Archive for so much for democracy

"Absence of a strong wave comes as something of a setback for GOP"

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democracy setback

A report just came out from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate. It confirmed what many of us already knew: that Americans are "staying away from the polls in droves." Not good, not good at all. The prediction is that the midterm primary elections will set record lows in voter turnout. "Who cares?" many of you may be asking. Well, per the Los Angeles Times, that would be a real setback for democracy:

Why does that matter? “It presents a danger to our society insofar as democracy does thrive on the consent and involvement of the governed,” said Curtis Gans, director of the nonpartisan election research center and a decades-long student of voter behavior. “Leadership needs some form of mandate.”

The study says a major factor in the low turnout is a sense of futility: congressional districts consciously drawn to favor one party or the other, which leave many voters wondering why they should bother participating when the outcome is preordained.

Got that? Gerrymandering is a major culprit. Scroll through our many posts on that subject.

gerrymander definition

To repeat, low voter turnout is bad for democracy... and usually bad for Democrats, specifically.

Adjacent to that article was another one about a different kind of setback. It has a somewhat encouraging title (key word: somewhat), No partisan wave building for fall elections, but GOP gains likely:

[F]or now, the absence of a strong wave comes as something of a setback for Republicans, who had hoped earlier this year that the unpopularity of President Obama's healthcare law would guarantee big gains for them.  [...]

The public's dismal view of Congress probably accounts for some of that lack of enthusiasm about voting.

That last sentence is an understatement, IMHO. Our own Sherry Hardy wrote a great post about that here, and I followed up here.

Not a skit, our actual Congress, gaa! Maddow

And from the Timing Is Everything Dep't., Steve Kornacki subbed for Chris Matthews on Hardball and treated us to his own "Let Me Finish" segment in which he opined on the long game for Democrats:

Kornacki:

Right now, at least, it doesn't look like a big Republican wave is building, and it does look like Democrats can at least hold their own this fall. And if they can do that, then it sets up the real battle in 2016...

In 2016, Republicans won't just get to take shots at the White House, they'll have to put up a candidate of their own. They'll have to write a platform of their own, run on an agenda that might not sit that well with most Americans. There could be a huge opportunity for Democrats...

2014 is important to [the Democrats], but 2016? That's the ball game.

You know what to do:

vote  turnout  gotv

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NE mayor: "Take me to fucking court because I don't care. Minorities are not going to run my city."

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Nebraska Mayor take me to fucking court Kindig

Nebraska Mayor "Take Me to Fucking Court" must be taking his cues from Ben Sasse. I recently posted about how Ben Sasse (R) will "promote almost anarchistic vision" as Senator: Religion trumps law. I wrote the following:

So, according to Mr. Freedom, if someone's religion promotes discrimination against another person's religion or sexual orientation or race or gender or belief, that's cool by him. Really? What about the discriminatee's rights?

Sasse is Nebraska's GOP nominee for the United States Senate.

Today I ran across this piece from the Daily Beast reporting on yet another Nebraskan who said something equally disturbing:

For Robert Fuller, a La Vista citizen and board member of Omaha Atheists, the blurred line between a very specific religion and the local government was frequent enough to merit a face-to-face with Mayor Kindig. According to a press release from Omaha Atheists, Fuller approached Kindig after the “Faith and Freedom Day” Memorial Day service with the intent of leaving his business card with the mayor in hopes of discussing his concerns about church-state separation issues. It was his taxpayer dollars, after all, that had gone to funding these explicitly religious events. That’s when Kindig dropped the other F-bomb: “Take me to fucking court because I don’t care,” according to Fuller. “Minorities are not going to run my city.”

How outreachy of him.

The Daily Beast has  more.

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Ben Sasse (R) will "promote almost anarchistic vision" as Senator: Religion trumps law

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ben sasse Nebraska senate nominee

Ben Sasse is now Nebraska's GOP nominee for the United States Senate. As Think Progress notes, Nebraska is a solid red state that backed Romney over Obama by "a massive 21 point margin in 2012." In other words, he's a shoo-in to win in November.

And as a U.S. Senator, conservative candidate Ben Sasse is promising to fight for the proposition that “[g]overnment cannot force citizens to violate their religious beliefs under any circumstances.”

Here’s a screenshot from Ben Sasse’s own website stating as much:

Sasse screenshot

And you thought the Supreme Court's decisions were a threat to democracy as we once knew it? Most of us (hopefully) still believe that so-called "religious liberty" nomatterwhatanyonesayssotherepfft! does not trump law.

His proposed rule — that government cannot require someone to act counter to their religious beliefs “under any circumstances” — would mean that literally any law could be ignored by someone who held a religious belief counter to that law.

This guy won the primary. Think about that. This. Guy. Won. The. Primary. That should make America's skin crawl.

So, according to Mr. Freedom, if someone's religion promotes discrimination against another person's religion or sexual orientation or race or gender or belief, that's cool by him. Really? What about the discriminatee's rights?

By his standards, if a person of the I Hate People Different Than Me religious affiliation didn't like gay individuals, because they were, you know, icky and gay, they could refuse service, kick them out of their establishment, or even kill them. And they would be justified. In the name of religion.

If an I Hate People Different Than Me-ist didn't approve of inter-racial marriage, they could try to imprison or execute couples and be immune from prosecution. In the name of religion.

Under Sasse’s formulation of religious liberty, a person who killed his own sister because he believed he was under a religious obligation to do so would be immune from prosecution for murder.

Legalized bigotry and racism, Ben Sasse? This is how you'd "act in accordance with your conscience"? What conscience?

Is this part of that new and improved outreach the GOP has been touting?

Someone's faith, their beliefs (keyword: beliefs) should not supersede our legal system, or common sense, or mutual respect, or equal rights, or our ethical standards. Period.

ThinkProgress contacted the Sasse campaign to offer them an opportunity to clarify whether the candidate truly believes that any practice, including “stoning adulterers or putting to death those who work on the Sabbath” should be allowed if it is justified by a religious belief. As of this writing, we have not received a response.

separation of church and state Jefferson

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The Supreme Thwart: SCOTUS "re-created legalized bribery"

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democracy gone, legalized bribery

Apparently "legalized bribery" is fine with the Roberts Supreme Court. As you can see by my previous post Billionaires and Supreme Court undermine our "1st Amendment right not to be drowned out", this appalling decision makes me furious and more than a little worried. In the post I wrote:

Think it was bad before? You ain't seen nothin' yet. You thought Sheldon Adelson and the ass-kissing at Jewish Mingle were obscene? Billionaires like him are just getting started. Super PACs are morphing into Super Duper PACs, Mingles will become orgies, and the kajillions of TV ads will turn into mini-series sponsored by Deep Pockets, Inc.

Despite the TV "news" media's skimpy reporting on this very important topic-- instead running wall-to-wall speculation about the horrific Fort Hood killer-- the Los Angeles Times gave ample coverage to the legalized bribery that is now law. Here are a few takes on what came down yesterday, or as I like to call it, The Supreme Thwart of democracy as we knew it.

First, excerpts from the L.A. Times front pager:

The decision, McCutcheon vs. Federal Election Commission, also shows again the impact of President George W. Bush's two appointees: Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.

Or to put it another way, elections matter. Continuing...

Fred Wertheimer, a veteran champion of campaign finance reform, said the court was on a "march to destroy the nation's campaign finance laws enacted to prevent corruption."

The decision "re-created the system of legalized bribery today that existed during the Watergate days," said Wertheimer, president of the nonprofit group Democracy 21.

Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, said neither the Founding Fathers nor most Americans "want government beholden to narrow elite interests."

Republicans call that hand-wringing.

Moving on to an editorial titled, "Really, justices? Even more money in politics?"

The campaign reform group Democracy 21 notes that after Wednesday's decision, a presidential nominee could form a joint fundraising committee and solicit a contribution of as much as $1,199,600 from a single donor for the election cycle. Does anyone doubt that the person who signed that check would expect special consideration from the candidate who solicited it?

Roberts was untroubled by the idea that mega-donors would receive special treatment in exchange for their largesse.

How nice for Roberts that he can sleep well at night knowing that the imbalance of power in this country is causing democracy to go the way of Chris Christie's political career.

Finally, there was an op-ed written by Jessica A. Levinson, an associate clinical professor at Loyola Law School-Los Angeles and vice president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission:

And how many people were handcuffed by these limits? Well, fewer than 600 donors, or 0.0000019% of Americans, gave the maximum amount under those oh-so-restrictive limits, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. [...]

Disclosure may be the only way we can regulate the political money trail in the near future. [...]

Where does McCutcheon leave us? It leaves people like me who believe it is both legal and good policy to limit the influence of money in politics in an existential crisis. [...]

Our current system essentially limits only direct contributions from donors to candidates and political committees. But independent organizations receive and dispense vast sums related to candidate campaigns, and many do not have to disclose the donors of this dark money.

The base contribution limits could be the next restriction on the chopping block.

And then she called for more transparency. And how about more justice... and different Justices?

money talks democracy has no voice

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Stew of corruption: Just add politicians, cash, and simmer.

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culture of corruption

Last night, Rachel Maddow did a segment on several recent corruption scandals involving state level politicians, in this case Democrats. It was pretty jaw-dropping. Included in her report was the arrest yesterday of California State Sen. Leland Yee:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

This morning, I came across this Los Angeles Times article about Yee and noticed this:

Democrat Derek Cressman, one of Yee's opponents in the secretary of state race, called his arrest a "wake-up call."

"We are clearly beyond the point of looking at one bad apple and instead looking at a corrupt institution in the California Senate," Cressman said. "The constant begging for campaign cash clearly has a corrosive effect on a person's soul and the only solution is to get big money out of our politics once and for all."

Then I saw this Los Angeles Times editorial:

This page has been firm in its opposition to the NRA's abject disdain of the public good in pursuing its warped view of the 2nd Amendment's right to bear arms and its bullying approach to the political process. But the blame for this national insanity should not be placed entirely on the NRA. Politicians respond to the group's pressure out of fear, knowing that their jobs often depend on low-turnout, one-party primaries in which fringe passions are amplified.

In other words, if politicians don't respond to the NRA's bullying, they can kiss their donations good-bye, and some other extremist will win the cash... and the day.

Thank you Supreme Court and Citizens United, for turning campaign finance laws on their heads, for allowing super PACs and billionaires to call the shots and buy our elections, and for giving toxic organizations like the NRA the leeway to exert their influence on election outcomes. The result? More corruption and less democracy.

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WI GOP State Senator not "willing to defend them anymore... There is no massive voter fraud."

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doonesbury jim crow voter suppression single panel WI GOP state senator

tweet voter suppression

Link

Per The Cap Times, WI GOP State Senator Dale Schultz was on on The Devil’s Advocates radio show discussing voter suppression, specifically bills that cut back on early voting. Schultz's own party, the party o' dirty tricks, has been doing whatever it can to make voting harder, because when turnout is high, it usually translates into Democratic wins.

So of course, rather than fighting for victories in the good old fashioned, all-American, patriotic, apple pie honest way, Republicans resort to cheating, because they know they'd never win by approaching elections, you know, fairly.

Democracy, schmemocracy. Endlessly long, discouraging lines rule!

This isn't the first time WI GOP State Senator Dale Schultz has bucked his own party. See: GOP State Sen. Dale Schultz Slams Walker, Calls Union-Busting "Classic Overreach". Now he's expressing his disdain and distaste for the way they're obstructing Wisconsinites from voting.

Schultz:

“I began this session thinking that there was some lack of faith in our voting process and we maybe needed to address it. But I have come to the conclusion that this is far less noble...

"We are not encouraging voting, we are not making voting easier in any way shape or form by these bills...

"I don't see how you can claim to be improving things by actually reducing hours... but maybe this is Never Never Land, who knows?

"It’s just, I think, sad when a political party — my political party — has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. And again, I’m a guy who understands and appreciates what we should be doing in order to make sure every vote counts, every vote is legitimate. But that fact is, it ought to be abundantly clear to everybody in this state that there is no massive voter fraud.

"The only thing that we do have in this state is we have long lines of people who want to vote. And it seems to me that we should be doing everything we can to make it easier, to help these people get their votes counted. And that we should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future, rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at our voting sites and trying to suppress the vote...

“I am not willing to defend them [his colleagues] anymore. I’m just not and I’m embarrassed by this...

"[Voter suppression is] plain wrong...

"It is all predicated on some belief there is a massive fraud or irregularities, something my colleagues have been hot on the trail of for three years and have failed miserably at demonstrating.”

And that concludes another episode of "Republicans eating their own."

eating their own

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Seventh grade student spoke out, got kicked out. "My school is run by fear."

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Maia Wu student speaks out, kicked out of school

Having taught all grade levels in a couple of school districts, and having been a huge student advocate at those schools, when I hear about a story that starts out with this, I listen:

"My name is Maia Wu. I am 13 years old, in the 8th grade and I'm student body president of my school carrying a 4.0 GPA.... As a 7th grade student, I couldn't understand what there was to fear. ... I stood up for I believed was right... I decided to step up and help students shake off their fear and find their voices. The administration didn't seem to like this too much. I guess you could say this is where things fell apart."

That sure got my attention.

Now it's time for you to give Maia Wu some attention. (Added: She was "too outspoken" about a decision to build a fence around the school without parents and students being told first. The video explains everything, please watch, you won't be sorry.)

What happened here is an outrage and it's time to publicize her story as widely as possible. The district is all that really mattered to the district, certainly not the students, not the parents, not fairness, not open, honest, civil discourse.

Please share this post.

Via Maia Wu:

On January 17, 2014, my mom received a letter informing her that our permit to attend school has been revoked. My brother, sister, and I were kicked out of school. This is my open letter in response to the letter we received.

I was kicked out because my mom asked questions that needed to be asked.

I was kicked out because I am a free-thinker and can think for myself.

I was kicked out because I am not afraid to be heard.

I have a vision of a school that will embrace student voice and student participation in civic matters. I want to learn in an environment that welcomes free-thinkers and welcomes opposing view points as a positive means to perpetuate the democratic process.

If this is the current environment, we will produce children who live in fear of authority and not have the ability to think for themselves and will only use ideals given by higher authorities rather than trying to formalize their own.

This is the number one threat to democracy in our country. I am 13 years old, not afraid to let my voice be heard and all I wish is to return back to my school.

Wow.

But come on, Maia, protest? Peacefully? Moms attempting to communicate? Kids "think for themselves"? Don't you realize this is today's America? We are no longer encouraged to do those things here. Oh, but I kid. Sort of.

Here are a few excerpts. Transcript via EdWeek.org:

I decided to step up and help students shake off their fear and find their voices. The administration didn't seem to like this too much. I guess you could say this is where things fell apart....

Based on these flimsy, weak and ridiculous points, my brother, sister and I had our permits revoked, which essentially meant we were kicked out of our school. When we first found out, we had an overwhelming amount of support from teachers, students, friends, and family. We also immediately set up a meeting in order to organize our appeal. We were told to wait five days. The fifth day rolled along and there was no letter. My mother called the district at 4:00pm but was told the specific person we were looking for was in a meeting. She then called again at 4:40, that person was still in the meeting. Finally, at 4: 58 she called, and was told that that person had gone home. On Chinese New Year's Eve, we finally received the letter denying our permit, and our last day being the following day, Chinese New Year's. Not only had we been strung along until the last minute, but kicked out on Chinese New Year Day. That's comparable to kicking a child out on Christmas.

The letter they wrote and their revocation can easily be seen as childish retaliation to a parent standing up for her first amendment rights. My mother is a responsible, caring responsible adult who the principal and the school district is trying to paint as a deranged woman who doesn't seem to have a clue about anything. If my mother and I are guilty of fighting for our rights as American citizens and guilty of wanting America to be America, so be it. Monterey Highlands and Alhambra Unified School District are obsessed with control and are no longer thinking about students when they make choices such as revoking permits from children like my siblings and I.

I have a vision of a school that will embrace student voice and student participation in civic matters.  I want to learn in an environment that welcomes free-thinkers and welcomes opposing view points as a positive means to perpetuate the democratic process.  If this is the current environment, we will produce children who live in fear of authority and not have the ability to think for themselves and will only use ideals given by higher authorities rather than trying to formalize their own. This is the number one threat to democracy in our country. I am 13 years old, not afraid to let my voice be heard and wish to return back to my school.

These words were spoken by one remarkable seventh grader. Maia is clearly brilliant, reasonable, and rational, certainly more reasonable and rational than the "adults" in charge. You'd think any school would be honored to support and encourage Maia, her voice, and her family.

Those so-called educators could learn a lot from that 13-year-old.

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