Election 2016: A Portrait of America Under Siege

“Donald Trump is an ignorant man, a vulgar man, a man who reminds me of Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin in his arrogance and thirst for power.” — Bernie Sanders

A Bizarro Reality

To look at Donald Trump’s version of what makes America great is to take a retrograde step through a rip in space-time and enter a fake populist bizarro land. To venture into an alternate dimension where a once-mighty and enlightened nation was strong-armed into taking the downward-sloping path into crisis and collapse. And like the bizarro land of the Superman mythos, this alternate reality is trying to inflict itself on the real world. It will succeed if we let it.

Trump’s a man who’s angrily proud of the fact that he does not pay taxes to support the safety, security and prosperity of the nation he seeks to lead. He’s a billionaire pandering to white workers’ fears of economic disenfranchisement while fighting to cut the very social and economic supports that these voters often rely on. A red-faced fear-monger blaming innocent immigrants and African Americans for economic woes his party — the republicans — engineered through forty years of trickle down economics. Policies that party is seeking to enforce through an unjust suppression of voters in places like North Carolina and Florida.

trumpdystopia

(A portrait of America under siege. What would America under Trump look like? This smokestack shanty town under darkening skies and surrounded by walls topped with barbed wire fences sitting in the shadow of gilded corporate towers just about says it all. Image source: What Would Jack Do?)

Donald Trump has often sought the populist mantle Bernie Sanders rightly bears. But Trump, Sanders says, “is an ignorant man, a vulgar man, a man who reminds me of Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin in his arrogance and thirst for power.” And as Bernie Sanders goes to bat on the campaign trail for Clinton, pledging to make Trump —  “start paying his fair share in taxes,” the rage-filled corporate mogul tars the career public servant Hillary Clinton, attempting to smear her with the same Wall Street trappings Trump of Trump Towers ignominy has worn since the day of his birth. In other words, it’s one thing to take campaign donations from Wall Street, but another thing entirely to live, eat, and breathe the Wall Street mantra. To support, as Trump has throughout his life, the same harmful tax cut, deregulation, and anti-minimum wage policies that created the problem of Wall Street vs Main Street in the first place.

Entering the Dystopian Upside Down World of Donald Trump

To live in Trump’s reality is to live in an America under a strange kind of upside down siege. If the real economic problem in America is income inequality — then Trump promotes more of it. If the real threats to America’s foreign policy endeavors are increasing isolation and alienation of our allies — Trump seeks to build a wall. If dictators imperil our country or disrupt our elections, then Trump praises them. And if the very real climate change spurred threats such as coastal inundation facing cities like Miami, Norfolk, and Elizabeth City and drought losses threatening the water supply of the Colorado River states are ever-worsening, Trump seeks to burn more coal, oil and gas, attacks renewables, and denies that climate change is actually happening.

(As bad as the effects of climate change currently are today, Donald Trump’s combination of anti-science, anti-renewables, and pro fossil fuels policy will result in a reversal of critical climate change mitigation at exactly the time when they are needed most. Leonardo Di Caprio makes an impassioned appeal for us to do our part and vote for politicians that support responsible climate change policies and against those like Trump who hurt pretty much everyone by pandering to harmful fossil fuel special interests.)

If abuses by the powerful have created harm in America and abroad, Trump talks up abusive strong-men like Russia’s Vladimir Putin. And Putin, for his own part, appears to have done everything he can to help Wikileaks hack Hillary Clinton’s emails or even post fake versions of emails to further misinform the American electorate.

Trump makes fun of dying polar bears, pretends Obama has no birth certificate, mocks reporters with physical disabilities, panders to white supremacists, and has turned himself into a wretched caricature of misogyny. There’s not a victimizable person, animal, or class he doesn’t appear willing to take advantage of.  Bully may describe him, but it doesn’t fully contain his apparent rage-filled ardor for exploitation, for wrecking lives, for running rough-shod over people or things he has labeled ‘loser.’

Praying to America’s Darker Angels

Trump seems to believe that we can transport ourselves back to a mythological past when America was greater than it is today. To promote the illusion that we are, somehow, not far better off now than we were at a time when African Americans were held as slaves, or suffered under the abuses of Jim Crow, when scientists were persecuted, when there were no labor laws preventing the exploitation of children or protecting workers’ rights to fair pay and treatment, when women had no right to vote, when the abuses of state-supported corporate exploitation by such entities as the East India Trade company led to the real Boston Tea Party and wholesale continental revolt, and when a policy of systemic genocide was enacted against the natives who lived on American soil for thousands of years before the colonists came.

What Trump’s lack-vision fails to see is that America’s aspirations for greatness led her out of a very dark time scarred by these ills and into the far more enlightened age of today. An age that is now under threat by the retrograde narratives and policies promoted by people like Trump who seem to push ever on toward a return to the old dark days of injustice and oppression. And this mindset, the abusive and revisionist view of history, is something we must reject if we are to have much hope of navigating the very serious troubles that are coming in this age global climate change and increasing dislocation. We must embrace new ways of doing things. We must turn to new leaders. We must reject the political violence of an old, angry white man, and the system of dominance and harm that he promotes.

A Necessary Endorsement of One of Our Nation’s Strongest Women

This is my endorsement for Hillary Clinton. A woman whom I admire for her strength, her tenacity, and her clarity of purpose. I may not agree with every policy she stands for or admire every aspect of her life. Like the rest of us, she is human and imperfect. But she is a true American who has served her country with honor. A lady who supports our America not just with her words, but both through paying a fair share of her substantial earnings and through her considerable life’s work. A leader I can stand behind. Someone who has already done many great things for this nation and who I believe, with the help of people like Bernie Sanders, is capable of so much more. In a day when we face off against so many abuses both at home and abroad, I think America would benefit from the steady hand of this strong woman — who has the potential to be a truly historical figure and to lead our nation out of a sea of troubles.

Donald Trump represents the worst sins the old world, but if we give Hillary the right kind of support, she can stand for the better virtues of tomorrow and serve the vision of an age that confronts its problems rather than spiraling ever deeper into self-destructive denial, anger, and isolation. That’s what this election means to me — risking an almost assured disaster by electing Trump or creating a very real possibility for reducing and escaping present harms if we elect Clinton. The choice, for me, couldn’t be clearer.

hillary-stormborn

(Throughout his campaign, Trump has impuned the dignity of women, calling them nasty and bragging about objectifying them. As a strong woman, Hillary is exactly the kind of person who should face down Trump’s misogyny. Image source: House of Clinton. )

So I urge you to lift your voices in this election. To be heard and to make your power and capacity to promote justice known. I ask you to stand strong against the intimidation, against the pervasive misinformation coming from those who would inflict so much harm. You are capable. We are capable. We can do this. We can release America from the siege that a fake Tea Party promoted by corporate interests and that people like Trump have placed her under. And we can make a strike against the underlying systemic mysogyny of our nation by electing our first female President of this United States of America.

I have listened to your voices and I know that you are strong. So be heard! It is time for the real America to shine through.

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Voter Suppression Didn’t Work, So Grasping Republicans Turn to Undermining Democracy

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The United States is endowed with a democracy that remains the envy of the world. Now, a group of republicans, embittered after a stinging defeat during the 2012 election, seeks to undermine that democracy in order to rig the electoral college in their favor.

Republican state legislators in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia are attempting to change state election rules so as to apportion electoral college votes to counties rather than the entire state. The result of this cherry-picking is that democratic presidential candidates would have to win the popular vote by 6 percent or more (a landslide) in order to edge out republicans in the electoral college.

The reason has to do with demographics. Most democrats concentrate in or near cities. So republican success in re-apportioning electoral college votes to counties would result in a tipping of the scales dramatically against democratic candidates. It would also result in a virtual nullification of the popular vote in elections. Popular vote totals would count less while where the votes came from would count more.

This kind of manipulation, funny games, and distortion is entirely normal for the current republican party. The same party that sand-bagged voting rights in an attempt to suppress the vote in key battleground states. The result was lines in which voters waited, in many cases, all day to exercise their right to vote. Other republican funny business has included purging voter rolls, multiple attempts at voter intimidation (almost always struck down in court), publishing fallacious information about voting dates in official public documents, and questionable instances of monkeying with voting machines.

The most recent attempts at voter disenfranchisement through fiddling with the electoral college system is just one more example of the sense of entitlement many republicans seem to have. They don’t believe they need to win on issues or to appeal to the hopes, needs and concerns of a broad segment of the American people. Instead, any means to win seems justified to their increasingly myopic world-view.

Links:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2013/01/25/170276794/some-in-gop-want-new-electoral-college-rules

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-25/republicans-split-over-electoral-college-change-proposals.html

 

Standing in Line for Hours to Vote on Election Day? Republican Voter Suppression Most Likely to Blame.

(North Miami, FL on Election Day. Photo credit: Eric Jotkoff.)

In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott cut early voting days from 12 to 8. He also produced a ridiculously long and complex ballot that, by many accounts, takes as long as 12 minutes to fill out. The result of this restricting access to polling places and complex ballot combined has been enormously long lines in Florida, requiring voters to wait as many as 8 hours to exercise their democratic and human rights. The fact that the longest lines are forming in heavily Hispanic and minority areas illustrates exactly which groups Scott has targeted for suppression.

In Pennsylvania, a restrictive new voter ID law was passed by a Republican legislature. Mike Turzai, the Republican House Majority Leader, famously said of the new restrictions: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” These voter ID laws target students, minorities, and the elderly, since these groups tend to lack the credentials required to acquire the new identifications needed to cast a ballot. The result is suppressed turnout among these groups. However, courts have also suspended the Pennsylvania law after strong blow-back.

In Ohio, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted fought to restrict early voting and to force through his own restrictive voter ID laws. But his efforts were blunted by courts who rolled back many of the new restrictions. Now Husted is ginning up new ways to manipulate Ohio’s vote by creating rules and technicalities that allow him to toss out provisional ballots or deny people registration. New rules put in place by Husted, just this weekend, make it possible that tens of thousands of Ohio voters may be disenfranchised.

And in Colorado, Republican Secretary of State Ed Gillespie, has tossed out thousands of voter registrations by misinforming voters of registration requirements and times, through computer ‘glitches’ that have resulted in thousands dumped from voter rolls, and through direct challenges to voters in an effort to remove their right to vote.

In total, Republicans have enacted restrictive voter ID laws in 30 states.

Combined, these restrictive actions reveal a nation-wide effort on the part of Republicans to suppress the vote. They utilize bureaucratic red tape, cheap tricks, and authoritarian use of government to restrict access to polls and dump voters who oppose their political views. This active usurping of democracy couldn’t be more cynical and heinous. More moderate and honorable republicans have been horrified by the efforts of their, less scrupulous, peers. Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman called the voter suppression led by Rick Scott ‘inexcusable’ and compared it to similar efforts in ‘third world countries.’ (See more on Whitman’s outrage at Rick Scott here.)

Given this massive effort by Republicans to disenfranchise voters, it is absolutely imperative that people do not become cynical. It makes it even more important for people to endure the long lines, the hardship, and to challenge efforts to suppress their vote at every opportunity. These actions could include standing in long lines to vote, directly challenging election officials who are attempting to remove your registration or invalidate your ballot, reporting these attempts to media, and filing civil liberties violations with the ACLU and other legal bodies to seek restitution for abuses against you. In addition, here is a number to directly contact the US Department of Justice should you witness any voting irregularities or illegal activity: 1-800-253-3931.

All that said, Jon Husted, Ed Gillespie, and Governor Rick Scott should all be tried for their illegal and immoral efforts to violate the civil liberties of American citizens, to undermine democracy, and to erode the public authority defined by the Voting Rights Act. Such wanton voter suppression should not be coddled and we risk moral hazard if we do not pursue all legal means to hold accountable those who have willfully and maliciously attempted to use government as an implement for limiting the democratic voice of the American people.

Links:

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19320

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/election-2012/wp/2012/11/05/roundup-voter-irregularities/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/05/christine-todd-whitman_n_2076800.html

http://boingboing.net/2012/11/06/voter-suppression-targeting-t.html

Is Tagg Romney Trying to Manipulate the Ohio Vote?

Just days after a former adviser to George Romney accused Mitt of treating voters as ‘targets to be manipulated,’ reports are coming out that Tagg Romney, Mitt’s son, may be directly attempting to manipulate the vote in Ohio.

At age 42, Taggert Romney is one of Mitt’s more visible sons. Also a wealthy investor, Tagg was recently criticized for his dealings with Ponzi scheme investment manager Allen Stanford who has been accused of bilking investors of 8 billion dollars. Tagg has invested in Solarmere Capital, an equity firm previously managed by Stanford who is now serving a 110 year jail sentence. Tagg has also drawn criticism for his recent statement that he would like to punch President Obama.

It is, perhaps, interesting to note that Taggert is also Dagney Taggert’s last name. Dagney is the central character of Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. Often seen as a manifesto for the super-rich, Atlas Shrugged divides the world into noble makers and ignoble takers. This simplistic world-view has been used, for generations, by the wealthy to justify their entitlement and has become a cornerstone to an emerging royalist attitude among the well-off.

In any case, The Cleveland Leader and PoliticolNews.com recently reported that Tagg Romney purchased voting machines to be used in the Presidential election for Hamilton County, Ohio. According to PoliticolNews, the purchase was made via Tagg’s Solarmere Capital links and constitutes a major conflict of interest in the current Presidential election. PoliticolNews and others are now calling for a Department of Justice investigation of this activity to ensure no foul play is involved.

In general, the fact that it is even legal for this kind of thing to occur calls into question the integrity of the voting process. A Presidential candidate, the campaign staff, business associates, and family members should be completely outside the voting process lest a conflict of interest and/or severe moral hazard result. Two elections have already called into question the integrity of the United States democratic system. 2000 and 2004 both involved alleged foul play that reduced people’s participation or, potentially, removed votes. Persons alleged to be directly involved in the 2004 voting machine manipulation incident died before they could be questioned in court. Now, in a key battleground where the Republican secretary of State is doing everything he can to suppress the vote, allegations of direct links between voting machines and the Romney family arise. Given the history of past elections, an investigation in order now and not after the election.

Links:

http://www.clevelandleader.com/node/19137

http://www.politicolnews.com/tagg-romney-invested-in-ohio-electronic-voting-machines/

Please also sign this petition to have Tagg investigated:

http://www.change.org/petitions/attorney-general-eric-holder-investigate-tagg-romney-owning-voting-machines-in-ohio#

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted Still Fighting to Suppress Christian Minority Vote

If Martin Luther King were alive today, he’d be marching in Ohio. Here’s why:

It is a tradition among many Ohio churches to bus congregation members to the polls the weekend before voting in Ohio in an attempt to enable individuals to exercise their constitutional rights. Election after election, churches have provided this service to parishioners and to the country itself, aiding people in the exercise of what can best be termed an American value.

Now, a republican appointee has decided to remove a provision that has enabled voter participation election after election.

Today, with numerous judges ruling Husted’s attempted removal of early voting a ‘voter suppression effort’ specifically targeting Christian minorities, secretary of State Jon Husted has appealed his efforts to suppress voters to the highest court in the land. “The court is saying that all voters must be treated the same way under Ohio law,” Husted complained in his statement this morning.

GOP election board member Doug Priese echoed Husted’s sentiments noting:

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t … accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine.”

Husted’s remarks and actions also eerily echo those of Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader Mike Turzai who infamously told Republicans at a party event: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Husted has also derided republican extremist groups like ‘True the Vote’ who organize in attempts to intimidate voters at the polls. So Husted appears to be working as hard as he can to suppress the votes of Christian minorities in Ohio even as he derides others who do the same.

But, this time, the smoke screen won’t work. Husted’s appeal to the Supreme Court shows his true intentions — do everything he can to target voters from an opposing political perspective with policies that limit their options to vote come election day.

Links:

http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/10/ohio_appealing_to_us_supreme_court_to_block_weekend_early_voting.html

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