Tag Archives: voting

Well–For Once, He’s Been Honest, Even If Accidentally

As if being confined to our homes–or worse, going to essential jobs and worrying whether we were inevitably going to contract the Coronavirus–wasn’t stressful enough, those of us who follow such things watch in frustration as the Trump Administration reverses environmental protections and amasses powers the Constitution previously denied to the Executive branch.

Not to mention increasing worries about the upcoming election.

It is beginning to look as if  mandatory social distancing will extend right through what should be campaign season, and disrupt the ability of millions of Americans to vote in November. Republicans may have demonstrated their utter inability to govern in the public interest, but political observers are well aware of their consummate skills in vote suppression–their ability to use any disruption, any excuse, to keep people from the polls.

The one bright spot is the jaw-dropping idiocy of Trump himself. (As a friend frequently reminds me, just think how much more harm he could do if he had an IQ or was even minimally competent.) As the Guardian recently reported, 

Donald Trump admitted on Monday that making it easier to vote in America would hurt the Republican party.

The president made the comments as he dismissed a Democratic-led push for reforms such as vote-by-mail, same-day registration and early voting as states seek to safely run elections amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Democrats had proposed the measures as part of the coronavirus stimulus. They ultimately were not included in the $2.2tn final package, which included only $400m to states to help them run elections.

“The things they had in there were crazy. They had things, levels of voting that if you’d ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again,” Trump said during an appearance on Fox & Friends.

Talking Points Memo also commented on the admission.

You’re not supposed to say the quiet parts out loud, Mr. President!

On Monday morning, President Donald Trump told the co-hosts of “Fox and Friends” that House Democrats had tried to include “crazy” proposals in the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package that passed last week, including measures aimed at easing the voting process for Americans during the coronavirus outbreak.

It isn’t that We the People have been unaware that the country has millions more Democrats than Republicans. The Electoral College is fiercely defended by GOP operatives who know that it gives disproportionate influence to rural Republicans; thanks to GOP gerrymandering, Republicans dominated Congress after the 2016 election despite receiving a million and a half fewer votes than Democrats–in 2018, in order to overcome that advantage and retake control of the House, Democrats had to win by staggering percentages.

This isn’t new. The Guardian  went back to 1980.

“I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich, an influential conservative activist, said in 1980. “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

In the wake of the Depression, Americans demanded changes to governance that shaped the America most of us grew up in. The GOP has fought most of those changes–especially those that strengthened the social safety net–and has relied heavily on voter apathy and the party’s ability to suppress the votes of minorities and poorer Americans to erase them.

There really is no debate about what sorts of policies the majority of Americans want–or about the tactics Republicans intend to employ to ensure that those policies never get implemented. Trump has admitted what every sentient person already knew.

The unanswered question is: will the current pandemic be as much of a wake-up call as the Depression?

 

 

 

Words Of Wisdom

One of the insights that comes with age is the recognition that nothing is ever perfect. That recognition is particularly applicable to politics, which is by its very nature combative, messy and endlessly contested.

There is no perfect candidate. No perfect president. No perfect system.

That being the case, I found a recent column from Buzzfeed absolutely “on point.” It was titled “What To Do If You Hate The Democratic Nominee.” It began

After the 2016 election, you promised yourself you’d do everything you can to beat Trump in 2020. You marched and protested, knocked doors in the midterms, wrote postcards to voters, donated to anyone whose video caught your eye, and maybe even got caught up in some ridiculous social media squabbles.

Now the time has finally come. The 2020 election is here, and the Democratic primary is very slowly narrowing, with only a handful of candidates remaining. You’ve been preparing for this for three years, and yet: When you look at the possibilities, you’re deflated. Or maybe you feel it more viscerally: You cannot stomach the idea of casting a ballot for ______, let alone knocking a door for them or giving them money. You know you have a moral responsibility to act, but there is simply no way you can do it on behalf of ________.

Don’t worry. There is another, equally important, way to make a difference this November that won’t require you to fake it through a canvassing shift: Go local.

With your time, money, attention, and most importantly, your vote, you can help beat Trump and build sustainable power for Democrats without ever saying the Democratic nominee’s name.

As the article points out, within an hour of almost every American zip code, there’s an election where a Democrat not running for President can use your help. In some of those states (think Kentucky), your help can really make a difference.

Those down-ballot elections, from Statehouse to “district attorneys, school board, county clerks, tax collector, judges, justices of the peace, and library boards” are incredibly important–more than the lack of media attention might suggest.

Go knock doors for those state and local candidates. Your energy will yield dividends — because the voter contact you do will make a difference for the entire ticket: young people and communities of color, especially, who often feel dismissed or ignored by national candidates, can be more directly energized by local issues and candidates. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter which Democratic campaign gets someone to the polls as long as they get there

What about your money–assuming you have some to contribute? Given Citizens United and the prevalence of dark money (which is spent on behalf of even the most anti-money ticket), It probably wouldn’t make all that much difference to the Presidential nominee anyway. But it will matter to candidates for city council and your local statehouse. A lot.

Take whatever money you’d budgeted for beating Trump, and split it in down the middle. Give half of it to local candidates who catch your eye. Give the other half to an organization (or a few) that will exist past Election Day 2020…. Give to organizations that do deep relationship-building in states that a presidential campaign is never going to organize in because the Electoral College doesn’t incentivize it. If you can afford to, make your donation recurring and plan to let it run into 2021.

So what about that Presidential vote? Should you work for those local candidates and then refuse to vote for President? Or write in someone you’d prefer? That’s your right, after all.

But especially if you’re a person with any kind of privilege, you have a responsibility to think beyond your self-interest. This election is about the most vulnerable among us who need you to be an ally.

This election is also for the soul of America.

Every vote against Donald Trump is a vote against racism, misogyny, autocracy and incompetence. No matter how much you dislike the eventual candidate, no matter how imperfect he (we know it will be a “he”)is, he will be immeasurably better than the mentally-ill criminal who daily disgraces the Oval Office.

 

It Isn’t Just Hanging Chads…

Americans are slowly becoming aware of the ways in which partisan redistricting and vote suppression are torpedoing the democratic ideal of “one person, one vote.” In the absence of something egregious like Florida’s “hanging chads,” however, we are still less likely to recognize the partisan effects of ballot design.

A recent article from the Washington Post focused on that issue.

It’s a political truism: The candidate whose name appears first on the ballot has an advantage over the competitors listed below. That’s not just folklore — numerous studies around the country have shown that candidates who are listed first receive more votes. The advantage is so marked that in Illinois, one of several states where ballot position is based on the order of filing, candidates wait in line overnight to gain the top spot.

I can attest to the accuracy of those studies. When I first became politically active (back in the Ice Age), Indiana awarded ballot positions alphabetically. A gentleman who had changed his name to Aaocker was a perennial candidate for a number of offices. He always ran in Republican primaries (back then, Marion County was solidly Republican), where turnout was lower, and he could be counted on to skim some 2000 votes from the others on the ballot.

I’ve lost track of Indiana’s current approach to ballot placement–I leave it to a reader to enlighten us–but ballot order is a state decision, and it varies widely from state to state. In November, a federal court blocked a ballot order law in Florida; that law automatically gave the top position in every race to the candidate of the last-elected governor’s party.

As a result of that law, Republican candidates have been listed first in every race on every ballot in the state for the last two decades. In 2016, Donald Trump’s name appeared before Hillary Clinton’s. In 2018, Ron DeSantis was listed above Andrew Gillum in the gubernatorial race, and Rick Scott was listed above Bill Nelson in the election for U.S. Senate.

The court found that first place on the ballot was worth five percentage points, and noted that Trump had defeated Clinton by just over one percentage point, that DeSantis won by four-tenths of a point, and Scott beat Nelson by just one-tenth of a point.

Florida Republicans are appealing the decision.

As the article points out, if the appeal is successful, we will face a situation not unlike redistricting; just as states manipulate district lines to advance partisan interests, states will approach ballot design from a similarly partisan perspective.

Without any judicial check, changing election rules for partisan advantage will become a tool for both parties. For example, the newly elected Democratic majority in Virginia could provide that Democratic candidates are listed first and Republican candidates are listed third. New Jersey could pass a law allowing Democratic candidates to be listed first with their party affiliation but limiting all other candidates to an alphabetical order without any party identification. New York could retain straight-ticket voting for Democrats but not for Republicans. Massachusetts could allow longer voting hours for registered Democrats than Republicans.

The fact that voters go to the polls so unprepared that they vote for the first name on a ballot’s list is depressing. When good government organizations urge people to vote, they are really encouraging them to cast an informed vote. But–as in so many areas of contemporary life–there’s a wide gap between the real and the ideal.

Allowing partisans to use that gap to undermine the choices of voters who are informed is cheating. But good sportsmanship is so last century….

 

A Day Of Reckoning…..

Americans go to the polls today. When those polls close, and the results are announced, we’ll know whether we live in the America whose motto is e pluribus unum or Trump’s “Christian” America (note quotation marks) that wants to be White again.

Paul Krugman often speaks truth to power, and his recent column in the New York Times  pulled no punches.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a wave of hate crimes. Just in the past few days, bombs were mailed to a number of prominent Democrats, plus CNN. Then, a gunman massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Meanwhile, another gunman killed two African-Americans at a Louisville supermarket, after first trying unsuccessfully to break into a black church— if he had gotten there an hour earlier, we would probably have had another mass murder.

All of these hate crimes seem clearly linked to the climate of paranoia and racism deliberately fostered by Donald Trump and his allies in Congress and the media.

Killing black people is an old American tradition, but it is experiencing a revival in the Trump era.

Krugman titled his column “Hate is on the ballot next week,” pointing out that the perpetrator of the synagogue massacre had been motivated by a widespread Neo-Nazi conspiracy theory that was part and parcel of Trump’s despicable attacks on the would-be immigrants who are still some 900 miles from our Southern border.

The fearmongers aren’t just portraying a small group of frightened, hungry people still far from the United States border as a looming invasion. They have also been systematically implying that Jews are somehow behind the whole thing. There’s a straight line from Fox News coverage of the caravan to the Tree of Life massacre.

The main target of Krugman’s ire was what he termed “whataboutism” and “bothsidesism”–a refusal to distinguish Republican White Nationalism from Democratic garden-variety bullshit.

False equivalence, portraying the parties as symmetric even when they clearly aren’t, has long been the norm among self-proclaimed centrists and some influential media figures. It’s a stance that has hugely benefited the GOP, as it has increasingly become the party of right-wing extremists.

This election season, arguing for equivalence takes real effort. Republicans haven’t even tried to dampen the racist rhetoric being spewed by many of their candidates, or hide their efforts at vote suppression. In a column that in many ways echoed Krugman’s, Michelle Goldberg focused on the Governor’s race in Georgia.

Right now America is tearing itself apart as an embittered white conservative minority clings to power, terrified at being swamped by a new multiracial polyglot majority. The divide feels especially stark in Georgia, where the midterm election is a battle between Trumpist reaction and the multicultural America whose emergence the right is trying, at all costs, to forestall.

Abrams’ Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, is the Georgia secretary of state–an office responsible for overseeing the election in which he is a candidate.

Last week, Rolling Stone obtained audio of Kemp telling donors of his “concern” about what might happen in Georgia “if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.” As the secretary of state overseeing his own election, he’s taken steps to make that harder. His office has frozen new voter registrations for minor discrepancies with official records, and, starting in 2012, purged around 1.5 million people from the voter rolls — some simply because they didn’t vote in previous elections.

It isn’t a coincidence that the vast majority of registrations Kemp found “questionable” were from African-Americans.

Kemp is the candidate of aggrieved whiteness. During the primary, he ran an ad boasting that he drives a big truck “just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself.” (That would be kidnapping.) A person who claimed to be a Kemp canvasser recently wrote on the racist website VDare, “I know everything I need to know about what happens when blacks are in charge from Detroit, Haiti, South Africa, etc.” Kemp cannot be blamed for the words of his volunteers, but he’s made little discernible effort to distance himself from bigots. This month he posed for a photograph with a white nationalist fan in a T-shirt saying, “Allah is not God, and Mohammad is not his prophet.”

It’s no accident that Trump has emboldened the haters. His intent has become so obvious that last week, Florida’s former Republican state chairman called him out for an outrageous anti-immigrant ad.

“You are a despicable divider; the worse social poison to afflict our country in decades,” Cardenas wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning. “This ad, and your full approval of it, will condemn you and your bigoted legacy forever in the annals of America’s history books.”

Voters aren’t going to the polls today to choose between candidates or parties. They are choosing between incompatible versions of America.

About That Swamp…And Your Vote

Early voting is now underway in most states; here in Indianapolis–thanks to Common Cause and the pro bono efforts of local attorney and all-around good guy Bill Groth–we have nearly as many satellite voting sites as our rural, Republican neighbors. Preliminary reports are that those sites have been flooded with early voters.

This is one of those years where most voters have made up their minds weeks, if not months, ahead. But just in case anyone reading this is tempted to send a less-than-emphatic message to the current iteration of the once Grand Old Party, let me remind you of the “quality” of the people in the Trump Administration, and the fact that electing any Republican to any position in any level of government is an endorsement of the “best people” that constitute Trump’s Swamp.

Who did they get to vet these people? Rod Blagojevich?

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is plagued by scandals — facing about a dozen different investigations of his conduct — but he may have found a solution to his oversight woes: replacing the person investigating him with a political stooge.

Subsequent reports suggest this particular appointment was reversed, but the fact that Zinke tried this stunt simply confirms his sleaziness. Of course, he has lots of company. CNN recently published a compendium of cabinet scandals and embarrassments.

The term “embattled” has now been thrown around so often in news coverage of Trump Cabinet secretaries’ assorted foibles, it’s practically been fused to the front of some of their titles. The President himself, perhaps for variety’s sake, referred to Jeff Sessions in a tweet last year as his “beleaguered” attorney general.

 

Some of the alleged (and confirmed) transgressions have been more damaging than others. The White House’s handling of the Rob Porter scandal might have been its darkest episode, an ethical failure leavened by bureaucratic incompetence. Mostly though, the administration’s scandals and embarrassments have been characterized less by furtive malfeasance than some kind of open disdain for (or ignorance of) basic ethical standards (or a lack of due diligence).

That lede was followed by a rundown of some of the most glaring “embarrassments,” from the nomination of White House doctor Ronny Jackson to head the Department of Veterans Affairs (he withdrew after reports emerged of his excessive drinking, creating a “toxic” work environment, handing out prescription pain medications without proper documentation, wrecking a government vehicle after a going-away party, and drunkenly banging on the door of a female colleague during an overseas trip) to the multiple transgressions that led to Scott Pruitt’s resignation from his position destroying the EPA, to Ben Carson’s $31,000 dining set, to White House Secretary Rob Porter’s penchant for domestic violence, to Tom Price’s pricey flying habits. And much, much more.

It’s a long list–an inclusive one would make a much too-long post– and the ethical problems continue to mount. Vox suggests that the administration is unable to clean house because the President himself is too “soaked in scandal.” As the story says,

But inside the Donald Trump White House, grifters, abusers, racists, and harassers still get hired; they lurk around the Oval Office after they’ve been found out; and even in the rare instance where they’re forced out, it’s only grudgingly.

We have an administration that is setting a new (low) level for corruption; a racist President who proudly proclaims his Nationalism; and a GOP controlled Congress that is at best feckless and at worst in active collaboration with the criminals and thugs in the administration.

A vote for any Republican–no matter how unconnected that person might be to the Trumpists’ constant affronts to democracy and the Constitution–will be seen as an endorsement of the GOP’s corruption and White Nationalism.

Is that unfair to local candidates who may be nice people? Yes. But it’s necessary. We can go back to being fair when we get our country back.