President Trump has on several occasions since the November 8, 2016 elections used voter fraud as an explanation for why his main opponent, former Secretary of State/Senator/First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton apparently defeated him by more than 2.5 million votes in the nationwide popular vote. His claim is that he won the election because he won a majority of the Electoral College votes and that the only reasonable explanation for losing the popular vote was that millions of fraudulent votes were cast by ineligible people voting multiple times and/or in multiple locations. Other sorts of voting irregularities cited include votes by deceased individuals who were never dropped from the voter registration checklists, voting under assumed names for people who were registered but didn’t vote and just about every conceivable way to allow his opponent to defeat him. He even called for another investigatory committee to be formed to find out the scope and extent of the actual fraud and make recommendations for preventing such an occurrence in future elections.
The fact of the matter is that such forms of fraud are indeed very plausible in accounting for over one hundred million eligible and registered voters in a national Presidential election in this country. Do voters exist who may be registered in more than community or even more than one state? You betcha! People in this country are not moored in one location throughout their lives. Often, people move from one city or town to another within the same state or even across state lines. Believe it or not, some people do so without informing their local election officials that they are moving (gasp!). They then register at their new home. Does that mean they will then vote twice in the next election? No, and there has been no evidence presented by our beleaguered President and his multitude of fanciful mouthpieces to indicate that such behavior did or even could have resulted in the magnitude of the Clinton popular vote victory.
Likewise, is it possible that deceased voters remain on the voter checklist posthumously? Indubitably, unless local election boards hire people to scan obituaries on a regular basis and ensure proper removal of deceased voters from the rolls. Some even claimed that millions of undocumented immigrants who are not eligible to vote in our elections conspired to cast ballots unanimously for Clinton (this one was directly from Trump’s mouth). While it is conceivable that some undocumented immigrants may have succeeded in registering and voting, no evidence has been forthcoming from the voter fraud lobby proving that this is even a small scale, let alone a large scale issue as put forth by Trump. A nationwide conspiracy as posited by our new President that failed so miserably at capturing the electoral college victory as well truly strains credulity among most of the American public. That’s probably why Trump’s call for an in-depth full-scale investigation has faded into the background in recent weeks. He’s not the first man elected President while losing the popular vote, and likely won’t be the last (as long as the Electoral College remains). He’s President and needs to get over the fact that more people voted against than for him.
There are several reasons to keep these fallacious arguments in mind when dealing with our electoral system. The GOP, in particular, have in recent decades sought to decrease, rather than increase, overall voter numbers. Voter suppression has become more prevalent in states dominated Republican governors and majority Republican legislatures. Recent Supreme Court rulings eviscerating the Voting Rights Act have encouraged more states to take advantage of no longer having to seek Federal approval before passing laws that suppress the votes of minority members of our electorate to strengthen the hold that the GOP has over the political process within those states, and collectively over the composition of Congress. With a new Republican Administration taking over in the White House and Justice Department, even the limited ability to fight against such laws that was exercised under the Obama Administration is likely to lapse. Passing Voter ID laws while simultaneously making obtaining such ID’s increasingly difficult is one way to play to voters’ sense of fairness while simultaneously achieving the unstated goal of reducing the number of people able to vote for one’s opponents.
Another, even more underhanded means by which to suppress opposition in coming elections is to increase penalties for breaking laws meant to stifle dissent – in effect, placing new and more stringent limits on the First Amendment right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest. Most states don’t allow prisoners to vote. Many make it difficult to regain the vote after sentences have been served. Some even make the voting ban for convicted felons permanent. What better way to ensure your political opponents cannot defeat you at the ballot box than denying them access to expressing their political voice at election time?
As stated above, the schemes outlined by our President as making our electoral system vulnerable to intentional abuse can produce fraud committed by voters, but have not been shown to do so in substantial numbers. The bigger threat, as perceived by many others, is in the election fraud committed by those disenfranchising vast numbers of people who are easily discernable by most as being among those who deserve to have a vote that counts. Coming up with new and more ingenious ways of denying them that voice is wrong. We should be doing everything within our power to increase voter turnout, not decrease it.
Furthermore, if we want to make sure every vote is valid and is counted as intended, we should not be eliminating the offices of those who are supposed to be making electronic voting systems as safe from electronic manipulation and fraud as possible. Along those same lines, many votes are cast in each election which are totally electronic. I go to a computer and vote for the various candidates/ballot initiatives on a touch screen. How the vote is ultimately counted is vulnerable to hacking. There is no backup on paper that can be looked at for verification in case of a recount or electronic system failure. Seems like a new electronic version of the “hanging chads” that so famously clouded the 2000 Presidential election in Florida. A different system I used in another state when I lived there used electronic tabulation of paper ballots filled out by the voter that could then be individually counted in case of a recount. That seems to me far less prone to producing inaccurate results than the system I’ve been using more recently.
Don’t let Donald Trump fool you into thinking that he lost the popular vote last November because dead illegal aliens crossed multiple state lines to cast ballots for Hillary Clinton. More likely, he won the Electoral College vote because too many potential Clinton voters were prevented from voting by suppressive election laws in their states, and Congress remained firmly in GOP hands because of nefarious redistricting at the state level after the 2010 census. Individual voter fraud in our elections is so overwhelmed by the broader issues involved in election fraud as practiced on a grand scale by our political and corporate elites as to pale in comparison. Trump’s whining about it from the Oval Office is designed to distract us from the real damage he and the GOP Congress have in store for us if we fall asleep at the wheel and lose sight of the big picture. Watch what he does instead of listening too much to what he says.
Could a Trump presidency actually be a blessing in disguise for activism? In the short span he has been in office, there has been a spike in protests throughout the country with the women’s march the day after Trump’s inauguration being of historical proportions. Hillary in office would have continued the “sleight of hand” approach promising “incremental” change so she could continue using the same warmongering, pay to play policies that have been handed down throughout our government and making them rich for far too long. Our citizens are beginning to realize that both parties have the same central goal: to line their pockets with as much as they can. We now have people from all ideologies coming to the realization that our government no longer represents us, they represent whichever corporation that buys them. Trump and Hillary are actually far more alike than people realize, the big difference between them is that Trump hasn’t been in the political game long and doesn’t know all the
A disturbing trend has quickly evolved in the Trump White House. Not content with repeated bashing the news media and presenting easily debunked falsehoods as “alternate facts”, the President and his staff have begun the task of suppressing dissent within the Administration itself and especially with regard to the agencies falling within the jurisdiction of the Executive Branch of our federal government. The aim here is to provide desired spin on information available to the American public pertaining to controversial issues of national and world importance.
In the weeks since his inauguration, and to some extent even in the period leading up to the election last November, President Trump, in areas such as climate change and energy policy, has repeatedly expressed views that run contrary to those resulting from mainstream scientific study and international agreements designed to deal with the implications of that research. The EPA, USDA and other agencies have been instructed to refrain from public disclosure of much information pertinent to our daily lives and potential dangers the future might hold depending on policies being pursued by our government now.
With regard to climate policy, the GOP’s dogged denial of science in this arena precedes the Trump Administration and has not appreciably changed with his ascension to power. His cabinet selections for head of the EPA, Department of Energy Secretary and Secretary of State all point towards pursuing policies in this arena diametrically opposed by the vast majority of scientists closely studying these issues. By restricting the flow of information reaching the public, the Administration can craft policies designed to benefit oil, coal and other non-renewable, environmentally damaging industries at untold future cost in terms of environmental degradation and the deleterious effects of climate change which threaten life as we know it on this planet.
Feeding the greed of these major corporations by allowing them to avoid the true burden they place on society in terms of the poisoning of land, air and water, along with the accompanying health problems they cause, is obviously made easier with a populace subjected to misinformation combined with general ignorance of the issues involved. In other words, they are to all intents and purposes treating us like mushrooms – keeping us in the dark and feeding us the organic fertilizer produced by male bovines. This method of keeping secrets from the public – supposedly for our protection, but really to benefit others at our expense – is not new to the Trump White House. He and his staff just seem to be trying to perfect it to a degree that some of his predecessors only dreamed of.
By stifling public discussion at the same time as it takes action to revive plans for pipelines such as Keystone-XL and DAPL, the Administration is demonstrating the sort of moral compass that led to the secret bombing of Cambodia by Nixon, the Iran-Contra shenanigans under Reagan and the invasion and occupation of Iraq by George W. Bush. Plenty of examples exist of Democratic Administrations guilty of similar deceptions, but the Trump team seems to almost brag about what it’s getting away with (so far, at least). The American people deserve better from our government.
Agencies such as the EPA, DOE and USDA, as well as the other regulatory agencies of the federal government, were created to enable much needed regulation to prevent excesses committed by private capitalist corporations from doing serious, often irreparable, harm to many people living here, paying taxes and providing a society in which it is relatively safe for them to conduct business. If such abuses weren’t constantly occurring, these agencies would not have been created to begin with. Weakening the agencies and removing the regulations will not be met with beneficial results for most of us. To the contrary, deregulation will lead to even more abuses of people and the environment, even greater degrees of economic inequality and an increased sense of powerlessness among the people as a whole. Not exactly what most envision as Making America Great Again.
These regulatory agencies are in place to protect the people from predatory business practices , not to be additional tools for the oligarchs to use to more thoroughly control and exploit us. They need to be allowed, or rather ordered, to keep us well informed of the information they have available in order that we may make educated choices to better our lives and society as a whole. Resources must be made available for these agencies to adequately research and enforce regulation to the same ends, not to make America Great Again to primarily benefit a tiny privileged minority running a few mega-corporations to profit from the fruits of the labor of the rest of us.
So far, actions taken by the Trump Administration, with the tacit approval of the GOP-controlled Congress, appear to be meeting the specific campaign promises used to gain votes and “win” the election. The GOP agenda is gradually beginning to take shape, though it has not gotten very far in terms of actually accomplishing the dismantlement of the ACA, workers’ rights and the social safety net that people like Paul Ryan and others have been seeking for decades. The fact that they think it necessary to hide their true aims at the same time as they hide their individual corruption in trying to accomplish their goals indicates they fear they would be removed from office if not given prison sentences if their actions were widely publicized. In the absence of information from regulatory agencies, the Congressional Budget Office and other mainstream avenues of oversight, we will become more dependent on leakers, whistleblowers and investigative journalists than ever before to give us the information we need but our government chooses to hide from us.
We need to demand much more transparency in the conduct of our business by elected and appointed officials. They demand the ability to use surveillance to restrict our freedom and civil liberties in order to keep us safe from terrorists and such. They need more oversight by the people whose interests they purport to represent than they currently allow. The trend to lessen oversight of our elected officials needs to be reversed quickly – lest what little democracy remains for us is totally removed from our grasp. The President, his cabinet, our legislators at all levels of government and our judicial officials all need to be made accountable to us. Tax returns and other such indicators of the way in which these people conduct themselves need to be made more accessible for public discussion. These people need to be able to prove they deserve our trust. They are not worthy of such trust without further verification merely because they say so. Refusing to answer questions that may incriminate oneself is not an unlimited right any more than freedom of speech enables one to incite others to riot without criminal repercussions. We need to know who and what we are voting for in advance – not just left to vote with so many unanswered questions and hoping for the best afterward.
Donald Trump is the President of the United States. That is a position with great power as well as great responsibility. The United States is not a reality TV show, nor is it Trump Enterprises. We need to show him the limits to his power and influence. The demonstrations held across the nation since he took office may be starting to get the message across – to him as well as to Congress – but it’s way too early to tell and way too early to let up on the pressure. So far, he has demonstrated a marked desire to rule, but no desire whatsoever to lead – both with regard to people living in this country and those living abroad. We need a leader far more than a we need a ruler.
Suggested Further Readings:
Early in the most recent American Presidential race, candidate Donald Trump proposed a ban on Moslems traveling to the United States as a means of protecting the American people from attacks by Islamic Extremist Terrorists. Now, President Trump has issued an Executive Order to fulfill his campaign promise. At the time of his initial proposal, he encountered vocal opposition from across the political spectrum. Influential members of both mainstream parties questioned the Constitutionality of such a move as well as its wisdom as a tactic in dealing with terrorist threats, real or imagined. Others felt the maneuver entirely ignored the humanitarian suffering being experienced by millions of people in the war torn region by lumping victims of oppression with their oppressors in denying them an important potential means of escaping their dire circumstances. Furthermore, many see this as arbitrary religious prejudice in a country that prides itself on being a bastion of religious freedom.
Many of the arguments being raised now in opposition to the Executive Order were vehemently expressed when Trump first started to discuss it. He seemed to feel that winning the election was enough to warrant that he take this step to satisfy the portion of his base that liked the idea. It seems safe to say he might have either underestimated the numbers and/or the strength of conviction of his opponents on this issue or felt he could withstand the negative publicity it would generate once it was issued and enforcement action was put into motion. Protests have been mounted across the country and numerous lawsuits filed seeking redress through the court system. The whole issue appears destined to be heard by the Supreme Court eventually, but that will take time to resolve. In the meantime, the United States does not seem to have improved its standing as a tourist destination, and many legal immigrants to this country are on edge lest their status become instantly and arbitrarily reversed as has already happened to many who set out with valid visas to travel here only to find that those visas had been summarily revoked overnight.
The seven nations explicitly banned in the edict – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen – are problematic from the start. Sure, terrorist groups and individuals have received training and supplies in those countries, but the single greatest supplier of people responsible for the attacks of 9/11/01 came from Saudi Arabia – including Osama bin Laden. Iraq has numerous people who helped out American forces during our invasion and occupation there who have every reason to fear for their lives if they remain in the country. Likewise, a sizable portion of the Syrian refugee problem consists of people armed by us in their civil war against the Assad government. Is it humane or even wise to leave them in the lurch by disowning them in their time of greatest need?
Certainly, Trump’s act has its share of proponents among the American electorate, but as a foreign policy act aimed at fighting terrorists and protecting American citizens, it may well ultimately prove to be counterproductive. It certainly isn’t building friendships with people being directly affected by it, or the countries singled out for the ban. The US seems to be losing support from some of our European allies and Australia, especially when accompanied by Trump’s blunt, ham-fisted style of twitter diplomacy and the uneven nature of how the edict is being applied in practice. Needless to say, little if any attempt at mitigating the negative impacts unfairly visited upon many thousands of people living legally in this country has been made so far – except for through the courts.
The course of this all may ultimately result in the Executive Order being deemed Constitutional by SCOTUS, especially as the legislative and executive branches of our federal government are firmly under GOP control, which makes their takeover of the judicial branch over time almost inevitable. What little ability remains for the minority party in the Senate to obstruct nominations is all but gone. No one doubts that McConnell will end the filibuster if it looks like a key Administration nomination will be halted short of 60 votes. Reid fought the urge to do so when the Democrats held the majority, but McConnell is not nearly so circumspect. Trump publicly practically begged him to do it.
The bottom line is the executive order is a religiously-based ban on immigration and refugee resettlement from specifically targeted countries. It assails any pretense the United States may have of being a land that celebrates religious freedom and cares about the wellbeing of innocent victims of conflict in foreign lands. Many innocent people have been put in danger as a direct result of American military and/or covert action in or against their homelands. Throwing away our moral principles by arbitrarily withholding our assistance to others requiring it due to no fault of their own in the somewhat futile search for personal safety and national security is a sorry excuse for perpetrating religious and ethnic bigotry. Our system of vetting prospective refugees and immigrants seeking to live and work here is more than adequate to the task of providing us with reasonable safety and security from the vast majority of people willing to go through it to make a life here. We do not require martial law and abandonment of our individual liberties and collective freedoms to remain safe. In fact, acquiring such a system would be abandoning democracy even more than we have in the years since 9/11. We can’t defeat totalitarianism by becoming authoritarian ourselves. Beating terrorists at their own game by becoming terrorists ourselves is ultimately self-defeating.
President Trump’s Muslim ban, extreme vetting, attempt to increase personal safety for Americans – or whatever name he wants to call – it needs to be halted in its tracks. Banning these people does nothing to make America Great and much to diminish our image abroad. Congress and the Judiciary each has the power and ability to reverse this order, and both should act quickly to do so.
Suggested Further Readings.:
Excellent firsthand account by Aimee Patton of the protest in Kansas City against Trump’s recent travel ban aimed at prospective visitors and refugees from some predominantly Muslim countries. Hopefully, this and other protests across the nation will help to halt the xenophobic and Islamophobic hatred which helped propel Donald Trump to the Oval Office last fall. – rjc
What would have been another lazy Sunday afternoon, was far from it when I gathered with hundreds of others at Kansas City International Airport to protest against President Trump’s Executive Order barring people from seven Muslim countries for the next 90 days.
Our airport is far from a flourishing international airport. Most of the international flights are headed to Mexico or Canada, but that didn’t stop this crowd from assembling at our small terminal to send a message. This ban is wrong. Refugees are welcome in our city. Kansas City is a friendly and welcoming place for all who are peaceful to settle. My America doesn’t ban groups of people based on religion. We don’t favor one religion over another. My America doesn’t turn our backs on refugees in crisis. We did once and the consequences were disastrous. We learn from our mistakes. Regardless of what President Trump says, I…
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Excellent essay by Ron Jacobs concerning how Trump’s Administration is acting so far post-inauguration. – RJC
I’ve attended counter-inaugural protests against Nixon (in Frankfurt, Germany), Reagan, Bush the Elder and Dubya. I found the experience to be cathartic each time, but not very long-lasting in term…
Source: A Scheme is Not a Vision
Big Brother threatens us more each day and with each new technological “improvement”. Definitely worth watching and sounding the alarm as it encroaches ever more severely on our privacy and individual rights. A government that keeps so much important information secret from its own citizens needs to refrain from infringing on our liberties to control us in an authoritarian nightmare.
The Missouri Education Watchdog blog has collected some frightening news: There is a bipartisan push, funded by the Gates Foundation, to create a national database for every citizen, violating the privacy of every one of us. Until now, this has been illegal. Gates and his allies want to lift the ban.
For anyone who has ever filled out a college application, or scholarship or grant application, you know the incredible amount of personal information these forms require. What if there was a massive database that combined and shared not only all of that personal information, but also answers from surveys you took over the years, social media posts you made, information normally kept protected and isolated in agencies like the Social Security Administration, Health and Human Services, HUD, IRS, and the US Census Bureau. This kind of database, linking (and sharing) data across agencies, with a profile on each individual…
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The new Republican dominated Congress is off and running, albeit somewhat haltingly, in anticipation of a relatively unfettered pathway to accomplish its long-awaited ultra-conservative agenda once Donald Trump is sworn in as President. An early attempt to scuttle an independent ethics office created to investigate alleged improprieties by members of Congress was recently nipped in the bud, at least for now. Some tweets by President-Elect Trump questioning the timing of the move – made by the House GOP caucus by secret ballot at the last minute – helped scuttle it. More importantly, public outrage at the audacity of the group of politicians seeking to give themselves more latitude in their professional conduct by removing one of the few remaining vestiges of public accountability caused them to reconsider their move and reverse course – for now.
That the same members of our elected legislative bodies who had spent most of the last eight years holding endless investigations of perceived wrongdoing on the part of various Obama Administration officials would deign to consider themselves to be beyond reproach when it comes to their own dealings with lobbyists, campaign donors and the like is hypocritical at best. Spending millions of taxpayer dollars and countless work hours trying to shine a light when there was no there there with regard to Benghazi, email servers and other subjects that led to no findings resulting in forced resignations or criminal indictments was somehow excusable for these people as part of doing their jobs overseeing the executive branch. Having a nonpartisan group shining a light on potentially shady dealings by members of Congress was unacceptable to them. In what convoluted does this make sense, let alone fit anyone’s definition of fairness?
The American people, who voted to elect members of Congress and pay for the results of their work (or lack thereof) with their taxes, deserve to know when and if they are not getting their money’s worth or are being misrepresented by those same individuals. Accountability of all levels of our government is essential. Just because the Republicans will soon have control of both Houses of Congress and the Executive branch (with the Judiciary soon to follow, once the Supreme Court vacancy and over 100 other judicial posts are filled), does not mean they have carte blanche to rule as they see fit. The outcry at their attempted escape from oversight proves that we do have limits beyond which we won’t let them push in performing their duties.
Donald Trump knew which way the wind was blowing on this move, and speaking out against it was an easy win for him, but his response was weak, indicating that he very well might welcome the gambit at a later date. The way Congress has been trying to dismantle the Affordable Care Act leaves little doubt that they intend to revisit the issue in the future. GOP Congressional leadership wasn’t all that keen on doing this to begin with, due to the optics and hypocrisy inherent to it. They have bigger fish to fry and hope to get some major work done (or undone, depending on your perspective) as quickly as possible.
In addition to confirming the mostly ill-suited cabinet nominees, they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which they have been trying to accomplish since before it was even passed. The fact that they still don’t have a replacement plan to propose this many years since the law was passed indicates fairly convincingly that they don’t really care how the repeal will affect us. More people are beginning to become informed of what they stand to lose if the law is just summarily scrapped. Millions of Trump voters stand to lose health insurance coverage if replacement takes too long after repeal. They have passed legislation to allow the Senate to repeal the Act with a simple majority, possibly avoiding a filibuster, but even that is not assured if the public is sufficiently outraged by what action is being threatened.
To try to mitigate any possible negative public reaction to deleterious impacts of any repeal legislation, efforts are being made to order the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) from doing its job of telling the American people exactly how such legislation is likely to impact the budget. Will the alleged repeal of this costly law be more expensive than keeping it would be? If not, why keep this secret from us? Try as they might, this information will still get out. Despite Republican claims to the contrary, real journalism does still exist in this country. Freedom of the Press does still exist as a Constitutional Right, corrupted as it may be by the influence of big money and the over-classification of information by the government. People will notice if folks start dying due to a health care system that no longer works as well as it did a short time ago.
Many other aspects of the far right agenda that threatens the American way of life are also built on a house of cards that assumes that an acceptable form of governing may involve manipulating people by misinforming them, preventing them from voting and lying to them by saying they are making their lives better while the only tangible results remain a very obvious redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top of the economic ladder. This was true during the most recent recovery, but threatens to accelerate almost beyond belief if Trump, Ryan, McConnell and the various hardcore conservative Governors and state legislatures get their way. This is true as well concerning social issues on which real gains were achieved under the Obama Administration, such as LGBTQ rights, marriage equality and the reproductive rights improvements contained in the ACA.
The rightwing extremists who vaulted Trump to the Presidency and like-minded politicians to positions of power throughout the country may have manipulated the political process in this country and the states to gain political advantage that makes effective resistance difficult, but they do not have a mandate to turn this country into an authoritarian state by forcing their vision of an oligarchic society down the throats of the majority of people who voted against them. Trump may have “won” the election, but millions more people voted against him than for him. His job is to serve the people by upholding and defending the Constitution, just like all the others sworn into their elected offices. Using technological advances to tighten the government’s grip over dissent, while simultaneously making its use for informing people of what that government and its officials are doing to them rather than for or with them illegal, runs contrary to every tradition of democratic governance which has been drilled into our skulls since childhood.
It is small wonder that Trump becomes so defensive when a political and cultural icon like John Lewis publicly questions the legitimacy of his ascending to the Oval Office and the majority party in Congress seeks to escape as much as possible the sort of public scrutiny that may doom them to defeat in future elections. But what they intend to do, based on what they campaigned for prior to the 2016 elections, and the conduct of those previously in control of too many of our states, is neither in the interests of most of the American people nor in their wishes as expressed by most polls. Lying propaganda, distortion and blatant misrepresentation of intentions on the part of elected office holders is not a legitimate form of government. Elections alone are not proof of fitness to serve or to lead. If Congress, the President and the rest of our elected and appointed officials cannot conduct themselves in a manner which stands up to public scrutiny, they must be held accountable – either by the judicial system or by the electorate at the earliest opportunity. We deserve better from our government than to be misled and misrepresented into a future world and society where most of us are more miserable than previous generations in order that a small minority may prosper. Stop trying to hide and be honest with us. Treat us as the equals our founding documents professed us to be.
Further Suggested Readings:
In the past several years, many states have taken a severe rightward turn politically. One of the worst examples in 2016 has been the state of North Carolina. Steps taken in the form the passage of anti-LGBT legislation, voter suppression, gerrymandering and a complete overhaul of the authority and scope of the powers allocated to the office of Governor have seen the state lose all semblance of democracy, in the views of many both inside and outside of the state. This situation needs to be remedied to return North Carolina to a democratic government that truly represents all of its residents equally and restores political power to those it has so blatantly disenfranchised.
Controversy has been rampant in North Carolina political circles. This was true even before the passage of the so-called “bathroom bill” – HB2, which in effect allows schools, businesses and agencies to discriminate against people based on LGBT criteria. It gained the “bathroom bill” moniker via a well-publicized provision that stated individuals were restricted by law to using public restrooms designated for the gender designated on their birth certificates – thus barring transgender individuals from using the restrooms consistent with their gender identities. This bill gained national fame (or infamy, depending on your perspective), resulting in publicity which prompted some employers to reconsider creating new jobs in the state, high-profile artists to cancel concerts, and the NBA to move its All-Star game out of Charlotte to express its displeasure at the state’s intolerance. The result was a decidedly negative impact on the state’s economy and public reputation.
The governor who signed HB2 into law, Pat McCrory, was subsequently narrowly defeated by Democratic candidate Roy Cooper, despite the aforementioned voter suppression attempts. The Republican controlled legislature then saw fit to curtail much of the authority legally residing in the governor’s office while simultaneously strengthening the legislature’s own power. How convenient – jury rig elections and legislative district maps to ensure long-term advantage for yourself and your political friends, then legislate in such a way as to minimize the effects of losing the one or two elections your plotting hasn’t succeeded in providing the desired result.
Courts have found the gerrymandering unacceptable, requiring some new elections in the coming year. Likewise, courts have found some of the provisions in election laws passed in the wake of the SCOTUS decision eradicating some of the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act to also be unfair. All of this remains legally unresolved though, still leaving Cooper somewhat handcuffed and the legislature newly strengthened for the time being once Cooper takes over January 1. The fact that even having a veto-proof majority in the legislature was not sufficient power to satisfy the state’s Republicans is ominous. The extent they went to further entrench themselves in the county election boards, cabinet nominations and other appointments previously made by the governor and change the way court appeals are handled to further weaken Democratic power in the state may be seen in other states as a process for them emulate.
Some states, while not resorting to the extremes occurring in North Carolina, are in a similar situation – where Republicans have used electoral victories more as a means to try to solidify their power in perpetuity rather than as a means of effectively governing in accordance with the wishes and needs of the people they supposedly represent. Just as in the case where state Right-to-Work legislation has had a negative economic impact on millions of workers in those states, such a pattern of legislative conduct in other states will politically silence many millions more controlled undemocratically by like-minded authoritarian power-hungry politicians. The likelihood of this happening is much greater in the coming years, since the Republicans in charge of the White House, Congress and potentially in the federal courts in the near future, seem to indicate a willingness to use similar tactics at the level of the Federal Government. Just look at proposals they have been making concerning the Affordable Care Act, Social Security and other social safety net programs to get a glimpse of why so many Republican Congress critters seem to be chomping at the bit in eager anticipation of Donald Trump’s inauguration.
With a Republican-controlled Congress, which has done everything it possibly could do to obstruct President Obama in his every attempt to perform his Constitutionally assigned duties (as illustrated perhaps best of all by the Senate’s refusal to confirm or even hold hearings for so many of his judicial nominees – particularly the current opening of a seat on the Supreme Court itself) and an incoming President who comes with a group of Cabinet nominees who do not inspire in many hopes for fairness and equity, what can we expect will be done concerning such issues? Will an Attorney General Sessions, who was denied confirmation by the Senate to a seat on the federal bench on the basis of his attitudes, make voting rights and civil rights high priorities for investigation and prosecution? Or will the Justice Department turn a blind eye to injustices perpetrated on groups and individuals by state governors and legislatures determined to rig the system for themselves and against the poor, weak, elderly and members of religious, ethnic and other groups that they think don’t deserve a voice in what their government does to, with and for them?
Donald Trump’s speeches and Cabinet nominations have done nothing to convince me that he will do anything to protect the rights of most of us or insure that any sort of equality (political, economic or in terms of opportunity for advancement) will be a goal of his administration. He appears to want to be a ruler, not a leader. His choice of Mike Pence as VP, Sessions as AG and putting the fox in charge of the hen house when it comes to most of his other Cabinet-level nominations does little to reassure us of his good intentions. Turning the state governments in North Carolina or Indiana or Michigan or Texas or Kansas into models for other states or the federal government to emulate would result in disaster for the great majority of Americans.
Already this century, we’ve seen two Presidential elections in which the person who won got fewer votes than one of the losers. This past election the margin was over two million more votes cast nationwide for Clinton than for Trump. Gerrymandering has resulted in a US House of Representatives with a solid Republican majority despite the fact that significantly more votes have been cast for Democratic candidates. Voter turnout, in terms of number of votes cast by what should be eligible voters continues to suffer – often because of voter suppression efforts making it more difficult for some to register and vote than others or because of distribution of polling places or voting stations within polling places. There are myriad methods of making voting more difficult for some while making it easier for others.
If voting is still able to turn this situation around, we need to really put forth huge voter registration and get out the vote efforts in the next two elections, but particularly those in 2020, when the next census will determine how House reapportionment will require redistricting in many states. The regressive forces took advantage of that fact in 2010 and progressives were badly defeated in midterm elections which have resulted in the political situation we’re faced with today. We can’t count on a court system dominated increasingly by Republican appointees to help out our cause, nor can we expect legislatures dominated by Republicans and/or Corporate Democrats. Grassroots organizing and voter education will be in great demand to accomplish what needs to be done to stop the backsliding in terms of social programs, health care, education and economic equality to turn this government into one which seeks to improve the lives of all its people, not just the elites who live well at their expense.
Further Suggested Readings:
Excellent essay by Ron Jacobs about what 2016 has wrought to American society and politics. May 2017 see some more positive results. – RJC
Holy shit, what a year, huh? A friend keeps reminding me she knew it was going to be a bad one when David Bowie died in the first few days. Even if one wasn’t a fan, the impact of his death was f…
Source: 2016 What Have You Wrought?