"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“We Vote For Survival”: You’re Damn Right Electability Matters To Black Voters

Coming off his near-upset in the Iowa caucus and his massive win in New Hampshire, polls (PDF) are showing that more voters nationally are “feeling the Bern,” with Bernie Sanders now appearing to have the momentum against Hillary Clinton. These polls seem to confirm two theories.

First, the enthusiasm gap that many of us have long written about and that Hillary Clinton struggles with is very real.

Second, not caring about which candidate is actually electable might be one of the greatest forms of privilege there is. This is one reason why despite being more progressive than Clinton in some areas, Sanders has struggled to gain traction with black voters. Because ignoring whether a candidate is actually electable is a luxury most minorities simply can’t afford.

Here’s what I mean.

Every voter I’ve ever met has fallen into three camps: Those who see voting as a civic duty, those who only do it when they’re really inspired, and those who view it as an act of survival. For those who view it as a civic duty, voting is on par with volunteering for charity—something good, responsible people do regularly but not necessarily something they believe will immediately impact their lives. But they may believe that voting for a candidate who cares about climate change today could possibly have some impact on the world one day, like when their grandchildren are here.

We have all met at least one person who falls in the only when they’re really “inspired” camp. They only vote when a candidate makes their heart sing by saying something witty on The Tonight Show or giving one great speech.

Then there are those who vote for survival. That’s the person who votes, and gets family members to vote, to try to overturn a Stand Your Ground Law in her state, because she knows more than one unarmed teen in her community who was killed because of such a law. That kind of voter doesn’t have the luxury of waiting to be “inspired” by a candidate or to think long term about how their vote might make a difference a decade from now.

Which is why the battle between Bernie and Hillary is actually much bigger than the two of them. It’s a larger debate the progressive movement has struggled to settle within its broad coalition for years over whether considering electability is in itself a moral issue on par with the many policy issues voters and parties must consider.

For years there was a saying in Democratic circles: “Democrats want to fall in love with a candidate. Republicans fall in line.” (Obviously Donald Trump’s supporters didn’t get the memo this year.)

Hillary Clinton continues to struggle because she’s not a candidate who inspires love; admiration perhaps, but not love. The crowds at Bernie Sanders rallies could easily be mistaken for those attending a mega-church tent revival—all smiles, music and enthusiasm out the yin-yang. Hillary Clinton’s events by comparison have the more sobering feel of the Sunday School class your mom made you go to. But that doesn’t change the fact that beyond his core loyalists Bernie Sanders is not widely seen as presidential material. Yet watching Bernie Sanders gain momentum and be enthusiastically celebrated by the same people ridiculing Trump’s supporters as delusional has been a combination of ironic and baffling.

For starters, Sanders is a self-described socialist and a recent Gallup poll found that socialists are even less electable than atheists these days, which is saying something.

And in a poll released recently by Monmouth University a plurality of Democrats declared Clinton the Democratic candidate with the best chance of beating the Republican frontrunners, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

But details like these have not deterred Sanders loyalists. This is not exactly surprising because we have seen this before. I mean that Sanders inspires the same measure of devotion shown to previous progressive icons like Ralph Nader, who played the role of spoiler to Vice President Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. Nader’s and Sanders’s supporters have a few things in common.

For starters, few of Nader’s supporters actually looked at him and thought, “I genuinely believe this man has a serious shot of making it all the way to the White House.” But it wasn’t actually about winning. Instead Nader supporters had a whole host of reasons why they were willing to cast a vote that would help insure a Bush victory. Reasons like:

“We need his voice!”

“The system is broken and we need to send a message!”

“I’d rather vote my conscience than vote for the winner!”

“All I care about is who is right on the issues!” (i.e. which candidate most aligns with me ideologically)

Of course the message they ended up sending with their vote of conscience was ultimately, “I’m fine helping elect Bush.”

The similarities don’t end there. According to polling research Sanders supporters are primarily white, and they have higher levels of education and income than Clinton supporters. In 2000 The Washington Post described Nader voters as “disproportionately young, white and well-educated.”

Again, this isn’t a surprise. Because if there is anyone who can afford to vote for a candidate and genuinely not care whether he or she wins or loses, it is a young person of privilege who ultimately has very little at stake. For instance, it is doubtful that many of the white, well-educated voters who comprised Nader’s core constituency were among those who ultimately comprised the young men and women who ended up losing their lives in the War in Iraq that began under the president Nader helped elect.

And if we’re being honest, a person of privilege won’t really be that affected by who becomes attorney general or who is nominated to the Supreme Court. What I mean is, a white affluent college student will always be able to secure a safe abortion if she decides she wants one, whether it’s legal or not, just as a white affluent student is far less likely to have his life derailed by an arrest for narcotics possession than a poor black one. In both cases their familial and social networks will provide a safety net for them, which is why what motivates their voting decisions will be different than what motivates others.

The fact that Hillary is trouncing Sanders in the first primary state with a sizable black population, South Carolina, speaks volumes. There she is not only leading substantially among total voters but winning up to 80 percent of the black vote.

The reason is simple. If you are worried about your black son possibly walking out the door tomorrow and being shot in either random community violence, or by another George Zimmerman, then determining whether a candidate inspires you is probably not high on your list of Election Day priorities. You’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Most minorities do.

Recall that even with respect to Barack Obama in 2008, some African-American voters were enthusiastic from the start, but they didn’t really go all in until after he won in Iowa—that is to say, until they saw that he was truly electable. More specifically, that he could win support from diverse constituencies—African Americans as well as voters in white states. This is something Sanders hasn’t proven.

I guess the question becomes whether the needs of less privileged voters will ever become a priority for more privileged progressives who have the luxury of letting inspiration be their guide.


By: Keli Goff, The Daily Beast, February 12, 2016

February 13, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Black Voters, Electability, Hillary Clinton, White Voters | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Bobby Jindal Enabled Louisiana’s Gun Violence Problem”: Worked To Weaken The State’s Already Lax Gun Control

Governor Bobby Jindal suspended his sputtering presidential campaign on Friday, a day after 59-year-old gunman John Houser killed two people and wounded nine others in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana. “We’re going to do whatever we can to support our community here,” he said on Fox News. “This is a time for us to come together.”

He should do a lot more than that. Louisiana has some of the weakest gun laws and worst gun violence in the nation.

The state doesn’t require background checks on private sales, even for assault weapons; doesn’t require gun owners to register their firearms; and doesn’t have a limit on the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. As for gun violence, the state has the second-highest gun death rate in the nation, according to an analysis of the latest National Vital Statistics report. Louisiana’s lax oversight also enables firearms trafficking to other states, in which it ranks fifteenth in the nation, and 28 percent of guns wind up in criminals’ hands within two years of sale—almost six points above the national average.

Jindal has worked to weaken the state’s already lax gun control by signing a wave of bills in 2013 and 2014. He broadened the “Stand Your Ground” law to protect shooters who hurt, but don’t kill, someone they feel is threatening. He allowed concealed weapons in places that serve alcohol. He banned public access to the personal information of concealed handgun permit owners. He approved guns in churches. And he allowed Louisianans to apply for lifetime concealed-carry permits.

So don’t expect from Jindal the type of comments that Barack Obama delivered after last month’s massacre in a Charleston, in which the president said, “Now is the time for mourning and for healing. But let’s be clear. At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”

Jindal called Obama’s remarks “completely shameful”—words that more appropriately describe the governor’s own gun policies.


By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, July 24, 2015

July 27, 2015 Posted by | Bobby Jindal, Gun Control, Gun Deaths | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“America Moving Farther Apart”: Hillary Clinton Probably Can’t Get Gun Control Passed. But She Should Talk About It, Anyway

Hillary Clinton is talking about guns, and everyone seems surprised. After all, doesn’t she know the issue is a sure loser for Democrats?

The truth is quite a bit more complicated than that — in fact, pushing for measures like expanded background checks is likely to help Clinton in the 2016 election. But if she’s going to promise to make headway on this issue, she needs to offer some plausible account of how as president she could make real progress where Barack Obama couldn’t.

Let’s address the matter of the gun issue’s political potency first. As is the case on so many issues, the Republican position is more popular when the questions are vague, while the Democratic position is more popular when the questions are specific. If you look at polling on guns, what you see is that the country is split pretty evenly on the broad question of whether gun laws should be more strict or less strict. But particular measures to regulate guns get much more support, especially universal background checks, which as many as nine out of ten Americans endorse.

At some point in this discussion, someone will always say: “But what about the NRA? They’re so powerful!” The NRA’s power is real in some ways and illusory in others, and it’s important to understand which is which. When it comes to lobbying, the NRA is indeed hugely powerful. It has the ability to stop any legislation on guns, often before it even gets written. But elections are an entirely different story. Almost all the congressional candidates who win the NRA’s supposedly coveted endorsement are Republican incumbents from conservative districts who win their elections by huge margins. When Republicans have a good election, as they did in 2014 and 2010, the NRA rushes to reporters to claim credit, saying the election proves that voters will punish any candidate who isn’t pro-gun. But when Democrats have a good election, as they did in 2012 and 2008, the NRA is strangely silent.

Gun ownership has been steadily declining since the 1970’s, and guns are more concentrated among voters that Democrats already won’t win and don’t need. For instance, according to the Pew Research Center, whites are twice as likely as Hispanics to own guns. If winning over Hispanic voters is the sine qua non of a Republican victory, advocacy for loosening gun laws isn’t exactly going to be part of a winning formula for the GOP. The person most likely to be a gun owner is a married white man from the South — in other words, probably a Republican.

When people argue that Hillary Clinton shouldn’t touch the gun issue, watch out for comparisons to how Bill Clinton did in the Electoral College, because America’s political geography is very different than it was two decades ago. For instance, I guarantee you that Senator Joe Manchin will at some point loudly advise that Clinton needs to tread carefully on guns if she’s to win his home state of West Virginia like her husband did twice. But the truth is that Clinton is probably not going to win West Virginia no matter what she does, and she doesn’t need to. Barack Obama’s two comfortable Electoral College victories were built on combining Democratic strongholds in the Northeast and West with the more liberal states in the Midwest and the fast-changing Southwest, where Hispanic votes are key. Clinton will almost certainly seek to assemble the same map — and it’s one where advocacy for the more popular gun restrictions will help her, not hurt her.

Still: if Clinton says it’s vital to enact universal background checks and other “common-sense” gun laws, she has to explain how she’s going to do it. Let’s not forget that in the wake of the horrific Newtown massacre, a bipartisan measure to expand background checks failed to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate, falling six votes short of the 60 it needed. If a bill that had the support of 90 percent of the public couldn’t make it past congressional Republicans just after 20 elementary school students had been murdered, how is Clinton going to convince them to vote for whatever she proposes?

But talking about gun measures in the presidential campaign could still have a practical impact, by elevating the issue and thereby making it more likely that more gun laws might be passed on the state level. And that’s where all the action has been of late: since the Newtown shooting, there have been dozens of laws passed at the state level on the subject of guns, and they tell a story of red and blue America moving farther apart.

In Red America, one state after another has passed laws to expand who can get a gun and where you can take it. Last year Georgia passed a law allowing people to take guns into churches, government buildings, and bars. “Stand your ground” laws have proliferated in Republican-run states (despite the fact that research indicates that they increase the number of homicides).

Meanwhile in Blue America, dozens of laws have been passed to rein in guns. Legislatures in states like California, Maryland, and Connecticut expanded background checks, restricted access for those with mental illness or domestic abuse convictions, and made it harder to get assault weapons. In 2014, voters in Washington state passed a ballot initiative mandating universal background checks by a wide margin.

So when we talk about the gun issue, we have to keep three things in mind. First, the kind of restrictions Clinton is proposing are hugely popular. Second, there really are two Americas when it comes to guns. And third, one of those Americas has the ability and the desire to stop any gun legislation in Congress. If Hillary Clinton has a plan to deal with that last reality, it would be interesting to hear.


By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, The Washington Post, July 10, 2015

July 11, 2015 Posted by | Background Checks, Gun Control, Hillary Clinton | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“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

“A Bad Week For The NRA”: Every Time The NRA Has A Week As Bad As This One, The American Public Wins

The NRA wants people to believe that its agenda — guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime — is as American as apple pie.

Only, the American public isn’t buying it.

This week, gun lobby extremism went down to defeat in a number of venues, in a number of states.

Guns for anyone? Not in California.

Guns anywhere? Not in Arkansas.

Guns anytime? Not in Florida.

It’s been a bad week for the NRA.

Consider what happened in California. You’d think we could all agree that someone who poses a significant danger to himself or herself or others shouldn’t have a gun. At the same time, that person is entitled to due process.

That’s why the particulars of California’s new gun violence restraining order law are important. Lawmakers — following the lead of states as diverse as Connecticut, Indiana, and Texas — got it right.

California’s law, which the governor signed on Tuesday, allows law enforcement or immediate family members to present evidence to a judge, who can order the police to take temporary custody of a person’s guns for an emergency period. Unless there’s a petition to hold the guns longer, the person will have his or her guns back after 21 days.

Now, both the police and family members can intervene in dangerous situations. More gun deaths — both homicides and suicides — can be prevented.

Of course, the NRA opposed the bill.

In California, no one was talking about banning guns — just temporarily keeping guns away from people who have given police and/or loved ones cause for significant concern.

But according to the NRA, letting everyone — felons, domestic abusers, the seriously mentally ill — have guns is just the price we pay for our Second Amendment rights. According to the NRA, life-saving restrictions on gun ownership — even court-ordered, temporary restrictions — are unacceptable.

While the NRA has had success pushing its agenda in state legislatures over the years, it’s met resistance on college campuses, where law enforcement and administrators agree that guns don’t belong.

You can understand the reasons college officials don’t want guns on campus. Think of those college ratings that magazines publish — and parents consult –every year. Colleges don’t want to be known as party schools, let alone places where people are carrying guns in classrooms and cafeterias.

The Arkansas legislature, in the NRA’s infinite wisdom, last year passed a law permitting university faculty and staff to carry guns on campus. Schools in the state do have the right to opt out of campus carry. But if only to make opting out more onerous, Arkansas requires schools to take that step and opt out every year.

For the second straight year, the vote on campus was unanimous. Once again, the governing boards of every Arkansas college, university, and technical institute chose to prohibit guns.

And that’s part of a pattern we’re seeing across the country. The gun lobby makes a dedicated push in state legislatures to pass campus carry laws. Then, when schools can opt out of allowing guns on their property, they almost uniformly do so.

Guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime might sound good to the NRA and gun manufacturers — but for the rest of us, it’s not a sound or an appealing public policy.

An argument over loud music, for example, isn’t the time to shoot someone. Justice was done in Florida this week, when a jury rejected Michael Dunn’s “Stand Your Ground” defense and found him guilty of first-degree murder — another high-profile blow to the “shoot first, ask questions later” mentality that NRA-backed Stand Your Ground laws help create.

With its losses adding up, the NRA’s political arm is getting desperate. On Wednesday, PolitiFact gave a “Pants on Fire” rating to the ad the NRA is running against Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. The Washington Post‘sFact Checker gave it “Four Pinocchios” — a perfect score for a perfectly misleading ad.

When you see or hear an NRA ad talking about someone trying to take away your gun rights, it’s not true. As PolitiFact put it, it’s fear mongering, plain and simple.

The truth is that the NRA’s agenda is more guns, in more places, all the time. It’s dangerous and deeply irresponsible — and an ideology that elected officials, school administrators, and concerned citizens alike are increasingly rejecting.

And every time the NRA has a week as bad as this one, the American public wins.


By: John Feinblatt, The Huffington Post Blog, October 3, 2014

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Gun Lobby, Gun Violence, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: