Dear Non-Voters, Your Country Needs You

Voting.

 

Four in 10 Americans who were eligible to vote in 2016 didn’t do so.

 

That’s some 92 million U.S. Citizens.

 

These people weren’t purged from the polls.

 

They weren’t barred from voting.

 

They just didn’t bother.

 

So, the way I see it, the responsibility for President Donald Trump rests with you.

 

The United States has a Reality TV Show clown in the oval office.

 

He is a dimwitted narcissist who panders to racists, sexists and xenophobes to stay in power.

 

He is an incurious liar who constantly trolls the media and the public.

 

He is an admirer of dictators and fascists across the globe with no qualms about enriching himself and those like him at the expense of you and me.

 

Everyday he provides aide and comfort to anti-American regimes from Moscow to Riyadh by diminishing our international stature, withdrawing us from treaties and contracts, leaking sensitive information and otherwise pursuing foreign interests over those of American citizens.

 

And that’s before we even begin to examine his colossal impact on human rights – emboldening terrorists and white supremacists while his own administration throws children in cages and forcibly separates them from their families.

 

This is on you, non-voters.

 

You did this.

 

A democratic republic is like any other machine – it only functions properly if all of its parts are working.

 

You can’t have majority rule when 40% of voters shirk their duty.

 

A study by the Pew Research Center found that not only were non-voters likely to be younger, less educated, less affluent, and nonwhite, but 55% of them were Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.

 

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If more non-voters under the age of 30 had gotten their acts together in just a few swing states, we wouldn’t all be living through this national nightmare.

 

So if you think voting doesn’t make a difference, look around.

 

Look at your bank account for instance.

 

Wonder why your wages continue to stagnate while the rich pocket more and more of the economy?

 

Look at your neighborhood. Wonder why our schools, roads, bridges and other public services are crumbling into disrepair?

 

It’s because you didn’t vote.

 

I’m not saying everything would have been great under President Hillary Clinton. But Trump sets an awfully low bar for competency.

 

 

You think your vote doesn’t matter?

 

Republicans disagree with you.

 

They aren’t working overtime to stop people like you from voting because it makes no difference.

 

Robert Kennedy put it this way:

 

“The most significant civil rights problem is voting. Each citizen’s right to vote is fundamental to all the other rights of citizenship and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1960 make it the responsibility of the Department of Justice to protect that right.”

 

Our courts have given up that responsibility.

 

Since 2013 when the Supreme Court invalidated a key part of the Voting Rights Act, millions of people have been barred from casting a ballot.

 

The federal government used to require nine states with a history of racial discrimination to obtain federal approval before making such changes. Now that they no longer need to do so, between 2014 and 2016 there’s been a 33% increase in voter purges in these states.

 

This isn’t just cleaning the polls of the names of people who’ve died. It’s actively preventing people – especially the poor and people of color – from having their voices heard.

 

In Arkansas, thousands of voters were erroneously flagged in 2016 under the guise of removing people who had been convicted of felonies. In Virginia, voters were wrongly deleted from the rolls in 2013 under the excuse of removing people who allegedly had moved.

 

And this election cycle more than one hundred thousand Georgia voters were removed because they didn’t respond to a mailer or there was a typo on their registration form.

 

To make matters worse, the purge was overseen by Secretary of State Brian Kemp, a Republican candidate for governor. Since most of the people being removed from the polls are people of color, the poor and other Democrats or leaning Democrat voters, the move makes it harder for Democrat Stacey Abrams to challenge him.

 

Kemp and his Republican buddies wouldn’t be going through all this trouble if voting made no difference.

 

“Too many people struggled, suffered, and died to make it possible for every American to exercise their right to vote,” said civil rights icon and U.S. Senator John Lewis.

 

And people have died for the opportunity that millions of people decide not to exercise.

 

People like James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, who were murdered in 1964 while trying to register black voters in Mississippi. People like Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered a year later by the Ku Klux Klan during the Selma march for voting rights.

 

When you willingly give up an opportunity that was purchased so dear, you disrespect the memories of the dead.

 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt put it like this:

 

“Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

 

Our country is under attack. Our very freedoms are on the line.

 

Will you be a willing accomplice by standing idly by and allowing these miscreants to defecate all over the flag?

 

Or will you take a stand, do your duty and vote!?

 

 

“Bad politicians are sent to Washington by good people who don’t vote.”

-William E. Simon

 


 

Like this post? I’ve written a book, “Gadfly on the Wall: A Public School Teacher Speaks Out on Racism and Reform,” now available from Garn Press. Ten percent of the proceeds go to the Badass Teachers Association. Check it out!

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Do We Still Have a Functioning Democracy?

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Do we still have a functioning democracy?

Really.

Do we?

Because when I look around at the mess we’ve got here today, I honestly don’t know.

I went to my polling place to vote, and it was nearly deserted.

The candidates’ signs were still there, stuck in the ground like some kind of seasonal weed in need of a gardener.

But there were no people.

Well there was one nice lady sitting on a bench who smiled and handed me a flier from the county Democratic committee.

When I got inside, the poll workers were as cheerful and friendly as ever. I’ve known these ladies since I was a little kid. They remember when I worked at the local newspaper and could probably recite some elements of my resume better than I can.

They made polite conversation asking about my parents and grandparents as they looked up my information and geared up the machine to take my ballot.

There was something almost frightening about the whole thing. It was both familiar and tainted – kind of like returning to the scene of some grisly murder.

Just a year ago, this was where we knowingly voted for Donald J. Trump to be President of the United States.

When I say “we” I don’t mean me.

I didn’t vote for that tiny-handed racist asshole. But I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, either.

And when the whole thing was done last year, I had terrible chest pains that sent me to my doctor and then the hospital with my first-ever heart attack.

That election literally sent me to the ICU.

And yet today here I was standing on my own two feet getting ready to do it all over again.

I stood there staring at the choices on the machine, looking at my helpful Democratic flier and even referring to an email on my phone from my union.

“Why is the union recommending a bunch of Republicans?” I thought.

“Their chosen candidates want to dismantle the very institution recommending I vote for them!”

And then I looked at the list of Democrats. I didn’t know any of them.

Some of their names were familiar from hastily aired campaign ads that told me a folksy story about their families or education or how they’d never called off a day in their lives – but nothing about their beliefs, their values, even their politics.

How am I supposed to choose between these people?

I thought about just voting for the Green candidates but there was a whole one to choose from in only one race.

So I ended up voting for the Democrats. At least I have some nominal idea where they stand.

And I have to admit when it was all over and I pressed “VOTE,” I felt really good.

The machine made that metallic buzz like it was tabulating my ballot, and I felt like I had really accomplished something.

Then I went out into the nearly deserted parking lot and got hit by a wave of depression.

“What the fuck just happened?” I asked myself.

And I answered, “You got played, son.”

“Again.”

Trump is still President. And he’ll be President tomorrow and probably tomorrow and tomorrow.

And even if he was magically ushered from the scene, there’s another nearly identical Republican ideologue waiting to take his place. And another to take his. And another…

Meanwhile, the Democrats are little more than a steaming crater in the ground. They hold fewer political offices than they have at any point in my lifetime. And it doesn’t appear like that will change anytime soon.

We just had a grassroots, people-powered revolution demanding American politics move back to the left. We had a popular progressive candidate overflowing huge stadiums, an influx of young people committed to fighting against intersectional issues like racism, sexism and class warfare. And it was crushed by the Democratic nominee who coopted the process and the party with big money.

Maybe we were all just incredibly naive. I mean how can you get money out of politics when the system is already corrupted by money?

Laws aren’t made by consensus anymore. They’re made because lawmakers get paid.

And lawmakers aren’t elected because people vote for them. They’re elected because they have big money behind them – because these are the people the donors want to offer the rest of us as a choice. And no one else. Republicans and Democrats picked by the same oligarchs to make it look like us, plebeians, have a choice.

Occasionally an outlier sneaks in, but that’s rare, and the plutocrats – the real owners of this country – spend hundreds of millions of dollars to stop them.

So what do we do? Strengthen a weak and disorganized third party? Even under the best of circumstances, that would take decades. In the meantime, the environment would be destroyed, millions would have died in unnecessary wars and what little majority rule we have would have inevitably been repealed long ago.

I wish I had some more optimistic note on which to end. But I don’t.

All I have is this question: Do we still have a functioning Democracy?

And I put it out there in the real hope that readers will consider it deeply.

No kneejerk reactions. No received wisdom from this pundit or that anchor or that party hack.

It’s a question we all have to answer – and soon.

Because if the answer is “no,” what the heck can we even do about 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 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?

Five Ways Hillary Clinton is Running a Dirty, Underhanded, & Disingenuous Campaign

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Dirty politics is nothing new.

Negative campaign adds, spreading false rumors, jamming the other party’s telephones, sabotaging opponents, stealing an opponent’s debate playbook, staging fake riots even sabotaging peace talks to help an incumbent.

Historically, we’ve seen all this and more during presidential campaigns from politicians on both sides of the aisle.

But even with that said, the Hillary Clinton campaign is finding new and more unsavory ways to wage political warfare against her challenger Bernie Sanders.

The race for the 2016 Democratic nomination has been marked by some of the most underhanded and repulsive moves we’ve seen in years.

When the dust clears, Democrats will be asked to support the winner, but given the scorched Earth policy of Clinton, it may be very difficult to put the base back together if she eventually comes out on top.

Here are five ways the Clinton campaign has sunk to new lows in its race against Sanders:

1) Voter Suppression in New York

In numerous general elections across the nation, Republicans have gleefully passed voter ID laws they admit were designed to keep down Democratic votes.

However, in this year’s primary election, we may be seeing Democrats working to stop other Democrats from voting.

Consider this: Sanders has won seven of the last nine Democratic primaries. The two won by Clinton were marked by massive “voter irregularities.” And in the overwhelming majority of cases, these problems affected Bernie supporters and not Hillary devotees.

In New York this week, 126,000 people were mysteriously dropped from the voter roles in Brooklyn, where Bernie was born and raised. They were registered in October, but on election day they were gone.

Another 60,000 Brooklyn Democrats had their registrations mysteriously changed to Republican so they couldn’t cast a ballot for their native son. What’s more, these changes were made after the April 1 deadline for voters to make these modifications, themselves. Someone else had to alter registrations in secret without voters’ knowledge.

This fraud wasn’t limited to one Sanders stronghold. According to various reports, approximately 30% or more of the Democrats throughout the Empire State who went to vote found their registrations had been changed, making those Democrats (invariably Sanders supporters) ineligible to vote. Had these people been counted, the state would probably have gone Bernie.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer – both Hillary supporters – have each called for an investigation. But the results won’t come until after the election. By then, there will be nothing we can do about it.

Is this just a coincidence? Given the stakes at hand, could someone have specifically targeted these people?

Yes. Someone could. Read on.

2) The DNC is Taking Sides

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) is supposed to be working to help both Clinton and Sanders coordinate their campaigns. The party is supposed to be impartial. It is not supposed to favor either candidate, but it clearly does.

It is staffed by Clinton supporters like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the party’s national chair and a former Clinton campaign manager. Moreover, the company hired by the DNC to collect campaign information for both parties, NPG Van, has its own ties to Clinton.

This is significant because NPG Van was shown in at least one instance to having exposed privileged campaign information to both sides.

Facts about who supports each candidate and where they live is kept in a database run by NGP Van. The data helps each side figure out phone banking schedules, where to effectively campaign, etc. So when the company experienced a brief “glitch,” it exposed all this information to both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns.

A Sanders staffer was fired for looking at Clinton’s data to determine the scope of the leak. However, the DNC and the Clinton campaign spun this so it looked like the Sanders campaign was stealing the information when the staffer knew perfectly well everything he was doing would be traceable back to him. The DNC even cut off the Sanders campaign from accessing its own files until Bernie took the party to court.

Let’s say the situation had been reversed. Let’s say Clinton staffers had accessed Sanders information about who supports him and where they live. What would they have done with the data? Who knows? But it would have given them the exact information necessary to pull off the voter suppression we saw in New York – which communities need to have “voter irregularities,” and which voters to disenfranchise in order to ensure a Clinton victory.

But if Clinton activists had accessed Sanders information, the DNC would have gone public about it just as the party did about the Sanders staffer, right?

Would they? Would a party that has shown such favor to one candidate, staffed in large part by supporters of that candidate, would it be entirely transparent and forthcoming about improprieties from that campaign? Maybe. Maybe not. But the fact that SOMEONE clearly had access to Sanders information and used it against his campaign in New York leaves us with many unanswered questions.

3) Voter Suppression in Arizona

Voters in Democratic districts of Arizona went to the polls to exercise their civic duty only to find lines literally miles long and wait times of several hours.

The most populous county in the state, Maricopa County, reduced polling locations from 200 during the last election to just 60 this year. That amounts to over 20,000 voters for every location.

The reason given was financial. The Republican administration was trying to save money.

But in retrospect two other explanations seem worthy of consideration. First, this may have been a dry run for the general election. The GOP may have been trying to gauge how well it was suppressing the vote in the highest democratic districts.

Or this may have been an attempt to hurt one specific candidate – Sanders – and help another – Clinton. Once again these “voter irregularities” disproportionately affected Sanders supporters more than Clinton advocates.

Hispanics and Latinos in the state leaned Sanders. They make up more than 40% of the population of Phoenix (30% state wide). Yet in these densely populated neighborhoods, there were few to no polling places open. Faced with such difficulties, many working class people didn’t have the time to wait up to 5 hours to cast a ballot – they had to get to work.

Why would Republicans help Clinton? In polls she is weaker against every GOP presidential candidate than Sanders. Moreover, even if she wins, she is much farther right than Bernie.

Add to that suspicious actions by the media. At roughly 8:30 pm, a little over an hour after polls closed, with less than one percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner.

In Democratic primaries delegates are awarded proportionally. It’s not winner take all. Delegates are awarded by the percent of the vote each candidate receives. If the race is really close delegates are split.

Prematurely declaring Hillary the winner while hundreds are still waiting to vote discourages Sanders supporters from staying in line and, thus, can reduce the number of delegates he receives.

The media is clearly biased in favor of Clinton, and she enjoys a cozy relationship with pundits and talking heads everywhere.

4) Hiring Social Media Trolls

On the Internet, Clinton supporters have been silencing dissent and lowering the conversation. A Super PAC headed by a longtime Clinton operative is actually spending $1 million to hire online trolls to go after Sanders’ supporters on social media.

Correct The Record (CTR) is operated by Clinton friend and new owner of Blue Nation Review David Brock. CTR just launched an initiative called “Barrier Breakers 2016” for the purpose of debating Sanders supporters on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and other social media platforms.

The “Barrier Breakers” also are tasked with publicly thanking Clinton’s superdelegates and fans for supporting her campaign. These paid trolls are professional communicators, coming from public relations and media backgrounds.

I may have come afoul of the group, myself. Until recently, I had been a member in good standing of the closed Facebook group Democrats Only. It was a place for fellow progressives to basically talk trash on conservatives and champion Democratic initiatives. However, in recent weeks it has become something else entirely. Posts started to appear that were nothing more than Clinton campaign press releases. For every pro-Bernie post, there were 99 pro-Clinton ones. Posts would appear calling Bernie and his supporters “assholes.” That’s how a site for Democrats talks about fellow Dems!?

And when I politely brought up these disparities, I was kicked out of the group!

This is not about convincing fellow progressives why Hillary is the best choice. It’s about silencing dissent and creating a false sense of Clinton’s inevitability.

5) Misappropriating Sexism

Clinton is clearly the most successful woman candidate in American history to date. She came close to getting the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 against Barack Obama. She has been a Senator and Secretary of State. If she is actually elected president, she will forever shatter the glass ceiling of the highest office in the land for women.

But that doesn’t mean that every criticism she receives is by definition sexist. Calling for her to release her paid speeches to Wall Street is not anti-woman. Demanding an accounting of her hawkish pro-war policies is not being a male chauvinist. Questioning her commitment to the black community given her support for the privatized prison industry is not a faux pas.

However, this is how the campaign, supporters and even the candidate, herself, talks. They call any male who oppose them a Bernie Bro – a loaded, nudge, nudge, wink, wink term implying that any male opposition to Clinton cannot be based on reason and logic but only on sexism.

On the one hand, this is politics as usual. The Clinton campaign is using the same coded language Hillary has always been so adept at – she knew the term “super predator” was a racist dog whistle.

On the other, this misappropriation hurts women everywhere. It devalues the concept of sexism. It cheapens it.

If simple opposition to a female candidate is sexism, then when real sexism rears its ugly head, we’ll be less apt to take it as seriously as we should. The fact that women make only 79 cents an hour for every dollar earned by men is sexism. The fact that women’s healthcare is under attack and so much harder to access than men’s is sexism. The fact that toy companies limit or refuse to market female characters that aren’t overtly “girly” is sexism.

Asking Clinton to explain her record is not.


When this election cycle began, I considered myself a strong Democrat.

No matter who won the primaries – Clinton or Sanders – I was pretty certain I’d support that candidate in the 2016 general election for President.

Now I’m not so sure.

Scaremongers say it may come down to deciding between Clinton or Trump. That’s not much of a choice: one candidate is a member of the 1% and the other is bought and paid for by the 1%.

What’s the difference?

If the Clinton campaign continues to disenfranchise voters, receive an unfair advantage from party leaders, silence dissent and misappropriate sexism, I may end up casting a write-in for Sanders or voting for the Green candidate Dr. Jill Stein.

Either way, I won’t be bullied into giving my vote to a candidate that’s done nothing to deserve it and has worked to make sure people like me often don’t get the chance to vote at all.

Why is It So Hard to Vote in America? Voter Suppression is Desperation Politics

 

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No one should have to stand in line an entire work day to vote.

 

But that’s what happened to people in yesterday’s Arizona primary election.

 

Lines stretched literally for miles. People actually ordered pizza to be delivered to them IN LINE!

 

Citizens were already getting in line when polls opened at 6 am, and hundreds were still in line when polls closed at 7 pm. The last ballot wasn’t cast until midnight – a new record for the Grand Canyon State!

 

What the fuck!

 

The most populous county in the state, Maricopa County, reduced polling locations from 200 during the last election to just 60 this year. That amounts to over 20,000 voters for every location.

 

The reason? They were trying to save money.

 

Let that sink in. When you run government like a business, services suffer. It means fewer resources for your schools. More lead in your water. And long as fuck lines to vote.

 

Oh. And if your skin happens to be black or brown, you get it even worse.

 

Hispanics and Latinos make up more than 40% of the population of Phoenix (30% state wide). Yet in these densely populated neighborhoods, there were few to no polling places open. I can’t imagine why!

 

And to top it all off, this “oversight” was used for political gain.

 

At roughly 8:30 pm, a little over an hour after polls closed, with less than one percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press declared Hillary Clinton the winner of the Arizona primary.

 

In Democratic primaries delegates are awarded proportionally. It’s not winner take all. Delegates are awarded by the percent of the vote each candidate receives. If the race is really close delegates are split.

 

Prematurely declaring Hillary the winner while hundreds are still waiting to vote discourages Bernie Sanders supporters from staying in line and, thus, can reduce the number of delegates he receives.

 

These are not the actions of a robust Democracy. These are the actions of a de facto oligarchy trying desperately to crush any last remnants of majority rule.

 

In an age when you can buy anything you want on-line, why do we have to wait on line to vote? If the Internet is safe enough for global commerce and government, why is it too risky for casting a ballot?

 

It isn’t. The only reason this hasn’t happening is because it would dramatically increase voter turnout. It makes things too easy. While pundits decry “slacktivists” on Facebook and massive political participation on Twitter, they actively discourage bringing Democracy to those same forums.

 

It’s the same reason why election day isn’t a holiday. If people didn’t have to sneak voting in before or after work or during their lunch break, too many of us would be heard.

 

During every election cycle, there is an outcry against shady practices like what happened in Arizona, but we never do anything about them after the election cycle. We look at our antiquated primary and caucus system (especially on the Democratic side) and wonder how a modern country can actually function this way. We shake our heads at the Electoral College and maybe make some noise about changing it until the next President is sworn in. Then we all go silent.

 

Meanwhile, voter suppression efforts gain ground every year – even when the White House isn’t changing hands.

 

Despite low turnout and nearly non-existent cases of voter fraud, state legislatures are making it increasingly more difficult to vote.

 

A total of 36 states now have draconian Voter ID laws on the books – 33 of them are being enforced this cycle. During the 2015 legislative session, at least 113 bills that would restrict access to registration and voting were introduced or carried over in 33 states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

 

I know. I was part of the successful effort that defeated one of the most severe Voter ID laws in the country in my home state of Pennsylvania. State Rep. Mike Turzai proudly bragged in 2012 that our law would give the state to a Republican president. After protests and petitions from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and everywhere in between, the state Supreme Court struck it down.

 

Meanwhile, other states are trying to enact the same kinds of laws that were ruled unconstitutional in the Keystone State. Wisconsin’s Voter ID law is almost identical to the defunct Pennsylvania legislation. Instead of being defeated, Republican lawmakers are trying to restrict the kinds of permissible identification and prohibit country and town governments from issuing any IDs to residents for free.

 

And last year, a year after enacting a voter ID law, Alabama shuttered 31 driver’s license offices — most of them in rural, impoverished, majority-black counties. Civil rights groups have filed suit, arguing that the change disproportionately affects racial minorities.

 

All across the country, early voting hours are being cut. Same day registration is being discontinued. Mountains of paperwork are being required to ensure proof of citizenship. And mysteriously people who have had no problems voting for decades are finding themselves given provisional ballots because of bookkeeping errors.

 

This has to stop.

 

Either we live in a country governed by majority rule or not.

 

Corporations and billionaires set national policy. If we want any chance in taking back our country, we must continue to have the right to vote.

 

Voting should be protected. It should be free and easy. It should be every citizens right.

 

Fight for it, America. Fight like your life depends on it.

 

Your freedoms certainly do.