2016 that part of Trump’s success was a result of his charisma, but I have a hard time with that, for he isn’t nice to look at, and his speech is filled with vitriol, so … where’s the charisma?
At any rate, there’s little to be said about those who would vote based on the candidate’s personality, so let’s instead start talking about issues. Jeff and I have debated whether it is too soon to start to delve into the issues and the candidates’ views/platforms/ideologies, but after some thought, we’ve decided that with the primaries already in full swing, and Super Tuesday right around the corner, the time seems to be ripe. Next Tuesday, March 3rd, fourteen states and one U.S. territory will hold nominating contests to award a total of 1,357 delegates, or 34% of all delegates nationwide. If you are eligible to vote in the primary or caucus for your state, you will soon need to make a choice between the remaining candidates. So … what issues are most important to you?
The majority of voters are most concerned with the issues that most directly impact them and their everyday lives, such as healthcare, or if they have children, education. The economy and jobs naturally impact everyone. In 2016, Donald Trump was able to form a large enough base by creating a fear on an issue that, until then, was largely a non-issue to most people: immigration. He made it personal … he told people that immigrants were mostly all bad people – terrorists, murderers and rapists. And even the good ones, he said, were taking your jobs! He created a fear, then proposed a solution: a wall and a travel ban. It was largely hyperbole, but people bought it.
All of which points up the fact that sometimes people listen to one view or another without fully understanding the issues or their candidates’ stance on them. The more information you have, the better able you will be to make informed, wise decisions.
For today, I just want to give a bit of information about each of the major issues, and then in two weeks, I will begin to address each of the candidates’ views on the issues, so you can see which nearly match your own viewpoint. At the end of this post, there is a poll that I hope you’ll take a minute to check which issues matter most to you, as a voter.
The abortion issue is among the most polarizing in the nation. Pro-life vs Pro-Choice. The question of whether certain groups have the right to force their will on women, or whether women have autonomy over their own bodies.
This covers a myriad of sub-issues involving equality for all in the areas of housing, education and employment for minorities, religious groups, the LGBTQ community, and women. It is another highly polarizing issue, as certain groups attempt to claim that the rights of the LGBTQ community are in direct contrast with their own rights.
The economy is about more than just jobs and the stock market. It is also about things like wage levels and inflation. Trump claims bragging rights for the stable economy, but in reality he inherited a growing economy and, as we’ve seen over the past week, it is not built on a very solid foundation. The federal minimum wage has not been raised in more than ten years, while the cost of living has risen each year.
The quality of education in the U.S. has been declining in recent years, as schools are increasingly focused on preparing students for a career more than teaching them to think for themselves, to use their imaginations, to create. College has become cost-prohibitive and students leave after four years with a mountain of debt that will take them decades to repay.
Election Reform and Security
A number of Supreme Court decisions over the past years have corrupted our elections. McCutcheon v FEC, Citizens United v FEC, and a number of others involving campaign finance have opened the door to large corporations and lobbying groups literally buying a candidate. There is also the issue of election security. It is a proven fact that the Russians interfered in our 2016 election, and our own intelligence community has given us warning that the same is happening again this year. The House of Representatives has passed bills to restore the security of our elections, but the Senate has thus far refused to bring them to the floor.
This may arguably be the single most important issue nationwide today, though many seem oblivious. Trump has rolled back so many environmental regulations that this nation remains the single largest emitter of CO2 per capita in the world! The U.S. is also the only nation on the globe that is not part of the Paris Climate Accords and that is not doing virtually anything, as a nation, to protect the environment, endangered species, etc.
While ‘globalization’ has been demonized by some, it is a fact of life. In today’s world, we must interact with other nations in many areas, not the least of which are trade and shared security. How we treat our allies and how we react to others is critical to keeping not only our nation, but the world safe. Understanding of world affairs is imperative at the highest levels of government.
Free trade agreements allow goods to cross borders without tariffs or special taxes, and are a key element in keeping the cost of consumer goods low. It should be a win-win for all parties involved, but in recent years, the U.S. has made it a competitive game, which hurts everyone in the long run.
Unhappy with the way the government is being run? This largely ties into campaign finance reform, for much of the problem with our government today is that rather than representing all the people, they often seem to represent only the wealthy, leaving the other 99.9% of us out in the cold. In addition, the leaders of both the House and Senate seem to have entirely too much power, coercing our elected officials to do things their way, rather than to follow their conscience.
This is one of the biggest issues in the U.S. The vast majority of people, including gun owners, are for sensible gun legislation, such as expanded background checks, waiting periods, and even an assault weapons ban. But, due to the power and influence the NRA has over our politicians, nothing is being done, and more and more people die from guns every single day in this country.
I can’t even begin to summarize this one. ACA, the Affordable Care Act that was initiated during the Obama administration, ensured that everyone would have access to basic healthcare, regardless of income level or pre-existing conditions. Much of that has been gutted and there are now some 20 million people in this country with no health care insurance. Meanwhile, the Pharma industry, doctors, labs, and others are charging exorbitant fees. A nation that cannot or chooses not to take care of its people … all its people … has a government that is deficient.
Immigration reform is one of those things like the weather … everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything. In the last three years we have seen all the wrong things done: children separated from their parents and put in cages; billions of dollars wasted building a ridiculous wall that can be sawed through and falls down on a windy day; highly discriminatory travel bans. Young people who were brought to this country as babies by their immigrant parents are in danger of being deported, even though many are contributing to the economic and social well-being of our nation.
Roads and highways, water systems, electric grids, bridges, public transportation all fall under the heading of infrastructure. All need upgrading and continual maintenance, but we have fallen far behind. Remember Flint, Michigan and their water crisis? Well, guess what? It is still not resolved, there is still lead in the drinking water, and the latest is that rather than replace the system, the EPA is proposing rule changes that would change the way testing is done for lead and copper in water supplies.
The tax structure at present puts more of the burden on the working class than on the wealthy. Wealthy individuals and corporations pay a far lower percentage in taxes than the average worker, some companies paying not one single dime, and some even getting refunds. Meanwhile, the national debt is out of control and the government has plans to further cut the very programs that the people of this nation rely on.
A number of things fall under this broad umbrella, some of which affect us all, such as online privacy, broadband, social media, wireless communication, and more. Perhaps the most important to most of us is internet security, that took a big hit when net neutrality was repealed in 2018.
Welfare & Poverty
This is one that many people don’t think about … until they themselves are in need. The official poverty rate in the U.S. is 12.3%. Think about that one for a minute … one in every eight people in this nation live in poverty, and it is estimated that there are more than a half-million homeless people in the nation. Yet, Trump proposes cutting the very programs that help these people!
Well, there you have the issues and a brief summation of each. There are more, but I’ve already exceeded the length Jeff and I agreed on, and taken up too much of your time. In coming weeks, I will be writing expanding on these issues and giving you the views of the most viable candidates. So that we can focus on the issues that are most important to you, we ask that you take just a minute to check off the three issues that are most important to you in the short poll below.
Note: Even though the poll will show only the last answer you ticked, it is recording all three. I apologize, for I know it is confusing, but I cannot seem to find a way to leave all choices marked.
Jeff has written an excellent post for part 7 of our project, giving us some ideas how we can become more active in this 2020 election campaign, how we can engage more in order to help bring about much-needed change. Great job, Jeff … Thanks!
This week is the seventh installment of the project Jill and I started several weeks ago. We’ve both talked about how important the upcoming 2020 election is. And every day, the current president continues to laugh at our Constitution. To him, it’s a silly little document.
Just this week, Trump proclaimed that he was the Chief Law Enforcement Official of the country. Really? I thought that was the Attorney General. When you’ve been emboldened by your fellow Republican Party to do as you please, though, I guess you can call yourself whatever you want. He’ll get no pushback, so why not?
But while so many of us detest what this president does daily, the fact remains that a significant portion of the United States does not. It’s hard for a lot of us to grasp. How is this possible? Do they not see what we see? No, they do not…
This is the sixth installment of mine and Jeff’s project, and in case you’ve missed any of the previous posts, we will also be publishing a Table of Contents in just a few minutes that we will keep updated and link to at the end of each future post. As I mentioned last month in the introduction to the project, as situations change, we will roll with the punches and adjust our focus. The last 9 days have brought about great change … Trump was acquitted by the Senate, basically being told that whatever he chooses to do, they have his back. He turned the State of the Union address into a three-ring circus, fired a military hero and a devoted ambassador for no reason other than they did their duty by speaking the truth under oath, has interfered with the rule of law in the sentencing of Roger Stone, has proposed a budget that rewards the wealthy while punishing the disadvantaged, and who knows what tomorrow brings.
The point being that … in the hundred or so comments I answer each day, I sense your frustration, your discouragement, and believe me … Jeff and I have both been there in the past several days. But we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the negativity, cannot allow ourselves to lose hope or lose sight of the goal. If we stop fighting, then we lose automatically, without ever knowing if we might have made a difference. So, join us in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and going on to fight the good fight for just short of nine more months.
A few weeks ago, I tried to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?” I concluded that the goal is two-fold: vote Trump out of the Oval Office and begin to heal the ‘great divide’. Neither of these goals are going to be easy, folks, and the GOP and others’ propaganda machines are going to make it even harder.
The GOP, or Republican Party, has been actively working to skew the odds in their favour since before the 2016 election. The Russian interference that triggered Robert Mueller’s investigation was not, as Trump would have you believe, a ‘hoax’ nor a ‘witch hunt’, but was rather a coordinated effort on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch a propaganda machine demeaning and denigrating Hillary Clinton, while giving rise to Donald Trump. The Russian propaganda machine has not taken a break since the 2016 elections. According to FBI Director Christopher Wray …
“That is in some ways an even more challenging area, not the least because it never stopped. It happened in 2016 and it’s been continuing ever since then. It may have an uptick during an election cycle, but it’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year threat.”
Election security bills were passed by the House of Representatives, but have since languished in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to even bring them to the Senate floor for consideration.
But it isn’t only foreign influence that we have to worry about, for much of the propaganda comes directly from the GOP and a plethora of conservative groups. Consider this example: The day before the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, put out a report claiming that “Eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register.” It was a lie, one quickly debunked by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, but not before the lie had been spread via Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other right-wing media sites.
Voter fraud is a recurring myth favored by right-wingers, but there are other tactics, such as finding a chink in a candidates armour, real or made up, and using it repeatedly, embellishing on it, to denigrate that candidate. Of the top candidates, we’ve already seen what Trump’s accusations against Joe Biden … accusations that have long since been debunked … have nonetheless played a role in Biden’s polling plunge. Bernie’s chink, of course, is that he is a democratic socialist, which will play well with those who do not even understand the concept of democratic socialism.
Politics has always been a dirty game … smear campaigns, mudslinging and outright lies are certainly nothing new. But, with the rise of social media, these tactics are magnified a million-fold, and every time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, you are likely to be exposed to some form of disinformation. Facebook collects data on you, based on your friends, what you post, what you comment on, and any personal data you include in your profile, and then they use that data to target what advertisements you see. My advice is to include nothing in your personal profile, and to use a strong ad blocker at all times, but especially when spending time on any social media site. There is an app called Facebook Purity that will quite effectively block any and all ads, along with other annoying things Facebook throws in your face. I highly recommend it.
While, after the fiasco that was the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook promised to do a better job of monitoring political ads and false accounts, he backtracked last year when he plainly said he would allow false and misleading ads to continue on the platform, arguing that his company shouldn’t be responsible for arbitrating political speech. My earliest memories are of political advertisements in newspapers and on television in the early 1950s, and more recently social media has become the platform of preference, but this year there’s yet another venue … your cell phone. Yep, folks, this year, according to Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale, texting will be at the center of Trump’s reelection strategy. I highly recommend you install a call blocking program if you don’t wish to be disturbed multiple times a day. Mine is set to block all calls that don’t come from a number on my contact list, and since my contact list includes only 4 people, I no longer get many such calls. I do, however, see a list of the ones blocked, and I notice the number has increased of late.
Besides being a major annoyance, though, the disinformation campaign, the propaganda machine, poses a significant hurdle to a fair and honest election. You are savvy enough to know, if you see an ad or what appears to be an actual news story saying that Elizabeth Warren has a harem of young males she keeps locked in the attic of her home for her personal pleasure, it’s fake. But some will believe it. Remember Pizzagate, where the rumour was spread that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a human traffiking and child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong? Someone believed it enough to go shoot the place up!
Remember my post from yesterday with the Founding Fathers singing a song to the tune of American Pie? Creative use of technology, wasn’t it? Well, that was harmless, but some aren’t. Take a look at this simple, doctored photo of Stacy Abrams that was used by her opponents in the Georgia 2018 gubernatorial race …
Just as social media has increased the spread of disinformation, technology has taken it to a new level. I would ask that you take just a few minutes … 8 of them, to be precise, to listen to this interview on NPR radio(there is a transcript attached, if you prefer to read the interview) with McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic, about an article he published earlier this week on the topic of the GOP propaganda machine. It is very enlightening, and if you would like to read his entire article, which is lengthy, but well worth the time, you can do so here .
As Mr. Coppins said in the interview, even he found himself questioning what was real and what wasn’t, so I think it’s important … nay, crucial … for us all to be hyper-aware of the information that bombards us from all directions most every waking moment these days. If something sounds off … check it out, don’t just assume it’s correct, even if it’s from a credible source. Let’s all help stop the flow of propaganda … this election will be enough of an uphill battle, without people being manipulated.
Next week, Jeff will be back with Part VII of our project … stay tuned!
Today, Jeff tackles corruption in our political system — what and where, why and how — and reminds us why it is going to be so important that we vote in November to remove the most corrupt politicians ever from office. Thank you, Jeff, for this very comprehensive post!
Continuing the project that Jill and I started a few weeks back, I’d like to take a look at a subject that encapsulates so much of what is wrong with our politics today.
What is corruption? According to Merriam Webster, corruption is dishonest or illegal behavior by powerful people, such as government officials or police officers; an inducement to wrong by improper or unlawful means (such as bribery).
Sound familiar? The fate of our politics in 2020 has never been more perilous. We’re now in the midst of perhaps the most corrupt administration in history, whose leader was impeached by the Democratically controlled House of Representatives, but acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.
It seems every time you turn around, someone in power is doing something he or she shouldn’t. When folks obtain a level of power in our society, especially in the Washington D.C. political world, the lure to keep…
In Friday’s post, we looked at the reasons people give for not voting, and in Saturday’s post, 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 post of the week 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.
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.
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 when I first published this post in April 2018:
“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!
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.
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 3rd, 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 3rd.
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!
This concludes this week’s segment in three parts of Discord & Dissension. Jeff has been on vacation the last two weeks, but he is back home now and working diligently on Part V of our project that will be published on Friday … so stay tuned! Your comments and suggestions are always welcome!