Ponder On This …

Robert Reich’s opinion piece in The Guardian today is especially relevant … he covers a number of topics, all of which point in the same direction … the destruction of the democratic principles that were once the foundation of this nation.


Republicans have taken up the politics of bigotry, putting US democracy at risk

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

There is no ‘surge’ of migrants at the border and there is no huge voter fraud problem – there is only hard-right attack

Republicans are outraged – outraged! – at the surge of migrants at the southern border. The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, declares it a “crisis … created by the presidential policies of this new administration”. The Arizona congressman Andy Biggs claims, “we go through some periods where we have these surges, but right now is probably the most dramatic that I’ve seen at the border in my lifetime.”

Donald Trump demands the Biden administration “immediately complete the wall, which can be done in a matter of weeks – they should never have stopped it. They are causing death and human tragedy.”

“Our country is being destroyed!” he adds.

In fact, there’s no surge of migrants at the border.

US Customs and Border Protection apprehended 28% more migrants from January to February this year than in previous months. But this was largely seasonal. Two years ago, apprehensions increased 31% during the same period. Three years ago, it was about 25% from February to March. Migrants start coming when winter ends and the weather gets a bit warmer, then stop coming in the hotter summer months when the desert is deadly.

To be sure, there is a humanitarian crisis of children detained in overcrowded border facilities. And an even worse humanitarian tragedy in the violence and political oppression in Central America, worsened by US policies over the years, that drives migration in the first place.

But the “surge” has been fabricated by Republicans in order to stoke fear – and, not incidentally, to justify changes in laws they say are necessary to prevent non-citizens from voting.

Republicans continue to allege – without proof – that the 2020 election was rife with fraudulent ballots, many from undocumented migrants. Over the past six weeks they’ve introduced 250 bills in 43 states designed to make it harder for people to vote – especially the young, the poor, Black people and Hispanic Americans, all of whom are likely to vote for Democrats – by eliminating mail-in ballots, reducing times for voting, decreasing the number of drop-off boxes, demanding proof of citizenship, even making it a crime to give water to people waiting in line to vote.

To stop this, Democrats are trying to enact a sweeping voting rights bill, the For the People Act, which protects voting, ends partisan gerrymandering and keeps dark money out of elections. It passed the House but Republicans in the Senate are fighting it with more lies.

On Wednesday, the Texas Republican senator Ted Cruz falsely claimed the new bill would register millions of undocumented migrants to vote and accused Democrats of wanting the most violent criminals to cast ballots too.

The core message of the Republican party now consists of lies about a “crisis” of violent migrants crossing the border, lies that they’re voting illegally, and blatantly anti-democratic demands voting be restricted to counter it.

The party that once championed lower taxes, smaller government, states’ rights and a strong national defense now has more in common with anti-democratic regimes and racist-nationalist political movements around the world than with America’s avowed ideals of democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Donald Trump isn’t single-handedly responsible for this, but he demonstrated to the GOP the political potency of bigotry and the GOP has taken him up on it.

This transformation in one of America’s two eminent political parties has shocking implications, not just for the future of American democracy but for the future of democracy everywhere.

“I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy?” Joe Biden opined at his news conference on Thursday.

In his maiden speech at the state department on 4 March, Antony Blinken conceded that the erosion of democracy around the world is “also happening here in the United States”.

The secretary of state didn’t explicitly talk about the Republican party, but there was no mistaking his subject.

“When democracies are weak … they become more vulnerable to extremist movements from the inside and to interference from the outside,” he warned.

People around the world witnessing the fragility of American democracy “want to see whether our democracy is resilient, whether we can rise to the challenge here at home. That will be the foundation for our legitimacy in defending democracy around the world for years to come.”

That resilience and legitimacy will depend in large part on whether Republicans or Democrats prevail on voting rights.

Not since the years leading up to the civil war has the clash between the nation’s two major parties so clearly defined the core challenge facing American democracy.

There Can Be No Compromise On Voting Rights!

Every person 18 years of age or older has the right to vote in the United States.  Per the Fourteenth Amendment, states will lose their congressional representation …

“… When the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime.”

Since 1787 when the Constitution was first amended, we have passed laws to include women “inhabitants” and to lower the legal voting age to 18 instead of 21.

In the Fifteenth Amendment, the right to vote is not to be …

 “… denied or abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

So, what part of this do the legislatures in 43 states not understand?  What part of this do the Republicans in Congress not understand?  They have allegedly read the damn Constitution … with the exception of some like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Greene, who cannot read!  It’s as plain as the noses on their pocky faces!  Everybody over the age of 18 has the right to vote!  Read that again!  Better yet, perhaps Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia needs to read the Constitution before he opens his mouth again!

There are two bills that have passed the House of Representatives and are now awaiting consideration in the Senate.  S1 and S4 are about voting rights.  We should not need new federal laws to give us the right to vote … WE ALREADY HAVE THAT RIGHT!!!  But, sadly, the states, particularly those in the South and those run by Republican governments, are passing bills willy nilly that would rob us of those rights.

Manchin says that any legislation on voting rights must have the support of the Republican senators … WHY???  They aren’t about to support our right to vote because they know damn well, they have even stated, that if everybody can vote, they don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning another election.  They aren’t going to compromise, they want to dominate the discussion, the landscape.  They want only white, Christian male voters, if the truth be known.  They don’t want Blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, Asians, or really even women voting.  They don’t want college kids voting.  The majority of people in this nation would not vote for a Republican today if they offered … a Krispy Kreme Donut!

The State of Georgia just shoved through demonic voter suppression legislation.  The bill passed both chambers of the legislature in the span of a few hours before Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed it into law yesterday evening.  The new law imposes new voter identification requirements for absentee ballots, empowers state officials to take over local elections boards, limits the use of ballot drop boxes and makes it a crime to approach voters in line to give them food and water.  WTF???  You’re going to make is such that they will be forced to stand in lines for HOURS to vote, yet they cannot be provided with life-sustaining WATER???  What a bastard!

Voting rights advocates say the state’s rapid-fire action — and plans in other Republican-controlled states to pass restrictions of their own — underscores the need for federal legislation to set a national baseline for voting rules.  In my book, the only ‘rules’ should be that the person be 18 or older.  Nothing else matters!  I may not have two forms of photo ID … in fact, I don’t.  It doesn’t matter!  I pay taxes, I’ve lived here all my life … I have the right to cast my vote.  If I don’t, then I no longer wish to live in this hellhole!  If my Black friends Rob & Aundrea or my Muslim friends Ali & Maha don’t have the right to vote, then why are they bothering to pay taxes to support a government that has robbed them of their voice?

I am fortunate to live in a state where it is relatively easy to vote by mail and where voting laws are not being altered, but for the majority of people in this country, it will be harder to vote in the next election unless S1 & S4 are passed by the Senate.  That is the goal of the Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures around the nation.  Are we going to let them get by with it?  I certainly hope not, for the sake of this nation that has already seen far too many of our rights go down the tubes.

Funny, isn’t it, that the fools on the hill will go ballistic over “protecting gun rights”, but they don’t give a royal f*ck about our voices, our rights to participate in our own government – the one that we fund!!!

Joe Manchin calls for ‘compromise’.  Well, we’ve been compromising for ages now … on healthcare, on education, on wasteful military spending, on foreign affairs, on just about everything.  There is no room for compromise on voting rights … there is no wiggle room at all.  We all get to vote!  Understand that, Republicans???

The Week’s Best Cartoons 3/20

As she does every week, TokyoSand has scavenged the ‘Net for the best political cartoons of the past week.  Thank you, TS, for all your efforts to bring us the ‘toons that tell a whole story with a single picture.


On one hand, there was a lot of great news this week: Americans got help thanks to the COVID relief bill, we confirmed more great folks to the Cabinet, and Biden beat his own goal to get 100 million vaccine shots administered in his first 100 days. But, there was also a lot of terrible news, which was covered by editorial cartoonists.

toon-1toon-3toon-2toon-4

See All The ‘Toons!

A Powerful Speech

Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia gave his first speech on the Senate floor yesterday and it was a powerful, moving speech in which he spoke of the need for voting rights legislation and he pulled no punches in referring to the current situation, where almost every state in the union is attempting to rob minorities and others of their right to vote, calling it “Jim Crow in new clothes”.  Below is the video of his speech, and also the transcript.  I, for one, am glad that Senator Raphael Warnock was elected to our Congress … he is the voice of reason, he is our conscience.


“Mr. President—before I begin my formal remarks today, I want to pause to condemn the hatred and violence that took eight precious lives last night in metropolitan Atlanta. I grieve with Georgians, with Americans, with people of love all across the world. This unspeakable violence visited largely upon the Asian community, is one that causes all of us to recommit ourselves to the way of peace and active peace that prevents these kinds of tragedies from happening in the first place. We pray for these families.

“Mr. President, I rise here today as a proud American and as one of the newest members of the Senate—in awe of the journey that has brought me to these hallowed halls with an abiding sense of reverence and gratitude for the faith and sacrifices of ancestors who paved the way.

“I am a proud son of the great state of Georgia, born and raised in Savannah, a coastal city known for its cobble-stone streets and verdant town squares. Towering oak trees, centuries old and covered in gray Spanish moss, stretched from one side of the street to the other, bend and beckon the lover of history and horticulture to this city by the sea. I was educated at Morehouse College and I serve still in the pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church; both in Atlanta, the cradle of the civil rights movement. Like those oak trees, my roots go down deep and stretch wide in the soil of Waycross, Burke County and Screven County. In a word, I am Georgia. A living example and embodiment of its history and hope, the pain and the promise, the brutality and the possibility.

“Mr. President, at the time of my birth, Georgia’s two senators were Richard B. Russell and Herman E. Talmadge, both arch segregationists and unabashed adversaries of the civil rights movement. After the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board ruling outlawing school segregation, Talmadge warned that “blood will run in the streets of Atlanta”. Senator Talmadge’s father, Eugene Talmadge, former governor of our state, had famously declared, “The South loves the Negro in his place, but his place is at the back door.” When once asked how he and his supporters might keep Black people away from the polls, he picked up a scrap of paper and wrote a single word on it: “Pistols.”

“Yet, there is something in the American covenant—in its charter documents and its Jeffersonian ideals—that bends toward freedom. Led by a preacher and a patriot named King, Americans of all races stood up. History vindicated the movement that sought to push us closer to our ideals, to lengthen and strengthen the cords of our democracy, and I now hold the seat—the Senate seat—where Herman E. Talmadge sat.

“And that’s why I love America. I love America because we always have a path to make it better, to build a more perfect union. It is the place where a kid like me who grew up in public housing, the first college graduate in my family, can now serve as a United States Senator. I had an older father, he was born in 1917; serving in the Army during World War II, he was once asked to give up his seat to a young teenager while wearing his soldier’s uniform, they said “making the world safe for democracy.” But he was never bitter. By the time I came along, he had already seen the arc of change in our country. He maintained his faith in God, in his family and in the American promise, and he passed that faith on to his children.

“My mother grew up in Waycross, Georgia. You know where that is? It’s way ‘cross Georgia. Like a lot of Black teenagers in the 1950’s she spent her summers picking somebody else’s tobacco and somebody else’s cotton. But because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls in January and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator. Ours is a land where possibility is born of democracy. A vote, a voice, a chance to help determine the direction of the country and one’s own destiny within it. Possibility born of democracy.

“That’s why this past November and January, my mom and other citizens of Georgia grabbed hold of that possibility and turned out in record numbers, 5 million in November, 4.4 million in January. Far more than ever in our state’s history. Turnout for a typical runoff doubled. And the people of Georgia sent the state’s first African American senator and first Jewish senator, my brother Jon Ossoff, to these hallowed halls.

“But then, what happened? Some politicians did not approve of the choice made by the majority of voters in a hard-fought election in which each side got the chance to make its case to the voters. And, rather than adjusting their agenda, rather than changing their message, they are busy trying to change the rules. We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we have seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes.

“Since the January election, some 250 voter suppression bills have been introduced by state legislatures all across the country—from Georgia to Arizona, from New Hampshire to Florida. Using the Big Lie of voter fraud as a pretext for voter suppression. The same Big Lie that led to a violent insurrection on this very Capitol — the day after my election. Within 24 hours, we elected Georgia’s first African-American and Jewish Senators, hours later the Capitol was assaulted. We see in just a few precious hours the tension very much alive in the soul of America. And the question before all of us at every moment is what will we do to push us in the right direction.

“So politicians driven by that big lie aim to severely limit, and in some cases, eliminate automatic and same-day voter registration, mail-in and absentee voting, and early voting and weekend voting. They want to make it easier to purge voters from the voting roll altogether. As a voting rights activist, I’ve seen up close just how draconian these measures can be. I hail from a state that purged 200,000 voters one Saturday night —in the middle of the night. We know what’s happening — some people don’t want some people to vote.

“I was honored on a few occasions to stand with our hero and my parishioner, John Lewis. I was his pastor but I’m clear he was my mentor. On more than one occasion we boarded buses together after Sunday Church services as part of our Souls To The Polls program, encouraging the Ebenezer Church family and communities of faith to participate in the democratic process. Now just a few months after Congressman Lewis’ death, there are those in the Georgia legislature, some who even dared to praise his name, that are now trying to get rid of Sunday Souls to the Polls, making it a crime for people who pray together to get on a bus together and vote together. I think that’s wrong. In fact, I think a vote is a kind of prayer about the world we desire for ourselves and our children. And our prayers are stronger when we pray together.

“To be sure, we have seen these kinds of voter suppression tactics before. They are a part of a long and shameful history in Georgia and throughout our nation. But refusing to be denied, Georgia citizens and citizens across our country braved the heat and the cold and the rain, some standing in line for 5 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours just to exercise their constitutional right to vote. Young people, old people, sick people, working people, already underpaid, forced to lose wages, to pay a kind of poll tax while standing in line to vote.

“And how did some politicians respond? Well, they are trying to make it a crime to give people water and a snack, as they wait in lines that are obviously being made longer by their draconian actions. Think about that. Think about that. They are the ones making the lines longer– through these draconian actions. Then, they want to make it a crime to bring grandma some water as she is waiting in line they are making longer! Make no mistake. This is democracy in reverse. Rather than voters being able to pick the politicians, the politicians are trying to cherry pick their voters. I say this cannot stand.

“And so I rise, Mr. President, because that sacred and noble idea—one person, one vote—is being threatened right now. Politicians in my home state and all across America, in their craven lust for power, have launched a full-fledged assault on voting rights. They are focused on winning at any cost, even the cost of the democracy itself. I submit that it is the job of each citizen to stand up for the voting rights of every citizen. And it is the job of this body to do all that it can to defend the viability of our democracy.

“That’s why I am a proud co-sponsor of the For The People Act, which we introduced today. The For The People Act is a major step forward in the march toward our democratic ideals, making it easier, not harder, for eligible Americans to vote by instituting common-sense, pro-democracy reforms like:

    Establishing national automatic voter registration for every eligible citizen, and allowing all Americans to register to vote online and on Election Day;

    Requiring states to offer at least two weeks of early voting, including weekends, in federal elections—keeping Souls to the Polls programs alive;

    Prohibiting states from restricting a person’s ability to vote absentee or by mail;

    And preventing states from purging the voter rolls based solely on unreliable evidence like someone’s voting history, something we’ve seen in Georgia and other states in recent years.

“And It would end the dominance of big money in our politics, and ensure our public servants are there serving the public.

“Amidst these voter suppression laws and tactics, including partisan and racial gerrymandering, and in a system awash in dark money and the dominance of corporatist interests and politicians who do their bidding, the voices of the American people have been increasingly drowned out and crowded out and squeezed out of their own democracy. We must pass “For The People” so that people might have a voice. Your vote is your voice and your voice is your human dignity.

“But not only that, we must pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Voting rights used to be a bi-partisan issue. The last time the voting rights bill was re-authorized was 2006. George W. Bush was president and it passed its chamber 98-0. But then in 2013, the Supreme Court rejected the successful formula for supervision and pre-clearance, contained in the 1965 Voting Rights Act. They asked Congress to fix it. That was nearly 8 years ago, and the American people are still waiting. Stripped of protections, voters in states with a long history of voting discrimination and voters in many other states have been thrown to the winds.

“We Americans have noisy and spirited debates about many things. And we should. That’s what it means to live in a free country. But access to the ballot ought to be nonpartisan. I submit that there should be 100 votes in this chamber for policies that will make it easier for Americans to make their voices heard in our democracy. Surely, there ought to be at least 60 people in this chamber who believe, as I do, that the four most powerful words uttered in a democracy are, ‘the people have spoken,’ therefore we must ensure that all the people can speak.

“But if not, we must still pass voting rights. The right to vote is preservative of all other rights. It is not just another issue alongside other issues. It is foundational. It is the reason why any of us has the privilege of standing here in the first place. It is about the covenant we have with one another as an American people. E Pluribus Unum, out of many one. It above all else must be protected.

“So let’s be clear, I’m not here today to spiral into the procedural argument regarding whether the filibuster in general has merits or has outlived its usefulness. I’m here to say that this issue is bigger than the filibuster. I stand before you saying that this issue—access to voting and preempting politicians’ efforts to restrict voting—is so fundamental to our democracy that it is too important to be held hostage by a Senate rule, especially one historically used to restrict the expansion of voting rights. It is a contradiction to say we must protect minority rights in the Senate while refusing to protect minority rights in the society. Colleagues, no Senate rule should overrule the integrity of the democracy and we must find a way to pass voting rights whether we get rid of the filibuster or not.

“And so as I close—and nobody believes a preacher when they as I close—as a man of faith, I believe that democracy is a political enactment of a spiritual idea. The sacred worth of all human beings, the notion that we all have within us, a spark of the divine, to participate in the shaping of our own destiny. Reinhold Niebuhr was right: ‘[Humanity’s] capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but [humanity’s] inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.’”

“John Lewis understood that and was beaten on a bridge defending it. Amelia Boynton, like so many women not mentioned nearly enough, was gassed on that same bridge. A white woman named Viola Luizzo was killed. Medgar Evers was murdered in his own driveway. Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, two Jews and an African-American standing up for the sacred idea of democracy, also paid the ultimate price. And we in this body, would be stopped and stymied by partisan politics? Short-term political gain? Senate procedure? I say let’s get this done no matter what. I urge my colleagues to pass these two bills. Strengthen and lengthen the cords of our democracy, secure our credibility as the premier voice for freedom-loving people and democratic movements all over the world, and win the future for all of our children.

“Mr. President, I yield the floor.” 

Call A Spade A Bloody Shovel!

As I have mentioned before, 43 states are trying to quickly shove through over 250 bills that can only be labeled ‘voter suppression’ before the next election in hopes of reducing the number of people who are able to vote.  It is unconscionable and clearly against the best interests of this country, but what’s new?  The media, however, is refusing to call it what it is:  voter suppression, the attempt to rob us of our voice, our choice.  Eric Boehlert writes a daily newsletter, Press Run, calling the press to account when they let us down, and his piece this morning deals with how the press is letting us down … again.  I fully support a free press, but frankly they need to be held accountable.


No more word games — it’s GOP “voter suppression,” period.

Tell it like it is

eric-boehlertEric Boehlert   March 17, 2021

Scrambling in the wake of Joe Biden’s seven-million vote victory in November, Republicans continue to mount a powerful and unapologetic campaign to suppress voting. With so many state legislatures under GOP control, Republicans are sponsoring more than 250 bills aimed at drastically reducing ballot access in coming years. It’s being done under the phony banner of “election security.” After 2020, Republicans don’t want lots of people voting, especially lots of Black people. So far, the media’s failing to accurately label the crisis that’s unfolding.

The avalanche of bills aim to shorten the early voting period, reduce the number of hours that people can vote on Election Day, eliminate drive-through voting centers, create stricter deadlines for returning absentee ballots, block early voting on Sunday, limit ballot drop boxes, restrict mail-in voting —basically any possible initiative Republicans can think of that would suppress the vote. The obvious implication is that Republicans understand their chances of winning elections decrease when voter turnout increases. And 2020 shattered American records for voter participation. It all represents a massive attempt to roll back democracy.

And it’s clearly voter suppression, which is defined as, “any legal or extralegal measure or strategy whose purpose or practical effect is to reduce voting.”

The good news is we’ve seen lots of in-depth, aggressive reporting from various news outlets on the GOP’s plan to rewrite election rules in this country. The bad news is that message is getting muted by refusing to call this strategy what it is — voter suppression. The press prefers to frame the GOP’s war on democracy as another Both Sides, partisan dust-up over “voting restrictions.” That plays right into the hands of Republicans.

“The fact that we are about to be hit with a tidal wave of voter suppression legislation by Republican legislatures throughout the country is the most under reported story right now,” Democratic election attorney Mark Elias recently tweeted. “The media is unequipped to cover this in clear moral terms and instead prefers to both sides it.”

There’s a deliberate media movement underway to not use the clear, accurate language to describe Republican efforts to suppress the vote, just like there was a deliberate media movement to not accurately describe Trump as a “liar” for four years. (Instead, he pushed “falsehoods” and “exaggerations.”) The media erected guardrails against calling Trump and his followers liars. Now we’re seeing the same word games employed to avoid “voter suppression.”

A recent CNN headline announced, “Arizona Republican Lawmakers Join GOP Efforts to Target Voting, With Nearly Two Dozen Restrictive Voting Measures.” Neither the headline nor the article used the phrase “voter suppression” used to describe the GOP’s obvious attempt at voter suppression. Yet the URL for the CNN report did make that reference: “politics/arizona-republicans-voter-suppression-bills/.” Meaning, inside the CNN newsroom, it’s common knowledge Republicans are passing “voter suppression bills.” But CNN reporters aren’t using that language in their accounts.

Virtually every major news organization is guilty of the same misstep:

• “Republicans Advance More Than 100 Bills That Would Restrict Voting in Wake of Trump’s Defeat” (NBC News)

• “State GOP Lawmakers Propose Flurry of Voting Restrictions to Placate Trump Supporters, Spurring Fears of a Backlash” (Washington Post)

• “Republican-Led Legislatures in Dozens of States Are Moving to Change Election Laws in Ways That Could Make it Harder to Vote” (NPR)

An Associated Press headline recently announced, “Critics: GOP Measures Target Black Voter Turnout in Georgia.” But why use the  “critics” framing? Why can’t the AP simply treat as fact what is obviously factual — Republicans are pushing voter laws in Georgia specifically designed to suppress the Black vote.

The Washington Post failed in the same way recently: “A GOP Lawmaker Says The ‘Quality’ of a Vote Matters. Critics Say that’s ‘Straight out of Jim Crow.’” That is straight out of Jim Crow. The Post doesn’t need to hide behind “critics” to make that point.

What’s driving the media hesitation? Maybe it’s because “voter suppression” sounds un-American. It sounds undemocratic, and it sounds like advocates don’t support free and fair elections in this country. It’s much easier, and more polite, to use the watered down “voter restriction” description. Voter “restrictions” sound somewhat plausible or defensible. “Suppression” sounds illegal.

Voter suppression has a dark history in this country as a tool used to deter Black Americans and other minorities from voting, and from the media’s perspective it’s not something mainstream politicians endorse. The press very much wants to portray the GOP simply as a center-right party.

But words matter, especially when dealing with today’s radical and dangerous Republican Party. America learned that painful lesson during the Trump years when the Beltway media played senseless semantics games in order to obscure the truth about the GOP.

That truth was confirmed last winter when nearly 150 Republican members of Congress signed an amicus brief supporting a extreme lawsuit that urged the Supreme Court to throw out tens of millions of legitimate, legally cast votes, in order to clear a path for a bogus Trump victory. Lying about presidential election results is now, without question, a mainstream Republican talking point. As is the Big Lie about how the U.S. election system today is fraught with fraud, which requires legislative fixes in the form of voter suppression initiatives.

The media fell down covering the Big Lie last winter. And now it’s falling down with the voter suppression challenge.

Republican Party … The Party Of Bigots

I have said for several years now that the Republican Party has become the party of bigotry:  they despise the LGBT community, treat Blacks like second-class citizens, and would, given half a chance, impose the will of the narrow-minded Christian evangelicals on us all.  You just can’t get much more bigoted than all that.  I am not alone in my assessment, for Eugene Robinson’s most recent column in The Washington Post concurs with my thoughts …


The Republican Party is making Jim Crow segregationists proud

Eugene-RobinsonOpinion by 

Eugene Robinson

Columnist

March 1, 2021 at 5:18 p.m. EST

The Republican Party’s biggest problem is that too many people of color are exercising their right to vote. The party’s solution is a massive push for voter suppression that would make old-time Jim Crow segregationists proud.

The Conservative Political Action Conference circus last week in Orlando showed how bankrupt the GOP is — at least when it comes to ideas, principles and integrity. Some might argue that the party, in buying into the lie that last year’s election was somehow stolen, is simply delusional. I disagree. I think Republican leaders know exactly what they’re doing.

The GOP may have lost the White House and the Senate, but it remains strong in most state capitols. So far this year, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, Republicans in 33 states “have introduced, prefiled, or carried over 165 bills to restrict voting access.” The thrust of virtually all these measures is to make it more difficult for African Americans and other minorities to vote.

These efforts at disenfranchisement are more numerous, and more discriminatory, in several of the swing states President Biden carried narrowly: Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. That should come as no surprise. GOP officials who had the temerity to follow the law and count the November vote honestly, such as Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, have been all but excommunicated by their state Republican Party organizations.

In Georgia — where not only did Donald Trump lose to Biden by 11,779 votes, but also two incumbent GOP senators were defeated by Democratic challengers — Republicans are using their control of the statehouse to try to eliminate all early voting on Sundays. That would put an end to “Souls to the Polls,” a popular Sunday get-out-the-vote initiative in which Black churches help parishioners get to polling places and cast their ballots.

“Souls to the Polls” eliminates barriers to voting that thousands of Black Georgians otherwise might face, such as transportation for the elderly or finding time during the workweek for others. Georgia Republicans want to put those barriers back up — and raise them even higher.

Other proposals being pushed by Georgia GOP state legislators include getting rid of no-excuse absentee voting, which has been allowed for decades; eliminating the use of convenient drop boxes for casting absentee votes; and abolishing automatic voter registration at the Department of Driver Services offices where Georgians go to renew their driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations.

Trump’s wild and false claims of election fraud aren’t the only things driving these efforts; Republican efforts to restrict voting are hardly new. Republican officials in Georgia know the state’s electorate at a granular level and are capable of performing basic addition and subtraction. They see how the populous suburbs around Atlanta, once GOP strongholds, have been steadily trending Democratic. They may not be able to halt that process. But perhaps they can compensate by suppressing the African American vote in economically disadvantaged areas of Atlanta proper; in the wide “Black Belt” stretching southwest across the state, roughly from Augusta to Columbus; and in the heavily African American area around Savannah.

In strongly Hispanic Arizona, which Biden won by 10,457 votes and where the Brennan Center tallies 19 voter-suppression bills filed since the election, the state Senate has rejected — for now — a Republican measure that would have stricken roughly 200,000 names from a list of voters who automatically receive mail-in ballots. That courtesy is considered the primary reason most Arizonans cast their votes by mail.

But another still-pending measure would require early ballots to be hand-delivered to a polling place rather than returned by mail, negating the benefits of mail voting. And another proposed bill would simply disregard the will of the voters altogether, allowing the GOP-controlled state legislature to appoint its own slate of presidential electors. Democracy, after all, can be so inconvenient.

Elsewhere across the country, Republican legislators are trying to tighten voter-identification laws that are already too restrictive. And they are trying to find ways to disqualify more mail-in ballots — perhaps for future occasions when GOP candidates need to “find” enough favorable votes, or lose enough adverse ones, to deny victory to a Democrat.

It amounts to an outrageous and shameful attempt to establish and perpetuate minority rule in a nation in which the Republican candidate for president has won the popular vote only once in the past eight elections.

At the state level, Democrats must fight these efforts relentlessly. And at the federal level, they should use any means necessary — including eliminating or suspending the Senate filibuster — to pass H.R. 1, the “For the People Act,” which would invalidate much of the most anti-democratic legislation the GOP is trying to enact.

And voters of color must resolve not to be deterred. This is not a “Whites only” democracy. Not anymore.

The Week’s Best Cartoons 2/27

This week the cartoonists certainly had plenty of material to work with, from Ted Cruz’ trip to Cancún, to the bigotry of Marjorie Greene to states’ renewed attempts at voter suppression to CPAC and more.  They didn’t let us down, and as she does every week, our friend TokyoSand managed to find the best of the lot!  Thanks, TS … you’re the best!

toon-3toon-4toon-6toon-7

See All The ‘Toons!

Republicans Have Lost Their Way

Michael Gerson is a ‘neo-conservative’ Republican.  He served as the White House Director of Speechwriting and a senior policy advisor for nearly six years under President George W. Bush and is now a columnist for The Washington Post.  Like other Republicans and former Republicans, Gerson is no fan of Donald Trump and he makes no bones about it.  In his latest column, he takes on the Republican Party of which he is a member, and his assessment is spot-on.


The GOP’s agenda under Trump: Voter suppression, pandemic denial and a personality cult

Opinion by 

michael-gersonMichael Gerson

Columnist

Oct. 19, 2020 at 3:30 p.m. EDT

One of the most symbolic moments of campaign 2020 was when the apparatus of the Republican Party strained and groaned to produce a platform reading, “RESOLVED, That the Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform until the 2024 Republican National Convention.”

It was, in its own content-free, witless way, an assertion of power. The party that had produced a platform every four years since 1856 had become, well, anything President Trump wished at the moment. It was a declaration and recognition of personal rule.

After nearly four years, it is fair to ask: With the GOP as putty in Trump’s hand, what form has it taken? What are the large, organizing commitments of the GOP during the Trump captivity?

One would have to be voter suppression. What began, for some, as an effort to ensure ballot security has become a campaign to control the content of the electorate by limiting its size.

Not long ago, I would have regarded this as conspiracy thinking. At some point, however, a pattern becomes a plot. There have been Republican efforts to make voting more difficult in Georgia, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Iowa and Oklahoma. These have included: complicated absentee ballot processes, strict voter ID rules, obstacles for voters returning from prison, objections to the broad distribution of ballots and logistical obstacles to early voting. The Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, set the example of shamelessness by limiting vast counties to a single ballot drop box. The president has attempted to destroy trust in the whole electoral enterprise in preparation for legal challenges to mail-in votes.

Again and again, Republicans have used, or attempted to use, the power they gained from voters to undermine democracy. This has a political intention but (for some) it also has an ideological explanation. It is the logical electoral implication of nativism. If too much diversity is the cause of our national problems, it can be fought by restricting immigration or by restricting the democratic participation of minorities. In either case, these are actions motivated by Republican fears of being swamped by people they can’t relate to and voted into obsolescence. So the GOP seems to expend more energy and creativity on discouraging minority voting than it does on doing minority outreach.

The second characteristic of the new GOP is denial of a pandemic in the midst of a surging pandemic. Trump and many other Republicans think they can win only if American voters forget about more than 219,000 deaths* from covid-19 and the utterly incompetent federal response to the crisis. It is hard to recall any American presidential campaign that depended so directly on the outbreak of mass amnesia.

Trump’s recent campaign visit to Wisconsin was remarkable for its brazenness. On a day Wisconsin saw its highest level of new infections during the pandemic, Trump told a crowd that had to be screened for coughs and fevers that the country was “rounding the corner” on covid-19 and that their state was insufficiently open. This is denial pressed to the point of lunacy. It is the elephant urging people to ignore the elephant in the room.

The third organizing commitment of the GOP under Trump is loyalty to his person. At the beginning of his term, there was a Republican attempt to understand the populism that elected Trump and draw its policy implications. That ended quickly. The president made clear that the only thing that really mattered about populism was its end product: himself.

Populist causes — such as discrediting the media and “owning the libs” — are instruments to protect Trump from attack and project his own power. His whole term has been the chaotic and brutish attempt to find the people who would take his whims as law. And elected Republicans (except the admirable Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah) have been ruled by the fear of Trump’s tweeted tantrums. As Trump seems headed toward electoral failure, a few Republicans are recovering their own voices. But it won’t be easy to escape this taint. Years of complicity with Trump’s assault on American institutions is less like a bad haircut than an infected tattoo.

Some would add a conservative judiciary to this list of GOP commitments, and there is a case to be made. But this is no longer advocated in the context of moral conservatism, as it was in the Reagan era. The goal now is to secure conservative judges from a morally anarchic administration. A cause has been reduced to a transaction.

What should we make of this GOP agenda: voter suppression, disease denial and a personality cult dedicated to a con man? It is the weakest appeal to the public of any modern presidential candidate. The Republican Party may win or lose. But it deserves to lose.

*Note that as of this writing, the death toll in the U.S. from coronavirus is at least 225,570.

Five Long Months Ahead …

The 2016 election was not a fair and honest election.  If it had been, we would be writing about President Hillary Clinton today.  The election was “rigged”, to use Trump’s own terminology, in ways almost too numerous to count.  Gerrymandering takes top billing, as evidenced by the fact that Hillary Clinton won the election by nearly 3 million votes, yet because of gerrymandered districts, Trump ‘won’ the electoral college.  Other means of disenfranchising poor and minority voters came into play, as did propaganda by Russian entities, as well as Trump’s own dirty campaign.

Our own intelligence agencies tell us that the Russians have been spreading disinformation and propaganda for over a year now, gerrymandered districts have only been re-districted in two states that I’m aware of.  Add to that the crisis of the year, the coronavirus pandemic and … well, how could we possibly have a fair and honest election?  Most states are looking to a mail-in voting system, partial or complete, in November, but Donald Trump is jumping up and down, shrieking at the top of his lungs that it would be unfair to him.  No evidence, just … well, Donnie knows that if states have mail-in voting, people cannot be stopped at the polls, will not have to travel long distances to vote, and in short … far more people are likely to vote if they can do so from the comfort and security of their own home.  Increasing voter turnout is not what Trump wants … can you guess why?  Because those people who are typically disenfranchised are poor and minority voters who would be most inclined to vote for a democrat, the party that believes in putting people first, ahead of profit.

In 2016, only 55.7% of eligible voters actually cast a vote.  Barely over half!  I’ve discussed before the reasons.  Since 1972, the highest voter turnout was in 2008 when people were excited to have an African-American running for office, but even then the percentage of eligible voters that voted was only 58.2%.

Last week, Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from states that switched to mail-in voting, specifically Nevada and Michigan.  Presumably, he figured out that he cannot do that without congressional approval … perhaps one of his overpriced advisors or lawyers told him, so now he has taken a different approach.

“The United States cannot have all Mail In Ballots. It will be the greatest Rigged Election in history. People grab them from mailboxes, print thousands of forgeries and “force” people to sign. Also, forge names. Some absentee OK, when necessary. Trying to use Covid for this Scam!”

Now, you and I know he’s so full of hot air he should be flying by now.  But … there is a very real danger in his spew.  According to former head of DOJ’s civil rights division, Vanita Gupta …

“He is planting the seeds for delegitimizing the election if he loses.  It’s from the playbook. It’ll get more intense as he gets more freaked out.”

In 2016, we heard Trump claim that if he lost, it would be because the election was ‘rigged’ (he seems to like that word a lot, doesn’t he?)  After he won the electoral college, he still claimed the election was ‘rigged’ because his ego couldn’t handle the fact that he had lost the election (popular vote).  If you’ll recall, there were threats of violence among the more radical of his supporters if he were to lose.  Nothing we’re seeing today should surprise us, but …

The danger is greater this year than in 2016 because there is more at stake.  First, it is highly unusual for an incumbent to lose his second term, and it would be as a slap in the face to Trump, who sees himself as the greatest president other than Abraham Lincoln.  Second, while Attorney General William Barr has declared Trump to be ‘above the law’ during his tenure in office … that protection goes away at noon on January 20th 2021 if Trump loses the election.  He is, at that point, an average citizen (albeit a wealthy one with Secret Service protection) and it is not at all unreasonable to think he will face a barrage of lawsuits, likely criminal charges, once he leaves office.

And, of course, there is Trump’s faithful following, mostly either wealthy businessmen who stand to gain under Trump, and evangelicals who will put up with just about anything as long as he promises them he will tear down the wall of separation between church and state, will nominate judges who will strike down the likes of Roe v Wade and Obergefell v Hodges, further shredding civil rights in this nation.  One of his loyal evangelical lapdogs, Rick Wiles, claims that …

“If they take him out, there’s gonna be violence in America. That’s all there is to it….However he leaves, there’s going to be violence in America…There are people in this country — veterans, there are cowboys, mountain men — I mean guys that know how to fight. And they’re going to make a decision that the people who did this to Donald Trump are not going to get away with it. And they’re gonna hunt ’em down.”

Stupid?  Sure … you and I know that, but sadly there are some who think violence is the answer.  It never … NEVER is, but these people carry big guns because they know no other way to make a point, to carry on a civil discourse.

Five months left until election day, folks.  This promises to be the single most contentious election in our lifetimes, mainly because one of the candidates and his party is the most contentious candidate in our lifetimes.  Other factors, such as being in the midst of a pandemic the likes of which we’ve never experienced add to the drama.  I cannot even begin to imagine the atrocities and rhetoric that will be spewed by Trump and the GOP, but I do know it will escalate over the coming months.  Steel yourself, be prepared, don’t let Trump’s rhetoric and the garbage you hear on off-the-wall websites and Fox “News” deter you.  Keep your eye on the ball.  We cannot afford to completely ignore Trump’s hate speech, but we must not let it weaken our resolve to oust him in November.

Discord & Dissension — Part VI — Disinformation

This is the sixth installment of mine and Jeff’s project, and in case you’ve missed any of the previous posts, we will also be publishing a Table of Contents in just a few minutes that we will keep updated and link to at the end of each future post.  As I mentioned last month in the introduction to the project, as situations change, we will roll with the punches and adjust our focus.  The last 9 days have brought about great change … Trump was acquitted by the Senate, basically being told that whatever he chooses to do, they have his back.  He turned the State of the Union address into a three-ring circus, fired a military hero and a devoted ambassador for no reason other than they did their duty by speaking the truth under oath, has interfered with the rule of law in the sentencing of Roger Stone, has proposed a budget that rewards the wealthy while punishing the disadvantaged, and who knows what tomorrow brings.

The point being that … in the hundred or so comments I answer each day, I sense your frustration, your discouragement, and believe me … Jeff and I have both been there in the past several days.  But we cannot allow ourselves to focus on the negativity, cannot allow ourselves to lose hope or lose sight of the goal.  If we stop fighting, then we lose automatically, without ever knowing if we might have made a difference.  So, join us in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off, and going on to fight the good fight for just short of nine more months.

A few weeks ago, I tried to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”  I concluded that the goal is two-fold:  vote Trump out of the Oval Office and begin to heal the ‘great divide’.  Neither of these goals are going to be easy, folks, and the GOP and others’ propaganda machines are going to make it even harder.

The GOP, or Republican Party, has been actively working to skew the odds in their favour since before the 2016 election.  The Russian interference that triggered Robert Mueller’s investigation was not, as Trump would have you believe, a ‘hoax’ nor a ‘witch hunt’, but was rather a coordinated effort on the part of Russian President Vladimir Putin to launch a propaganda machine demeaning and denigrating Hillary Clinton, while giving rise to Donald Trump.  The Russian propaganda machine has not taken a break since the 2016 elections.  According to FBI Director Christopher Wray …

“That is in some ways an even more challenging area, not the least because it never stopped. It happened in 2016 and it’s been continuing ever since then. It may have an uptick during an election cycle, but it’s a 24/7, 365-days-a-year threat.”

Election security bills were passed by the House of Representatives, but have since languished in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to even bring them to the Senate floor for consideration.

But it isn’t only foreign influence that we have to worry about, for much of the propaganda comes directly from the GOP and a plethora of conservative groups.  Consider this example:  The day before the February 3rd Iowa caucuses, Judicial Watch, a conservative advocacy group, put out a report claiming that “Eight Iowa counties have more voter registrations than citizens old enough to register.”  It was a lie, one quickly debunked by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, but not before the lie had been spread via Fox News’ Sean Hannity and other right-wing media sites.

Iowa-Hannity Iowa-Facebook

Voter fraud is a recurring myth favored by right-wingers, but there are other tactics, such as finding a chink in a candidates armour, real or made up, and using it repeatedly, embellishing on it, to denigrate that candidate.  Of the top candidates, we’ve already seen what Trump’s accusations against Joe Biden … accusations that have long since been debunked … have nonetheless played a role in Biden’s polling plunge.  Bernie’s chink, of course, is that he is a democratic socialist, which will play well with those who do not even understand the concept of democratic socialism.

Politics has always been a dirty game … smear campaigns, mudslinging and outright lies are certainly nothing new.  But, with the rise of social media, these tactics are magnified a million-fold, and every time you log onto Facebook or Twitter, you are likely to be exposed to some form of disinformation.  Facebook collects data on you, based on your friends, what you post, what you comment on, and any personal data you include in your profile, and then they use that data to target what advertisements you see.  My advice is to include nothing in your personal profile, and to use a strong ad blocker at all times, but especially when spending time on any social media site.  There is an app called Facebook Purity that will quite effectively block any and all ads, along with other annoying things Facebook throws in your face.  I highly recommend it.

While, after the fiasco that was the 2016 election, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook promised to do a better job of monitoring political ads and false accounts, he backtracked last year when he plainly said he would allow false and misleading ads to continue on the platform, arguing that his company shouldn’t be responsible for arbitrating political speech.  Facebook-trump-adsMy earliest memories are of political advertisements in newspapers and on television in the early 1950s, and more recently social media has become the platform of preference, but this year there’s yet another venue … your cell phone.  Yep, folks, this year, according to Trump’s campaign manager Brad Parscale, texting will be at the center of Trump’s reelection strategy.  I highly recommend you install a call blocking program if you don’t wish to be disturbed multiple times a day.  Mine is set to block all calls that don’t come from a number on my contact list, and since my contact list includes only 4 people, I no longer get many such calls.  I do, however, see a list of the ones blocked, and I notice the number has increased of late.

Besides being a major annoyance, though, the disinformation campaign, the propaganda machine, poses a significant hurdle to a fair and honest election.  You are savvy enough to know, if you see an ad or what appears to be an actual news story saying that Elizabeth Warren has a harem of young males she keeps locked in the attic of her home for her personal pleasure, it’s fake.  But some will believe it.  Remember Pizzagate, where the rumour was spread that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were running a human traffiking and child sex ring in the basement of a pizzeria, Comet Ping Pong?  Someone believed it enough to go shoot the place up!

Remember my post from yesterday with the Founding Fathers singing a song to the tune of American Pie?  Creative use of technology, wasn’t it? Well, that was harmless, but some aren’t.  Take a look at this simple, doctored photo of Stacy Abrams that was used by her opponents in the Georgia 2018 gubernatorial race …

Just as social media has increased the spread of disinformation, technology has taken it to a new level.  I would ask that you take just a few minutes … 8 of them, to be precise, to listen to this interview on NPR radio (there is a transcript attached, if you prefer to read the interview)  with McKay Coppins, a writer for The Atlantic, about an article he published earlier this week on the topic of the GOP propaganda machine.  It is very enlightening, and if you would like to read his entire article, which is lengthy, but well worth the time, you can do so here .

As Mr. Coppins said in the interview, even he found himself questioning what was real and what wasn’t, so I think it’s important … nay, crucial … for us all to be hyper-aware of the information that bombards us from all directions most every waking moment these days.  If something sounds off … check it out, don’t just assume it’s correct, even if it’s from a credible source.  Let’s all help stop the flow of propaganda … this election will be enough of an uphill battle, without people being manipulated.

Next week, Jeff will be back with Part VII of our project … stay tuned!