Disenfranchising Young Voters …

The percentage of college students who cast votes in 2018 was more than double that of 2014, the last mid-term election prior to 2018.  Why?  Two major reasons:  school shootings and the environment.  The February 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was a turning point for young people around the nation.  They were tired of seeing their friends die needlessly because of reckless, largely unregulated gun laws, or rather lack of laws.  A few activists from Parkland took the lead and motivated many more.

And then came a young girl in Sweden, Greta Thunberg, and she gained a voice that would be heard ‘round the world, and what she said with that voice was that we, the adults around the globe, have done a lousy job taking care of our planet, and that we have jeopardized hers and other young people’s futures and … she wasn’t going to take it lying down!  And her voice carried, touching the hearts and minds of young people in every nation, including the U.S.

Because of these two things, young people today are far more invested in the political process, far more aware of what is being done, who will do things to improve the situation, and they are, most importantly, voting in numbers never seen before among their age group.  My hat is off to all those who are using their voice and their vote to do what we oldsters should have been doing for decades now.  But …

Not everybody is pleased by this new wave of political enthusiasm among the youth of the country. Young people, concerned about the proliferation of guns and the destruction of the environment, are typically more likely to vote for a democratic candidate, which has thrown the Republican Party into a tailspin and led them to find new ways to disenfranchise the young voters.

The Texas Legislature has outlawed polling places that do not stay open for the entire 12-day early-voting period.  Many college campuses set up temporary early-voting sites for the convenience of the students.  However, they have neither the funding nor the need to keep those sites open for the entire 12 days, and therefore will not be allowed to have them this year.  Many students who live in campus housing do not have their own transportation and may well find it difficult to get to the polls in order to vote.  In Texas, this will affect nine of the eleven campuses of Austin Community College, as well as six campus polling places at colleges in Fort Worth, two in Brownsville, on the Mexico border, and other polling places at schools statewide.

It isn’t only Texas … Republican politicians around the country are throwing up roadblocks between students and voting booths.  In New Hampshire, a Republican-backed law took effect this fall requiring newly registered voters who drive to establish “domicile” in the state by securing New Hampshire driver’s licenses and auto registrations, which can cost hundreds of dollars annually.  Six in 10 New Hampshire college students come from outside the state, a rate among the nation’s highest. As early as 2011, the state’s Republican House speaker at the time, William O’Brien, promised to clamp down on unrestricted voting by students, calling them “kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.”  Say WHAT???

Florida’s State Legislature reinstated a 2014 law that the Courts struck down at the time, outlawing early voting sites at state universities, with an additional caveat that all early voting sites must offer “sufficient non-permitted parking” – something that is in short supply at most universities.

North Carolina Republicans enacted a voter ID law last year that recognized student identification cards as valid — but its requirements proved so cumbersome that major state universities were unable to comply. A later revision relaxed the rules, but much confusion remains, and fewer than half the state’s 180-plus accredited schools have sought to certify their IDs for voting.

Wisconsin Republicans also have imposed tough restrictions on using student IDs for voting purposes. The state requires poll workers to check signatures only on student IDs, although some schools issuing modern IDs that serve as debit cards and dorm room keys have removed signatures, which they consider a security risk.  The law also requires that IDs used for voting expire within two years, while most college ID cards have four-year expiration dates. And even students with acceptable IDs must show proof of enrollment before being allowed to vote.

Tennessee does not recognize student ID cards as valid for voting, and legislators have removed out-of-state driver’s licenses from the list of valid identifications.  Tennessee ranks 50th in voter turnout among the states and the District of Columbia. Only Texas’ turnout is worse.

In almost all of these cases, the excuse given for the tougher restrictions is that they are trying to cut down on voter fraud, but that argument lacks teeth, since widescale voter fraud has been proven to be virtually non-existent.  It is simple common sense that making voting convenient improves turnout.  When polling places are closed, hours restricted, photo IDs required, turnout will suffer.  What a message we are sending to our youth when we make it so hard for them to vote that many will throw their hands up in frustration and become lifelong non-voters!

One final thought.  The states where the barriers are rising fastest are in political battlegrounds and places like Texas where one-party control is eroding.  My thought is that if the Republicans have, as they claim to, the best ideas, the best platforms … then why do they need to cheat in order to win?

The young people in this country today are our hope for the future, for a future with clean air, potable water, arable land for growing food, and fewer guns in the hands of the wrong people.  If we discourage them today, what is the message we are sending?  Think about it.

If we don’t vote, we’ll get HIM again

I know thirteen months seems like a long time, but … November 3rd 2020, election day in the U.S., will be here before you know it. It is not too soon to start thinking about some things. Oh sure, most who are reading this know that they will vote for the democratic nominee, no matter who it is. But what about those who won’t likely vote? Just this morning I saw a tweet that said if Biden is the nominee, she won’t vote. What, if anything, can we do to motivate and encourage everyone to vote? Our friend Jeff over at On the Fence Voters has written a thoughtful and thought-provoking post about this and I encourage you to read it, think about it. We’ll chat more soon, for I have some ideas. Thank you, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

I can’t remember a time where the news cycle is so fluid that you can’t even keep up with it. The media is undoubtedly earning their stripes in the era of Trump. When one scandal erupts over here, another one erupts over there. I go on Twitter for 10 minutes, and multiple stories are breaking all at once.

Is this what we signed up for? Sadly, yes, it is. According to Pew Research, Americans are one of the least active voting populations among developed countries, ranking 26 out of 32 countries in voter turnout. Belgium, for example, saw over 87 percent of voters turn out it 2014. Compare that to the approximately 56 percent who turned out in the 2016 American election, and it’s tough not to conclude that there’s a sizable portion of our population who are not engaged in our democracy.

And in 2016, that disengagement hurt…

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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. 

By Hook or By Crook …

There are a couple of ways to win an election.  One can work hard, put together a sincere platform that addresses the concerns of the people, talk to the people, make sure your name and platform are well advertised and hope for the best.  Or … you can spread lies and ‘disinformation’, pick and choose your audience, take money from special interest groups to bombard the airwaves and social media with your ads, and if all else fails, make sure those who wouldn’t vote for you don’t get to vote.  It is my opinion that if you have a viable platform and reasonable ideas for improving the welfare of the nation and its people, your best bet is the first method.  However, if you have no real platform for your plan is to profit from the office you seek, if you care not a whit about the ‘average Joe’, then you will likely choose the second path.

Throughout history, there have been crooked politicians in both parties, and that will likely never change.  However, in this, the 21st century, corruption runs rampant mostly in the Republican Party.  It is republicans who are in the pockets of the NRA.  It is republicans who deny climate change and instead support the fossil fuel industries, for that is where they get their large donations.  It is republicans who aim to cut social safety net programs and who fight against subsidized health care in any form or fashion. And it is mainly republicans who have redistricted their states in order to minimize the effect of the minority vote.  It was the republican candidate running for president in 2016 who encouraged the tapping into private information of his opponent and making it public.

There is an all-important election coming up in just over 17 months, and the republicans are already hard at work.  Not, mind you, developing strong ideologies and working on plans to help the poor and working classes be successful in their lives.  Not working on a plan to improve our failing education system.  Not working on plans to develop renewable energy sources or clean up the environment.  But rather, among other things, they are working on ways to keep ‘the other side’, the democrats, away from the polls.

Texas is one state that has a two-week ‘early voting’ period, and in the past, mobile polling stations have been used in areas where residents might not otherwise be able to access a polling place.  Elderly, poor, and college students are among those for whom access is often difficult, so these mobile polling stations would set up shop in places like assisted living communities, food banks, college campuses, and even office buildings.  However, this week, a bill has been passed by both chambers of the state legislature that would ban the mobile polling stations.  Initially, the bill would have exempted nursing homes and retirement homes from the ban, but the state senate blocked the exemption.  The bill is now on Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s desk awaiting his signature.

The ‘justification’ for this bill … “Supporters of the bill say it keeps authorities from giving some people an easier way to vote, while excluding others from that opportunity.” Is that not the biggest crock of you-know-what???  The true reason can be none other than to keep the elderly, disabled, poor, and college-students from voting.  Those groups tend to be more likely to vote for a democrat, for their interests are more closely tied to humanitarian causes than republicans.  I call foul on this one.

I now turn from Texas to Florida …

In 2018, after years of the Republican-dominated state legislature’s resistance to the idea, Floridians included a referendum measure, Amendment 4, in the statewide midterm ballot that would automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons once their sentence has been served (except those convicted of murder and sexual offenses).  The people of Florida overwhelmingly approved the measure with a 65% majority.  In fact, Amendment 4 received more “yes” votes (5.1 million) than any single candidate in the state last November.

However, the state legislature has now passed a bill that is only awaiting Governor DeSantis’ signature, that would place an additional requirement on those returning to society … they must fully pay any and all restitution and court fees before being allowed to vote.  Think about this one … they’ve been in prison, so they have no job and it will be difficult for them to get one, but in order to restore their rights as a citizen, they must come up with sometimes tens of thousands of dollars.  First, it was likely their poverty that led them to whatever crime they committed, and now they are even poorer with no means to even rent an apartment or buy food, but they are expected to pay fees that they may not have even known existed.  Again, just like the Texas law, this law would disproportionately affect the poor and minorities.

Those are just two of the current attempts to disenfranchise the people who are most likely to vote for a democrat.  Restrictive voter ID laws, gerrymandering, closing or reducing the hours of polling places in poor and minority neighborhoods are happening all around the country.  I can only conclude that the Republican Party has no viable platform on which to run honest campaigns, thus they must resort to all manners of trickery.  GOP once stood for Grand Ol’ Party.  No longer is there anything ‘grand’ about them.

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.

A “Power Grab” or Democracy?

Elections in most countries are held on a weekend.  Why?  Because people don’t have to worry about how to make it to the polls after work or on their lunch break.  Because it makes it more convenient for voters.  And thus, it makes it more likely that more people will get off their arses and vote!  The United States is one of the few exceptions, where elections are held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  Out of 68 nations that hold regular elections, the only ones that do not hold them on weekends are Canada, Denmark, Ireland, Israel, the Netherlands, Norway, the Philippines, South Korea, and the United States.  Some of the countries that hold weekday elections declare election day a public holiday, others permit across-the-board absentee ballots or postal votes.

The voting date in the U.S. makes it harder for poor people and minorities to vote, thus concentrating the vote and expanding the impact of the upper class, the wealthy voters, the WASPS.  In addition, we’ve made it harder for those people by closing many polling places in poorer neighborhoods, thus requiring some to make a trip by bus.  Add to that the restrictive voter ID laws that exist in some states and, well, what we end up with is the majority of the voters being middle or upper income and white.

US voter turnout trails most developed countries. During the 2016 presidential election, less than 56% of the estimated voting-age population in the US voted.  While the majority of US states have voter leave laws that guarantee certain employees a modicum of time off to vote, no federal law currently mandates that employees get time off to cast their ballots. So, when faced with choices like having to take unpaid time off work to vote, waking at the wee hours of the morning to vote so that they’re not late to work, standing in hours-long lines with everyone else who waited until after the workday to cast their ballot, or simply not voting at all, many choose the latter. Of the nonvoters surveyed by the US Census Bureau about the 2008 presidential election, the 2012 presidential election, and numerous other elections, the most commonly cited reason for not voting was being too busy or having conflicting work schedules. Obviously, we need to make some changes.

This month, House democrats introduced a bill known as the For The People Act, or HR1. It is a 571-page compendium of existing problems and proposed solutions in four political hot zones: voting, political money, redistricting, and ethics.  Obviously, I cannot address the entire bill in this post, but one portion of the bill calls for election day to be made a federal holiday in order to make it easier for everyone to vote.  Because of the large number of issues covered by HR1, it is highly unlikely that it will become law any time soon, for it would need to pass the Senate and be signed into law by Trump.  The #2 Fool on the Hill, Mitch McConnell, has already mocked and criticized the idea, saying “Just what we need, another paid holiday for federal workers”.  And how many days off do you take, Mitchie???  And then this …

“So, this is the Democrats’ plan to ‘restore democracy. A political power grab that’s smelling more and more like what it is.”

A “power grab” to ensure that everyone has a chance to vote?  I think not.  I think it’s called “democracy”, Mitchell.  Last September, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a bill in the Senate, S.3498, titled The Democracy Day Act of 2018, that would have declared election day to be a federal holiday.

“Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote.  While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy.”

Needless to say, Sanders’ bill was DOA in the republican-controlled Senate led by Mitch McConnell.

Other points in HR1 pertaining to voting:

  • Voter registration would be made easier. Citizens could register online or get registered automatically, via data from driver’s licenses or other government sources. For federal elections, states would have to provide same-day registration and at least 15 days of early voting. Election Day would be a federal holiday.

  • The bill would crack down on efforts to take voters off the rolls or prevent them from casting ballots. Felons could regain their voting rights after finishing their sentences.


  • Federal elections would require paper ballots to prevent computer tampering. State chief election officials couldn’t get involved in federal campaigns.


  • The bill would declare an intent to revive core anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were effectively shut down by the Supreme Court six years ago. It would also state that failing to vote isn’t grounds for taking away a person’s voter registration.

There is much more of substance in this bill that I cannot cover in a single post, but NPR has a highly informative, easy-to-understand article covering the highlights that I suggest you take a look at.  Campaign finance, ethics, and gerrymandering are also covered, all of which sorely need to be addressed if we are to have a chance at fair elections.  Sadly, as I noted before, I don’t think the bill has a snowball’s chance of passing the Senate, for the reality is that if every eligible voter had cast a vote in 2016, we would be writing today about President Hillary Clinton, and McConnell and his band of merry thugs are well aware of it.  Mitch and his cronies are well aware that those disenfranchised voters would put an end to this picnic they’ve been having and hold them accountable for their responsibility to ALL the people of this nation, not only those who hold the nation’s wealth in their dirty hands.

Democracy In Action???

Democracy In Action?  No, more like Democracy Inaction.  The GOP, which once stood for Grand Old Party, has decided not to allow any other republican candidate to run against Donald Trump in 2020.  The Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution on Friday that threw their “undivided support” behind Trump, and effectively undercut any other Republicans thinking of running.

The states seem prepared to follow suit.  You may remember a post I wrote a few weeks ago about South Carolina planning to cancel the republican primary in that state?  Since then, Kansas has also indicated it may cancel the 2020 primary, effectively removing any competition for Trump, and it seems likely that other states will follow suit.

Now, there are two ways one can look at this.  One can assume that the Republican Party is so pleased with Trump that they see no reason for him to be challenged by any other republican candidate.  Or … one can assume that the Republican Party realizes what an unpopular candidate Trump is, realizes that if a strong, viable candidate challenged Trump for the party nomination Trump would likely lose, and are trying to protect their assets.  My vote is for the latter, though don’t hold your breath waiting for them to admit it.

For a number of reasons, most prominently the recent government shutdown, Trump’s popularity has taken a hit and in light of Roger Stone’s recent arrest, Michael Cohen’s planned testimony before Congress next month, and the ongoing Mueller investigation, there is real concern in the GOP that Trump could be vulnerable to a serious challenger, such as Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, or Ohio’s former Governor John Kasich.

Among democrats, one prevailing viewpoint is that if Trump is the default candidate running on the republican ticket, it is good for the democrats, for with his dwindling approval ratings, he is likely to lose.  Okay, maybe, but this goes against democratic process, which is designed to give the people a choice.  Trump has royally screwed up a number of times, and if the republicans want a different candidate, they should at least be given a choice.  My own hope is that if the RNC blocks other potential republicans from running against Trump, then enough republicans will change their party affiliation and perhaps just this once vote for a democrat.

franklin-pierce

Franklin Pierce

In case you’re wondering if it has ever happened that a sitting president was not nominated by his party for a second term, yes it has.  Once.  Franklin Pierce, the 14th President, was a democrat, elected in 1852.  His pro-Southern sentiments and his policy of failing to lead on the divisive issue of slavery badly hurt his standing with the voters. Especially damaging was his support for the pro-slavery Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which backfired on him as Kansas was overrun by pro-slavery forces, mostly from the slave state of Missouri. The events angered Northerners everywhere and helped lead to the creation of the Republican Party.

When Democratic delegates gathered in Cincinnati, Ohio, for their convention in 1856, it was clear that they had had enough of Pierce. James Buchanan, who had been defeated by Pierce for the nomination four years earlier, won the nomination on the 17th ballot.

My hope is, of course, that Trump is ineligible to run, having already been removed from office, by the time the primaries roll around.  Short of that, however, the process of nominating and electing a president is seriously compromised if the RNC is allowed to rob their constituents of a choice, a voice.

Donald Trump, by the way, was quite ecstatic when informed that he might not even have to work to earn the nomination …trump-tweet-2.pngIf I were a republican, I would be incensed to be robbed of my right to choose.  The RNC is challenging the very process of fair elections … oh, but wait … they’ve been doing that for a long time with such things as gerrymandering, voter identification laws that are biased against minorities and the poor, and other methods that lead to the disenfranchisement of groups that tend to vote largely democratic.  I guess if you can’t win honestly ….

trump-pinocchio

Think Your Vote Isn’t Important?

Well, here we are … the big day has finally arrived after months of divisive rhetoric, dirty tricks to keep voters from the polls, and demoralizing speech by certain corrupt elements in our government.  This has been the ugliest, nastiest election season I have seen in my 67 years. Today is the day those who haven’t already voted will head to the polls.  Well, most will.  Some will.  Others, it seems, have a thousand and one excuses for not voting, the top one seeming to be “my vote doesn’t really matter”, followed by “I don’t have time”.  Think it’s not important that you vote?  Let’s look at somebody who thought it was …

She felt violated, she felt abused, not by a single perpetrator but by the government that was supposed to protect her.Fannie-Lou-HamerHer name was Fannie Lou Hamer. She was born on October 6, 1917. Her parents were sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta area. As a child, she often went hungry and without shoes. In the winter, she tied rags on her feet to keep her feet warm. She began working the fields when she was only 6 years old.

Later she realized she was not considered “a first class citizen” because she was poor, because she was black, because she was a woman.

In 1961, she went to a hospital to remove a tumor. She would be given a hysterectomy without her consent by a white doctor who was following the state plan to reduce the number of poor blacks in the state. Fannie Lou Hamer became another victim of the involuntary or uninformed sterilization of black women, common in the South in the 1960s. They were commonly called “Mississippi appendectomies” because women would be told they needed to get their appendix out, but instead they would be sterilized.”

“In the North Sunflower County Hospital,” Hamer would say, “I would say about six out of the 10 Negro women that go to the hospital are sterilized with the tubes tied.”

The government-funded program started in the 1930s targeting people in “institutions for mental illness” then slowly targeting “the blind, the deaf, the disabled, alcoholics, those with epilepsy, and ultimately the rural poor on welfare.”

This was the turning point in Fannie Lou Hamer’s life.

She would say, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

She decided at that point that she would fight for human rights, human dignity, and she would never give in, to anyone.

She soon realized that the only way to improve her life and the life of other poor blacks was to register to vote. If she was prevented to register or saw others who were prevented to vote, she would speak out and protest, if necessary.

She became relentless. She would be fired from her job, driven from the plantation she had called home for nearly two decades, she would be threatened, arrested, beaten, and shot at, leading to one arrest where she would be beaten nearly to death, suffering permanent kidney damage.

When she was stopped by police, she would start singing “This Little Light of Mine” and “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

She would say, “I guess if I’d had any sense, I’d have been a little scared — but what was the point of being scared? The only thing they could do was kill me, and it kinda seemed like they’d been trying to do that a little bit at a time since I could remember.”

Fannie Lou Hamer would become a tireless champion for racial equality, working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), fighting racial segregation and injustice in the South. She also helped to found the National Women’s Political Caucus. She was instrumental in organizing Mississippi’s Freedom Summer for the SNCC, and she later became the vice-chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which she represented at the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

At the Democratic National Convention, Hamer would be seen making her way through a group of old, white men to tell the world her story. At times, she fought back tears, such as recounting the time she was beaten in a Mississippi jail. She would add, “I was in jail when Medgar Evers was murdered.”

She would ask, “Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off the hooks because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”

At the convention, rumors circulated that one of the toughest men in America, President Lyndon B. Johnson, was terrified of Hamer, her courage, and her voice.

Hamer would say, “We got to fight in America . . . for ALL the people.”

Still think it isn’t important, that your vote doesn’t count, or that you just can’t find time?  Do us all a favour and … think again.

**Note:  The header photo is John Lewis, Civil Rights leader and member of the U.S. House of Representatives serving Georgia’s 5th district, during the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965 in the struggle for voting rights.

A Snarky Snippet Friday …

It seems that the closer it comes to election day, the more fired up the rhetoric gets, the snarkier I feel.  Having just finished a three-part series on Voter Apathy, I was ready to let loose with some snark this afternoon!


A big deal …

1-mike-pence.w330.h412“I heard Oprah was in town today. And I heard Will Ferrell was going door-to-door the other day. Well, I’d like to remind Stacey (Abrams) and Oprah and Will Ferrell — I’m kind of a big deal, too.”

— Vice President Mike Pence at a campaign event for gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp in Georgia, reminding voters he’s a big-ticket name, too.

As one commenter said: “On one side, beloved American institutions. On the other, a man with as much charisma as an empty cottage-cheese tub.”

 


The judge can’t make up his mind …

Remember two weeks ago when I wrote a piece on some of the ways in which states are disenfranchising certain groups of voters?  One such state was North Dakota, where voter identification laws require an ID with an actual street address. Problem is that many of the Native Americans live in rural areas where their address is a P.O. box.

Late Tuesday, the Spirit Lake Tribe and six individuals filed suit in U.S. District Court to prevent North Dakota’s new voter ID laws from being implemented during next week’s mid-term elections.  Seems reasonable, yes?  Apparently not to U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who declined to grant emergency relief and ruled that granting an injunction days before the election “will create as much confusion as it will alleviate.”  Say what???

Daniel Hovland

Judge Hovland

Versions of North Dakota’s voter identification law have been the subject of litigation for the past few years. Earlier this year, the very same Judge Daniel Hovland found the requirements, including identification carrying a residential street address, disproportionately burdened Native American voters.  He also found that thousands of Native Americans were less likely to possess identification that met the requirements or the documentation required to obtain identification.

So, to clarify, the judge has understood for some time that the laws are restrictive and keep thousands of Native Americans from voting, but he feels it would be too confusing to put a hold on the laws in order to allow Native Americans to vote in next week’s election.  This move is almost certain to unseat democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp who is trailing behind her republican challenger, Kevin Cramer by 7-9 percentage points.  Does anybody smell a rat here?  Fair and honest elections?  Balderdash!!!

Heitkamp-Cramer.jpg

Heidi Heitkamp / Kevin Cramer


Another strike against women …

Okay, so the evangelical right-wing republicans are dead-set against abortion under any and all circumstances, right?  No exceptions, life begins before the cigarette is even lit, and is something sacred from that point forward.  So, doesn’t it make sense that those same people would favour birth control so that there would be far fewer abortions needed, and an added bonus, far fewer children in need of help from the government for such luxuries as medical care, food, clothing and shelter?  But no … they want to be able to determine whether their religion allows a woman access to birth control, too!

Trump is attempting to revise the rules of ACA in order to allow companies to refuse to cover birth control in their employee health plans if they have moral or religious objections.  Thus far, the courts have struck his revision down twice, but he has once again made what is said to be a minor adjustment in hopes of getting the blessing of the courts before next week’s mid-term elections.  The average cost of birth control, if not covered under an insurance plan, is $160 – $600 per year.  It may not sound like much, but to a lot of women, that may be two months’ worth of groceries.

I see this as blatant misogyny … an attempt to dictate that “Woman, you WILL have babies whether you desire to or not!” 


Even ice cream goes political …

According to a statement by Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield …

“We cannot ignore the Trump administration’s attacks on our values, our environment, and our very humanity. We cannot stand silent while disenfranchised groups are silenced and ignored. We must act, we must resist. Introducing Pecan Resist, a new Limited Batch flavor that packs so much more than fudge and nuts under its lid. This flavor supports organizations that are working on the front lines of the resistance, supporting equality, justice, and respect for everyone. Featuring chocolate ice cream with white fudge chunks, dark fudge chunks, pecans, walnuts, and fudge-covered almonds, it’s a nutty delight that’s sending a powerful message. Together, we can resist. Learn more and find it near you here: http://benjerry.com/pecanresist

The reviews on Twitter were a mixed bag …

  • I am never purchasing anything at Ben and Jerry’s again, this is disgraceful.
  • I am proud to announce my next flavor of Ben and Jerry’s I will be eating….. none of the above. Political food makes my stomach turn.
  • My new favorite ice cream!
    That’s how you make a statement
    And take a stand!
    Well done @benandjerrys
    .. if you wanna make another
    flavor called Kid Vicious
    You have my permission!#PecanResist#TheResistance#Vote #KidVicious

And there you have it … another episode of Filosofa’s Snarky Snippets!  Happy Friday and have a great weekend, my friends!Happy Friday

Voter Apathy — Part II

Earlier today, I wrote a piece about young people, millennials if you wish, and their reasons excuses for not voting in next week’s election.  I also noted that according to the article in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, just over half of adults plan to vote.  I did a bit of research and found that the last time more than half of eligible voters actually turned out to vote in a mid-term election was 1914, just after the beginning of World War I!  According to the PEW Research Center …

The United States’ turnout in national elections lags behind other democratic countries with developed economies, ranking 26th out of 32 among peers in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Folks … this is pathetic!  Just under 56% of eligible voters in the U.S. cast ballots in the 2016 election! PEW chart

A number of the countries with the highest percentage of voter turnout have compulsory voting, which is a complex topic for another day, but something to think about.

According to an article in the New York Times …

Perhaps the most significant change has been in who votes. Unlike in the 19th century, voter turnout is now highly correlated with class. More than 80 percent of Americans with college degrees vote compared with about 40 percent of Americans without high school degrees, according to Jonathan Nagler, a political scientist at New York University and co-author of a 2014 book, “Who Votes Now.”

Last night, I read an interesting, fairly lengthy report by Center For American Progress  about ways in which we might be able to increase voter participation in the U.S.  It is well worth the read if you have time.  In short, the report lists some of the reasons for low voter turnout, and also some recommendations for encouraging voter participation by making the process simpler:

  • Streamline voter registration with automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration (SDR),11 preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds, and online voter registration
  • Make voting more convenient with in-person early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and vote-at-home with vote centers
  • Provide sufficient resources in elections and ensure voting is accessible
  • Restore rights for formerly incarcerated people
  • Strengthen civics education in schools
  • Invest in integrated voter engagement (IVE) and outreach

I agree, but it should be duly noted that all disenfranchisement laws and voter suppression tools are barriers that must be removed.

America’s representative government is warped by low voter participation, and, of those who do vote, the group is not representative of the broader population [emphasis added] of eligible American citizens. Research shows that communities of color, young people, and low-income Americans are disproportionately burdened by registration barriers, inflexible voting hours, and polling place closures, making it more difficult for these groups to vote. Participation gaps persist along racial, educational, and income-level differences.

VoterTurnout-fig1-693

Remember how hard African-Americans fought for the right to cast a ballot?  Remember poll taxes and tests?  In 1870, the 15th Amendment was ratified, giving non-white men and freed male slaves the right to vote, but almost immediately the southern states began taking that right away via a series of Jim Crow laws.  It would be another 95 years until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gave African-Americans the right to vote.  Blood was shed in the fight to earn this right.  Do the names James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner and Medgar Evers ring any bells?  Each gave their lives in the fight for the vote. How do you imagine those who fought the good fight would feel if they heard somebody say, as Clara Bender of Madison, West Virginia, said …

“I just never got into it. I got married, had babies — just never had the time.”

And do you realize that it was less than 100 years ago – 1920, to be exact – that the 19th Amendment was finally ratified, giving women the right to vote?  There are women alive today who remember when women couldn’t vote.  What do you think Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton would have to say to Megan Davis of Rhode Island, who says …

“I feel like my voice doesn’t matter. People who suck still are in office, so it doesn’t make a difference.”

Ay, pobrecita!!!

There is one and only one valid reason for a person age 18 or older not to vote, and that is that he or she has been disenfranchised in some way by state laws.  Gerrymandering, restrictive voter ID laws, shortened polling hours, lack of no-excuse absentee voting, polling places closed, voters given incorrect information, voters restricted by living in rural areas, and the list of tricks the states have up their sleeves is endless.  Anybody … ANYBODY who is not affected by disenfranchisement, else in a coma, has not only the right, but the DUTY to vote!  Sorry, folks, but it is one day every two years, and takes a matter of minutes.  Don’t like the country being ruled by the very filthy rich?  If you don’t vote, you caused it.  Don’t like the way your tax money is being spent?  If you didn’t vote, it’s your own damn fault. Those who fail to vote may very well be contributing to a future that none of us want.  vote-animated