VOTE!!! – Part II — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

This is Part II of a guest post on voting in the 2020 election, by our friend, Roger Jacob … Roger has a clear view from across the big pond of what is happening in the U.S. today, and has some words of wisdom, from a historical context, that we all need to hear.  Many thanks, Roger, for your wise words, and for taking the time out of your own writing schedule to write this post for us.

USA Not Voting Is No Longer A Luxury You Can Indulge

Part II

The Unhappy but Unavoidable Basics

“Democracy is a very bad form of government. But I ask you never to forget: All the others are so much worse.”

This stirring and wise little statement is from the opening credits of each episode of the brief CBS drama 1963-1964 Slattery’s People. The outline being the local politics and a state legislator James Slattery.

Churchill’s earlier version was, one of his less erudite and not so stirring “Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”, which it is argued was not one of his own and probably explains why it lacks a Churchillian ‘something’

Thus when you objectively compare the other forms of government (or antics masquerading as government) the ask yourself this ‘Would I like to live there for the rest of my life?’. For make no mistake, in this current era of Human history of large aggressive states and huge corporations central government of a nation by a small group of people is the only alternative, unless you can find a very small piece of isolated land that no one wants and survive on it…while hoping no one finds valuable resources thereupon. You are dealing with a 7.7 billion sized very flawed but inventive species here, hiding out and surviving can be difficult.

On Democracy and more Unavoidables

Having to accept the fact that someone is going to run the place wherever you live and thus have an impact on your life, having a say in who gets there is an attractive option. As you are going to vote in people and not saintly beings there will be mistakes, flaws, compromise, disappointments and all the other baggage humans drag around with them. This is also unavoidable. This is the Current Reality. If you are looking for perfection in government. Sorry that era has not arrived yet…hopefully it will, if we survive that long.

Another facet of democracy is that folk who have very strong opinions will make sure they can get out there and vote. Now you may not care for the folk with the Strong Opinions, but if you don’t vote then they will have a disproportionate say in your life. Again you don’t get to avoid this. Yes you can protest, yes you can organise campaigns and you might win a few, but ‘they’ the elected of the ‘Strong Opinions’ will still be there and the only chance you will get to remove them will be at the next election.

This is how the flawed process of Democracy works. Participation is the only stable, civic way you can ensure it remains Stable and Civic.

Narrowing in. The USA in 2020

I address this portion to the citizens of voting age in the USA.

You will not need me to list, report or otherwise enumerate the controversial decisions, statements and persons who have appeared upon the political stage since the election of 2016. You have them burned into your memory and possibly your hearts. You know full well that the temperature of the political atmosphere has risen and thus increased the level of toxicity. You know, as I suggested before Consensus is a very endangered species, in some regions it is extinct.

Now it may be, it is possible that many of the folk associated with the current administration are not racists, homophobic, anti-minority, narrow-minded reactionaries or religious zealots. It maybe. However by the actions and statements coming out of the administration these views have been given an air of respectability, they can be howled out under the guise of the much-abused term ‘Free Speech’. There are people striding about the public domain who back in the 1960s & 1970s would have labelled ‘wackos’ and generally laughed at. Now they have far too many followers.

In this situation I will ask those of you who do not vote this very hard question. Are you content with that situation? Are you not bothered about what is happening along the US Mexican border? Are you at ease with the mass shooting? Are you at ease with the Hate-Crime and unprovoked attacks on minority peoples? Are you? Now be careful with your reply as you might feel inclined to reply to me, because whatever you write however you argue, I will be replying too … with those questions. For there is no option if you choose to stay in the USA. Are you content with this administration and its followers? Are you?  Are you willing to stand by and do naught but simply write an impassioned piece in Social Media in the belief that somehow that will change things? For ‘they’ write impassioned pieces too.

We dial back to the previous post. And that that 60,000,000+ folk voted from this administration and rest assured they will vote again, and again, and again. This 25%-30% of the numbers. But they are not the majority…they were not the majority in 2016 … thanks to a narrow margin and a freak of your system they ‘won’. So do they truly represent anyone other than themselves. Are you content with these people telling you how the nation is going to be run. Are you?

For the non-voter by principal here is your paradox which in this case has to be answered. You might well have very strong views on government, which is why you do not vote. I will again  come back to the earlier point. Someone is going to run the nation. Are you content with this administration running it, or would you rather chance another, and yes risk those disappointment? Some might say ‘better the devil you know’… Let me say from a study of American political history ‘Well folks, if you are content with a devil …’

This I will hammer home again, and again. Are you content? Are you willing to let things go on the way they are? Do you truly think that an alternative will be The Same? Do you? Are you willing to risk the lives and well-being of minorities to satisfy your own views? Are you content for them to lay there upon some allegorical petri dish while you muse over your own political philosophies hoping to gain some ephemeral moral high-ground. Sorry, but that is not the real world you are living in. Oh yes you can talk about change and I would not challenge that but in this climate you do not get the chance to make that change because it comes by steady, slow evolution and right now we are looking at a possible political extinct event.

Polemic? Yes of course. Because currently American politics is a place of polemics from both sides and in that toxic environment your way does not have a hope. Civil War does. But not yours. Not at this time. The atmosphere is too toxic.

Your only option to change is to get out there and vote.

Defeatism

This is something of fall-back cop-out which comes in many forms. Let us leave the lazy ‘What’s the point’ excuse, I’ve put up enough arguments against that in the above words. NO need to repeat. There are others worries. These needed to be address by activism

Gerrymandering- Yes, they will do that. You need a rather dull and stodgy UK style Boundaries Commission to guard against that and even then there is huffing and puffing. However you are in pre-war situation here and propaganda  plays a part. Imagine the result when Trump’s dream gerrymandering has worked. For Trump 65,000,000. Against Trump 90,000,000. Imagine what the media and world media would make of that. It would be quite comic, and the streets would be clogged with protestors. And where is Trump’s mandate? Also that would have many a congress or senate member worrying about the next election.

Not Eligible – This is an old trick which was used in the South to keep ‘those people’ out of the booths when the local politicians were queasy about ‘good ol’ boys’ with clubs. This takes finesse as what would be required would be a strongly created website were folk denied the vote could register their names and the reason. Imagine millions of  names turning up? Of course that does need, as I said a very good site.

The Russians – Yeah. That’s another old one from the European book of tricks. Influence the nation, or make you think they are influencing the nation and thus erode the feeling a vote will count. Get out there and vote and make a noise about it. As with the other two problems it is all about raising the opposition profile.

Summary

Your nation is on tracks for an extremist disaster. Trump is only a small part of it. The main issue is the polarisation. The only way that can be defeated is by The Active Moderate, who demands their voice be heard. The one who will not be silent, and the only way they will listen by is the counting of the votes and the voice of those who voted.

Anything else is quite frankly fluff the current administration will blow away with its own propaganda.

The administration’s supporters will vote you can be sure of that. By not voting you are simply supporting them and stoking the fires.

Are you content with that?

Are you comfortable with the persecution of minorities?

Are you at ease with the erosion of the environment?

Are you glad the rich are getting richer?

If you don’t vote out of choice, then you must be.

Stands to reason.

Note to readers:  I will be re-running these two posts, as well as others, in the days leading up to election day.  Meanwhile, feel free to use these to help try to convince people you may know who claim it is too much bother to vote, or have other excuses. 

VOTE!!! – Part I — A Guest Post By Roger Jacob

A week or so ago, our friend Roger and I were chatting about how crucial next year’s election will be in the U.S., how it is likely to be the single most important election in the history of the nation, and how critical it is that every eligible person uses the power of his vote on 03 November 2020.  Roger is a gifted writer with a strong sense of history, and when he offered to write a guest post on this subject, I jumped at the offer!  Roger lives in Wales (UK) and I find that often, those outside the U.S. see our situation with more clarity than we who live in this muck every day do. What follows is the first of a two-part guest post titled:

USA Not Voting Is No Longer A Luxury You Can Indulge

Part I-

Motivations, Histories, Circumstances

Preface, Emotions and History

Firstly, I would not be writing this were I not for many years pro-American. I do not subscribe to the tired old ‘USA is the root of all evils’ jag. If you are going to be critical of the USA then you had better include sentences on Russia and China in your comments, they do not get a free-ride. The Three Big Powers. Big Powers are ugly in their dealings with the world. A brief read of the histories of Empires or Very Large Nations anywhere anywhen should convince you of that.

That said back to my relationship with the USA. The music, the humour, the variety, the enthusiasm, the can-do. I thought them wonderful, exhilarating. Dare I use the shallow phrase ‘I love(d) The USA!’. I still value its freedom of art, this vast sprawling inventive nation not shackled by clichés of faux-rebellion and cliques of the self-aggrandised and their followers smaller nations can suffer with.

This opening paragraph is essential to my argument. Because I care about the USA and I see its potential about to be ruined. Torn apart by the negative parts of the Human, those which History warns us have always been there and despite the myriad of examples still lurk, with dread patience. You, The USA is at one of the turning points many nations have encountered. You can journey on. Or you can implode. 2020’s Presidential election beckons.

2016 Election

Being a retired Civil Servant I promptly started checking stats and quite frankly became very side-lined. I will spare my fascination with numbers and give you some simple facts: Clinton = 65,853,514 Trump = 62,984,828. Whereas Trump is legally and constitutionally the USA president more people voted for Clinton. 245,500,000 Americans are 18 & over. Therefore, Trump was voted in by 25.6 % of the adult population. This in itself is not unusual, other than the fact that there is a minority president. Combined these show hardly a stunning mandate.  

Ramifications

Because of the divisive nature of Trump there is at best a stubborn refusal for one side to see the other’s argument against or for him. At worse there is a loud, vociferous and toxic climate in American politics in which consensus has long since withered and there is naught but conflict. Trump has done nothing to assuage the opposition, in fact he has goaded them and relied upon his own loyal base to stoke up his confidence. Thus, widening the gap. Into such an atmosphere naturally the rabble rousers and extremists will turn up and prosper by feeding the supporters with a diet of anger, mockery of the foe and most of all hate (and rake in the bucks folks…notice how Bannon does not live in a shack or trailer park). This is always the situation prior to a civil or civic strife. A House Divided. You will see this phrase again.

Trump

People talk of Trump as if he was so great political operator with an inane sense of genius. This is not so. As businessmen before him he thought he could run the country like he runs his businesses and by woeful chance he appeared at a time when: (1) a portion of the population were reeling from having one of ‘those’ people in the Whitehouse for two terms (2) The culture wars were entering their fourth decade and getting hotter (3) The antics of ‘The Hill’ were getting on people’s nerves. Thus, Trump is but the manifestations of millions of people’s fears, angers (and in some cases) blind prejudices. As far as they are concerned he is their man and not (as he believes) the other way around. Thus, this vocal and furious approximately 25% now hold sway in the Nation. A multi-cultured, five time zone, 300,000,000 + population, politically polarised with easy access to firearms Nation. A more astute generation of politicians would have picked up on this and would be doing something to damp down the fires. Not Trump, bloated with the adulation of his creators he sees only them and their needs. Woefully ignorant of the forces which are at work. A House Divided. History beckons.

Warning

The entrenchments of both sides indicate those who are currently involved within the political processes, be they politicians, aides, activists or voters have in most cases already made up their minds. The nation has in round terms 123,000,000 voters willing to make their mark, to repeat there is a potential in round terms of of 245,000,000. The questions to ask at this stage are is approximately one-half of the population content to let (1) Their future be fought over by another divided half. (2) Thus, content to be told how Life is going to be by a subsequent victorious quarter. If you didn’t vote last time because ‘why bother’ or ‘my principals’ were your fall back reasons, ask yourself:

Are you really content with a quarter of the population dictating to you?

Do you really think in this toxic situation you or folk close and dear to you will not be affected some day, some how, some when?

In the next part we will discuss this in more detail.

Thank you so much, Roger!  😊  Stay tuned for Part II …

Election 2020 … Part First of Many To Come

I have lost count of how many times I’ve heard people say that the democrats will win big in 2020, that Trump doesn’t stand a chance, that the democrats have a bunch of good candidates, that the nation will not re-elect Donald Trump, etc., etc.  And I know those people saying this mean well, and in most cases, I think they believe it.  But folks … make no mistake … it will be an uphill battle, and we haven’t yet taken the first step up that hill.  In this post, I want to talk just a bit about what is wrong with the democratic stance and what some of the problems facing the democrats are going to be.  I speak at the moment only of the presidential election, though I will later talk about the Senate and at some point, the House.

First problem … yes, we have a number of highly qualified candidates, from the elders, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, to the newbies like Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.  But that is exactly the problem.  Let me explain …

In 2016, when Bernie Sanders failed to be nominated by the Democratic Party, what did his most loyal supporters do?  Some voted for independent candidates, some even voted for Trump, but the majority simply did not vote.  If every Bernie supporter had cast their vote for Hillary Clinton, we would not have Trump in the Oval Office today.  So, next year, at the Democratic Convention, if Kamala Harris is the nominee, what will Buttigieg’s and Warren’s supporters do?  Some will vote for Ms. Harris, but more will likely either vote for an independent simply to show their anger with the Democratic Party or will simply stay home and not vote at all.  Some will even vote for Trump.  This is a big problem, folks, and while it makes no sense, it is reality.

Second problem … this election will not be, for the Democratic Party, about who is the most qualified and capable candidate, but will be only about who can beat Donald Trump.  Which translates to:  who has the most public appeal, who is the best-looking, who can win what will be naught more than a popularity contest.  Oh yes, I hear you saying that we all care about the issues, and I agree … those reading this post no doubt care more about the candidate’s stance on such things as climate change, health care, taxes, foreign policy, gun regulation, Social Security, etc.  But we, my friends, are not the majority.  The majority do not vote with their heads, do not study the candidates and issues, but rather vote with their hearts.  Why do you think Hillary failed to attain a larger margin in 2016? (I remind you that she did win the election by nearly 3 million votes)  Because she was not warm & fuzzy, was not a ‘likeable’ persona.  And the two straws that broke the camel’s back were her calling republicans ‘deplorables’, and Jim Comey’s “October Surprise”.

Third problem … nobody seems to be doing a damned thing about the fact that Russia did, in fact, influence our 2016 election and, while we will never know for certain if Hillary would have won the electoral college without the Russian influence, we can surmise that would have been the case.  This should be something that Congress is demanding be addressed by our intelligence community, and perhaps it is being addressed, but it doesn’t seem to be taken very seriously at all.

Fourth problem … voter disenfranchisement and gerrymandering.  Most of Trump’s base are white, middle-income, Christian, non-college-educated voters.  They have driver’s licenses, they own cars, and they live in predominantly white, middle class neighborhoods with a polling place only a short distance.  A large number of likely democratic voters are poor, are minorities, and live in neighborhoods where there are no polling places close by.  They may not have driver’s licenses, they may not own reliable vehicles.  They work at minimum wage jobs and by the time they get off work, take a bus to the closest polling place, it has closed, or the line is so long that they cannot wait in line to vote, for they must pick their child up at daycare.  States are, even today, trying to pass stricter voting laws.  In Texas, proposed legislation would force anyone taking more than 3 non-family-members to the polls to fill out a form listing the people being transported and the reason.  In many states around the nation, voter ID laws are being introduced.  Polling places on college campuses are being dismantled.  And I haven’t seen much being done in the way of re-districting gerrymandered districts.  These are all blatant attempts to discourage poor and minority voters, to make it harder for them to vote, and to ensure their votes are diluted when they can vote.

Fifth problem … voter apathy.  We are so bombarded every day with news of corruption on both sides of the aisle that some people … I have had people tell me this … just throw up their hands and say, essentially, “To heck with it … they are all corrupt, so why bother?”  As heated as the 2016 election was, do you know what percentage of eligible voters didn’t bother to vote?  Take a guess.  Almost 40%!!!  Colorado, Minnesota, Maine & New Hampshire were the only states where 70% or more of eligible voters turned out to vote.

I don’t mean to be a wet blanket, but the real danger, as I see it, is in being too complacent, in believing that because Trump is such a terrible president, he cannot possibly win.  He was an awful candidate, but he won in 2016, largely because of Russian interference, Hillary’s unpopularity, voter apathy, and voter disenfranchisement.  The Democratic Party needs to seriously get their act together, unite behind the best qualified candidate, and put together a winning platform that includes health care solutions, environmental stewardship, civil rights reform, gun reform, and a host of other solutions to the issues that are plaguing this nation today, such as dealing with Iran, North Korea and Russia, not to mention mending fences that Trump has torn down with our allies.

Let us not make the same mistake we made in 2016, thinking that Trump is such a buffoon he cannot possibly win.  He is a buffoon, he is a madman, but … he won in 2016.  Let us not let him win in 2020.

“How do we make people vote?”

The mid-term elections are now less than four months away, and those of us who are determined to get the boot-lickers out of Congress and elect men & women who are willing to rein in Donald Trump, to hold him accountable for his actions and sometimes be willing to ‘just say no’, are concerned. We are hopeful in some of the up-and-coming candidates, we are hopeful because democrats are in the majority, albeit a silent majority sometimes, of voters. But we are also concerned because far too many people do not bother to vote, for one reason or another. My usual tactic is to be a bit of a bully, trying to guilt people into casting a vote. But fellow blogger Tokyo Sand suggests that another way might be more effective, and in many cases, I am inclined to agree. Please take a minute to read this excellent post and give it some thought! Thank you Tokyo Sand for such an excellent post and your generous permission to share.

Political⚡Charge

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“How do we make people vote?”

It’s the question of the moment, isn’t it. I get this question a lot. There are millions of us who hate the direction this country is going, and understand that the solution is to vote the Republicans out of office.

We know there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. We also know there are a lot of Independents who could be voting for the Democratic candidates, too.

This country needs a constellation of solutions to tackle our atrocious turnout rates, but what we need is something you and I can do today. Right now. What steps can we take immediately to help us get what we desperately need in November, i.e. votes.

After receiving an odd bit of inspiration, I’ve realized that “How do we make people vote?” is the wrong question. Really wrong.

When you “make” someone do something, you’re forcing them…

View original post 528 more words

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 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.

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.

2018 Or Bust …

Many of us, this writer included, have pretty much placed all of our hopes for the future of this nation on the mid-term elections for 33 senators and 435 representatives on 06 November 2018.  For most of this year, I convinced myself, given the shambles that Trump and the current Congress have made of our federal government, that the mid-terms were a no-brainer … the Democrats would sweep, would carry the day.  Some readers, primarily my friends from across the big pond, however, were less optimistic.  “Maybe not”, they said.  “I wouldn’t count on it”, I heard.  It is easy to kid ourselves, to say that they don’t live here, so they don’t understand.  But the reality is that they sometimes see things more clearly than we do, for they have the benefit of a bit of distance and a much longer history.  The more I study the situation, the more I consider, ponder, scratch my head and lose sleep, the more I am convinced that the mid-terms may not be the salvation for which we are hoping.

I have at least six points of concern:

  • Democratic Party disoganized
  • Russian interference
  • Voter disenfranchisement
  • Lobbyist influence
  • Bannon influence
  • Voter apathy, especially among democrats/minorities

To be sure, the Democratic Party has a few advantages at this point.  The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, and Trump is a historically unpopular president – the most unpopular in modern times. Then there are the encouraging wins for Democrats in Virginia and Alabama special elections recently.  But I think it would be a mistake to take those wins as a sign of things to come, for there were extenuating circumstances in both that may not be replicated in the broader mid-term elections.

A Washington Post-ABC News survey released in April found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans. I would agree and don’t think that has changed much since April. The Democratic Party will need to have squeaky-clean candidates next year, ones without a breath of scandal in their past, for there is no doubt that the opposition will be digging deep, spending millions to find “dirt” on every candidate.  Whereas Alabamans were willing to overlook Roy Moore’s pedophilia and sex scandals, it must be understood that so much as the hint of any such scandal in the past of a Democratic candidate will be be a death knell. The Republicans have a propaganda machine in Fox News and Breitbart that cannot be discounted, that is very powerful.

The evidence is overwhelming and undeniable that the Russian government did, in fact, have influence in our election process.  The extent of their influence is, I think, still unknown, but there can be no doubt that they did have an impact, a role in putting a madman in the highest office of the land.  We need to be taking steps to ensure that there can be no outside influence in 2018, but are we?  Given that Trump denies any such interference existed, even though such denial is an obvious and pathetic attempt to cover his own posterior, it is doubtful that any meaningful steps are being taken to protect the integrity of next year’s election.

On May 11, 2017, Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity”. Mike Pence chairs the Commission, and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach serves as the vice chair. This commission was established as Trump claimed, falsely, that there was widespread voter fraud with thousands of people voting twice.  Never mind that he won the election, he was offended that he did not win the popular vote.  The commission also serves as a smokescreen for the real issues that made our election a sham, the aforementioned Russian influence. I have written before about this commission, and the fact that Kris Kobach as Secretary of the State of Kansas, has long called for greater voting restrictions, and in July, the commission demanded that states turn over to the commission all citizen’s voting records. Thus far, the commission has not been notably successful, however the fact that it exists is chilling and may keep some voters away from the polls next November for fear of having their personal information shared.  Additionally, the commission has claimed they will remove duplicate names from voter registries, even though in many cases there may actually be two people legitimately named John Smith.

There is no doubt that big donor money plays a key role in elections and it has been magnified many times over this year, with the large corporations and lobbying groups emboldened to tell members of Congress that if they do not vote as the donors wish, they will never receive campaign funding again.  This is a slam against the democratic process and needs to be checked immediately, but of course, it will not end any time soon.  We cannot change campaign finance rules in time for the 2018 elections, but we must make absolutely certain that we do not support any candidate who is taking large campaign donations from these groups.  The information is public, and one only has to do a little research to find out who is being bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex, the NRA and others.

Steve Bannon has vowed to pursue the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” He has pledged to support and promote candidates that are of the extreme right ideology, as he did Roy Moore in Alabama.  He will, I belive, choose his battles wisely and use any and every tactic to put extremists in Congress next year.  He certainly has the money, the voice, and the resources to get his message through, and poses a significant threat to the democratic process.

And lastly, I think that voter apathy or angst played a large role in the election of Donald Trump and the defeat of Hillary Clinton.  It would make sense that voter apathy/angst among Democrats is even higher now than it was in 2016. One reason, of course, is the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the electoral college.  Another is the Russian influence.  People may think the system is rigged, and their vote doesn’t matter or will not be properly counted.  Minorities have absolutely no reason to vote for a Republican candidate, for the current administration and Congress have increasingly supported legislation and spewed rhetoric harmful to African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims and the LGBT community.  But does that mean they will come out and vote for a Democrat?  Not necessarily, for they may find it simpler to simply stay home.

The Democratic National Committee must step up to the plate, must become organized, support only those candidates who are above reproach.  They must generate enthusiasm and their trademark must become the very things that our government is lacking today: transparency, honesty, integrity and equality.  And those of us who have a voice, even a voice that may reach only a few hundred people, must help generate enthusiasm, must help explain the issues, introduce the candidates, and light a fire under the voters. We simply cannot afford to end 2018 with a Republican-controlled House and Senate, for as we have seen this year, they are not working for We The People, but for their own interests.  I say it is time to clean house, but do not for one minute think it is going to happen without a fight.