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

Stealing Voter’s Rights …

Early voting has begun in some states, one of which is Georgia.  Georgia … part of the deep south that still hasn’t quite gotten over the Civil War … typically votes republican.  This election, however, might be different, but not if state officials can prevent it, and they are doing their best to try to.

Let’s start with Gwinnett County, where nearly 10% of mail-in ballots have been … simply thrown in the trash.  According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution …

The county rejected 390 absentee ballots through Sunday, which represents 8.5 percent of all mailed ballots received in Gwinnett so far, according to state figures. Across Georgia, less than 2 percent of absentee ballots have been rejected. Gwinnett accounts for about 37 percent of all rejected ballots in Georgia.

Problems with rejected ballots are a “red flag” for racial minorities in Gwinnett, where more than 60 percent of residents are Latino, black or Asian, said Jerry Gonzalez, executive director for the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials. It wasn’t clear Monday exactly how many of the rejected ballots came from voters who are minorities.

And then there is the registration problem.  Some 53,000 voter registrations have been “put on hold” because of the state’s ‘exact match’ protocol.  Under this ‘exact match’ protocol, the transposition of a single letter or number, deletion or addition of a hyphen or apostrophe, the accidental entry of an extra character or space, and the use of a familiar name like ‘Tom’ instead of ‘Thomas’ will cause a no match result.

Before I go any further, it is important to note just who is overseeing the election process in Georgia.  That would be Brian Kemp, the current Georgia Secretary of State, who just happens to also be the republican candidate for Governor, running against democrat Stacey Abrams.  Does anybody see a problem with this?  This is not the first time that Kemp has come under the microscope.

  • In 2015, Kemp’s office erroneously distributed the Social Security numbers and dates of birth of registered Georgia voters. This tends to make people leery of registering to vote.
  • During the 2016 election, Kemp was the only state official to reject help from the Department of Homeland Security to guard against Russian interference.
  • From 2012 to 2018, Kemp’s office cancelled more than 1.4 million voter registrations.

You may remember Kemp from a post I wrote in August about his campaign ad …

Last week, civil rights groups including the Georgia NAACP filed a joint lawsuit against Kemp alleging the exact-match policy, which was signed into law last year, has been “shown to disproportionately and negatively impact the ability of voting-eligible African-American, Latino and Asian-American applicants to register to vote.”Louisville Georgia seniorsAnd then there was the incident yesterday in Louisville, Georgia.  A non-partisan group, Black Voters Matter, was preparing to take a group of about 40 senior citizens from their senior center to the polling place on the day early voting began. The seniors were ecstatic, eager to cast their votes.  But before the bus could pull out of the parking lot, they were ordered off the bus.  It seems that somebody had called the county commissioner and complained that the bus should not be taking voters to the polls.

LaTosha Brown, Black Voters Matter’s other co-founder, said there was nothing illegal about the group’s activity. The organization is non-partisan and the bus doesn’t endorse any particular candidate. She called it a clear-cut case of “voter intimidation.”

But it isn’t only Georgia that is trying to make certain only lily-white citizens vote.  Take a look at North Dakota …north dakota voter suppression.pngNorth Dakota is the only state in the U.S. without voter registration. Instead, voters have historically been able to verify their identity at a polling station by presenting a subset of many different types of identification showing a date of birth and home address, as documented by the U.S. District Court for North Dakota. These forms of identification included driver’s licenses (in- or out-of-state), a U.S. passport, a tribal ID, a non-driver’s license ID, a federal agency ID, a student ID, a military ID, a recent utility bill, and the like.

Then beginning in 2013 a series of stricter laws were passed, and the end result was that only three forms of ID would be accepted, a valid unexpired driver’s license, a tribal ID, or a state-issued ID card.  But the kicker was that said ID must contain a ‘residential address’, in other words a street address.  A large proportion of Native Americans living in North Dakota live in rural areas where there are no street addresses, only P.O. boxes.

In 2016, a group of seven Native American voters sued the State of North Dakota and, long story short, the case ended up on the docket of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Earlier this month, the Court upheld the North Dakota law, effectively disenfranchising thousands of Native Americans in North Dakota.  Justices Ginsburg and Kagan dissented, saying “the risk of disfranchisement is large”.  Some 70,000 North Dakota residents will be unable to vote in the 2018 mid-terms simply because they do not have a street address.

The 2018 mid-term elections are the most important mid-terms of our lifetime, but the states are playing games … costly games that may actually turn our entire election process into nothing more than a sham.

Fools Rush In …

It’s really too bad that fools and idiots don’t come with some physical identifying feature, such as a hooked nose, or green ears … something!

KempBrian Kemp looks like a normal person.  Kemp is running for governor of Georgia this year and is, or at least claims to be, a big Trump supporter.  Apparently the feeling is mutual, for Trump supported Kemp over the current Lieutenant Governor, Casey Cagle, causing Cagle to lose the primary last month by a landslide.  Both Kemp and Cagle were lukewarm about Trump in the beginning, but now … funny, but for some reason they were in a competition to see who could most slavishly support Trump.  Oh … could that be because Trump’s approval ratings among Georgia Republicans are above 80 percent?

So, who is Brian Kemp and what does his platform look like?

Who is Brian Kemp?kemp-gun-JakeKemp has served as the Secretary of State of Georgia since 2010, first appointed by then-Governor Sonny Perdue, and later that year was elected to the position, and re-elected in 2014.  He would be up for re-election this year were he not running for governor.  He has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture – I fail to see how that qualifies him for a governorship, but hey … it’s more education than the president has!

Kemp also had a rather unremarkable stint as Georgia State Senator from 2003-2007.

As Secretary of State, Kemp was responsible for a major data breach in 2015 when his office erroneously distributed personal data (including Social Security numbers and dates of birth) of 6.2 million registered Georgia voters, more than 95% of all registered voters in the state. This data breach occurred when the office sent out a CD with this information to 12 organizations that purchase monthly voter lists from the office.  The office of Secretary of State did not publicly acknowledge the mishap until the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the class-action lawsuit against the office as a result of the data breach.  The breach cost taxpayers $1.2 million in credit monitoring services for those whose data had been compromised and $395,000 for an audit into Kemp’s handling of the unauthorized data disclosure.

In 2016, as evidence mounted that Russian hackers were attempting to disrupt the 2016 elections, President Obama directed his Department of Homeland Security secretary Jeh Johnson to work with states to secure their voting systems as “critical infrastructure.”  Secretary of State Kemp refused, later justifying his decision by saying, “I think it was a politically calculated move by the previous administration.”  He also claimed the effort violated state’s rights.

So, we can see that Kemp is one of those who, no matter how much evidence is presented, will argue until he turns blue, simply because he didn’t like Obama.  Care to make a wild guess why?

What does Brian Kemp stand for?

You may remember that back in May, I included a snippet about Kemp in a post because of a campaign ad he had run where he had pointed a gun at a young man who wanted to date his daughter. In case you need to refresh your memory, here is the clip again …

“I’m a conservative businessman with a 4-Point Plan to put hardworking Georgians first. I’m also the proud father of 3 teenage girls. Here’s the thing: If you want to date one of my daughters, you better have respect for women & a healthy appreciation for the 2nd Amendment.”

Well, then …

kemp-Trump-endorsesGeorgia is a red state … republicans control the state legislature, as well as the governor’s office, but not necessarily because there are more republicans in Georgia. Georgia is a red state because of voter suppression, and quite likely were it not for voter roll purges, refusing to register voters until after an election, and the use of investigations to intimidate groups registering minorities to vote, there would at the very least be a significantly higher number of democrats in office.

Whites make up less than 60 percent of the state’s population but more than 90 percent of people who voted Republican in the primary. The state’s gerrymandered districts, drawn and redrawn by the Republican-dominated Legislature, mirror the inordinate and disproportionate power of this constituency.kemp-deportKemp’s platform seems to consist of three major things:  deport immigrants, protect the 2nd Amendment, and keep minorities away from the polls.  As Secretary of State, Kemp initiated investigations into organizations that registered nearly 200,000 new Asian-American and African-American voters — efforts that resulted in the first majority-black school board in a small town.  Although Kemp’s investigations yielded no charges, indictments or convictions, there was a strong intimidation feature with Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents knocking on doors, some of those people who were erroneously investigated losing their jobs.

In addition, Kemp kept thousands of the newly registered minority voters off the voter registration rolls. Why?  Because …

“Democrats are working hard, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines. If they can do that, they can win these elections in November.”

Perish the thought, eh?  Kemp has also blocked nearly 35,000 people from the voter rolls because of misplaced hyphens or a typo on the voter registration card that didn’t precisely match the spelling of the name at the driver’s license bureau.  Mostly African-Americans, it just so happens (60%), but also Latinos and Asian-Americans.  In fact, since 2012, the number of registered voters in Georgia has actually decreased!  Oh yes … and those warnings about the vulnerability of the voting machines in his state?  No worries … Kemp has successfully ignored those pesky warnings, even though the machines, which run on Windows 2000, leave no paper trail; as a result, there is no way to verify whether the counts are accurate or whether the vote has been hacked.kemp-abramsIn November, Kemp will be running against Stacey Abrams, a woman and an African American.  As of the latest RealClearPolitics (RCP) average poll, Abrams and Kemp are tied neck-and-neck with each having 45% of the votes.  Kemp has, it seems, taken every possible step to ensure that the majority of voters will be white republicans.  I sincerely hope his efforts all come to naught, and I want to see his face on the night of November 6th, when he is told it is time to concede to Ms. Abrams.  I just hope he leaves his gun at home!

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.