“Where Is The Republican Voter Expansion Project?”: Republicans Used To Support Voting Rights—What Happened?
During a speech on Friday at the National Action Network, President Obama made his strongest and most extensive comments yet on the topic of voting rights. “The right to vote is threatened today in a way that it has not been since the Voting Rights Act became law nearly five decades ago,” Obama said. “Across the country, Republicans have led efforts to pass laws making it harder, not easier, for people to vote.”
The election of the first black president and the resurrection of voter suppression efforts was hardly a coincidence. New voting restrictions took effect in nineteen states from 2011–12. Nine states under GOP control have adopted measures to make it more difficult to vote since 2013. Since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in June 2013, half of the states (eight in total) previously covered under Section 5 have passed or implemented new voting restrictions.
These laws, from voter ID to cutting early voting to restricting voter registration, have been passed under the guise of stopping voter fraud, although there’s scant evidence that such fraud exists. Obama cited a comprehensive study by News21 that found only ten cases of in-person voter impersonation since 2000. “The real voter fraud,” the president said, “is people who try to deny our rights by making bogus arguments about voter fraud.”
Obama’s speech highlighted how Democratic leaders are embracing the cause of voting rights. (Attorney General Eric Holder has made it a signature issue, with the DOJ filing lawsuits against new voting restrictions in Texas and North Carolina last year.)
A day before arriving in New York, Obama spoke about civil rights at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library’s commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Civil Rights Act—where the subject of contemporary attacks on voting rights came up often. “Is this what Martin Luther King gave his life for?” asked Bill Clinton. “Is this what Lyndon Johnson employed his legendary skills for? Is this what America has become a great thriving democracy for? To restrict the franchise?”
Democratic presidential hopefuls like Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden have recently championed voting rights. The Democratic National Committee has launched a new Voter Expansion Project and veterans of the Obama campaign started iVote to elect Democratic secretaries of state in Colorado, Iowa, Ohio and Nevada. Democrats hope that an appeal to voting rights will help mobilize key constituencies, like in 2012, when a backlash against GOP voter suppression efforts increased African-American turnout. “The single most important thing we can do to protect our right to vote is to vote,” Obama said on Friday.
It’s great that Democratic leaders are finally recognizing the severity of the attack on voting rights. But it’s sad that Republicans are almost unanimously supporting the restriction of voting rights rather than the expansion of the franchise.
Things weren’t always this way. In his new book about the Civil Rights Act, An Idea Whose Time Has Come, Todd Purdum tells the story of Bill McCulloch, a conservative Republican from Ohio who championed civil rights as the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. The Politico excerpt from the book was titled “The Republican Who Saved Civil Rights.”
There would have been no Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Voting Rights Act of 1965 without the support of Republicans like McCulloch and Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen of Illinois. For decades after the 1960s, voting rights legislation had strong bipartisan support in Congress. Every reauthorization of the VRA—in 1970, 1975, 1982 and 2006—was signed by a Republican president and supported by an overwhelming number of Republicans in Congress.
Republicans like Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, an heir to McCulloch who as the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee oversaw the 2006 reauthorization of the VRA and is co-sponsoring a new fix for the VRA, used to be the norm within the GOP. Now he’s the rare Republican who still believes the GOP should remain the party of Lincoln. Where is the Republican Voter Expansion Project?
It’s also unfortunate that many in the media continue to report on voting rights like it’s a left-versus-right issue, as if supporting a fundamental democratic right suddenly makes one a flaming liberal. Jamie Fuller of The Washington Post called voting rights “the Democrats’ most important project in 2014.” Michael Shear of The New York Times dubbed Obama’s speech an effort “to rally his political base.”
The right to vote used to be regarded as a moral issue, not a partisan one. As President Johnson said when he introduced the VRA before Congress: “It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.”
As long as Democrats are the party of voting rights and Republicans are the party of voter suppression, the right to vote will continue to be under siege.
By: Ari Berman, The Nation, April 14, 2014
“A Fight That Has Already Been Settled”: Nevada Journalists; Conservative Media Darling Rancher Is Clearly “Breaking The Law”
Local journalists covering Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s case stress he is no victim and is breaking the law, regardless of conservative media’s sympathy for his defiance of government orders to remove cattle from federal land.
Those reporters and editors — some who have been covering the case for 20 years — spoke with Media Matters and said many of Bundy’s neighbors object to his failure to pay fees to have his cattle graze on the land near Mesquite, NV., when they pay similar fees themselves.
“We have interviewed neighbors and people in and around Mesquite and they have said that he is breaking the law,” said Chuck Meyer, news director at CBS’ KXNT Radio in Las Vegas. “When it comes to the matter of the law, Mr. Bundy is clearly wrong.”
Bundy’s case dates back to 1993, when he stopped paying the fees required of local ranchers who use the federally owned land for their cattle and other animals. Local editors say more than 85 percent of Nevada land is owned by the federal government.
Bundy stopped paying fees on some 100,000 acres of land in 1993 and has defied numerous court orders, claiming the land should be controlled by Nevada and that the federal government has no authority over it.
Last year a federal court ordered Bundy to remove his cattle or they would be confiscated to pay the more than $1 million in fees and fines he’s accumulated. The confiscation began earlier this month, but was halted because the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had “serious concerns about the safety of employees and members of the public” when armed militia showed up to block the takeover.
But for local journalists, many who have been reporting on him for decades, that image is very misguided.
“He clearly has captured national attention, among mostly conservative media who have portrayed him as a kind of a property rights, First Amendment, Second Amendment, range war kind of issue,” Meyer noted. “That’s how it has been framed, but the story goes back a lot longer and is pretty cut and dry as far as legal implications have been concerned.”
He added that, “Cliven Bundy and his supporters are engaged in a fight that has already been settled. There are a number of people around these parts who have strong reservations about Bundy’s actions.”
Las Vegas Sun Editorial Page Editor Matt Hufman said depicting Bundy as a victim is wrong.
“The BLM had court orders against him in the 90s telling him to get off federal land,” Hufman said. “He’s got a bunch of these arguments about state’s rights, it’s not federal land, blah, blah, blah. All of the arguments have been knocked down.”
Hufman cited Bundy’s claim that his family has been on the land since the 1870s, adding, “a federal judge said the land’s been owned by the federal government since 1848.” He later added that Bundy “was paying grazing fees until 1993 then he stopped. At some point it was okay for him to pay grazing fees.”
Ron Comings, news director of KLAS-TV in Las Vegas, offered a similar view.
“You have to keep in mind that huge percentages of western states are owned by the feds and that has rubbed people the wrong way for a long time,” Comings said. “But they are the same people who will say that ‘we all pay grazing fees and you have to pay and you should work this through other channels.’ There are a lot of farmers and ranchers who pay the grazing fees whether they like it or not, and they see him as someone who is not. They say to stop paying their fees is like not paying your rent and you don’t have a leg to stand on.”
Comings also pointed out that many of the armed “militia” who came to Bundy’s aid are from out of state, describing them as “just anti-government and … just seen as outsiders who are coming in to jump on this issue.”
Even Las Vegas Review-Journal Editor Michael Hengel, whose paper published an editorial in support of Bundy, admitted he is not legally in the right: “He’s breaking the law, that fact is true, they have ruled that … The courts have ruled that he is on federal land and he is grazing on federal land and he has not paid.”
In St. George, UT., the closest city with its own daily media, the online St. George News weighed in with a critical piece Sunday that also took aim at the national press supporting Bundy, stating: “The Bundy Range War was perpetuated by an irresponsible media vying for nothing more than ratings and an ill-informed and willfully ignorant public who, much like a NASCAR fan, come to the race simply in hopes of seeing a crash.”
By: Joe Strupp, Media Matters For America, April 16, 2014
“Susana Martinez’s Administration Sounds Familiar”: Tone-Deaf, Exclusionary, And Unnecessarily Ruthless
Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll has a delightful look at the office and personality of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a popular Republican politician and potential presidential or vice-presidential candidate.
Here’s what we learn: Martinez is, to put it charitably, pretty ill-informed about policy and certain aspects of her job. A cutthroat political consultant named Jay McCleskey seems to have a huge amount of influence in her administration, despite having no official job in the governor’s office. He has also used his connections to enrich himself, through his consulting firm and “affiliated entities.” Martinez has been unduly harsh toward her perceived political enemies, punishing them by endorsing opponents and telling fundraisers not to donate. One New Mexico Republican Party elder referred to her administration as “tone-deaf, exclusionary, and unnecessarily ruthless.”
And recorded conversations reveal that Martinez and her team — most especially McCleskey — are vulgar, condescending and not infrequently offensive when talking among themselves about voters, teachers and other politicians. Kroll compares it, accurately, to HBO’s “Veep.” This, for example, sounds especially “Veep”-esque:
During an October 2010 campaign conference call, Martinez said she’d met a woman who worked for the state’s Commission on the Status of Women, a panel created in 1973 to improve health, pay equity, and safety for women.
“What the hell is that?” she asked.
“I don’t know what the fuck they do,” replied her deputy campaign manager, Matt Kennicott.
“What the hell does a commission on women’s cabinet do all day long?” Martinez asked.
“I think [deputy campaign operations director Matt] Stackpole wants to be the director of that so he can study more women,” Kennicott said.
“Well, we have to do what we have to do,” McCleskey chimed in, as Martinez burst out laughing.
It turns out that a bunch of assholes are running New Mexico. And while assholes who surround themselves with other assholes often do well in American politics, one thing that tends to happen is that they also alienate people who are in a position to hurt them.
I do not mean, in any way, to diminish the reporting of Kroll and Mother Jones, but it seems, from the outside, that this piece happened because someone with access to a lot of documents and recordings decided to send those documents and recordings to a venue that would make sure to post them in the most damaging and complete form possible. (The Times, for example, would’ve produced a similarly comprehensive profile with this material, but it would’ve been headlined something like “Unanswered Questions Linger Over Influence of Adviser to New Mexico Governor.”) That right there is a good indication that something is terribly wrong in the office of the governor of New Mexico: Vindictive behavior leads people to do things like leak all your shit to Mother Jones.
The result is, I think, a really enlightening peek into what this sort of administration actually sounds like on the inside. By “this sort of administration,” I mean one run by a bunch of petty assholes who play-act like politics in a Mamet-scripted masculinity contest. It’s easy to imagine that the governorship of George W. Bush wasn’t entirely dissimilar, with a checked-out executive and a powerful political operative running the show. Other recently released internal communications suggest a similar environment in New Jersey.
Probably a lot of state (and city and county) executive offices sound a lot like this, behind closed doors and in email chains. Not all of them, but probably most of the ones you suspect. And not just those darn Republicans. The only difference, in terms of the political culture, between the Susana Martinez administration and the Andrew Cuomo administration is that the Andrew Cuomo administration doesn’t have someone on staff sending reams of damaging internal communications to hostile members of the press. It may be that Cuomo doesn’t need to outsource the position of petty, vindictive, highly politicized vengeance-seeker to a top aide, as Martinez apparently has, but is being more hands-on in that particular position really a plus?
Susana Martinez seems like a bad governor, and she would be a bad president, for most of the same reasons that George W. Bush was a bad president, but she is just another exemplar of America’s long and proud tradition of elevating assholes to high positions because they seem like they get things done.
By: Alex Pareene, Salon, April 16, 2014
Conservative media figures that embody messages of misogyny and hate will take center stage at a GOP candidate forum in Iowa, despite the party’s own acknowledgment that future electoral victories hinge upon the development of a more tolerant platform.
After Mitt Romney’s loss in the 2012 presidential election, the Republican National Committee drafted a series of recommendations on how to evolve and grow the party into a force that can win consistently in the 21st century. To a large extent, the plan recommended reaching out to women and minorities, after Democrats won both groups by healthy margins that year. The RNC report recommended “developing a forward-leaning vision for voting Republican that appeals to women.” It went on to suggest that the party needs “to campaign among Hispanic, black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate that we care about them, too.”
But in a move that seems in total opposition to those recommendations, the Iowa Republican candidates for U.S. Senate, as well as Republican Gov. Terry Branstad and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), have chosen to partner with Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, radio host Steve Deace, and The Family Leader, an anti-gay organization headed by Bob Vander Plaats, to conduct a forum for the candidates on April 25.
Despite his role as “moderator” for the event, Erickson’s far-right views on women and minorities are anything but moderate. Erickson has argued that businesses that serve gay couples are “aiding and abetting” sin, that proposed anti-discrimination laws are part of a war on Christians waged by “evil” gay rights activists, and that marriage equality is akin to incest. According to the pundit, gay people are definitely “on the road to hell.”
In fact, Erickson is scheduled to appear at an event for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) on the night before the candidate forum. The ADF, whose work has been touted by Erickson, is an extreme anti-gay organization working to criminalize homosexuality. The event is billed as “An Evening with Erick Erickson,” making him a de facto spokesman for a group whose stances are so extreme even some of Erickson’s peers at Fox News have distanced themselves from them.
Erickson’s relationship with women’s issues is just as offensive – he is particularly hostile to the idea that women should help support a family financially. Erickson stated on his radio show in 2013 that “some women believe they can have it all, and that’s the crux of the problem,” and told Fox host Lou Dobbs that the recent increase in the number of female breadwinners is “concerning and troubling.” He elaborated on this point, saying, “When you look at biology, look at the natural world, the roles of a male and female in society, and the other animals, the male typically is the dominant role.”
But it’s not just Erickson. The Republican candidate forum will also feature a post-forum focus group moderated by radio host and Washington Times columnist Steve Deace.
Deace maintains strong anti-gay and anti-immigrant views. Most recently, he penned a column suggesting that President Obama and the media were using the story of Michael Sam, an openly gay NFL prospect from the University of Missouri, as an excuse to distract attention away from the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya. He has also compared gay marriage to bank robbery and strongly opposes proposals like the DREAM Act that would aid longtime immigrant children in obtaining a college education.
And the forum itself is presented by The Family Leader, whose president Bob Vander Plaats has called gay people a “public health risk,” likened being gay to adultery and polygamy, and is a vocal supporter of the fringe birther movement.
If right-wing hate mongers like Erickson and Deace continue to be chosen to represent the party, GOP rebranding efforts are likely doomed.
By: Brian Powell, Media Matters For America, April 16, 2014