F- It! I’m Voting For Jill Stein

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I have had it with this election.

 

Trump is a petulant, disgusting, fascist with terrible hair and a machismo complex. Clinton is a warmongering Wall Street lickspittle who smiles in your face as she secretly advocates policies that will hurt you and your family.

 

I simply refuse to choose between either one of them.

 

And before any of my so-called progressive friends start chiding me about third parties, let me just give you my reasoned argument: FUCK YOU.

 

Don’t tell me it’s a wasted vote. Don’t tell me it’s a vote for Trump. Read my lips: IT’S A VOTE FOR JILL STEIN!

 

No, I don’t want Trump to win. Yes, I agree Clinton is the lesser of two evils. But I simply cannot spend the rest of my adult life voting for evil.

 

Get real, people. When you keep choosing the best of the worst, it never ends. Do you really think things will be any different in four years? In eight?

 

The major parties will still give us a choice between dumb and dumber. I am done being a part of it. I’m opting out. Take your fake two-party Democracy and shove it.

 

When pundits and partisans talk about Presidential politics, they pretend it’s a game of chess. No. They think it’s fantasy football. Who won which debate? Who’s polling better with Latinos? Who’s got the most endorsements? They want you to take all this useless overcooked data and vote strategically, relying on the media to maximize the outcome regardless of the quality of the candidates involved. Unfortunately, it’s all baloney.

 

Few polls are actually scientific and even those that are given this dubious moniker are iffy at best. No matter what your opinion, you can find a poll or statistic somewhere to back it up. At least 60% of people know that!

 

This election has done a lot to foster my distrust of the media. The Associated Press calling primaries for Clinton before people were even done voting! Ignoring stories of voter irregularities! Giving Clinton debate questions ahead of time! Leaking a five year old video of Trump being a pig to bury Wikileaks emails that might otherwise hurt Clinton!

 

My God! We’ve gotten more actual news from whistleblowers in the past few years than journalists! And it’s pretty obvious why. The media is really just the public relations arm of the handful of corporations that own the dwindling number of newspapers, TV stations, search engines, etc. Very little makes it through the amalgamated filter that isn’t in the interests of the moneyed few.

 

Sorry. I prefer to think for myself.

 

There is just no reason to play games with your vote. It’s really quite simple. Vote for the candidate who best represents your values. That’s your only responsibility.

 

It’s up to each candidate to earn my vote. If I don’t cast a ballot for Clinton, I’m not a spoiler. She hasn’t done enough to prove to me that she’s the person for whom I should be voting. If that means she loses the election, it’s not my fault. She didn’t run a successful campaign. She didn’t give voters like me enough, she didn’t prove to us that she isn’t the same neoliberal lapdog of the elites that she’s always been.

 

She voted for the Patriot Act twice. She pushed for more troops in Afghanistan and US intervention in Libya. Her top donors are the same folks who crashed the economy – JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup. She sold fracking to the world through the Global Shale Gas Initiative. She signed on to the Workplace Religious Freedom Act, which, according to the ACLU, would have effectively legalized discrimination, and she introduced a bill that would have made flag burning a felony.

 

I’m sorry. I don’t care how many pussies Donald Trump grabbed. I can’t vote for a person like that!

 

So why Jill Stein?

 

Easy. I’ve met the woman, and she’s the real deal.

 

No, she doesn’t have Clinton’s experience, but that’s a good thing. I’m not entirely satisfied with what Clinton did while Secretary of State, a U.S. Senator or First Lady. Better to hire someone with good intentions who has to learn on the job than someone who is immediately in a position to continue our endless series of petty wars, enrich the banks and compromise away protections for the environment.

 

As a father of a school age child and a public school teacher, education is my number one issue. Trump wants to tear everything down and give it all away to big business. Clinton wants to do much the same but more slowly and with a smiley face sticker on it. Stein is the only candidate who actually wants to help.

 

When United Opt Out held its annual conference in Philadelphia last year, Stein was the only candidate to actually come and speak with us. You read that right. She didn’t send a surrogate. She didn’t write a letter. She came in person and talked to us as a group and one-on-one. Heck! She even gave me a hug as a fellow activist working for change.

 

She is in favor of everything that needs doing for our public schools. She wants to stop endless high stakes standardized testing. She wants to stop school privatization. She wants to fairly fund all public schools. She wants to provide free college and end all student debt. She wants single payer healthcare paid for by cutting our bloated military budget with no raise in taxes. She wants to stop selling weapons to Saudi Arabia, stop giving weapons to Israel, freeze terrorist-funder’s bank accounts, end the War on Terror and engage in a policy of peace. Moreover, Stein wants the savings from slashing our biggest federal expenditure to be used to fund a New Green Deal, creating full employment and a living wage all while transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2030!

 

Now that’s a platform I can vote for without reservation.

 

However, I have no illusions that she’ll win. When tens of thousands of people can look at an admitted sexual predator like Trump with approbation, I know we’re just not ready as a species for a candidate like Stein.

 

We’re too stupid. Too racist. Too sexist. Too classist. Too much the evolutionary apes that conservatives refuse to believe in.

Yet those on the other side of the aisle are so civilized they’re willing to politely follow the leader over a cliff. They’ll ignore every criticism, silence any dissent as they’re given marching orders by the establishment all the while congratulating themselves for being so intelligent.

 

I’m not sure which is the bigger joke – this election or our electoral system. Trump whines that the election is rigged against him, and we laugh because he’s his own worst enemy. But the system is far from fair. You can’t tell me some of those primaries weren’t stolen from Bernie Sanders – people living in highly concentrated Sanders leaning districts facing long lines, closed polling stations and uncounted votes. Always against Sanders voters, hardly ever against Clinton or Trump supporters.

 

Even setting aside the crappy primary, look at our obsolete and eminently hackable voting machines. Look at our refusal to make election day a holiday. Look at our recent spat of voter ID legislation which makes it so much more difficult for the poor and minorities to cast a ballot.

 

This is the best system we can muster!? But of course it is, because the powers that be don’t want all of us to vote. They want just enough of us to foster the illusion of a democracy – a weak one that they can manipulate and control. They decided a long time ago they wanted Hillary Clinton to win. Trump is just there to scare the rest of us into voting for her so that we can pretend we had a choice.

 

I’m not saying things couldn’t go astray. If white nationalists come to the polls and everyone else stays away, we’ll have our new fuehrer. But the rich and powerful are betting on Clinton. She means stability for the market, she means the needs of business will be met and the rest of us will just sit back and take it because we had a “choice.”

 

Well, screw that. I’m not doing it.

 

I will proudly go to my polling place this November and give my vote to Stein. She’s earned it.

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The Measure of Citizenship isn’t an Exit Exam – It’s Participating in Our Democracy

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Pennsylvania legislators just flunked civics – big time.

Once again, instead of offering real solutions to eradicate the ignorance of the coming generation, they clothed themselves in their own.

A bi-partisan group of 47 state lawmakers is proposing forcing all public school students to pass a test on citizenship in order to qualify for a diploma.

House Bill 1858 would require all K-12 schools receiving tax dollars — including charters schools and cybercharters — to give their students the same 100-question test that immigrants seeking U.S. citizenship will have to pass starting in 2020. Any student who doesn’t get a sufficient score will not receive a diploma or GED equivalency.

While it is admirable that legislators are concerned that high school students don’t know enough about civics, it’s unfortunate that they think the solution is another standardized test.

After all, what does being a good citizen have to do with a multiple choice exam?

Citizenship is about political independence. It’s about exercising your rights, not memorizing them. It’s about engaging in the political process, not spitting back facts about what kind of tree George Washington chopped down. It’s about using the principals of self-determination to rise up to the level of personal and community involvement, of individual sovereignty and home rule.

This involves actually teaching civics, a subject that has been cut to the quick in our schools to make room for an increasing amount of test-prep in math and reading. It used to be common for American high schools to offer three civics and government courses. Two of them – “Civics” and “Problems of Democracy” – defined the role of a citizen in relation to current events and issues. However, in most districts now these have been condensed into one “American Government” course that spends hardly any time on how students can and should participate in their government. Moreover, this course isn’t even offered until junior or senior year – far too late to make much of a difference.

Maybe instead of  putting a metaphorical gun to kids heads and demanding they care about civics, you could actually provide some resources so teachers could… I don’t know… teach it!

How about actually funding our public schools? You well-meaning dunderheads slashed school budgets by almost $1 billion a year for the last six years, and your only solution to helping kids learn has been to put more hurdles in their way without offering anything to help them achieve.

That is a losing strategy. If you want to have a winning race horse, at some point you have to feed the freakin’ horse!

If lawmakers really want kids in the Keystone state to know something about civics, why not start by making it easier for schools to broaden the curriculum to include robust civics courses?

This means REDUCING the number of standardized tests, not increasing them. Inject some money into the system so schools can hire back some of the 25,000 teachers who have been furloughed. You want kids to learn how to be citizens? Provide them with excellent teachers who actually get to experience some meaningful professional development, teachers not overburdened with meaningless paperwork to justify their jobs at every turn, teachers encouraged with rewards for seeking National Board Certification, etc. And let’s reduce class size so kids actually have the chance to be heard by their teachers and might actually learn something.

Moreover, if you really want to assess if these lessons have been learned, assess whether students are actually participating in their Democracy.

That’s the thing about citizenship. It looks like a noun, but it’s really a verb. It only has meaning if you do it.

Have high school kids registered to vote? Have they volunteered to take part in the political process, to canvass or phone bank for a candidate they believe in? Have they attended a session of the state House or Senate? (Have you provided the funding for appropriate field trips?) Have they attended a rally or protest for a cause close to their hearts?

THESE are the measures of true citizenship. And there are things you can do to make it easier for students to take part.

But no one really wants that. Come on. This is still essentially the same legislature that passed a Voter ID bill a few years back to make it harder for people to participate in our Democracy. And it would still be on the books if the state Supreme Court hadn’t struck it down as Unconstitutional.

Citizenship!? This is the same legislature that redrew state districts to be so incredibly gerrymandered that the most radical factions of both parties are unchallenged each election cycle!

You know why children don’t know more about civics? Because they’re so disgusted and demoralized by the example you’ve shown them. When politics is nothing but a show, when hardly anything ever changes or actually gets accomplished in Harrisburg, you expect kids to get excited by citizenship!? HA!

All you know how to do is pretend. That’s what this is. Just throw another standardized test on the fire of our children’s education and you can act like you’ve done something.

May I remind you we’re still dealing with the last smoldering exit exam disaster you fostered on us – the Keystone Exams?

You spent $1.1 billion on these tests since 2008, and they’re a statewide joke! You required all students to pass these assessments in Literature, Algebra and Biology, but they’re so poorly constructed and confusing that only half of our students can pass all three. So you put them on hold for two years until you could decide what to do.

And before you even fix that mess, you actually have the gall to say, “Hey! Let’s make kids take ANOTHER test!?”

I know some of you mean well, but this suggestion is a disgrace.

It’s style over substance.

This isn’t a measure to reduce ignorance. It’s a measure conceived in ignorance that’s guaranteed to proliferate it.

Racism Never Ended – It Just Keeps Evolving

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“One of our founding principles as a nation [is] that Black lives and Black bodies don’t matter; you see that in all our headlines today. This original sin lingers on, that’s why we got to call it sin… Slavery never ended, it just evolved. Mass incarceration is the current evolution of slavery.”
Jim Wallis  
 
 
“Even the most casual student of our country’s legal system should know that racism hasn’t existed since 1964 when we passed the Civil Rights Act. So obviously there’s no possible way for my statement to be considered racist if racism hasn’t existed for fifty years! I mean come on, racism? It’s 2015 people, racism is over.”

Antonin Scalia
 

When does brutality end – when it stops being practiced or when its effects stop being felt?

Neither condition has been met in the United States today. Black people still suffer under state-sanctioned barbarism just as the echoes of cruelty from years past continue to ring in our ears.

People of color – whether they be black, Latino, Hispanic, etc. – experience a much different reality than whites. They live under the constant threat of violence without justice. Their rights are continually being re-evaluated. They are subject to systems that wait for them to step out of line in even the most innocuous ways and then pounce.

And the white majority goes around blind to these perceptions while repeating the fairy tale that all wrongdoings were only in the past.

But it’s not in the past. Our history, written in blood, has never been allowed to dry on our forgotten chronicles of yesterday. When white eyes examine the facts, they often see a series of unrelated dots which they cannot – or will not – logically connect.

The Civil War is over, they say.

No. It’s not.

Slavery is over, they say.

No. It’s not.

Racism is over, they say.

No. It’s not.

We still are engaged in the struggle for basic human dignity. And the only way to even begin on that path is to recognize the truth staring us in the face.

Nothing has ended. It has only evolved.

 

THE CIVIL WAR

 

When did the American Civil War end?

This may seem a strange question to ask.

But when a country goes to war with itself, it may be difficult to discern when that conflict actually comes to completion.

History gives us many important dates to consider.

On April 9, 1865, commander of the Confederate armies General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia. But there were still sizable Confederate troops left standing.

In fact, the bloodshed was far from over. President Abraham Lincoln was murdered a mere 5 days later by John Wilkes Booth, a Southern sympathizer. Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President on April 15, the next morning.

It wasn’t until April 26, that General Joseph E. Johnson surrendered nearly 90,000 Tennessee soldiers – the largest of a series of subsequent capitulations.

President Johnson declared the insurrection to be over on May 9. However, the last Confederate general didn’t surrender until June 23.

Which date shall we choose? Perhaps it doesn’t matter. The point is that the conflict clearly came to an end.

Clearly the Confederacy was defeated by the Union.

Wasn’t it?

The problem is how to tell.

The Southern states were brought back into the union. But the overwhelming reason behind their secession has not been settled.

Today partisans and talking heads will argue that slavery was but one of many reasons behind the split. But during the 1860s, there was no such confusion.

Four of the Southern states explicitly gave slavery as the impetus for the break.

But Alexander H. Stephens, the Vice President of the Confederacy, removed all doubt when he said:

“The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions–African slavery as it exists among us–the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.

[…] The general opinion of the men of that day
[Revolutionary Period] was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution [slavery] would be evanescent and pass away.

[…] Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

So if the war was fought over the issue of slavery and the subjugation of black people, its end can be traced to the date at which slavery ended and black people were treated as equals with whites.

That day has not yet come.

Outright slavery came to an eventual end, but – as we shall see – it was replaced with another institution. Moreover, in the aftermath of Reconstruction, we were left with Jim Crow laws cementing white supremacy. Most newly “freed” blacks lived in squalid conditions with few rights, little pay and education. Their situation was only slightly different in fact from their state under slavery. These laws had to be struck down by the collective actions of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s.

Only then were black people truly permitted to vote en mass. Only then were they permitted in the same public spaces and offered some actionable protections under the law. But social and economic change still lags behind.

Today, more than 150 years since the end of the war’s military conflicts, we’re left to ponder: have things really changed so much?

Certainly there are cosmetic differences. There are no open air slave markets, no rolling cotton plantations staffed by bare backed, lash marked, kidnapped Africans. But have black people really been put on an equal footing with whites? Do they enjoy the same freedoms and privileges? Are they truly free from bondage and oppression?

If we look with open eyes, the answer is no.

 

SLAVERY

 

Today no one is legally allowed to own another person. You can’t purchase human beings. You can’t deprive them of their liberty and rights. You can’t use them as a source of revenue for your own benefit.

At least, that’s what the law says. But it happens every day.

What is the modern prison industry if not a new form of slavery? No matter how you look at it, we lock up a higher percentage of our population than any other country in the world. The US represents 5% of the world’s population but has 25% of the world’s prisoners. And the majority of those inmates have brown skin.

Whether federal, state, or privately run, the result is a massive increase in incarceration for people of color. In fact, more black people are in prison today than were in bondage in 1865. That’s a higher percentage of the black population than South Africa locked up at the height of apartheid. Today one in three black males is likely to spend some time incarcerated. That’s not insignificant.

Technically no one owns these people, but they are deprived of their freedom. They are kept in prison and unable to leave. In lockup, they are forced to work and the profit from that cheap labor goes to the prison industry. Moreover, state and federal governments often farm out these prison services to private industry which then profits off that incarceration. In many cases, the government has a contract with these corporations to fill X number of beds or else be penalized with Y dollars. So the incentive is to provide a continual stream of persons bound to labor.

This looks a lot like slavery. It is a kind of plantation where big business is paid to keep people in chains.

However, one can anticipate the following objection: Slaves were born into their servitude. Prisoners are not. They are thrown behind bars because they freely broke the law.

This does represent a difference. But is it more than cosmetic?

People of color – especially black males – commit crimes at about the same rate as white people but are imprisoned nearly six times the rate of whites. They also get much harsher sentences than whites for the same crimes. They are often imprisoned for nonviolent drug violations. And once in the system, it’s hard to get out. To survive in prison, it is often necessary to become a criminal even if you weren’t much of one when you entered.

Even if you manage to get out, you now are a second-class citizen deprived of many of the rights and privileges of your neighbors. Spend any time in the system and you’ll increasingly be deprived of your right to vote and may find it difficult to achieve gainful employment. The chances of going back inside for someone who has already been there are huge.

That is not slavery. But it’s not far from it.

As Michelle Alexander writes in her landmark book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness:

“The genius of the current caste system, and what most distinguishes it from its predecessors, is that it appears voluntary. People choose to commit crimes, and that’s why they are locked up or locked out, we are told. This feature makes the politics of responsibility particularly tempting, as it appears the system can be avoided with good behavior. But herein lies the trap. All people make mistakes. All of us are sinners. All of us are criminals. All of us violate the law at some point in our lives. In fact, if the worst thing you have ever done is speed ten miles over the speed limit on the freeway, you have put yourself and others at more risk of harm than someone smoking marijuana in the privacy of his or her living room. Yet there are people in the United States serving life sentences for first-time drug offenses, something virtually unheard of anywhere else in the world.”

 

THE EVOLUTION OF RACISM

 

Even for those people of color who have never been incarcerated, there is the constant burden of living in a racist society.

It’s not so much that white individuals consciously practice bigotry and hate in their daily lives. It’s the systematic abuse that’s built into the very fabric of our governments and communities. No one has to decide to be racist. They just go along with the status quo without seeing how that status quo puts black people at risk.

And it doesn’t take much imagination to recognize how the realities of today grew from the prejudices of the past.

 

LYNCHING

 

Before the 1960s, it was common for black people – especially men – to be brutalized and murdered with little to no provocation. A look, a word, even the suspicion of violating unspoken social codes could earn a death sentence. Nor was the accused even given a chance to defend himself or explain. That generally doesn’t happen today. Southern trees no longer bare such ‘strange fruit.’

But the same cannot be said for our inner city streets, playgrounds and churches.

It doesn’t take much beyond suspicion of wrongdoing, a suspicion that only requires the sight of black skin to justify deadly force. People of color still are publicly executed with little to no provocation. Black people have been slaughtered in the last few years for the following offenses: buying Skittles and iced tea, driving with a broken tail light, being suspected of selling loose cigarettes, selling CDs in a parking lot, being scared and running the other way or even just attending a house of worship.

Instead of a white robe, a disturbing number of their executioners wear a badge and police blues. Many of these hits were conducted by the very law enforcement officers that are charged with the duty to protect and serve. And when these incidents come before a grand jury, they rarely go on to criminal court. In the eyes of the law, an unarmed black person killed by police rarely inspires any suspicion of wrongdoing on the officer’s part. To the courts, it’s not even conceivable that a crime may have been committed.

As Slate’s Chief Political Correspondent Jamelle Bouie put it:

“Our courts and juries aren’t impartial arbiters — they exist inside society, not outside of it — and they can only provide as much justice as society is willing to give.”

This phenomenon isn’t the same as the lynchings of old – but it’s awfully similar. In both cases, there is little provocation, no quarter given and no justice afterwards. In fact, the modern variety may be worse. US Police killed more black citizens in 2015 than were lynched at the height of segregation.

 

SEGREGATION

 

At first glance, one might assume segregation to be a thing of the past. There are no more separate lunch counters, separate bathrooms, separate schools, etc.

Brown vs. Board of Education made it illegal for public schools to be “separate but equal” because if they were separate, they were rarely equal.

Certainly progress was made in this regard during the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. But as time has gone on, integrated schools just haven’t been a priority – even for the Obama Administration.

When you look at public schools today what you see is increasing segregation. Many districts are as segregated or worse than they were before the 1950s. So-called school choice initiatives have only made it worse with charter and voucher schools springing up that cater to one race at the expense of another. Cadillac charters open in otherwise economically diverse neighborhoods swooping in to provide white flight. Big corporations start cut-rate charters with empty promises for black kids while bleaching the student body at the neighborhood’s traditional public school.

But school choice isn’t the only problem. Economics plays a factor, too. Public schools often are funded based on local property taxes, so poor kids get much fewer resources for their schools than rich kids. And since most black students are poor, this provides a stealthy way to funnel more money and resources to the white kids than the black ones.

We don’t call it segregation because it doesn’t just affect minority children. It affects poor whites, too. Everyone agrees there’s a problem, but policymakers only propose measures that make it worse. Instead of fixing underlying inequalities, we punish under-resourced schools for the very academic problems they don’t have the resources to successfully eliminate. Instead of providing more and better equipped teachers, we hire lightly trained temps through Teach for America thereby reducing both the quality of education and the cost. Meanwhile private corporations line-up to start testing corporations, test prep publishers and for-profit charter schools at the expense of black and brown kids.

None of it would be possible without segregation. Our schools today are at least as separate and unequal as they’ve ever been. And no one in power cares.

 

VOTING RIGHTS

 

Perhaps the only progress we’ve made is in black people’s suffrage. At the time of the Civil War even in the North, blacks couldn’t cast a ballot or their vote was worth significantly less than that of white people. At least today people of color get the same say in the political arena as anyone else.

Or do they?

Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, a plethora of states in both the North and the South have passed laws to make it harder for people of color to vote.

Voter ID laws have sprung up across the country requiring citizens to present photo identification at the polls. However, just any picture ID won’t do. These laws require exactly the types of identification black people are least likely to have. In addition, states pass restrictions on early voting making it difficult for black churches to help the majority of their congregations who don’t own cars to physically get to a ballot box. Likewise, polling places in black areas of town are closed forcing minorities to endure long lines to vote while people from white areas of town just waltz right in.

It’s not an outright ban on black voting. But it represents continued hurdles just as the Jim Crow laws of old required literacy tests, poll taxes and other forms of intimidation.

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

When we look closely at our society and how it treats blacks vs. whites, it becomes clear that something is terribly wrong.

There is deep inequality, deep inequity, deep assumptions about the relative worth of various peoples. In fact, our society creates and perpetuated these injustices. It’s baked into the system, taught to us in our unspoken assumptions, our prescriptions of right and wrong, propriety and norms.

If we step back and look at it from the long view, we can see exactly where this came from. It’s not new. It didn’t fall from the sky like a mysterious alien artifact.

The racism of today is merely the continuation of the racism of yesterday. We pride ourselves that we’re better than our forbears, but it’s only a slight matter of degree.

Black people still are subject to a form of slavery in our system of mass incarceration. They are lynched – often by law enforcement – with little to no consequences for their killers. They go to increasingly segregated schools. And they often endure severe obstacles in order to vote.

Therefore, the battles of the 1860s and 1960s have never fully been decided. The Civil War is not yet over. Slavery continues in a new form. And racism is entrenched in our nation, communities and people.

But if we recognize that, we’ve taken the first step to building a new and better world.

The Agony of Being a First Time Undecided Voter

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Is there anyone else out there like me?

 

I’ve never been an undecided voter before. I’ve always known early which candidate I’m supporting and why.

 

But this election has my head spinning. One minute I’m ready to vote for Hillary Clinton to stop Donald Trump. The next I can’t live with myself if I do that and am willing to vote for Green Party candidate Jill Stein even though she has very little chance of winning.

 

And so on back-and-forth, hour-to-hour. The only thing I’m certain of is that I will never EVER vote for Trump.

 

Is there anyone else out there like me?

 

This seems to be the new reality.

 

I’d rather have Hillary as President than Trump, but I’d rather have another option than either one.

 

It’s agonizing. I can’t sleep. I toss and turn.

 

I hop into bed thinking I’ll just vote Hillary and then wake up passed midnight feeling disgusted with myself. I say I’ll vote Stein and go back to bed only to wake up an hour later with grave doubts about letting Trump win and how he’ll destroy the fabric of the country.

 

Those of you who have made up your minds, be thankful. You have a certainty many of us do not share.

 

Almost half of registered Democrats voted for Bernie Sanders in the Primary. You need us. And now that Hillary Clinton is the nominee, we have to decide – What do we do now?

 

These seems to be our options:

 

1) Vote Donald Trump. Let the nation burn. Let him deport 11 million people and build a wall to keep others out. Embolden all our hidden racists, xenophobes, sexists, homophobes and narcissists. Watch the economy take a nosedive just like many of his businesses did into chapter 11. Watch the Russians laugh it up as the US enters a period of isolationism and cedes power to strongmen across the globe.

 

No. That’s just not acceptable to me.

 

2) Vote Hillary Clinton. Defeat Trump but champion all of the neoliberal policies you fought against in the primary. Vote for a supporter of the prison industrial complex. Vote for a war hawk. Vote for someone who may do some good but will almost certainly support the TPP, someone who will continue to giveaway our national wealth to big business while doing very little to help the middle class. Watch as our schools are privatized, de-unionized and closed.

 

That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

 

3) Vote Jill Stein. Support a candidate who embodies all the progressive values you fought for during the primary. Vote for action against climate change. Vote to forgive all student debt. Vote to destroy corporate education reform. Vote against unnecessary wars of choice. But have very little chance of any of these policies actually being enacted. And increase the chances of a Trump Presidency. After all, she probably won’t even be on the ballot in some states! How can you win if you aren’t an actual choice!?

 

That’s hard to accept, too.

 

4) Don’t Vote for President. Vote for progressives on down ticket races but leave the presidential race blank or maybe even write in Bernie’s name. Send a message that you won’t accept the two-party system. But again increase the chances of President Trump and really who is going to be paying attention to this highly symbolic gesture? What will it get you really?

 

No. Not acceptable.

 

These seem to be most of the options. I’m certainly not going to vote Libertarian or for one of the other third party candidates.

 

So which is the best option?

 

Damned if I know.

 

I go back and forth between Hill and Jill.

 

My biggest problem with Dr. Stein is that there just doesn’t seem to be a clear path to victory. No one other than George Washington has ever won a third party bid for President. Even Ralph Nader who got millions of votes ended up not winning a single district or a single electoral vote.

 

I’m also disturbed by talk among Green Party members, even Stein herself, saying it doesn’t matter if they win. They just want to have a good showing. They just want to increase the power of the Green Party for the next election cycle and show the establishment that they aren’t to be taken lightly.

 

I’m all for that, but a Trump Presidency is too high a price to pay for it.

 

If Jill Stein could provide a clear and believable path to victory, I would vote for her in a second. I would campaign. I would do everything I could to help her win. But as it stands this isn’t even a Hail Mary. It’s not like throwing the ball from one end of the field to the other hoping for a touchdown. It’s like throwing the ball from the parking lot, from the highway, from a neighboring state!

 

However, voting for Clinton is repugnant.

 

She represents everything I want to change about American politics. She is the establishment, the status quo.

 

The best argument in her favor is that she’s not Donald Trump. Voting for her lets us survive as a nation for four more years. Things will be bad but manageable.

 

As a public school teacher, under Clinton I can expect more support for charter schools, more standardized tests, more corporate school reform. But under Trump it will probably be worse. He is the founder of Trump University, after all. He doesn’t just support school privatization. He actually started a privatized school – if you can call it that. And he doesn’t want just charter schools – he wants vouchers.

 

Pragmatically, I’d rather have Clinton. But morally it feels like a betrayal of all my ideals.

 

And that doesn’t even take into account how terrible the Democratic National Commission conducted the primary.

 

The recent leak of private emails from the DNC paints a picture of favoritism. The party unequivocally worked with the media against Sanders. (And, no, it doesn’t matter so much who leaked these emails and why, if they’re authentic.)

 

Add to that the widespread allegations of voter suppression in the primary match-up between Clinton and Sanders. In districts that leaned Bernie, voters had to face long lines. Voters registrations were mysteriously changed or they were purged from the rolls so they couldn’t vote for him. Bernie rallies were held in over-packed stadiums while Hillary’s were in much smaller venues – yet the results in these areas somehow favored Clinton. Exit polls consistently showed Bernie winning but the actual votes somehow went to Hillary. Meanwhile the media falsely painted the picture of Clinton inevitability even calling the election for her before all the votes were in.

 

It is hard to prove that all this subterfuge was enough to sway the election against Bernie. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. However, it is naive to think it didn’t help Hillary to some extent. Maybe quite a lot.

 

And after all that, I’m supposed to vote for her!? How? The party didn’t support my right to vote unless it was for the establishment choice. But now I’m supposed to actively help these same people gain more power!?

 

Please excuse me if I find that difficult.

 

So there we are. I just can’t decide. And I would venture to guess there are many more out there just like me.

 

To those who have decided one way or another, I’d like to offer some advice when dealing with the rest of us:

 

1) Don’t call us names. I’ve been called delusional, privileged, sexist, stupid, ridiculous, etc. And may I say that it doesn’t help convince any of us to be ridiculed? In fact, it actually turns us further away from your point of view. And it shows you to be somewhat hysterical. The right choice is by no means obvious.

 

2)Lay off the scare tactics. If you want to convince someone not to vote for Trump, by all means talk about how terrible he would be as President. If you want to convince someone to vote for Hillary, the horror stories won’t cut it. We need more than that. I’m sure Hillary Clinton has positives. Lead with those. Give us good reasons to vote for her and not just against her opponent.

 

3) If you want us to vote Green, tell us how Stein can win. We don’t want purely symbolic victories. We need to defeat Trump. Don’t regale us with how screwed up the system is. We already know that. Tell us how voting Green will help reverse it.

 

Have patience with us. Being undecided is not a comfortable position to be in.

 

We’re all in this together. We all want the same things. It’s just we don’t all agree how to achieve them.

The DNC is Giving Trump the Greatest Gift of All – a Weak Opponent

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The latest polls have Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton by 15 points.

No, not a Fox News poll.

This is from Nate Silver, the FiveThirtyEight numbers wizard who correctly called both the 2008 and 2012 elections. He says if the race were held today, Trump would win the swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Iowa, Nevada, and New Hampshire, thereby assuring an easy victory.

Some will say this is just an inevitable boost in the numbers coming as it does right after the Republican National Convention. But need I remind you that the convention was chaos? The speaking roster was dominated by Trump’s family and a never-ending cavalcade of D-list celebrities. It reads more like the cast of the next Celebrity Apprentice than the best and brightest of one of our nation’s two major political parties.

And don’t forget Trump’s own acceptance speech. They’re coming to get you and only I can save you! Trump 2016!

THAT’S what you’re saying gave the Republican nominee a boost!? It should have hurt not helped him!

But let’s put that aside for a moment. Clinton has never polled well against Trump.

Occasionally she has topped him in polls in the past, but rarely more than the margin of error! Usually Trump comes out on top.

No. Hillary Clinton is a terrible challenger in this match-up.

Why?

There is one common factor during this election season that goes beyond political affiliation. People want change.

It’s one of the reasons Barack Obama won. He was seen as the change candidate. Heck! It was his campaign slogan! Hope and Change!

Unfortunately, he didn’t really deliver. Instead of a revolution, he gave us fiddling around the margins. Whatever the reasons for that – Republican obstructionism, his own centrism – it only frustrated the electorate further.

The economy stinks. There are endless wars. Yet the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. People are so starving for change today they are even willing to vote for fascism to get it. Because that’s what Trump offers. It’s change alright. Not good change. Not positive change. But at least things will be different under President Trump. The status quo will alter. America will be “great again” just as Germany became great again in the 1930s by doing a lot of the same xenophobic, racist, sexist and homophobic things Trump champions.

You can see a similar thirst for revolution with the Democrats. We, too, have a change candidate but it’s not Hillary Clinton. It’s Bernie Sanders.

He offered voters a return to the New Deal of FDR. He offered the kind of Democratic Socialism that saved our country from the Great Depression, gave us the strength to win WWII and became the greatest super power the world has ever known.

How does this poll against Trump? It’s devastating. Bernie beats Trump in almost every poll. He always has.

Why does Bernie do so well while Hillary doesn’t? Clinton is not seen as a change agent. She is the status quo. She is politics as usual. She is at best like Obama – fiddling at the margins. At worst she’s a neoliberal hawk that will make things worse – though probably not as bad as Trump.

So what can we do? Democratic Primary voters chose her over Bernie.

Or did they?

The recent leak of private emails from the DNC paints a picture of favoritism. The party unequivocally worked with the media against Sanders. (And, no, it doesn’t matter so much who leaked these emails and why, if they’re authentic.)

Add to that the widespread allegations of voter suppression in the primary match-up between Clinton and Sanders. In districts that leaned Bernie, voters had to face long lines. Voters registrations were mysteriously changed or they were purged from the rolls so they couldn’t vote for him. Bernie rallies were held in over-packed stadiums while Hillary’s were in much smaller venues – yet the results in these areas somehow favored Clinton. Exit polls consistently showed Bernie winning but the actual votes somehow went to Hillary. Meanwhile the media falsely painted the picture of Clinton inevitability even calling the election for her before all the votes were in.

It is hard to prove that all this subterfuge was enough to sway the election against Bernie. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. However, it is naive to think it didn’t help Hillary to some extent. Maybe quite a lot.

So what we have is a presumptive nominee who can claim no legitimacy. Sure Bernie has done the classy thing and endorsed her. But it’s easy to see why his supporters have a hard time accepting that Clinton will do even a fraction of the things Bernie would as president.

So we’re left with a very weak Democratic nominee against Trump.

And this is not voters fault. This is not because Bernie supporters are just stubborn or should just get over it.

In our capitalist system, presidential candidates are products. We are the consumers. And the Democrats have floated an inferior product. It’s not enough that Trump is worse. Because there are other choices.

No one wants to take third party candidates seriously. We ignore the Green Party and the Libertarians because we say these interlopers can’t win. And there are plenty of good reasons why that may be so. However, the existence of these other options in light of a weak challenger on both the Democratic and Republican side all but guarantee each will get significant support.

It doesn’t matter if Jill Stein and Gary Johnson have little chance of winning. They will serve as spoilers for the major parties. Who will take the most?

Well, hard-core conservatives can find much to like in Hillary Clinton. Many of them are lining up to join her ranks. However, Bernie supporters find little to recommend them on Trump’s side. He is the antipathy of everything Bernie stands for. However, Jill Stein is very inviting. If anything, she’s more progressive than he is.

As such, look for the third party option to hurt Democrats more than Republicans. In fact, had Sanders been the nominee, the Democrats could have looked forward to many independents joining the ranks. They overwhelmingly favor Sanders but not Clinton. And there are more independents than either Republicans or Democrats.

So here we are.

There is next to no chance at this point that the Democrats won’t nominate Clinton. She will almost definitely be the standard barer against Trump.

And it leaves him with a huge advantage.

If he wins, it won’t be the fault of disaffected Bernie voters. It will be because of the cynical hubris of Democratic Party leaders.

The seeds of the Trump Reich have been sown right here.

Disenfranchised Berners Need to Push for Election Reform NOW!

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So we lost the Democratic primary.

Bernie Sanders is out and Hillary Clinton is in. She will almost definitely face Donald Trump in the general election for President.

If you’re like me, you’re still in shock.

She drew crowds of hundreds. He drew crowd of tens of thousands.

Exit polls consistently showed him winning, but when the votes were counted, he ended up losing.

There have been consistent reports of rampant tampering with voter registration resulting in hundreds of thousands of voters being removed from the rolls; party affiliations being changed without voter consent so they cannot cast a ballot; polling places being reduced significantly so voters have to wait for hours resulting in voters leaving before casting a ballot. And that’s not even counting the mainstream media’s portrayal of Clinton as inevitable by conflating superdelegate votes (which at this point are only non-binding polls of how these party insiders MIGHT vote in July) with actual votes that are already tallied and unchangable.

Really it shouldn’t be so shocking.

Our democracy has been a smoking shell of itself for a long time now.

In 2008 when Barack Obama beat John McCain, we saw some of these same shenanigans. We had language barriers, invented rules, long lines sometimes hours long, and, in some cases, voting machines that changed people’s votes.

By the end of election night, hours after victory was declared, Obama said to supporters in Chicago, “I want to thank every American who participated in this election. Whether you voted for the first time or waited in line for a very long time.” As the crowd roared, Obama declared: “By the way, we have to fix that.”

And now eight years later, we’ve done absolutely nothing to “fix that.”

If anything, the situation is much worse. While Obama voters met hardships, just as Al Gore supporters did in 2000, those were extra-party elections. They were examples of Republicans disenfranchising Democrats. But now we have something new – Democrats suppressing other Democrats!

From the beginning Sanders has said that his campaign was not about himself, it was about starting a real progressive movement. “Not me, us,” the slogan goes.

Now is the time to start cashing in on that idealism.

While Hillary supporters call for unity, we, Berners, must push the terms.

I don’t know if there is truly anything Clinton can do to get my vote short of stepping down. Like many Berners, the very idea of supporting someone so opposed to my views is repugnant. But if Clinton is going to have any shot, she and her supporters need to agree to finally fulfill Obama’s promise.

Let’s fix that. Let’s fix our broken and moldering election system.

It’s not like it’s any big secret how to do so.

Robert Steele, Jim Turner, Ralph Nader, Christina Tobin, Howard Zinn and a host of others have had available a series of common sense reforms for almost two decades. It’s time we push the Democrats to get behind them:

1) Open Ballot Access. Historically, third party candidates have had a harder time getting on the ballot than Democrats and Republicans. Even the popular Green Party Presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein isn’t on the ballot in every state.

Open ballot access means that no matter what party a candidate represents, he/she has to do the same things to get on the ballot. No more can we accept only Democrats and Republicans to be on the ballot in every state. Ballot access requirements should be the same for every candidate, irrespective of party affiliation. This should also apply to initiatives and referenda, as well as primary and general elections.

2) Holiday Voting. Voter turnout in the land of the free is a disgrace. Much of that has to do with the fact that people are working too hard and too long to easily get to the polls. Election Day should be a national holiday. This way every voter should be able to vote easily and won’t have to worry about missing work and/or transportation issues. In addition, Early Voting should be universally available. No long lines. Vote at your leisure and even spend some time getting involved in the political process.

3) Paper Trail. ALL ballots must either be on paper or otherwise subject to physical re-count. It is too easy for votes to be miscalculated without any reliable recourse for reasonable challenges and/or recounts if there is no paper trail. Too many voting machines in use do not meet this standard. If voting machines are used, each vote must produce a physical paper footprint subject to recount. If there is any attempt at voter suppression, it should be easily provable and remedied.

4) Honest Open Debates. Americans demand choice in almost everything in their lives except politics. Go to the grocery store and there are 20 different kinds of frosted flakes, but go to the polls and you only have the choice of Dems or Repubs. Another way to end the current monopoly of the major parties is to mandate debates include all political parties – even third, fourth, and fifth parties.

5) Tightly-Drawn Districts. We must end the corrupt practice of gerrymandering, replacing it with compact computer drawn districts determined by independent non-partisan commissions. And we should expressly prohibited any voting district to be drawn to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party.

6) Full Public Funding of Diverse Candidates. Get the money out of politics. Eliminate all corporate financing of campaigns, and all political action committees. No more PACS, Super PACS, Citizens United, all of it! Instead all state and national campaigns should only be publicly funded.

7) No Legislation Without Consultation. The most frustrating things for voters is when politicians pass legislation without reading it first. The next most frustrating thing is that this legislation isn’t easily available or accessible to their constituents. We can eliminate special interest dominance of the legislative process, by ending the practice of passing legislation such as the Patriot Act without its actually being read. Moreover, end all earmarks. All legislation without exception should be published on line with an easy to understand one-page summary, one week prior to its coming to a vote, to include explicit geospatial pointers for all “earmarks” each of which must be publicly announced and offered for amendment to the voters in the relevant district at least one week prior to the passage of national, state, or county legislation affecting them. Similarly, no public privileges should be granted to any corporation or other entity without full public consultation and public polling or balloting.

8) End the Electoral College, Superdelegates and every representative voting system where possible. When you go to vote for something that should be it. You’re not voting for someone else to vote for you. You’re voting for that candidate outright. Yes, our system of Republican government essentially involves people voting for us. But we don’t need to add extra levels of distance between us and our representatives. Eliminate the middleman. Eliminate the possibility of further disenfranchisement.

There are certainly other reforms we can add to this list. I do not mean it to be exhaustive. But I do think it represents a good start.

And we mustn’t wait. We need to push for it NOW!

Millions of people have just had their votes stolen from them. Clinton and the Democrats are calling out for unity.

Okay. If you want even the possibility of it, prove you’re on our side. Work with us to ensure that people like you can never again gain power in the manner that you just did.

If you want my vote, respect it.

Otherwise, I’ll just give it to someone else.

Dr. Stein, are you with me?

Hillary Clinton is Not as Bad as Donald Trump – She’s Worse

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On the face of it, the title of this article is pure bull crap.

What do you mean Hillary Clinton is worse than Donald Trump!?

She’s not a reality TV star pretending to be Presidential.

She’s not a bigot, a demagogue and a fascist.

She’s not the top choice of racists and white supremacists everywhere.

And you’re right. She’s none of those things.

If I’m being honest, there are plenty of things Clinton has over Trump.

First of all, she’s immensely more qualified to be President. She has decades of experience in public service. Trump has none.

Moreover, she has been instrumental in pushing forward progressive policies. She championed healthcare reform when it was unpopular to do so. Without her work, it is doubtful we’d have the little reforms we have today. Trump, on the other hand, hasn’t lifted a finger to help the American people accomplish anything – unless you count ogling half naked women on the Miss Universe pageant or getting excited over which D-list celebrity he was going to “fire” on The Apprentice.

However, there is an area where both candidates have significant overlap.

If you remove the names and the personalities, if you ignore political affiliation and past history, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton begin to look very similar.

Who does Trump represent? The 1%.

Who does Clinton represent? The 1%.

It’s really that clear.

In fact, in 2008 Trump famously donated to Clinton’s Presidential campaign. He is exactly the kind of person who wants someone like Clinton in the Oval Office. She would look out for his interests.

Her campaign is financed by Wall Street. Trump IS Wall Street. She was paid exorbitant fees to give private speeches to bankers and stock brokers. One would not be shocked to find Trump in the audience.

Yes, there are differences. One can’t imagine Clinton talking about women with as much arrogant deprecation as Trump. One can’t imagine her suggesting we deport millions of people, that we put all Muslim’s under surveillance, or that many Latinos are murderers and rapists.

But that is exactly what makes her worse. Trump looks like a little dictator (which he is.) Clinton does not.

She appears to be the middle ground. She appears to be the sane candidate – and in some ways she is. But in many of the most important ways that count for Americans living from paycheck-to-paycheck, she isn’t a compromise at all. She’s nearly the same thing.

Imagine two shelves holding poison in a child’s playroom. On one is a purple bottle sporting a skull and crossbones under the word “Poison.” On the other is a bright pink bottle with a smiley face under the word “Candy.” Which is worse?

You know what you’re getting with Trump. Clinton pretends to be something else.

In my opinion, this is why we desperately need Bernie Sanders in the race. He is an actual option between the corporatist campaigns of Trump and Clinton. He actually gives voters a choice.

In his decades in the House and Senate, Sanders worked tirelessly for the 99%. He voted against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act. He was an open critic of Alan Greenspan insisting the Federal Reserve Chairman was only represented “large and wealthy corporations.” He passed more amendments than any other congressperson getting through amazing amounts of legislation. He worked to overhaul the Veterans Administration and audit the Federal Reserve System.

And we’ve seen how energetically the Democratic establishment is fighting to keep Sanders off the ballot. During the primaries, they’ve tried every dirty trick in the book to suppress votes from their own party to ensure Clinton is the only choice in the general election.

It’s unprecedented. Voters like me who might have supported Clinton had she won the primaries fairly have been completely turned off by the Democrats. How can we support a candidate that we’re told we must vote for? Shouldn’t the Democrats be courting our votes, not forcing them?

This just goes to show the need for a third party. The Democrats have been largely overtaken by neoliberals – what we used to call Republicans. Likewise, the GOP has been overtaken by the worst extremists possible – fascist populists of which Trump is a clear representative.

Who is left for progressive voters? Can we really support a neoliberal like Clinton?

No. The only way for progressives to win is to keep Sanders in the race through the general election. Virtually every poll says he would trounce Trump. Many – but not all – polls likewise say Clinton would beat the Republican front runner, but is that even a contest? If both candidates represent the same constituency, it’s not really a choice.

Few things would be worse than a Trump presidency. He would immediately go after our brown-skinned brothers and sisters. He would make things much more difficult for our sisters, mothers and daughters. And he would crash the economy and engage us in disastrous wars of choice across the globe.

A Clinton presidency on the other hand would not be so obviously apocalyptic. She would continue and worsen neoliberal policies strangling our public institutions. She would continue to privatize our schools and enrich the testing and charter industries. She would continue to lock away the poor and minorities while enriching the private prison industry. She would bolster weak environmental regulations while opening back doors for oil and gas companies to rape our planet. And as the majority of people drown in debt, she would wag her finger and blame the poor for their circumstances without offering a lick of help.

In short, Trump would be a mega-nuclear explosion. Clinton would be nuclear radiation – a silent killer. That’s worse. One kills all at once. The other does so slowly by degrees.

This is not a choice any American should be forced to make.

Fight to keep Sanders in the race.