Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I thought I’d try to get off the topic of the midterm elections specifically and get on to some general things about why the U.S. Political System seems so completely screwed up right now.  What exactly has led us to the point where the Republicans seem to be a combination of the John Birch banksy-dreams_00349040Society and Theocrats and the Democratic Party sits idly by and twiddles its thumbs hoping the process works like it used to?

William Pfaff has a few things to say about this in an article titled “How Ronald Reagan and the Supreme Court Turned American Politics Into a Cesspool”.   One of the things that does completely amaze me is how the entire Reagan Presidency has turned into a narrative that’s more saga and drama than reality.  There’s some really interesting points here.  How did this election get so removed from reality in that people voted for one set of priorities when it came to issues like marijuana legalization and the minimum wage but then sent people to the District diametrically opposed to these policies?

The second significance of this election has been the debasement of debate to a level of vulgarity, misinformation and ignorance that, while not unprecedented in American political history, certainly attained new depths and extent.

This disastrous state of affairs is the product of two Supreme Court decisions and before that, of the repeal under the Reagan Administration, of the provision in the Federal Communications Act of 1934, stipulating the public service obligations of radio (and subsequently, of television) broadcasters in exchange for the government’s concession to them of free use in their businesses of the public airways.

These rules required broadcasters to provide “public interest” programming, including the coverage of electoral campaigns for public office and the independent examination of public issues. The termination of these requirements made possible the wave of demagogic and partisan right-wing “talk radio” that since has plagued American broadcasting and muddied American electoral politics.

Those readers old enough to remember the radio and early television broadcasting of pre-Reagan America will recall the non-partisan news reports and summaries provided by the national networks and by local stations in the United States. There were, of course, popular news commentators professing strong or idiosyncratic views as well, but the industry assured that a variety of responsible opinions were expressed, and that blatant falsehood was banned or corrected.

The two Supreme Court decisions were “Buckley v. Valeo” in 1976 and “Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission” in 2010. Jointly, they have transformed the nature of the American political campaign, and indeed the nature of American national politics. This resulted from the nature and characteristics of mass communications in the United States and the fact that broadcasting has from the beginning been all but totally a commercial undertaking (unlike the state broadcasters in Canada and Britain, and nearly all of Europe).

The two decisions turned political contests into competitions in campaign advertising expenditure on television and radio. The election just ended caused every American linked to the internet to be bombarded by thousands (or what seemed tens of thousands) of political messages pleading for campaign money and listing the enormous (naturally) sums pouring into the coffers of the enemy.

Previously the American campaign first concerned the candidate and the nature of his or her political platform. Friends and supporters could, of course, contribute to campaign funds and expenditures, but these contributions were limited by law in scale and nature. No overt connection was allowed between businesses or industries and major political candidates, since this would have implied that the candidate represented “special interests” rather than the general interest.

The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission verdict is well known and remains highly controversial since it rendered impossible the imposition of legal limits on political campaign spending, ruling that electoral spending is an exercise in constitutionally-protected free speech. Moreover, it adjudged commercial corporations as legal citizens, in electoral matters the equivalent of persons.

BanksyCleaningUpWhat role has Citizen’s United played in our elections? 

Don’t think Citizens United made a difference for the GOP in Tuesday’s midterms? The plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court case thinks so.

Citizens United, our Supreme Court case, leveled the playing field, and we’re very proud of the impact that had in last night’s election,” said David Bossie, chairman of the conservative advocacy organization.

He complained that Democratic lawmakers were trying to “gut the First Amendment” with their proposed constitutional amendment to overturn the 2010 ruling, reported Right Wing Watch, which allowed corporations to pour cash into campaigns without disclosing their contributions.

Bossie said this so-called “dark money” was crucial to Republicans gaining control of the U.S. Senate and strengthening their grip on the U.S. House of Representatives.

“A robust conversation, which is what a level playing field allows, really creates an opportunity for the American people to get information and make good decisions,” Bossie said.

Besides the role of dark money, the number of states that will continue to enact voter suppression measures between now and 2016 is expected to increase.

Voters across the country trying to cast votes in Tuesday’s elections ran into hurdles erected by Republican legislatures, governors and secretaries of state. Along with mechanical glitches and human error — which occurred in states with leaders on both sides of the political spectrum — voters faced new laws and policies that made it harder to vote.

In Alabama, a last-minute decision by the attorney general barred people from using public housing IDs to vote. Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Texas sowed confusion. Georgia lost 40,000 voter registrations, mostly from minorities. In all, the group Election Protection reported receiving 18,000 calls on Election Day, many of them having to do with voter ID laws. The group noted that the flurry of calls represented “a nearly 40 percent increase from 13,000 calls received in 2010.”

In the presidential election year of 2016, it looks unlikely that those problems will subside — especially if Congress fails to restore the Voting Rights Act. The two states that had the closest vote tallies in the last presidential election — Florida and Ohio — will go into the presidential election year with Republicans controlling the offices of governor and secretary of state and holding majorities in their state legislatures.

In Florida, Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who won reelection yesterday, will be able to appoint a secretary of state and will enjoy the support of a veto-proof Republican majority in the state House.

In Ohio, controversial Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted won reelection on Tuesday, along with Gov. John Kasich. They’ll be able to work with a strengthened GOP majority in the state legislature.

In North Carolina, where a Republican legislature and governor have cracked down on voting rights, the GOP held onto its majority. Republican secretary of state candidates in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Nevada also won elections yesterday.

Two influential elections for voting rights also took place in states unlikely to be presidential swing states. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a national ringleader for advocates of restrictive voting laws, won reelection. In Arizona, which has been working with Kansas to defend their states’ respective tough voting requirements, Republican candidate Michele Reagan also won her contest.

Suppression of voting rights and purposeful spread of lies, propaganda, and disinformation are likely to continue as the 2016 Presidential Political season begins.Will the Democratic Party learn anything from the last two disastrous mid term elections? banksy-w1200

This fall, Democrats ran like they were afraid of losing. Consider the issues that most Democrats think really matter: Climate change, which a United Nations report just warned will have “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts” across the globe. The expansion of Medicaid, so millions of poor families have health coverage. Our immoral and incoherent immigration system. Our epidemic of gun violence, which produces a mini-Sandy Hook every few weeks. The rigging of America’s political and economic system by the 1 percent.

For the most part, Democratic candidates shied away from these issues because they were too controversial. Instead they stuck to topics that were safe, familiar, and broadly popular: the minimum wage, outsourcing, and the “war on women.” The result, for the most part, was homogenized, inauthentic, forgettable campaigns. Think about the Democrats who ran in contested seats Tuesday night: Grimes, Nunn, Hagan, Pryor, Hagan, Shaheen, Landrieu, Braley, Udall, Begich, Warner. During the entire campaign, did a single one of them have what Joe Klein once called a “Turnip Day moment”—a bold, spontaneous outbreak of genuine conviction? Did a single one unfetter himself or herself from the consultants and take a political risk to support something he or she passionately believed was right?

I’m not claiming that such displays would have changed the outcome. Given President Obama’s unpopularity, Democratic victories, especially in red states, may have been impossible.

But there is a crucial lesson here for 2016. In recent years, some Democrats have convinced themselves they can turn out African Americans, Latinos, single women, the poor, and the young merely by employing fancy computer systems and exploiting Republican extremism. But technologically, Republicans are catching up, and they’re getting shrewder about blunting, or at least masking, the harshness of their views.

We saw the consequences on Tuesday. According to exit polls, voters under 30 constituted only 13 percent of the electorate, down from 19 percent in 2012. In Florida, the Latino share of the electorate dropped from 17 to 13 percent. In North Carolina, the African-American share dropped from 23 to 21 percent.

If Hillary Clinton wants to reverse those numbers, she’s going to have to inspire people—people who, more than their Republican counterparts, are inclined toward disconnection and despair. And her gender alone won’t be enough. She lost to Obama in 2008 in part because she could not overcome her penchant for ultra-cautious, hyper-sanitized, consultant-speak. Yet on the stump this year, she was as deadening as the candidates she campaigned for. As Molly Ball put it in September, “Everywhere Hillary Clinton goes, a thousand cameras follow. Then she opens her mouth, and nothing happens.”

Then, there is this: Former Republican Committeemen Claim Election Judges Coerced Into Voting GOP. banksy-wallpaper-tumblr-12-wide

A day after the election, officials are still counting ballots and the investigation into who made robocalls that allegedly persuaded many judges not to show up Tuesday is heating up.

Two former Republican committeemen are telling 2 Investigator Pam Zekman they were removed because they objected to those tactics.

Judges of election are appointed by their respective parties and they look at a judge’s primary voting records as part of the vetting process. But in these cases the former committeemen we talked to said that vetting crossed a line when judges were told who they had to vote for in the Tuesdays’ election.

One says it happened at a temporary campaign headquarters at 8140 S. Western Ave, which we’ve confirmed it was rented by the Republican Party where election judges reported they were falsely told they had to appear for additional training.

And a former 7th ward committeewoman says she witnessed the same thing at 511. E. 79th Street campaign workers calling judges to come in for additional training. She says there wasn’t any training.

“They were calling election judges, telling them to come in so they could get specific orders to vote for the Republican Party,” said Charon Bryson.

She says she is a Republican but objected to the tactic used on the judges.

“They should not be be pressured or coerced into voting for someone to get a job, or to get an appointment,” said Bryson.

Bryson says she thinks it is like “buying a vote.”

“If you don’t vote Republican you will not be an Republican judge, which pays $170,” she said.

The Board of Elections is now investigating whether calls to judges assigned citywide resulted in a shortage that infuriated the mayor.

“What happened with the robocalls was intentional. As far as we can tell somebody got a list, a list with names and numbers, called them, not to educate, not to promote the democratic process, but to sew confusion,” Emanuel said.

imagesScared by polls that show that people do not want Republican policies and by changes in demographics, Republicans have been pulling out the stops to turn back the tide.  However, none of these fundamentals seem to be driving voting trends or turnout.  WTF is wrong with people?  As a member of the White Women Constituency who seem to be one of the groups that continues to vote against their own interest, I can agree that we should all get our acts together now.  Nowhere was this more evident than in the Wendy Davis campaign.

Once more, with feeling: Greg Abbott and the Republican Party did not win women. They won white women. Time and time again, people of color have stood up for reproductive rights, for affordable health care, for immigrant communities while white folks vote a straight “I got mine” party ticket—even when they haven’t, really, gotten theirs.

The trend is echoed in national politics; we saw it play out across the country last night. To be sure, there are many factors that contributed to America’s rightward dive over the cliff: In a post-Citizens United electoral landscape, racist gerrymandering and voter ID laws appear to have had their intended effects of dividing and disenfranchising already marginalized voters.

But there’s another factor at play that Democrats fail to grapple with, and the Republican Party capitalizes on, time and time again: the historical crisis of empathy in the white community, one much older than gerrymandered congressional districts or poll taxes.

Let’s talk about what a vote for Wendy Davis meant: It meant a vote for strong public school funding, for Texas Medicaid expansion, for affordable family planning care, for environmental reforms, for access to a full spectrum of reproductive health-care options.

On the flip side, a vote for Greg Abbott meant a vote for the status quo, for empowering big industry and big political donors, for cutting public school funds and dismantling the Affordable Care Act, for overturning Roe v. Wade.

White women chose Greg Abbott Tuesday night. We did not choose empathy. Texas has been red for two decades. We do not choose empathy. We choose the fact that our children will always have access to education, that our daughters will always be able to fly to California or New York for abortion care, that our mothers will always be able to get that crucial Pap smear.

We chose a future where maternal mortality—but not our maternal mortality—rates will rise. We chose a future where preventable deaths from cervical cancer—but not our deaths—will rise. We chose a future where deaths from illegal, back-alley abortions—but not our illegal, back-alley abortions—will rise. We chose ourselves, and only ourselves.

Is white privilege such an enticing thing to us that we’ll sell ourselves out just to protect what scraps we’re thrown?

Anyway, between dark money, voter suppression, and the number of voters willing to vote against their policy beliefs and interests, we’re in trouble as a nation.  The Democratic Party just bailed on Mary Landrieu and I’m about to get a Senator that wants to raise Social Security eligibility to age 70, privatize Medicare with vouchers,  and defund student loans.  This doesn’t even count that he voted no to hurricane relief for his own constituents after Hurricane Isaac. At this rate, every white person in the country should get a tube of astrolube with their ballot.  Bend over folks, cause you’ve done it to yourselves!

What’s on your reading and blogging list?

26 Comments on “Friday Reads”

    • ANonOMouse says:

      The ACLU reacts:

      “This decision is an outlier that’s incompatible with the 50 other rulings that uphold fairness for all families, as well as with the Supreme Court’s decision to let marriage equality rulings stand in Indiana, Wisconsin, Utah, Oklahoma, and Virginia. It is shameful and wrong that John Arthur’s death certificate may have to be revised to list him as single and erase his husband’s name as his surviving spouse. We believe it’s wholly unconstitutional to deny same sex couples and their families access to the rights and respect that all other families receive. We will be filing for Supreme Court review right away and hope that through this deeply disappointing ruling we will be able to bring a uniform rule of equality to the entire country.”

      • bostonboomer says:

        It sure is disappointing. I hope this doesn’t have to go to SCOTUS now.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          From what I’m reading the decision by the 6th, which goes against the other decisions, both Circuit and lower courts, will basically force this to SCOTUS. The only recourse other than SCOTUS is to have the Full 6th Circuit Court re-hear the case and, from what I’ve read, that would be an extended nightmare. I think most of us who’ve been in this battle for awhile already knew how the 6th Circuit would decide and weren’t surprised by the decision and fully expected the ACLU to move this case ahead to SCOTUS.

          I, personally, am glad this is going to SCOTUS to have this question finally put to rest one way or the other. We could lose, that’s a very real possibility, but this married in one state and not married in another, parenting rights in one state but not in another, family health benefits in one state but not another, surviving spouse benefits in one state but not another, is a nightmare for L/G families, especially those with children.

        • RalphB says:

          That decision was by a 3 judge panel I believe. If it’s upheld in an en-banc hearing of all the judges, then it will have to go to scotus. It the initial decision is overthrown, it won’t.

      • dakinikat says:

        Good for the ACLU.

  1. ANonOMouse says:

    “Is white privilege such an enticing thing to us that we’ll sell ourselves out just to protect what scraps we’re thrown?”

    What else explains Abbott winning the vote of white women? I think the phenomena of being grateful for the “scraps” pretty much explains why so many people vote against their own best interest or fail to stand up for the values they hold in their hearts. It’s a “status quo” mentality. A “hold onto what I have” mentality. A “if it isn’t happening to me, YET, then it isn’t happening” mentality. It’s why whites who opposed segregation rarely spoke out against it. It’s why straight people who support gay rights rarely speak or stand up out for it. It’s why men who support equality in pay and hiring and self-determination for women, rarely speak out or step forward in support of it. It’s a “don’t rock the boat” for fear that your own boat may be sunk.

    • RalphB says:

      You’re right but there is one other thing I saw during the campaign which explains part of it. Abbott and his people managed to turn Wendy into “Abortion Barbie” early and never slacked off it,

      People who knew nothing about her at all knew all about her being a radical baby killer who wanted abortion on demand even in the 3rd trimester. Totally wrong but everyone knew it and you couldn’t talk them out of it.

      Stupid people who listen to only assholes were a majority of the electorate and have been for over 20 years. People here, including Dem consultants who weren’t hired by Davis, were publicly proclaiming she had no chance before the campaign even started, The press was full of that shit and, believe me, it was fucking insurmountable.

    • NW Luna says:

      Abbott didn’t get the votes of all the white women. White women are not a monolithic block.

  2. Pat Johnson says:

    It is almost impossible to explain this recent election when for the past 6 years we have lost so much at the hands of the congressional GOP and red state legislatures.

    Scott Walker was re-elected after dismantling unions. Rick Scott was re-elected after refusing to accept federal money earmarked for healthcare. Sam Brownback was re-elected after driving KS educational system into the ground. Michael Grimm won re-election in NY state and is under indictment for corruption and mistreating his girlfriend. Joni Ernst was elected after suggesting she wears a gun in order to “shoot” anyone from the federal government she disagrees with. Some “pastor” who hates gays was elected to congress even when video of his hateful tirades went viral on the internet. These are just a few of the crazies who will be making laws on our behalf come January.

    Social Security is on the line. Gay rights along with it. We are witnessing a tsunami of laws across the nation that prohibit women from attaining much needed healthcare yet the GOP sweep promises even more radical changes when Joni Ernst proposes “personhood” for a fetus!

    This current crop is even worse – if that is all possible – than Christine O’Donnel, Sharon Angle, or those defeated Tea Partiers from 2012! They are so far to the Right they have almost slipped off the spectrum of nuttery.

    And here we sit, on the sidelines, unable to change the course of the next two years at least, due to the volume of money that goes into making these dimwits a force to be reckoned with.

    Climate change will be dismissed. Deregulation will once again be introduced. Fracking will become the mainstay of the environment. Healthcare will be only available to those who can afford it. Women will become “baby machines”. The infrastructure will surely topple eventually since everyone agrees about the danger of the neglect.

    What is wrong with people that they are unable to see beyond the next headline? The door has been opened and the inmates are indeed in charge.

    • dakinikat says:

      People are angry at the wrong things and the wrong people. Anger doesn’t create an environment for clear and level headed thinking. Look how the three states that benefitted most from the Affordable Healthcare Act supported yahoos that swore to bring it down. They’re angry and scared and lashing out at the wrong people. I’m still shocked by the overtly racist campaigns and comments that show the number of white people that think they’re clearly superior even as they act and speak like idiots.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        “I’m still shocked by the overtly racist campaigns and comments that show the number of white people that think they’re clearly superior even as they act and speak like idiots.”

        Ditto to that

        • Pat Johnson says:

          They don’t even hide it anymore. Some caller to C-Span openly called Obama “that nigger” over the live airways yesterday.

          Let the insanity begin.

          • dakinikat says:

            That’s what’s most amazing to me. I asked some of the people I’ve been working with on Mary’s campaign if it was worse or if I was just noticing it more. One woman said they’re just not even bothering to hide it any more and that she hadn’t seen it this ugly since she was a child.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        A majority of these politicians from both sides do not serve the people. They serve their “masters” who line their pockets, fund their campaigns, and write the legislation they then pass.

        The minute they get elected they look upon those seats as their own. Few actually care about the common good. Those that do either do not last long or are relegated to the back of the bus.

        We should be in the throes of Universal Healthcare. A solution that most civilized countries enjoy. But the healthcare industries and their affiliates spread that money around congress, buying and paying for the privilege of gutting the public with out of sight deductibles and clauses that make it difficult to circumvent.

        Voting rights should not be an issue but it is. They are working overtime to gut this right and nothing can stop this derailment. Bridges are crumbling, the roads are a mess, pollution is on the rise, and nobody seems to actually give a rat’s ass. And I won’t even bother to mention the decline of the educational system under these morons since their focus is on privatization and the push for charter schools.

        It is so demoralizing to consider that most of our much needed money to correct these problems has already been earmarked for more and more war. Is Halliburton running short of a few more billion dollars this year? Some won’t be satisfied until we start bombing the hell out of Canada just to show we are “Number One”!

        Compromise? Reaching across the aisle? Working together? Come on! We can’t even agree on some measures of gun control even though it has only been two years since Sandy Hook where innocent children were murdered.

        You get what you pay for and we are about to pay a price we never imagined. Amazing.

    • janicen says:

      Dems forgot the most basic lesson in politics: Dance with who brung ya. It was energized black America who gave us the electoral landslide in 2012. Just two years ago. In the meantime we’ve enjoyed the fact that 10 million uninsured Americans now have health insurance, the lowest gas prices within recent memory, a soaring stock market that has given us back all of the money we lost because of Bush/Cheney and then some, jobs numbers are up, businesses are opening rather than closing, and yet the stupid stupid Dems believed Fox News and ran away from Obama. And the black people stayed home. And who can blame them? Stupid stupid Dems.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    OMG! Here we go again.

    Obamacare Challenge Gets High Court Review, With Crucial Tax Credits at Stake

    The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider a challenge to the subsidies that are a linchpin of President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, accepting a case that suddenly puts the law under a new legal cloud.

    Two years after upholding much of the law by a single vote, the justices today said they will hear a Republican-backed appeal targeting tax credits that have helped more than 4 million people afford insurance.

    A ruling blocking those credits might unravel the Affordable Care Act, making other provisions ineffective and potentially destabilizing insurance markets in much of the country. The high court’s decision to hear the case comes days before the start of the law’s second open-enrollment season. A decision will come by June.

    Health insurers, which have gained millions of new customers through the law, sank lower in New York trading. UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest U.S. insurer by sales, slid 2.1 percent to $94.19 at 1 p.m. WellPoint Inc. slid 1.8 percent to $125.50, and Aetna Inc. fell 1.3 percent to $83.64.

    Hospitals, which must absorb costs when patients are uninsured, also dropped. HCA Holdings Inc. fell 2.9 percent to $67, and Tenet Healthcare Corp. slid 1.9 percent to $50.23.

    It looks like the Supremes are going to help the GOP do as much damage as possible before 2016.

    • dakinikat says:

      SCOTUS has done so much damage to middle class America and democracy that they might as well be called a tribunal or a death panel.

      • ANonOMouse says:

        From what I’ve heard the Hospital Systems, even the For Profits, are worried that SCOTUS will find the ACA unconstitutional. They’ve spent a lot of money fine tuning their billing and reporting systems for the ACA, not to mention that there aren’t as many uninsured folks visiting the ER or being admitted. Despite their fears the ACA has been a win-win for Hospitals. I can’t imagine that SCOTUS will take away healthcare from millions of American’s or stick it to the Healthcare Giants, but then I remember how fucked up some of the Justices are and Citizen’s United. We could be screwed!!!!