Counting Down, But All Over But the Shouting – and Hard Work!

2000 after Gore-Bush election protests & counting every vote

2000 after Gore-Bush election protests & counting every vote

New Orleans   Donald Trump’s campaign manager is a political professional. She has now admitted that they are behind without any hanky-panky accusations or artifice. She argues that there is still a possible path to a Trump victory but it is minuscule. Aggregates of all polls and predictions are rating Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning at 90%. Clinton is now putting money and time into states where Senate races are in play on the chance that with her victory and four seats swinging to the Democrats with the VP as the deciding vote on a party line division, control would shift. Few see a flip of thirty seats in the House, but most seem to believe that the margins will tighten and it could fall. President Obama is putting muscle and work behind more than 150 state legislators to see if control of some statehouses and chambers can be jilted to achieve more balance in the states. Obama has also committed to supporting former Attorney General Eric Holder’s project to try and impact redistricting in 2020 and reduce gerrymandering.

All good, but here’s the big but….

Turnout predictions are way down. Early voting is happening in Florida and North Carolina, and Clinton is pushing for more turnout, but numbers coming from Ohio so far are considerably down compared to the two Obama elections. This is even true among African-Americans where Clinton’s strength is huge.

In fact, television interviews and newspaper reports with black millennials are depressing. I read one wondering “why would I waste my time?” I saw a television piece interviewing a half-dozen very bright black millennial activists, and no matter how many times the interviewer posed the threats of a Trump candidacy, they were immovable on voting for Clinton, and perhaps voting at all. The third party candidates, god love them, don’t seem to have picked up the Sanders movement, so that seems less of a monkey wrench in this election, but voter antipathy to the candidates and a feeling that it’s over before it begins could spell trouble.

Here’s where the hard, usually invisible work of a field program comes to the fore. The AFL-CIO says it’s putting 100,000 volunteers on the streets of battleground states over the coming weeks. The Clinton campaign has invested deeply in offices and staffing in many battleground states in order to maximize the get out the vote effort, while Trump’s ground game still seems to consist of multiple rallies of the faithful. This is also where having a financial advantage helps the Clinton campaign by allowing them the resources to fuel the field. I even heard about a unique effort by some techies to encourage vote trading from blue to red states, but I doubt if that’s a movement. The additional incentive that Trump has offered the opposition is the need to pile up the score in order to de-legitimize any allegations of election rigging by administering an electoral beat down.

Nonetheless, it all boils down to getting yourself in gear and down to the polls on Tuesday, November 8th. Don’t go alone. Do your piece to make democracy work a bit better. Pressure your relatives, call your friends, post on your Facebook, Twitter, whatever, and let your small voice roar one way or another.

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At This Point Do Health Records Really Matter?

day2New Orleans   Big news! TV and radio are full of 24 hour commentary on Hillary Clinton feeling the heat and now a doctor’s opinion that maybe her cough is pneumonia, rather than a reaction to allergies, as she has said earlier. Some pundits and editorialists are calling for more disclosures of the candidates’ health records, which in both cases have been somewhat sketchy.

As you recall, Clinton’s were somewhat perfunctory, though they were effusive in comparison to Donald Trump’s letter from one of his doctor’s that seemed like he might have gotten it from a doc-in-a-box with a one-hundred dollar bill in an envelope and essentially said, he was healthy as a horse. But, really, what do we expect. Neither of these candidates are youngsters like Obama. One is 68 and the other is 70. We’re not talking about folks ready for the Olympics. We’re more in the Reagan and Eisenhower demographic. These will be the last candidates to understand that Vietnam was more than a question on a geography quiz.

But, my question is, really, does it matter at this point? Either would have to suddenly have a stroke and then go into a coma to not be on the ballot in less than two months. Be serious. There’s not going to be a do-over at this point. If their hearts are beating and their tongues are wagging, one of these seniors is going to be President.

One reporter suggested that they each provide their health records to a few elite reporters in order to make a report to the public. That almost seems reasonable, but we’re not dealing with very transparent folks. We are already dealing with Trump and Republican forces fabricating ill-health voodoo spells on Clinton in recent months. Trump’s VP candidate, Mike Pence, released his income tax records, but Daddy Warbucks is still gripping his with a tight death grip. We all know about Hillary’s views on privacy versus publicity, and if not, read up on the email server mess. Who is prepared to believe that reporters would get the complete package on something so personal and private? This is a situation where no one is going to believe anything, so it’s likely just destined to be a hot mess.

And, what makes the public think that this is something that the press can handle. Remember the mess with Senator Eagleton as the presumptive running mate for George McGovern in the last century? He was eviscerated for some mental health issues that most now would see as certainly manageable, if not trivial. And, if anything that’s what most of us would like to know about a candidate for President. How stable are they with their fingers near the button? How firmly are their feet anchored to the solid ground? There has already been speculation on Trump and psycho drama, and with Hillary, as a woman, that’s just a common assumption for a whole group of voters. But, friends, no one is talking about sharing any info on mental health.

This is one issue we should let evaporate into back ground noise. There’s no good that can come of it. Our rights to this information are tenuous and our ability to handle healthcare information is nonexistent. We have a long record as a people proving that we don’t understand anything about health. The ongoing conflict about Obamacare is a good case in point.

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Waking up the Sleeping Giant and Building a Renters’ Voting Block

us-hr-ageBuckhorn, Ontario  It is hard to escape the feeling, country to country, that low-and-moderate income families, and, just possibly, even families with more money, are rapidly consolidating into a permanent class of renters. Certainly in some cities around the world like New York City, Toronto, London, and elsewhere, this has long been the case. In the United States though it is a bumpier transition because the dominant narrative in the vast expanse of the land is that the American dream includes home ownership. Increasingly that dream comes with a disclosure now that you better be ready to move to smaller towns, cities, and rural areas if you want to live that dream.

In the US, the number of renters, and therefore potential renter’s votes, are rising. Renter votes increased 49% between 1996 and 2012, while owner votes only increased 23%, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data. According to data reported by the Wall Street Journal:

Nonetheless, just 22% of votes cast in the 2012 election were by renters, according to the analysis. But as the renter population grows, Apartment List [a rental leasing website] estimates that one-third of eligible voters in this election could be renters. Based on historical voting patterns, renters would likely cast about one-quarter of the votes—a small but meaningful increase from the last election.

This sleeping giant traditionally has not stirred much around Election Day. Renters are often seen as more transient, though some data interestingly finds that voting rates are as low for stable tenants as they are for frequent movers. They are also young, and poorer, none of which are huge vote movers. Furthermore, owners vote more consistently than renters. Another statistic in the Journal piece points to a potential game changer as anger over cost and affordability continues to rise.

The number of cost-burdened renters—those who spend more than 30% of their incomes on rent—has risen by 3.6 million since 2008, to a historic high of 21.3 million in 2014, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. In the meantime, the number of cost-burdened owners has declined by 4.4 million since 2008 to 18.5 million.

The Presidential campaign is silent on the issue of renters and rising rents and housing prices are at the heart of the entire Trump business model, so we shouldn’t be surprised. Either way, if any of them have a plan, it’s a secret.

There’s a way to change this though and wake the sleeping giant: put issues directly on the ballot in cities and states wherever possible that allow the people to step in with solutions where politicians fear to tread on campaign contributions from developers. Just as ACORN did earlier in place after place on living wages, we need to start crafting initiatives from our renters’ bill of rights from rent control to dedicated spending for public and subsidized affordable housing. Organizationally, we need to craft proposals that meet the crisis and the interest of tenants and bring them out to polls in force to alter this landscape.

We need to make sure there are consequences as well. As campaign discussions wound down on the prospects of winning a comprehensive and enforceable landlord licensing ordinance or bylaw in Toronto, ACORN’s head organizer there, John Anderson, noted flatly that either the Council passed the measure this fall or they would likely see the issue as the largest issue in the next election. As the votes of renters are triggered in just that way everywhere the issue is rising, that’s not a threat or a promise, but virtually a take-it-to-the-bank prediction.

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Rigged Elections and Delegitimized Democracy Increasing Polarization

 A rally last week in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton said voter registration efforts were the best tactic against Donald J. Trump. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

A rally last week in Philadelphia, where Hillary Clinton said voter registration efforts were the best tactic against Donald J. Trump. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

New Orleans    The early warning signal was a report that 40% of recently surveyed Republicans already believed that ACORN was going to steal the election between Trump and Clinton. Yes, that’s down from the even higher percentages reported on other surveys since 2008 arguing that ACORN stole both elections for President Obama, but it’s still total falsehood and fantasy backed by not one iota of proof, not to mention the fact that ACORN has not operated in the United States since 2010, which seems to trouble none of these conspiratorialists in the least about such a zombie attack on election purity.

Now Trump partnered with the hate mongering, fact-adverse Breitbart bunch is putting out its first television advertisements with the subliminal headline, “Rigged,” flashing across the screen. Trump told his rallies in Pennsylvania that the polls were all corrupt and that the only way he could lose the election in Pennsylvania was if the election was stolen and the whole process was rigged. Normally, these would be tactics only associated with what we would usually call, “sore losers,” except that Trump seems to have virtually trademarked the word “loser,” and may not realize yet, as he undoubtedly will soon, how permanently that moniker will stick to him for the rest of his life, perhaps even in epic, historic terms.

If this were just about Trump, we could easily ignore his attempt to inoculate his fanboys and girls from what is increasingly seeming like the inevitable. The problem, as we have all sadly seen in the eight-year war by the right to delegitimize Obama, is that such a strategy is designed to polarize and erode democracy, which in the vicious circle of our political life, also paved the way for a Trump candidacy. Many will remember from his earliest days in office when President Obama, then a naïve democracy advocate, tried to remind the Congressional Republicans that he “had won the election,” believing that the mandate from the voters came with an understanding that some of his positions should be implemented in policy. We don’t believe any of that nonsense in Washington anymore that somehow the voters will deserves respect. It’s dog-eat-dog period, and the people take the hindmost, which is happening on a state-by-state basis where the rightwing has been able to work their will without restraint.

What does this augur? If Hillary Clinton prevails, will we once again watch her try to be bipartisan, as Obama did, and fail while the right quickly tries to reframe a defeat as not about them but about the flawed Trump candidacy?

Some are advancing the theory that the Senate could change hands if the Trump defeat continues on its current abysmal trajectory. A turnover of four or five seats would make the difference there for four years until 2020 when more Democratic seats are up for grabs, but that wouldn’t break through the logjam, even if it would hedge against our worst nightmares. For the House to flip, thirty or so seats would have to change, and most pundits are estimating only half of that will happen.

It’s depressing when the end of this polarized dysfunction still seems nowhere in sight, even as November’s outcome seems more and more inevitable.

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Arizona is in Play in November and It Could Matter

Promise Arizona Get Out the Vote Float

Promise Arizona Get Out the Vote Float

Rock Creek, Montana    Whenever a state is compared to Mississippi, it’s a sure fired signal there’s trouble coming, so I hunkered down to read an article in the recent New Yorker that referred to Arizona as “the Mississippi of the West.” Trust me, that’s not a complement, and trust me on this as well, Arizona has earned every piece of this putdown in the way that it has dealt with its Latino population, calling to mind in excruciating detail the way Mississippi has been infamous for its discrimination against African-Americans over the years.

No surprises, the article focused on the fact that there are huge efforts to register 75,000 Latinos to expand the voting pool. Most of the groups mentioned in the article are organizations we know well and have worked with at various times in the past in one way or another: Puente, Promise Arizona, and One Arizona. These are good people with deep commitments. There’s a real organizing community in Arizona, which makes it a pleasure to work there.

Given the fact there is always more turnout in a general election year, and that Republican nominee Donald Trump has gone out of his way to alienate the Hispanic population nationally, and especially along the border, this is an important peoples’ effort to make a difference and prevail despite incredible efforts by the state legislature to suppress voting access and create voting barriers. There isn’t a poll tax, but there’s’ almost everything else, including the kitchen sink that politicians have thrown in the way of voters. The recent scandal when polling places were reduced in Maricopa County, home of Phoenix the state’s population center where 40% of the electorate is Hispanic, to about one-third of what they had been, thereby creating huge lines and waiting periods is just one example. What’s at stake may not be the Presidential election, because there are other, larger battlegrounds like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania that will play a larger role, but to the degree that longtime Senator and former Presidential candidate, John McCain, could lose his seat, affecting the Senate majority, and that arch nemesis Sheriff Arpaio could finally fall make this coming election worth watching.

Last time a joint effort called Adios Arpaio came very close to throwing the Sheriff out of office. This could be the time, but only if the registration effort succeeds and voter turnout is high. A recent effort, covered in the article, was successful statewide when all groups joined together to push through a ballot proposition that will reallocate $3.5 billion from the state’s land trust to the public-school system where 44% of the population is Latino. Importantly, the measure won by 20,000 votes.

Much of the article focused on Petra Falcon, a former Industrial Areas Foundation organizer and longtime activist in the state, who directs Promise Arizona. It was fun to read that she still uses the old Fred Ross house meetings as a regular part of their methodology. The piece didn’t paper over the fact that the Latino organizing community is not monolithic. The religiosity Falcon and her organization attach to the work is not shared as widely by other groups and her support for the Gang of Eight immigration compromise, roundly attacked by almost all other immigrant groups when proposed, puts her a bit out of step with others.

More importantly though, on this election, everyone in Arizona is united and that could mean something great for the whole country and speed up the process of taking the Mississippi out of Arizona in the future.

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Some Voting Suppression Being Stopped

voter-id-laws-2015Rock Creek, Montana   Luckily in some states, we’re still finding that the law is thankfully on our side.

We’ve mourned the fact that in Kansas they are standing with their arms folded in front of the door holding the ballot box for thousands despite losing in court at every turn, as Republicans led by their rabid Secretary of State spuriously attempt to block some 13,000 or more citizens from the right to vote at least in local and statewide elections where they are just outside the boundaries of the law. We would call it shameless, except that it is all a raw political calculus of maintaining power, literally by hook or crock.

In Texas for the fourth time in about five years voter ID laws have been overturned, this time by the arch conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which says something about how brazen and transparent their disregard for the simple and equal access of a voter’s right to the ballot was. Even though holding the ID laws unconstitutional they essentially sent it back to the state without exactly overruling, but instead demanding that they come up with alternate procedures to allow largely lower income and minority voters some viable alternative to allow them to vote. Suggestions included accepting alternative forms of identification that were more common and less discriminatory. Some may remember that a student ID was not satisfactory as identification for voting in Texas, but for some strange reason a gun license was hunky dory. They also suggested the voting registration card itself, sent dutifully to the registered voter at their home would also be satisfactory, because remember this blatant effort to deny voting access was to voters already ready and able to vote and duly registered and certified by the state. Finally, they even suggested, as Louisiana and other states even allow, that a voter could sign an affidavit certifying their identity, if lacking any other identification, and then proceed to vote. None of this is a perfect solution for an almost unheard of infraction, but at least Texas has been stopped from disenfranchising lower income and minority voters once again until they come up with something newer and less obvious.

Now comes an even more telling smack down of the North Carolina ID law in almost record speed. A federal appeals court, this time the Fourth, not the Fifth, struck down North Carolina’s voter identification requirement, upending voting procedures in this crucial, battleground state slightly more than three months before Election Day. “In holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the [lower] court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees,” the Fourth Circuit panel said of the district court ruling that upheld the law passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly. “This failure of perspective led the court to ignore critical facts bearing on legislative intent, including the inextricable link between race and politics in North Carolina.” The appeals court added later, “Faced with this record, we can only conclude that the North Carolina General Assembly enacted the challenged provisions of the law with discriminatory intent.”

Finally, a court didn’t play footsy with the situation and hit the nail on the head. They saw discrimination and unmasked it without bothering to spend much time or trouble dissecting the rationalizations by the legislature. These are three significant victories, but it is hard to believe that they will stem the tide of so many efforts in so many other states to do anything possible to deprive the vote of minorities, Hispanics, and African-Americans. The message is clear that they the courts know they are up to no good, but this seems to be a contest for survival for the Republicans in many states who are more than willing to shred any democratic pretense in their efforts to remain in power by any means possible.

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