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“If You’re Not At The Table, You’re On The Menu”: Republicans Fear Paying A Price For Attacks On Interests Of African Americans

North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis didn’t have any problem jamming through a so-called “voter ID” law that was intended to take away the voting rights of thousands of North Carolinians — including many African Americans.

But the moment Democrats or civil rights organizations exhort African Americans to go to the polls and stand up for their right to vote — and prevent Tillis from being elected to the U.S. Senate — the Republicans squeal like stuck pigs.

“Oh, that’s unfair, that’s playing the racial card,” they say. Wrong. That’s being held accountable for policies that intentionally attack the interests of African Americans and millions of other ordinary voters.

With Tillis as speaker, the North Carolina legislature passed “Stand Your Ground” legislation similar to the law that allowed the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer in Florida. But the GOP thinks it is utterly unfair for him to be tied to the real-world consequences of his actions in government.

Community and civil rights organizations throughout the South — and around the country — are exhorting African American voters to go to the polls in the mid-term elections by pointing out that when African Americans don’t vote they get outcomes like Ferguson, Missouri. And they are dead on. Sixty-seven percent of the city’s 21,000 residents are black, but only 12 percent of the voters in the last municipal election were black. The result: a city council with only one African American member and a police force of 53 officers — of which only three are black.

There could be no better example of what African Americans get if they don’t vote. Yet the Republicans think that reference to Ferguson is “inflammatory.”

It’s not the least bit “inflammatory.” It simply means that the African American community intends to stand up for itself in the political process.

It is tribute to the fact that the leaders of African American organizations realize that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu — and that goes for all of us.

Democrats and everyday Americans of all backgrounds should take a lesson from the way African American leaders are standing up for President Obama. They are pointing out in radio spots and mailings that while it is perfectly legitimate to criticize the president in a democratic society; many of his Republican and right-wing critics have crossed the line to disrespect. They are telling African American voters: “It’s up to us to have the president’s back — vote.”

Republicans don’t like to hear that. In fact, the corporate CEOs and Wall Street billionaires who control the Republican Party — in coalition with groups of tea party extremists — don’t want most ordinary Americans to wake up and go the polls.

That doesn’t just go for African Americans. They are hoping that Hispanics, women, working people, and young people of all sorts stay home and forget there is an election. That way they hope they can elect a Republican Senate so that if a vacancy occurs on the Supreme Court they can prevent President Obama from appointing a justice that is not in Wall Street’s back pocket.

They want a Senate that can work with the tea party-controlled House to hold the president and the country hostage unless they are allowed to slash tax rates for big business, eliminate the Medicare guarantee, cut Social Security benefits, gut the regulation of Wall Street, dramatically restrict women’s right to choose and limit access to contraception. And none of that is an exaggeration. Those are the positions they put right on their campaign websites.

If you are reading this article and haven’t voted, make a plan right now for how you plan to vote before Tuesday. In most states you can vote by mail, vote early at many locations or — of course — go to your precinct on Tuesday and cast your ballot.

Figure out now what time you plan to vote and how you plan to get to the polls or the early vote location. Don’t put it off.

Many critical elections in state after state are on a knife’s edge — they will be decided by a handful of voters.

Tens of thousands of Americans have given their lives — on battlefields far away and in struggles for voting rights here at home — so that every single American can have the right to have a say in determining our country’s leaders.

If you think that it doesn’t matter — or that it won’t affect you, or that your vote won’t influence the outcome — you are simply wrong.

In the end the big issues that completely shape our individual lives and the future of our society are decided by who votes.

Will there be job opportunities for our kids? Will a small group of Wall Street speculators be allowed to sink our economy once again like they did in 2008? Will you have the right to control your own reproductive decisions? Will your monthly Social Security check be cut? Will we leave our kids a planet that is so filled with carbon pollution that we can’t grow enough food or our cities are regularly swamped by monster storms like Hurricane Sandy? Will ordinary people finally get wage increases from our growing economy or will all of the growth continue to be siphoned off by the wealthiest one percent?

If you don’t plan to vote, are you really willing to allow the billionaires and CEOs to get what they want? Are you willing to let them steal your family’s security while we sleep through the election?

Don’t let it happen. Get up off the couch and go vote. Better still, call your neighbors, your sons and daughters. Tell your spouse to vote. Volunteer with a campaign to get other people out to vote — it works.

The plain fact is that if we don’t vote it won’t just be some politician who loses an election. If we don’t vote, we lose.

 

By: Robert Creamer, The Huffington Post Blog, October 31, 2014

November 1, 2014 Posted by | Midterm Elections, Minority Voters, Thom Tillis | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“In The Short Term, Absolutely Nothing”: Are GOP Donors Going To Get Anything In Return For Their Millions?

If you’re a liberal zillionaire who contributed lots of money this year to prevent a Republican takeover of the Senate, on Tuesday you’re probably going to be pretty unhappy. Which is why, Ken Vogel of Politico reports, the people who run the groups through which all those millions are being channeled are rushing to reassure their donors that it was still money well spent. Which got me thinking about the conservative donors who are probably going to be celebrating next week. For some of them, Republican victories are an end in themselves, but others have a more specific agenda in mind. They help Republicans get elected because they expect something in return.

To be clear, I’m not talking about quasi-legal bribery. If you’re an oil company or a Wall Street firm, you donate to Republicans not so that they’ll be forced to do what you want whether they like it or not, but because you know they like it quite well. Republicans want, deep in their hearts, to cut taxes and slash regulations and open up public lands to drilling and all the other things that would benefit their donors. But are they actually going to be able to deliver?

Those investments have been huge. Here are just a couple of details from the Center for Responsive Politics:

Wall Street as a whole has contributed $171.1 million, more than any other industry or interest group that CRP tracks. Of that total, $100.8 million has gone to candidates and party committees, with an overwhelming 62 percent of it winding up in the hands of Republicans and just 38 percent in the hands of Democrats. The remaining money, more than $70 million, went to outside groups, and $45.8 million of that went to conservative-leaning organizations.

But while securities and investment was the top donor industry for GOP candidates, for Democrats the No. 1 slot was occupied by lawyers and law firms. Overall, that was the third-ranking industry this election cycle, giving $66.4 million to Democrats and $28.4 to Republicans through the third quarter.

One grouping new to the top 10 is Environment—a category that includes a number of fairly small-spending groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council. What made the difference this year were contributions from Tom Steyer, a billionaire who made his money in hedge funds; he has contributed $73.7 million this cycle to outside groups, all focused on the environment or aligned with Democrats.

Steyer has said that his goals are long-term—specifically, he wants to elevate the place of climate change in public debate and elect people who will (eventually) do something about it. But if Wall Street has contributed over $100 million to Republicans this year, they want something in return. And what are they going to get? The answer is probably not too much. Republicans have no doubt been telling them, “Help us get elected, and then you’ll see!” But Barack Obama still has a veto pen, and the Treasury Department and the SEC are still staffed by his appointees (not that they’re unfriendly to Wall Street, but they’ll be no more friendly next year than they were this year). Republicans aren’t going to be passing any major legislation—or much legislation at all—that will actually reward their friends, because if the legislation they pass would meaningfully advance conservative goals, Obama would veto it.

But people all over the place may be overestimating just how much change is going to come. Look, for instance, at this article (also from Politico) about how all the K Street lobbying firms are getting ready for boom times:

GOP lobbyists and consultants are strategizing about landing new business and looking forward to advising clients if Republicans take control of the Senate—setting off rapid change in the political dynamics of Capitol Hill.

Several lobbyists said they expect a bump in business in the first half of 2015 when companies look to recalibrate their outside rosters to engage more heavily with Senate Republicans.

“There will be a burst of excitement and activity as a result of that change,” said former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who now heads Squire Patton Boggs’ lobbying operation. “There is a lot of pent-up demand in the tax area, infrastructure, immigration, the budget and tax policy.”

Lott said he thinks it will be a shot in the arm to K Street with a much busier legislative agenda.

Lobbyists need legislation in order to do their jobs. They especially like big bills that can be larded with lots of obscure provisions they obtain on behalf of their clients but that few people notice. And these have indeed been lean times—I have one friend who’s been lobbying for years, who told me not long ago that he was considering a career change, because without any legislation going through Congress, his job had become all but irrelevant.

But what the hell is Trent Lott talking about here? Is a Republican Congress going to start passing bills on taxes, infrastructure, and immigration that Barack Obama will sign?

Of course they won’t. What they will do, however, is write, debate, and maybe even pass a lot of bills that are ultimately doomed. Some will get filibustered by Senate Democrats, others may be vetoed. But at least Lott will be able to go to his clients and say that he earned his six-figure monthly retainer, because he got things inserted into bills for them, and it isn’t really his fault if they never actually became law.

And that’s what they’ll get for their millions, at least in the short term: nothing.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, October 31, 2014

November 1, 2014 Posted by | Campaign Donors, GOP, Megadonors | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Who’s Buying The Midterm Elections? A Bunch Of Old White Guys”: White Men Make Up 65 Percent Of Elected Officials

This is the year of the mega-donor: just forty-two people are responsible for nearly a third of Super PAC spending in the 2014 election cycle. Super PACs, meanwhile, are outspending the national parties. The list of would-be kingmakers includes Tom Steyer, the former hedge-fund manager who’s poured out $73 million to elect environmentally friendly Democrats; Michael Bloomberg, who’s distributed upwards of $20 million on behalf of both sides; and Paul Singer, the “vulture-fund billionaire” and powerful Republican fundraiser.

Take a look at the list of top donors. They might have distinctly different political agendas, but they have one thing irrefutably in common: they’re almost exclusively old white guys. Only seven women made it into the forty-two, and not a single person of color.

One of the things highlighted in the aftermath of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, Missouri, is how poorly America’s political leadership, from city councils to the US Senate, reflects the diversity of the country. According to data compiled by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, white men make up 65 percent of elected officials—more than twice their proportion in the general population. Only 4 percent of our political leaders are women of color. As Jelani Cobb writes in The New Yorker, the midterm elections won’t right this imbalance between demographics and political representation, no matter which party wins the Senate.

In fact, the midterms suggest that white men are gaining clout, at least behind the veil. As campaign-finance laws erode, political power is increasingly concentrated among the billionaires playing the strings of the electoral marionette—a pool that looks less diverse even than Congress. (Given the prominence of dark-money groups, it’s likely that some of the biggest individual players in the midterms are anonymous. But there’s no indication that secret donors are any more diverse than others.)

It’s shrinking, too. Between 1990 and 2010, the number of individual donors increased each election cycle. This year, the pool contracted from 817,464 individual contributors in 2010 to 666,773 as of late October, according to a new analysis from CRP. “Despite only a slight increase in the cost of the election, outside groups, which are overwhelmingly fueled by large donors, are picking up more of the tab, candidates are cutting back on their spending, and there are fewer large (over $200) individual donors contributing overall to candidates and parties,” reads the report.

Politicians should be accountable to the electorate, which is growing more diverse. But the fact that candidates are growing more dependent on a narrow group of contributors means that they may be responsive to a limited set of concerns. There are many factors blunting the political impact of demographic changes, but certainly laws that amplify a less diverse group of people’s voices over others’ in an election is one of them.

The unfettering of big money also makes it harder to elect minority candidates. “Why is it that the Congress we have right now doesn’t look anything like the rest of the country? A lot of it has to do with our campaign-finance laws and the fact that there’s so much money in the system and you need so much money to run for office,” said Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program and the Brennan Center for Justice. “There’s no question that it makes it more difficult for people who aren’t connected to these very wealthy donors to run for office.”

Candidates raise money from people they know, Norden explained, and American social circles are deeply segregated. Three-quarters of white Americans, for example, don’t have any non-white friends. Neighborhoods remain segregated by race and class. “If you don’t have a lot of money to begin with, you’re not interacting with the people who can provide that money,” said Norden.

A number of structural changes have been proposed to right lopsided representation, many of them focused on increasing turnout among minority voters. Those suggestions are particularly salient in response to the GOP’s campaign to pass laws that make it more difficult for low-income people and people of color to vote. But turnout won’t affect the diversity of elected officials if the pool of candidates isn’t diverse to begin with. As long as the financial bar for running a viable campaign keeps rising, it’s going to be more difficult for people of color, women and low-income people to appeal for votes at all.

There’s some evidence that public campaign financing increases proportional representation. Connecticut implemented a voluntary public-financing system in 2008, which provides a fixed amount of funding to candidates who rely on small donors. A study by Demos found that the program led to a more diverse state legislature and increased Latino and female representation. Another study found that the percentage of women elected in five states with public financing was significantly higher than the national average. Unfortunately, in several states recently politicians have set to dismantling, not strengthening, public financing.

“It’s really clear that that’s a major barrier to women and people of color, in particular, that can happen on all levels, even the local level,” said Brenda Carter, director of the Reflective Democracy Campaign, about the growing power of outside money. Still, she noted that there’s been little research into the specific ways in which the influence of money in politics has a disproportionate effect on minority candidates. “Adding a race and gender lens to the money-in-politics conversation is a really important thing,” she said.

 

By: Zoe Carpenter, The Nation, October 31, 2014

November 1, 2014 Posted by | Elected Officials, Midterm Elections, White Men | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Insidious Motives”: What? Racism In Louisiana? No! Apologize!

The ongoing effort by conservatives to define racism out of existence (if not to attribute it solely to people who worry about racism) reached a new low this week, per this AP story:

Republicans are calling on Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu to apologize after she suggested Thursday that President Barack Obama’s deep unpopularity in the South is partly tied to race.

In an interview with NBC News on Thursday, Landrieu was quoted as saying that the South “has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans.”

The comments came after an NBC reporter asked the senator why Obama has such low approval ratings in Louisiana. Landrieu’s first response was that the president’s energy policies are deeply disliked by residents of the oil and gas-rich state.

She then added, “I’ll be very, very honest with you. The South has not always been the friendliest place for African-Americans. It’s been a difficult time for the president to present himself in a very positive light as a leader.”

Note that Landrieu didn’t describe racism as Obama’s biggest problem, much less suggest that anyone in particular who didn’t like him had racial motives. She simply said there’s a history of racism in the South that naturally was reflected in attitudes towards the first African-American president. I cannot imagine a less disputable contention, and the honorable thing for representatives of the Party of Lincoln to do would be to respond with a “yes, but” argument.

But no:

State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere issued a statement late Thursday calling Landrieu’s remarks “insulting to me and to every other Louisianian.”

“Louisiana deserves better than a senator who denigrates her own people by questioning and projecting insidious motives on the very people she claims to represent,” he said. “Senator Landrieu and President Obama are unpopular for no other reason than the fact the policies they advance are wrong for Louisiana and wrong for America.”

So it seems Landrieu’s job is to whitewash Louisiana history and deny any white people there have “insidious motives.” Do you suppose Villere never ascribes “insidious motives” to Louisiana’s African-Americans? Ha!

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 31, 2014

November 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Mary Landrieu, The South | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pretending To Be Something They’re Not”: Election Season; Time For GOP Halloween Masquerade Ball

It’s lucky for the Republicans that most general elections fall so close to Halloween. That gives them an excuse for their great bi-annual GOP Halloween Masquerade Ball.

This year the Republicans are doing their very best to prevent the voters from remembering who they really are and what they really stand for. They’re putting on their “moderate masks” and the costumes of ordinary middle class Americans.

Why do they have to pretend to be something their not? Their problem is that most Americans disagree with their positions on just about every economic and social issue of the day. Voters disagree with Republicans on economic issues like:

GOP opposition to raising the minimum wage;

GOP refusal to renew unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed;

GOP obstruction of Democratic proposals to lower payments and cut interest rates on student loans;

The incredibly unpopular GOP proposal to eliminate the Medicare guarantee and replace it with a voucher for private insurance;

The failed GOP proposal to privatize Social Security;

GOP opposition to making oil companies, CEO’s of big corporations and Wall Street Banks pay their fair share of taxes;

GOP proposals to cut funding for public education;

GOP proposals to cut funding for medical and scientific research and development;

Republican support for eliminating and weakening regulations that limit the ability of Wall Street speculators to cause another financial collapse like the one that created the Great Recession;

Republican support for tax laws that provide an incentive for corporations to outsource U.S. jobs to other countries;

The Republican refusal to do anything that would address the fundamental economic fact that even though Gross Domestic Product per person in the U.S. has increased 80% over the last 30 years, all of that increase went to the top 1% and left everyone else with stagnating incomes.

Dressing up Republican candidates to disguise these positions is especially difficult because so many of their candidates personally embody these deeply unpopular stances.

Take the GOP candidate for Governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner. Rauner made $61 million last year — that’s $29,000 an hour. Yet he said he would like to abolish the minimum wage or at the very least get the Illinois legislature to cut the Illinois minimum wage from $8.25 to the national rate of $7.25 per hour.

Rauner made his money as a Wall Street speculator who basically took over companies and bled them of cash. Along the way his 200-facility nursing home chain was accused of malpractice for patient neglect. Rather than apologize and pay the claims, Rauner’s investment firm sold the firm to a shell company that was actually owned by a nursing home resident and declared bankruptcy so Rauner’s investment firm could dodge paying the claims of abused residents.

That’s just one of many stories about how Rauner made his money. Rauner owns nine residences — including a penthouse on Central Park in New York and three ranches. Pretty tough to put a “middle class” costume on Rauner and pretend he has the interests of ordinary Americans at heart.

Or then there’s the GOP Senate candidate in Georgia — David Perdue. Early in the campaign — and well before the GOP masquerade ball — Perdue actually admitted that he had “spent most of his career outsourcing” American jobs to other countries.

Those pesky electronic media that save comments like that make it awfully hard to dress up people like Perdue as a “neighborhood businessman” when elections come around.

The economy may be the issue that is most important to the majority of voters, but women’s health isn’t far behind. And there the GOP has candidates that look downright weird in their “hi, I’m a moderate” Halloween outfits.

Jodi Ernst, the Republican candidate for Senate in Iowa supports the “personhood” amendment. That’s a proposal that would make most forms of hormonal birth control — like the birth control pill and the IUD — illegal.

Cory Gardner, the GOP candidate for Senate in Colorado also supports the “personhood” amendment.

Earth to Jodi and Cory — your positions are way out of the mainstream in the United States, since over 98 percent of American women use birth control sometime in their lifetime. If they really wanted to wear something appropriate to the GOP Halloween masquerade ball this year they would wear space suits — since their positions are pretty much in outer space. But in fact they have donned costumes aimed at making them look every so “mainstream.” Don’t bet on closing ads from these guys asking voters to support them because they would ban the most popular forms of birth control.

Then there are candidates like GOP House Members Tom Cotton and Bill Cassidy, running for Senate in Arkansas and Louisiana, respectively. These guys voted for the Ryan budget that would eliminate Medicare and replace it with a voucher for private insurance — costing seniors thousands per year in increased out-of-pocket costs.

They try to hide their positions behind a “Big Lie” mask that Democrats voted to “cut $700 billion” from Medicare with the Affordable Care act. In fact, far from cutting benefits for seniors, the Affordable Care Act closed the “donut hole” for prescription drug coverage and provided free preventive care to complement guaranteed Medicare benefits. It paid for these benefits partially by cutting subsidies to big insurance companies. Those are the “cuts to Medicare” Cotton and Cassidy are talking about. Not one senior had benefits cut. It’s nothing but a big lie. But what do you do if your real position is as unpopular as their vote to eliminate the Medicare guarantee?

And we can’t forget about Thom Tillis, the Speaker of the state house who is running for Senate in North Carolina. He led passage of an incredibly unpopular series of measures to curtail voting rights and also prevented the expansion of Medicaid that would provide health care to many in the state. Now he’s trying to weave and bob to disguise his position on these and other way-out GOP positions.

And of course, there is the unpopular Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who is running for his political life in Kentucky. He claims to want to rip out “Obamacare root and branch” while maintaining he would support continuation of the very popular and effective Kentucky version of “Obamacare” — “Kynect.” This, of course, is an impossibility. Guess he’s counting on a magician’s costume to make the contradictions in his positions disappear.

These are just the highlights from the “red carpet” at the GOP Halloween Masquerade Ball. There are many other attendees:

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin — now desperately trying to explain how his state’s austerity program could have failed to produce its promised 250,000 new jobs, when neighboring Minnesota progressive policies have led to a much more robust recovery.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan — whose “emergency manager” program stripped democratic local government from much of the state’s minority population.

Michigan Senate Candidate Terri Lynn Land, whose conservative economic policies are very popular among plutocrats on Wall Street, but have landed her well behind her Democratic opponent in the polls of ordinary citizens.

Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota whose Wall Street-oriented economic policies have run into trouble among the prairie populists of South Dakota where he’s now running for Senate.

Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas whose tax cuts for the wealthy have almost bankrupted the state government and are helping to drag down long-time Republican Senator Pat Robertson.

And there’s Florida’s multi-millionaire governor Rick Scott. Scott has dutifully taken the side of the oil industry and the billionaire Koch Brothers even though their opposition to proposals to curb carbon pollution could sink a good portion of Florida’s most populous communities into the ocean.

And there are dozens of Republican House Members who are trying desperately to get voters to forget about their votes to shut down the government, end the Medicare guarantee, and cut funding for education.

Of course economic, social and environmental issues aren’t the only turf where the GOP has the low political ground.

Almost 90 percent of Americans support universal background checks when someone buys a gun. Not the Republicans.

Most Americans support campaign finance reform that would prevent a few dozen billionaires from dominating our elections. Not the Republicans.

Most Americans want us to invest more funds in health research to protect us from diseases like Ebola, cancer and the flu. Not the Republicans.

Most Americans support comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship. Not the Republicans. This year, the GOP even prevented a vote in the House on a bill that overwhelmingly passed the Senate. House GOP Speaker Boehner wouldn’t allow a vote because he knew it would pass. Basically he is thwarting the will of Congress.

Will the Republican Halloween Masquerade Ball deceive enough Americans into thinking the GOP represents them, instead of the coalition of Wall Street Bankers and radical extremists who want to ban birth control and scapegoat immigrants that provide the foundation for the Republican Party? Will their costumes and masks convince enough voters to allow them to gain control of the Senate, win more seats in the House and overcome Democratic leads for key Governor’s mansions around the country?

We’ll all know a week from Tuesday. But the truth is that there would not be a chance that their disguises would succeed if everyone in America went to the polls.

The truth is that, in the end, this election is all about who votes and who stays home.

The big Wall Street banks and CEO’s don’t want ordinary people to wake up. They want us to sleep through the election so they can elect Republicans who will allow them to siphon more and more of the fruits of our economy into their own pockets.

Don’t let them steal your family’s security while you sleep through the election. It’s really up to us. Vote early. Vote by mail. Vote November 4.

But whatever you do, don’t let them win their game of deception. Vote.

 

By: Robert Creamer, Political Organizer, Strategist, Author; Partner Democracy Partners; The Huffington Post Blog, October 26, 2014

 

November 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Middle Class, Midterm Elections | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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