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“Executive Orders To Undo Executive Orders”: Does Rand Paul Want To Repeal All Executive Orders? Depends When You Ask

Does Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) want to repeal the Emancipation Proclamation? It depends on when you ask him.

Senator Paul raised the subject during a Thursday night appearance in Manchester, New Hampshire. During a question-and-answer session with Republican activists, a young man reportedly asked Paul, “If you were to receive the presidency, would you repeal previous executive orders and actually restrain the power of the presidency?”

“I think the first executive order that I would issue would be to repeal all previous executive orders,” Paul replied, as quoted by Real Clear Politics.

This would be problematic for a number of reasons. Although Republicans would presumably love to do away with President Obama’s executive order protecting some young immigrants from deportation, for example, repealing others would be a tougher sell. Would Paul really want to reverse President Lincoln’s order freeing the slaves, President Truman’s order desegregating the armed forces, or President Kennedy’s order barring discrimination in the federal government?

Well, not when you put it that way.

“Well, I mean, I think those are good points, and it was an offhand comment, so obviously, I don’t want to repeal the Emancipation Proclamation and things like that,” Paul told Real Clear Politics when questioned on the broader impact of his plan. “Technically, you’d have to look and see exactly what that would mean, but the bottom line is it’s a generalized statement that I think too much is done by executive order, particularly under this president. Too much power has gravitated to the executive.”

In reality, President Obama has issued fewer executive orders than any president since Franklin Roosevelt. But still, Paul’s point is clear: He was speaking extemporaneously, and doesn’t actually want to repeal all executive orders.

That excuse would be easier to swallow if Paul hadn’t made the same promise to the Louisville Chamber of Commerce in August:

Asked directly if he would issue executive orders as president, Paul said the only circumstance would be to overturn the ones made by his predecessors.

“Only to undo executive orders. There’s thousands of them that can be undone,” said Paul. “And I would use executive orders to undo executive orders that have encroached on our jurisprudence, our ability to defend ourselves, the right to a trial, all of those I would undo through executive order.”

Paul later backed away from that comment in much the same way, telling reporters that “It wasn’t sort of a response of exactness.”

In fairness to Senator Paul, it seems highly unlikely that he really wants to resegregate the military in an effort to roll back executive overreach. But his clunky attempt to get on both sides of the issue has become a theme for him, which has repeated itself on Medicare, immigration, foreign aid, and a multitude of other topics.

His Democratic rivals have taken notice.

“Rand Paul’s problem isn’t that he changes positions — it’s that he insists that he can simultaneously hold multiple, contradictory positions on a litany of key issues,” Democratic National Committee press secretary Michael Czin said in a statement. “As Paul gears up for a presidential run, he changes positions to suit the moment or to match the views of the group in front of him. From confronting ISIL to ending aid to Israel to whether he supports the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act, Rand Paul disingenuously tries to have it every way.”

Paul may be able to get away with clunky flip-flopping in the Senate, but it will become a major liability for him if he pursues the presidency in 2016. Clearly, Democrats are ready and eager to attack his lack of consistency. If Paul isn’t careful, they could set the narrative for him long before the first votes are cast.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, September 15, 2014

September 16, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Running Scared”: Democrats Are Turning Georgia Blue; Republicans Never Saw It Coming

In 2008, under the best possible conditions for a Democrat, Barack Obama lost Georgia by just over 200,000 votes, or 5.2 percent of Georgians who voted. Four years later he lost again by just over 300,000 votes, or 7.8 percent of Georgians who voted. By any measure the state is a reach for Democrats. And yet, the party is optimistic, both now—Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter, its Senate and gubernatorial candidates, respectively, are running close races—and for the future.

The “why” is easy to answer: Georgia has roughly 700,000 unregistered black voters. If Democrats could cut that number by less than a third—and bring nearly 200,000 likely Democrats to the polls—they would turn a red state purple, and land a major blow to the national Republican Party. Or, as Michelle Obama said during a campaign rally on Monday, “If just 50 Democratic voters per precinct who didn’t vote in 2010 get out and vote this November—just 50 per precinct—then Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter will win.” Given 2,727 precincts in Georgia, that’s just 136,350 new voters.

Enter the New Georgia Project. Led by Stacey Abrams, Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, the project is meant to do just that—register hundreds of thousands of blacks and other minorities. Their goal, says Abrams, is to “directly or indirectly collect 120,000 voter registration applications.” That could be enough to push Democrats over the top. And it makes the project one of the largest voter registration drives in recent Georgia history.

So far, it’s been a success. “In addition to the 85,000 we have collected as an organization directly,” says Abrams, “we have also supported the efforts of 12 organizations around the state. We know there are groups doing registration in the Latino community, in the Asian community, and in the youth community, and we wanted to support their efforts as well.” These groups, she says, have collected 20,000 to 25,000 applications, putting the New Georgia Project in striking distance of its goal two months before Election Day.

Which brings us to this week. On Tuesday, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp—a Republican—said his office was investigating allegations of voter fraud from the New Georgia Project, following complaints about voter applications submitted by the group. To that end, Kemp has issued subpoenas to the group and its parent organization, Third Sector Development.

“Preliminary investigation has revealed significant illegal activities’ including forged voter registration applications, forged signatures on releases, and applications with false or inaccurate information,” he wrote in a memo to county election officials.

To Abrams, this has less to do with protecting the process and more to do with suppressing the registration effort. After all, she notes, Georgia law “requires that we turn in all application forms we collect, regardless of concerns over validity.” It’s the job of the secretary of state, she says, to determine the status of the applications. “We do not get to make the decisions about whether or not a form is valid or not.”

She’s right. “A private entity shall promptly transmit all completed voter registration applications to the Secretary of State or the appropriate board of registrars within ten days after receiving the application or by the close of registration, whichever period is earlier,” says the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office website. Nowhere are private organizations asked or required to filter or discard applications.

There’s little information on the scope of the alleged fraud. But there is an aggressive subpoena that, Abrams says, “essentially demands every document we have ever produced.” She calls it a “fishing expedition” meant to “suppress our efforts.” A spokesperson for the New Georgia Project, the Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, was a little more explicit. “I see this move by the secretary of state as the latest effort in voter suppression in the state of Georgia,” he said.

Kemp insists that this investigation is impartial and nonpartisan. “At the end of the day this is not going to be about politics,” he told a local reporter. “This is about potential fraud which we think happened.” At the same time, Abrams and Warnock are rightfully suspicious. Not only was Kemp a vocal supporter of the state’s divisive voter identification law, but he’s a Republican in a state where the GOP has worked hard to dilute the strength of black voters.

Under the old Voting Rights Act, Georgia officials had to clear voting changes with the Justice Department, and for good reason: The state had a long history of disenfranchisement, and “preclearance” was a way to pre-empt discrimination or prevent it entirely.

That changed with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder last year, which struck preclearance from the VRA. Now, along with other Southern states, Georgia was free to change its laws and procedures for voting. And it did. That year, in Augusta—which has a large black population—officials moved municipal elections from their traditional November dates, a change with huge, negative effects on turnout. (For a case study, look to Ferguson, Missouri.)

Likewise, officials in rural Greene County implemented a redistricting plan previously blocked by the Justice Department, and lawmakers in Morgan County floated a plan to eliminate half the area’s polling sites, a move that would have its greatest effect on low-income and minority voters.

Then, Georgia Democrats realized they could play the same game. Last week officials in the large, mostly black area of DeKalb County announced plans for Sunday voting for the upcoming November election. The state’s Republican lawmakers have responded with outrage. “[T]his location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist,” said state Sen. Fran Millar, citing the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway, “I’m sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb.” Millar is investigating ways to “stop this action,” and hopes to “eliminate this election law loophole.”

Against this backdrop of voter suppression, it’s no surprise Abrams is suspicious of the state’s investigation: From the harsh accusations of “fraud” to the aggressive actions from Kemp, it looks like another attack on efforts to increase participation and diversify the electorate.

With that said, there’s only so long Republicans can hope to win through such divisive methods. Six years ago, a “purple” Georgia was a pipe dream. Now, in a year when Republicans have the national advantage, it’s a possibility. The pace of demographic change is so fast that, soon enough, Democrats like Abrams won’t have to work to change the electorate—it will have happened on its own.

 

By: Jamelle Bouie, Slate, September 12, 2014

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Georgia, Voter Registration, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Wrong Kind Of People Voting”: Why Voter ID Laws Pose Long Term Danger To GOP

A trial begins today in a federal courtroom in Texas to determine the constitutionality of the state’s voter identification law, which is widely acknowledged to be the most restrictive in the nation. It has gone through a number of twists and turns: Passed in 2011, it was struck down in federal court in 2012 as a violation of the Voting Rights Act. Then in 2013 the Supreme Court gutted the VRA. Now the law faces a new trial based on a different VRA section.

In the end, the Republicans who passed this law may prevail, particularly since the only racial discrimination the conservative majority on the Supreme Court apparently finds troubling is the kind that might affect a white person somewhere. But Republicans may have underestimated just how much damage they continue to do to their party’s image by trying, anywhere and everywhere, to make it as hard as possible for the wrong people to vote.

True, voter ID is not at the forefront of the national debate. Majorities do tell pollsters that you should have to show ID to vote, since it has a certain intuitive appeal. But when the subject is actually debated and discussed in the news, it drives people away from the GOP — and not just any people, but precisely the people the party wants so desperately to improve among to stay competitive in national elections.

First, some background. While there is a certain amount of voter fraud in American elections, almost all of it happens through absentee ballots. The only kind of fraud prevented by voter ID laws is in-person voter impersonation, which is incredibly rare. As Zachary Roth has detailed, when Greg Abbott became the state’s attorney general, he vowed a crusade against the “epidemic” of voter fraud in the state. How many cases did he find that would have been stopped by the ID law? Two. Meanwhile, according to the state’s own figures, almost 800,000 Texans lack the appropriate state-issued ID to vote.

The best you can say about the Texas law and others like it is that the motivation for them isn’t so much old-style racism as naked partisanship. The problem today’s Republicans have with black people voting isn’t the fact that they’re black, it’s the fact that they’re Democrats. Republicans also want to make it hard for Latinos to vote, and young people, and urban dwellers who don’t drive. When they wrote into the Texas law that a student ID from a state university wouldn’t count as identification but a concealed carry gun permit would, they made it quite clear that the point was to discriminate on the basis of your likelihood to vote Democratic. These laws often are accompanied by measures doing things like restricting early voting, particularly on Sundays when many black churches conduct voting drives.

So let’s dispense with the laughable notion that the reason many Republican-controlled states have passed a voter ID law is nothing more than deep concern for the integrity of the ballot. With the exception of the claim that laws mandating absurd restrictions on abortion providers are really just about protecting women’s health, there is probably no more disingenuous argument made in politics today. Yes, Democrats who oppose these laws are also thinking about their party’s political fortunes. But one side wants to make it easy for people to vote, and one side is trying to make it harder.

The success of voter ID laws in suppressing votes has been mixed. Some studies have found little or no impact on turnout, while others have shown significant declines in it. Where the laws fail to achieve their goal of suppressing votes, it’s probably because Democrats often undertake substantial effort to counteract them by registering people and helping them acquire the proper identification.

In any case, this law and others like it may well end up surviving. While this year courts have struck down voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the laws are likely to get a friendly hearing from the conservatives on the Supreme Court, which first upheld a voter ID law in 2008. And for Republicans, the calculation seems straightforward enough. They know that the groups with whom they’re strongest, like older white voters, homeowners, rural voters, married voters, and so on, are the ones most likely to have driver’s licenses and therefore not find an ID law to be a hindrance. Make voting an extra hassle for the wrong kind of voters, and you may get a few thousand, or a few hundred thousand, to stay home — making the difference in a close election.

But for a party that is struggling to appeal to precisely those demographic groups targeted by voter ID laws, such short-term gains risk getting swamped by long-term damage to its image. The voter ID debate reinforces everything the GOP doesn’t want people to think about it: that it’s the party of old white people, that it has contempt for minorities, that it knows nothing about the lifestyles and concerns of young people (who are far less likely than their parents were to get driver’s licenses), and that it will do virtually anything to win. You can’t spend a bunch of energy doing something that will make it harder for, for instance, Latinos to cast ballots, then turn around and say, “By the way, if you manage to make it past all these obstacles we’ve put in your path, we’d really like your vote.” But so far, few in the GOP seem to understand that.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 2, 2014

September 3, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Voter ID, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Women’s Equality Day”: The Vote — A Right Worth Fighting For

Today, August 26, marks Women’s Equality Day. It is also a little more than two months from the 2014 midterm elections. In my mind, these two things are inextricably linked.

Some of you may be asking, “What is Women’s Equality Day?” That’s a pretty easy question to answer. Every year since 1971, the President of the United States marks August 26 in commemoration of the day in 1920 that the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution — granting women equal voting rights — was certified into law.

Women fought long and hard for the right to vote. In 1848, the document produced by the Seneca Falls Convention was the first formal demand for women’s suffrage. During World War I, suffragists picketed the White House — possibly the first “cause” to do so. Many were arrested and participated in a hunger strike while in prison, leading to force feedings.

But not all women obtained access to the ballot box when the 19th amendment entered the law books. In the southern United States, Jim Crow laws kept most black women and men from voting. It wasn’t until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that the right to vote was extended to all adult citizens.

Sadly, the clock is turning back on voting rights. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, relieving dozens of state and local jurisdictions from having to pre-clear changes in their voting laws with the U.S. Department of Justice. They have wasted no time erecting new barriers against voting. In state after state, GOP-dominated legislatures have enacted new rules aimed at suppressing the votes of specific types of people: younger voters, immigrant citizens, voters of color and unmarried women.

The specific voter suppression laws vary from state to state. The most restrictive states require voters to present a government issued photo ID (a driver’s license, a passport, military ID, etc.); currently, 34 states have voter ID laws, and 15 of those states require photo ID.

The voter-suppression crowd argues that requiring a photo ID for voting is not onerous. It’s just a driver’s license, and you have to have that to drive, or get on a plane, or buy alcohol. Besides, they say, we need photo IDs to prevent voter fraud.

Here’s why that’s all wrong: (1) Voter fraud is all but non-existent in the U.S., and photo ID doesn’t address the very few instances that have been found. (2) Just a reminder for anyone who wasn’t paying attention in middle school, voting is not like driving, buying alcohol or traveling by plane. Voting is a constitutional right and essential to the democratic process. (3) The notion that a photo ID is simply something everyone has presumes all eligible voters have the right paperwork (or the money to get the right paperwork, like a birth certificate), transportation to get to their local DMV, and the ability to take time off work to make the trip.

So, if there is no real voter fraud to worry about, what’s the real goal of voter suppression measures? Well, it turns out that the majority of voting-eligible people in the U.S. disagree with the right wing’s anti-woman, anti-social justice, anti-union agenda. Seven in ten Americans support Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. A majority support labor unions, raising the minimum wage, and equal pay for equal work. And 62-63 percent support comprehensive immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship.

The reality is, if enough voters actually turn out for this November’s elections, we could elect candidates who support our issues and turn our country around. Does anyone doubt that the folks trying to suppress our votes are hearing footsteps?

I’ve always been proud of NOW’s position as the grassroots arm of the women’s movement. Our activists and members throughout the country are already doing the hard work on the ground — knocking on doors, making calls, educating and mobilizing voters — to get the word out about how high the stakes are this year. Want to get in on the action? Join me and take NOW’s pledge to vote on November 4th.

The right to vote is precious. Our feminist foremothers were beaten, arrested, went on hunger strikes and endured force-feeding for that right. Our sisters and brothers in the civil rights movement were beaten, jailed and murdered for registering Black voters. This year, let’s honor our proud history by voting in such large numbers that even the most dishonest, most cowardly suppression efforts can’t stop us!

 

By: Terry O’Neil, President, National Organization for Women; The Huffington Post Blog, August 26, 2014

August 26, 2014 Posted by | Voter Suppression, Voting Rights, War On Women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What The Republicans Failed To Accomplish”: Vital Tasks The House Did Not Address Before Taking An Unnecessary Recess

Many House members were at the airport yesterday, desperate to begin their five-week vacation, when the chamber’s leadership called them back. An emergency bill to provide money for the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border had earlier been pulled from the floor because of objections from the hard right; now some Republicans wanted to try again.

“You can’t go home!” Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas said, according to the Washington Post. That would send a terrible message to President Obama: “You’re right, we’re a do-nothing Congress.”

Sorry, congressman. That message had already been broadcast long before the House tripped over its own divisions on the border bill. The failure of this Congress (principally the House) to perform the most basic tasks of governing is breathtakingly broad. Though members did manage to pass a bill overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs, here is a catalog of the vital tasks the House was unable to accomplish before taking an unnecessary recess:

But there is one thing House Republicans did enthusiastically before packing their bags: They voted to sue the president for taking executive actions they disliked — actions that were necessary because Republicans failed to do their jobs.

 

By: David Firestone, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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