These ten Issues are important to Progressives. Read on to see what your vote will get you. Share with your neighbors.
Taking Our Power Back: Voting Down the Ballot
POSTED ON BY ZAKIYAA TAYLOR
This election season, we know that most folks are paying very close attention to the federal level of government. The presidency, races for Congress, and potential Supreme Court nominations are all at stake in a critical moment of America’s history. But what about the candidates that aren’t at the top of the ballot?
As a voter, one of the most important things you can do this election is voting the entire ballot.
What does voting down the ballot mean?
Simply put, voting down the ballot means filling out the entirety of the ballot. At the top of the ballot are those who represent us on a national level, such as those in Congress, or the president. Those races get the most attention, while the local representatives “down the ballot” are either ignored or filled in at random or solely along party lines.
Why vote down the ballot? Isn’t the national government more important?
Short answer: it’s not. The United States is a federal republic. That means at some point long ago, the individual states agreed to unionize under one national government while retaining their own set of powers and sovereignty over their state. This division of powers is intended to keep any single branch on a federal, state, or local level from becoming too powerful by dispersing authority among multiple levels of government. Sound complicated? It is. But those complications are meant to protect us by making it difficult for any single interest to consolidate power.
However, that hasn’t stopped efforts to do just that, especially in local elections where the margins are much closer than they are on the national level. Much fewer people vote on the local level. That means a single vote has far more power in your backyard than it does at the federal level. This also leaves smaller communities at risk of being overrun by outside interests.
Why don’t more folks talk about this?
More often than not, folks don’t pay attention to their representatives until an election year rolls around, if at all. Neither party has really done a good job explaining why all political engagement matters as they work to serve their own interests. The Democratic Party tends to focus a lot of attention on the presidential candidates and governors without investing in local governments. During Barack Obama’s time as president, over 1,000 state legislature seats were lost by Democrats across the country. On the other hand, the 1% have bankrolled down-ballot races in the Republican Party’s favor for decades in exchange for protection of their interests and lax enforcement of rules and regulations that protect the people. They know that real power lies in local jurisdictions, so they throw their money around to get their way. When local leaders aren’t invested in or voted in fairly, it’s the folks down home in small and rural communities that suffer harm the most.
Whether it’s county commissioner, school board, or sheriff, the roles that down-ballot races have on local and rural communities far outweigh federal influence. From voting rights to voter ID laws, school quality, tax-free corporations, affordable housing, women’s health, or Medicaid expansion, it’s our representatives on the state and local level that have the greatest control over our day-to-day lives and well-being.
Speaking of voting rights, it’s state legislatures that have control over congressional district boundaries- not the federal government. In North Carolina, we’ve been hit hard by politicians who have worked to dilute our power and muffle the voices of working-class Black, Brown, and white folks. Every 10 years after the census, these districts are redrawn. Those who were elected in 2010 worked very hard to reduce the change you are able to affect with your vote. Politicians shouldn’t get to choose their own voters or who’s vote matters more. Now is YOUR chance to take our power back, but that can only happen when folks vote the entire ballot.
What is the role of local officials in my community?
In North Carolina, each county is governed by a 3-9 person board of county commissioners. The board of commissioners sets the county property tax rate and adopts the budget each year. They also establish county policy by adopting resolutions and local ordinances (laws). Our state also uses the council-manager form of government, where commissioners focus on county policy and hire (not elect) a professional manager to oversee day-to-day operations.
School Board / Board of Education
Public education is a state-level function. As North Carolina has 115 school districts, the state legislature cannot attend to day-to-day school matters. Instead, they appropriate money and delegate the authority for descion-making to the School Board (also called Board of Education).
The local Board of Education is a entity with corporate status. Although made of individual members, the Board as a whole can sue and be sued, purchase and condemn property, and receive money and goods. No single member, committee, or group of board members may act on behalf of the board except by decision of the majority, meeting in an official session called and conducted according to the provisions of the statutes that created the board and govern its operation.
What can I do?
Wherever you are, know that you have the power to install representatives that best represent you.
Make your voice heard by registering to vote, filling out your census, and downloading a mail-in ballot request form. Make sure you know who your candidates are and what they represent.
Our members host events where you can learn more about our local political landscape from someone who knows what matters to you. Join us, when you can. We’ll build power for our communities together.
This election, we’ll need all of us to tap into our collective power and make things better for our community. Want to engage your friends and neighbors about politics with kindness and compassion?
Sign up for our RVT program here.
Answers to 18 frequent questions about 2020 elections in NCFebruary 24, 2020In “News”
Voting by Mail: A Down Home How-ToAugust 20, 2020In “Election 2020”
- Lee Nackman
- August 15, 2020
This material originally appeared on the OnTheTopic blog at https://onthetopic.org/2020/08/13/proposal-to-reopen-by-first-saving-america/. and on https://www.pcncdp.org/2020/08/15/a-proposal-to-reopen-by-first-saving-america/#comment-116.
The current debate about when and how to reopen schools and colleges misses the point. Of course we have to reopen schools. Just like we have to reopen businesses. Not only do we have to educate our kids, but parents can’t work without schools for their kids. Schools and the economy are linked: No schools, diminished economy; diminished economy, too little money for feeding, housing, and educating kids and their families. It is a downward cycle.
As businesses are pushing workers to return, helped by pressure from expiration of enhanced unemployment benefits, workers will get sick and neither be able to work nor to care for their children. And, customers will be afraid because of the sick workers, further driving business down. As more workers become ill, more customers will be afraid. Another downward cycle.
School, business, and health are inextricably linked. You can’t solve one problem without solving them all. This may sound hopeless, but it’s not. It is a national emergency that requires bold, direct action. First save America, then reopen.
Here’s my proposal in a nutshell: Implement a strict nationwide lockdown to defeat the virus and support people’s needs during the lockdown with large, direct payments.
The rest is detail. (But I hope you’ll read it!)
Breaking the Downward Cycle
The solution is simple, but difficult. It will take courage, real patriotism (not just the flag-waving kind), and shared purpose across the land. Here are the steps:
1. Admit that we’ve bungled our response to COVID
Our nation’s political leaders must admit, at least to themselves and in their hearts, that we’ve bungled our response to COVID. The disease is spreading fast, many people are dying, many more are being damaged for life, our kids aren’t being educated, and our real economy (not the stock market) is failing. Our country is being diminished by the day and we can only solve it by working together and with urgency.
Good leaders have the courage to admit error and to change course. Voters can forgive making mistakes, but they won’t forgive leaders who stick their heads in the sand while awaiting a magical solution.
2. Tell the truth going forward
All of our political leaders must tell the truth going forward. Our leaders must establish credibility, which is sorely lacking now. Credibility will encourage people to follow the “tough love” needed to get through this crisis together. Lack of credibility will even make people reluctant to accept good news, like an effective and safe vaccine, because we won’t know whether the good news is true or yet another lie.
3. Implement a nationwide lockdown
We know the drill. Only “essential” businesses, or businesses where work-from-home is possible, stay open. Define “essential” narrowly, based on what’s needed to keep people fed and housed. People generally stay at home. Require masks and social distancing elsewhere.
We started this in March, but didn’t follow through nationwide and reopened too quickly. But our experience this spring and the experience in other countries shows that a lockdown will stop or nearly stop the spread of the disease, saving many lives. Moreover, reducing transmission to a low-enough level is the only way to get schools open and the economy going again.
4. Implement a massive public relations campaign
This second lockdown can’t be half-hearted like the first one. Bombard the public with specific, consistent, insistent messaging through all channels. Political leaders of all persuasions need to get on board and lead by example. Everywhere. All the time. This is what patriotism is about: shared sacrifice in service to the nation. We’ll know this is happening when we see the talking heads on both CNN and Fox News giving the same recommendations to their viewers.
5. Define criteria for reopening
Define stringent criteria for when lockdown can be eased and when it must be strengthened. Listen to the epidemiologists. Intuition from politicians doesn’t pass muster in such a complex situation. We have people who know how to model transmission and can tell us when it is safe to reopen various sectors of our economy. Listen to them.
6. Sustain people
The direct impact of a lockdown on people already living paycheck-to-paycheck is devastating. To make a lockdown feasible, the federal government must sustain such people. This is a big topic, which I discuss next.
Let’s keep in mind the goal — sustaining people — and ignore the side goals that have plagued previous COVID relief bills. We’re not trying to prop up large corporations, the stock market, or even the local pizzeria. Such goals might be laudable, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about how we keep people fed and housed.
Give Everyone Money
The simplest approach is to give everyone money. Yes, I said everyone. Why? Because determining who really needs support is complex, politically charged, and bureaucratic. Just look at the CARES Act Payroll Protection Program’s (PPP) attempt to help small businesses: In practice, getting money required that a small business had the right kind of relationship with a bank and access to knowledgeable help from lawyers or accountants. The result was that many businesses that needed help didn’t get it and many that didn’t need help got it anyway. Making it simple helps make it fair.
Making it simple also eliminates the need to pay large fees to banks ⏤ PPP fees could exceed $24B.
So, let’s just bite the bullet and support everyone.
How Much Money?
Reasonable people will choose different subsidy amounts depending on their priorities. My priorities are that no one should go hungry for lack of money, people should not face eviction and homelessness, and our consumer-based economy should not totally collapse. Here’s my rationale.
Median personal income in the US was $33,700 per year in 2018. By definition, half of working-age individuals earn less than this and half earn more. Let’s give each individual the median income, $2,800 per month, for the duration of the lockdown.
The lowest-earning half of individuals, those most likely to face hunger, eviction, and homelessness without help, would be better off than before, even if they lost their jobs. The lockdown would no longer throw them and their families into dire poverty. Some would even be able to accumulate some rainy-day savings or pay down high-interest debt.
The higher-earning half of individuals would be better off if they kept their jobs, but not if they lost their jobs.
What Would It Cost?
In December 2018, there were 206.7 million working-age people. So, this level of support would cost about $579B per month. Federal income tax revenue on these payments would offset some of the cost.
Can We Afford It?
Yes. As a comparison, the CARES Act is estimated to cost about $1.8 trillion, assuming that some federally-guaranteed loans are paid back, more if the loans are not repaid. If we can afford the CARES Act, we can afford to do this. A three-month lockdown would cost less than the CARES Act.
We could get into a political argument about whether it is good for the US to increase its deficit spending. For 40 years, Republican dogma has been that deficits cause inflation, yet when Republicans are in power they increase deficit spending, primarily to help corporations and the very wealthy, giving us many data points about deficit spending and inflation. There’s no evidence that deficit spending in the US causes inflation.
This is especially so now, when the Federal Reserve has been “printing money” by making huge bond purchases. These bond purchases prop up the economy by keeping interest rates at historic lows (around .5% for 10-year Treasuries). Most of that printed money is flowing into the stock market, not helping people. If we can “afford” to spend money for that purpose, we can afford to spend money to help people directly.
Can We Afford Not to Do It?
We must stop the pandemic. If we continue to let it fester, it will destroy our country, much like other plagues and cataclysmic events throughout time have destroyed past empires. Self-preservation demands that we take action and the only action we can take now is to follow public health recommendations for a lockdown.
But we can only implement a lockdown if we reduce its devastating impact on much of the populace. If we fail to help people through the lockdown, we will not be able to sustain it for long enough to defeat the pandemic, which will again send the economy into a tailspin.
Moreover, we have to keep services provided by local and state governments alive. Taxes, mostly sales and property taxes, fund these services. If people are not earning, they’re not spending and paying sales taxes. If people are not able to pay their rent or their mortgages, they’re not paying property taxes. Putting money in the hands of the populace not only keeps them fed and housed, but keeps critical services funded. (Further help to state and local governments may nevertheless be necessary.)
There is no other choice if we want to save America.
What About the Politics?
The political issue is whether Congress is willing to spend money to directly help people as opposed to the usual indirect approach of funneling money to banks and well-connected large corporations, and hoping it trickles down. The CARES Act shows that there is some hope for the more direct approach: About a quarter of CARES Act money went directly to people (see a breakdown here), so there’s some willingness to spend money to help people.
But, the news is not all good. Republicans in Congress are now worrying out loud that enhanced unemployment benefits cause recipients to be lazy and not want to work. Even if their worry were justified (there’s evidence that it is not), so what? When the lockdown is over, people will need to return to work.
Importantly, we need to recognize that during the lockdown we want most people to stay at home, not showing up at work while possibly infected because they need money to pay the rent and feed their family. That’s why generous, direct funding of households is essential.
We Ignore Need for Corporations So Why Not for People?
Congress (both parties) seems happy to send huge amounts of money to large corporations that don’t really need it. Why would we do that but at the same time only help people who “need” it?
One rationale politicians use is to preserve jobs. But large corporations have access to private sources of funding. Corporate borrowing is as cheap as it has ever been. Besides, it would be good if some corporations restructure through bankruptcy: Maybe corporate leaders would learn to keep adequate cash reserves rather than spending too much of their earnings on stock buybacks.
Importantly, the absence of strong opposition to the CARES Act’s Economic Impact Payments to most households ($1200 per adult earning $99,000 or less, $500 per child), regardless of income level under $99,000 or employment status, gives hope that members of Congress could be comfortable that their electorate would perceive this proposed program as fair.
What About Businesses?
Businesses only survive if they have products or services to sell that attract customers with money to spend. Consumers drive large parts of our economy. Ensuring that consumers have money to spend will help most of our businesses. And, ultimately, no subsidy will help businesses that don’t have customers willing and able to buy. One way to support local businesses during the lockdown is for households who don’t need their whole subsidy to give money to support local businesses that are important to them. This seems preferable than the bureaucracy-heavy PPP approach.
There will still be people who believe in the (discredited) trickledown theory of economics, that the best way to help others is to give money to corporations and the wealthy. Such people, especially those in high-income households who will receive but not need the subsidy, should put their money where their mouth is by donating their household subsidy to their favorite businesses or corporations.
Will Essential Workers Be Willing to Work?
Since everyone will be receiving a subsidy payment, why would anyone want to work in an “essential” job? There are several reasons. First, employees will know that they’ll need employment post-lockdown, which might provide incentive to keep working. Second, and more importantly, essential businesses that need more employees during the lockdown will raise wages to attract them. Individuals will balance extra earnings against risk, with workers in different risk categories possibly making different decisions.
Likewise, essential businesses will make varying decisions about how they operate during the lockdown. Some may cut back products and services that they provide to avoid needing to hire more workers; others may raise wages to attract more workers so they can maintain their usual services. Among those that raise wages, some may raise prices to maintain or increase profits, while others will absorb the temporarily increased labor costs as a way to endear customers to them post-lockdown.
What About the Financial System?
In the 2007 recession, banks were pummeled by inadequate capital with which to withstand the deluge of loan defaults. Supposedly, they’re in better shape now, but we shouldn’t count on them having adequate capital to withstand massive defaults. This proposal puts money into the hands of people with credit card and mortgage debt, which will reduce the risk of bank failures or the need for federal government bank rescues.
This is a two-step proposal to save America: (1) Defeat the virus by a serious lockdown and (2) help people through it by giving them plenty of money to meet their needs (and possibly more) during the lockdown.
It gives money directly to the people and it gives every working-age person the same amount regardless of whether or not they “need” it. This keeps the program simple, free of excessive bureaucracy, and fair. It costs a lot but delivers a lot. It puts decision-making about what businesses to support in the hands of the people who know best, not in the hands of lobbyists and campaign contributors. Both Democrats and Republicans should like parts of it.
by Lee Nackman
The North Carolina Democratic Party Auxiliaries and Caucuses join in unity to condemn the horrific and senseless murder of George Floyd, at the hands of a white Minneapolis Police Officer, while other officers stood by doing nothing. We also condemn the ongoing harassment and violence inflicted on black and brown lives, LGBTQ lives, union organizers, veterans, and religious minorities, across this country, including here in North Carolina.
We’ve watched, first in disbelief, but now in horror and disgust, as we and our siblings of color are attacked, beaten, and murdered by those who are supposed to protect and defend us. Attacked by others filled with hate, emboldened by a President whose words have encouraged the violence. Murdered by the gun-toting “militia” threatening us, shouting that people of color should “go back to where you came from”, and inciting persecution of our African-American community, our Native American community, our Hispanic/Latinx community, our American Asian and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, our LGBTQ+ community, our Jewish community, and our Muslim community. Harassment and name calling have regressed to assault, bombings and murder.
In 2020, at least 12 Transgender Women and Men, most Black and other people of color, have been murdered.
The President’s inflammatory words, such as calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus,” have incited threats and harassment of our AAPI community, even against children. A family of three, including 3- and 6-year-old children, were stabbed in Midlands, Texas.
As reported by the CDC through 2019, our Native American community has the 2nd highest death rate caused by police encounters, followed by our Hispanic/Latinx community. In words and actions, the current Administration demonizes our Hispanic/Latinx communities with immigration policies that separate mothers from their children, puts children in cages, deports Hispanic/Latinx Veterans, ignores unsanitary and unhealthy conditions in their detention centers and denies our Dreamers protections and a pathway to citizenship.
Anti-Muslim and Anti-Semitic incidents and attacks are increasing dramatically. These acts of violence are encouraged by the rhetoric and hate speech that emanates from leaders at the highest levels. Instead of calming the waters through empathetic leadership, they fan the flames of hate.
Let us remember George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade (Black Trans Man), Monika Diamond (Trans Black Woman from Charlotte), Andre Pablo and Jordan Anchondo, Arturo Benavides, plus 19 other Hispanic/Latinx people shot during the massacre in El Paso, Texas, and so many others across all marginalized communities. We will continue to work work in solidarity to end institutional racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.
Let us also remember the vast contributions to our country of immigrants, organized Labor and our nation’s Veterans, as we work in solidarity to end suppression of labor unions and to care for our nation’s Veterans.
We echo the previous statements made by North Carolina Democratic Party Chairman, Wayne Goodwin, and African-American Caucus Chairwoman, Felita Donnell, that, “Only through sustained activism and progress will we be able to heal these deep wounds and build a country where all people are treated as equal. As long as black men and women are unsafe in our communities, the NCDP will continue to stand alongside them in the struggle for justice.”
We add to their statements the Native American, Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQ, AAPI, Jewish-American, and Muslim- American communities, Labor Organizers, and our Veterans.
The NCDP Auxiliaries and Caucuses, Stand Together in Solidarity for Freedom, Equality, Equity, and our inalienable right, provided in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, Liberty and Justice for All! Libertad y Justicia para todos!! If one of us is hurt, we are all hurt!
We will lift Our Voices NOW and Our VOTES in NOVEMBER!
Felita Donnell, Chair, African American Caucus – NCDP – aac-ncdp.org
Gracie Galloway, Chair, AAPI Caucus of the NCDP – firstname.lastname@example.org
Jarrett Patrick, President, CollegeDemocrats – email@example.com
Julia Buckner, President, Democratic Women of NC – Buckner.firstname.lastname@example.org / democraticwomenofnc.org
David Salazar, President, Hispanic American Caucus of NC – email@example.com
Randolph Voller, President, Labor Caucus of NCDP – NCLaborCaucus@gmail.com
Ginger Walker, President, LGBTQ Democrats of NC – firstname.lastname@example.org / lgbtqdemocrats.org
Crystal Cavalier, President, Native American Caucus – email@example.com
Lee R. Nackman, President, Progressive Caucus of NCDP – firstname.lastname@example.org / pcncdp.org
Tom Rothrock, President, NC Senior Democrats – Trothrock1@gmail.com / NCSeniorDemocrat.com
Janice Covington Allison, Chair, Transgender Political Caucus – email@example.com
Wendy May, Chair, Veterans and Military Families Caucus – firstname.lastname@example.org
DeVonte Wilson, President, Young Democrats of NC – email@example.com / ydnc.org
June 7, 2020
What Will It Take?
“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Liberty and justice for all. This is the elephant in the room. And we all know in our hearts that it is not true.
We all have heard lately about the deaths of George Floyd, Sandra Bland, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Korryn Gaines, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, David McAtee and so many others at the hands of police or white supremists. Yet nothing has changed. This week, the majority of the people have been peacefully protesting about George Floyd’s death and racial injustice, and are being met with more police violence. That doesn’t seem to be a response indicative of a better understanding or leading to a better resolution of the problem.
What kind of country do we live in that doesn’t care about its citizens being killed by its police, who are supposed to protect us? What kind of people see what is happening and turn their heads, saying, that’s not my problem? What does it take for people to care?
It takes an understanding of HISTORY. An understanding of how African Americans have been treated throughout the past 400 years, from slavery and being counted as 3/5ths of a person to today’s police violence, mass incarceration, economic, environmental and racial discrimination, access to health care and voter suppression.
It takes EMPATHY. Do you deny any of the ways they have been and continue to be treated? Try upping your empathy quotient. I know you have heard the saying “Walk a mile in my shoes.” But what does it really mean? First, you have to make yourself vulnerable by accepting that maybe you don’t know how someone else has it. Then you have to ask them to tell you what their life is like. Then you need to believe it. After this, it might be easier to truly understand their point of view and where it comes from. Gaining empathy can be a rocky road for some, but with it, we will become one people, a nation of mutual respect and understanding.
It is going to take recognition of our WHITE PRIVILEGE to get past saying, “That’s not my problem.” Are you saying right now, “I don’t have white privilege!”? Consider this. Can you go out at night in your car without worrying you’ll be arrested or shot? Can you walk around your block without people wondering if you’re suspicious? Do you worry if your children will come home at night without becoming victims of police violence? Can you go bird watching, walk through a white neighborhood or go to a public park, without the police being called on you? Can you go jogging without worrying about being shot? What if your car breaks down; should you call the police for help? Have you had “the talk” with your kids about what can happen to them when they’re out in public because of the color of their skin? Have the police come into your house without permission and shot your family? These are just some of the things that black people live with every day. And you don’t. That is white privilege.
This quote from the Southern Coalition for Social Justice Co-interim Executive Directors Allison Riggs and Ryan Roberson sums it up well. “Change will only come about when the cost of benefiting from a system of oppression that has plagued this nation becomes too high for those in power.”
We have the power to make the cost too high for those who would keep things the same. No matter how much those who have benefited try to ignore and distract us, this problem has reared its head and is not going away. The time has come to fix it.
The Progressive Democrats of Orange County have issued a statement, copied below.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Progressive Democrats of Orange County stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who continue to be the victims of racially motivated discrimination, violence and murder. We add our voices to the millions of Americans who believe in and fight for an end to the historical and institutional racism that is a bloody stain spread across our nation.
We add our voices to the calls for justice. We will not be silenced until systemic racism is banished and every person has the basic human rights of a free and fair society – equal justice, access to quality health care, housing and education, equal opportunities for employment and equal environmental protections. We must undo economic oppression from a system that flows profits from the hard work of the many into the hands of the few.
We mourn with the families and communities whose men, women and children have been murdered by the racist police state, died from neglect by the racist health care industry and wrongly incarcerated by the racist criminal justice system.
We will remember and speak the names of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Jonathan Ferrell, and so many more.
This litany of death and devastation must end. White Supremacy must end. Discrimination against people of color, oppression of those living in poverty and gender-based injustice must end.
We call on all of those who care about justice to raise their voices, loudly and continuously, until our country dismantles all racist and oppressive systems, and to exercise our rights by voting out any leaders who will not immediately work to undo all forms of discrimination, including voter suppression.
We are better than this. It’s time to prove it.
On behalf of PDOC – Rebecca Cerese, Susan Siegel, Tony Wikrent, Keith Cartwright, Kathy Kaufman, Wamiq Chowdhury, Dan Brenner, Marguerite Most, Lee Nackman
From Network for Public Education President, Diane Ravitch:
These are the worst of times.
Police brutality in Minneapolis murdered a black man who allegedly used a fake $20 bill. Petty crimes are adjudicated in a court of law. Police do not have the authority or right to use lethal force when confronting an unarmed person. After a long string of similar incidents where black people were unjustly murdered, the killing of George Floyd ignited protests across the nation. Some of the protests turned violent, and fires were burning in widely scattered cities in the midst of confrontations between police and protestors.
Racism is America’s deepest, most intractable sin.
The explosion of protest is unlikely to lead to any productive change until the racists in the White House are ousted and replaced by people who determined to fight racism. We currently have a government of old white men who have used their words and deeds to stoke the fires that are now burning. Trump has no credibility to calm the situation or to offer solace or to promise meaningful change. He has spent many years expressing the anger of racists, repeatedly claiming that President Obama was not born in the U.S., demanding the death penalty for the Central Park Five (who were ultimately found innocent), pretending never to have heard of David Duke when Duke offered his endorsement of Trump, referring to the white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” appealing again and again to the gun-toting, violent people who thronged to his rallies and praising them. No need to point out that Trump has stoked the fires that are now burning. We have all seen it with our own eyes. He is like a boy who plays with matches and eventually burns down his own house.
Last night, the Reverend William Barber referred to the protests as an expression of “national mourning.” The protestors are reacting, he said, not only to the death of George Floyd, but to poverty, joblessness, unequal treatment, hunger, injustice—to systematic racism and inequity that has been ignored for too long. For too long, our nation has been on a trajectory that creates billionaires while millions of people of all races, but especially black Americans, are expected to live a life of want and need and hopelessness without complaint.
Last night, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center released the text of a speech that Dr. King gave in 1967 in which he said that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” He said, prophetically, “And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
Franklin Delano Roosevelt laid out an “economic bill of rights” in 1944, which has since been forgotten as a small number of extraordinarily wealthy people rig the system to intensify economic inequality, abetted by willing allies like Mitch McConnell. Even a huge multi-trillion dollar bill to relieve those suffering from the effects of the coronavirus turned out to be a package of goodies for big corporations.
Trump did not create racism, but he has used it and exploited it for his political benefit. He has ignored it, belittled its consequences, and courted the support of racists. He has made plain his contempt for his predecessor, our nation’s first black president. When Obama was elected president, many commentators declared that America was finally a post-racial society. With a man of African descent in the presidency, with a racially integrated Cabinet, with a black man leading the Justice Department, the stain of racism would at last be abolished.
The commentators were wrong. Racism is thriving. It will destroy our nation until we assure equal justice to every citizen, until we guarantee that everyone has the same rights and privileges, until we provide every man, woman, and child with decent health care, housing, education, and a decent standard of living.
We can’t eliminate racism entirely, but we can remove its adherents from the seats of power, we can stigmatize it. We can choose leaders who fight for freedom, justice, and a decent standard of living for all people. Unless we do so, our tattered democracy will not survive. We can’t let that happen. We must be willing and able to pursue genuine change, a social democracy in which every one of us is protected equally by the law and has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You can share Diane’s important commentary with this link:
Heather Cox Richardson May 29, 2020
“The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters.”
America feels completely chaotic today. Protesters are marching in major cities, sometimes looting; police appear to be attacking them and the journalists covering the protests. Rather than calming the situation, the president has thrown gasoline on the fire, which escalated yesterday’s fight with Twitter. Trump launched a blistering verbal attack on China and announced that the United States is withdrawing from the World Health Organization in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Meanwhile, new information suggests that the Trump administration did, indeed, collude with Russia.
George Floyd is dead. So is Breonna Taylor. And so are more than 100,000 victims of a deadly pandemic.
The news is overwhelming. It is designed to be overwhelming.
This sort of chaos and confusion destabilizes society. In that confusion, as tempers run hot, people who are desperate for certainty return to old patterns and divide along traditional lines. Many are willing to accept a strong leader who promises to restore order, or simply are so distracted and discouraged they stop caring what their leaders do. They simply hunker down and try to survive.
As cities across the country erupted in protest last night over the murder of George Floyd and everything that deadly demonstration of white male dominance over another human’s life symbolized, Trump tweeted: “….These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Twitter slapped a warning on the tweet, noting that it “violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence.” In response, the official White House twitter account retweeted what Trump had written… and Twitter slapped a warning on that, too. This is the first time Twitter has attached such a notice to any public figure’s tweets.
This afternoon, Trump appeared briefly in the Rose Garden not to address the protests, but to attack China and to announce he was withdrawing the U.S. from the WHO.
Trump accused China of a slew of misdeeds, including espionage and economic warfare, and called China an existential threat. He promised to ban certain Chinese nationals from the U.S., but identified no concrete measures he’s planning to take.
It seems Trump has decided his best bet for reelection is to use China as a foil. He is trying to blame China for America’s mounting coronavirus deaths, which is his excuse for withdrawing from the WHO, over which he insists China has “total control.” (This is false; the WHO has 194 member states, and until now, we were a leading partner in it.) He left without taking any questions.
Trump’s withdrawal from the WHO removes America from yet another international partnership. This horrified doctors and epidemiologists. Health researcher Dr. Atul Gawande called it a “disaster.” “I can’t imagine a worse thing to do in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing work to fight back TB, HIV, polio, and other health threats,” he tweeted. Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice agreed: “Unspeakably stupid and self-defeating.”
Defense technology journalist Kelsey D. Atherton made a different, and quite crucial, point. “[M]aybe the weirdest thing about the right’s strategy of quitting international institutions is they were built, expressly, to give the United States an outsized role in shaping and directing the post-1945 international order, but they can only do that so long as the US stays in.”
He’s right. Once again, Trump has led the US out of an international agreement that we used to dominate. Just two days ago, president of the Council on Foreign Relations Richard Haass said that Trump’s foreign policy doctrine should be called the “Withdrawal Doctrine.” Trump has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact designed to pressure China to meet international rules; the Paris climate accord; the 2015 Iran nuclear deal; the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia, limiting nuclear weapons; UNESCO, the U.N.’s educational, scientific, and cultural agency; the Open Skies Treaty that allowed countries to fly over each other to monitor military movements. He pulled U.S. troops away from our former Kurdish allies in Syria, and has threatened to leave the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—NATO—that ties 30 North American and European countries into a military alliance.
Now he has withdrawn the US from the World Health Organization that combats global disease and pandemics.
The U.S. walking away from our former allies benefits other countries, notably Russia, which is keen to destabilize NATO alliances.
The Russia story, too, is back in the news, with Trump’s new Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe today releasing summaries of the phone calls between Michael Flynn—who was advising Trump on foreign policy—and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. What was released were not transcripts, although Senator Chuck Grassley, who released them, and much of the media that reported on them, all called them transcripts. These are summaries of the conversations. Occasionally they have quotations in them, but they are not the whole conversation.
Even so, they were bad enough. They show Flynn taking a weirdly weak position considering he knew the Russians had attacked the election. Rather than making demands, Flynn reassured Kislyak that the Trump team would roll back sanctions and retaliation for Russian interference in the 2016 election, established that Trump and Putin would talk immediately upon Trump taking office, and talked about a secure video link between the two leaders.
Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence specialist, explained back in 2017 that Flynn’s lying to the FBI indicated just how bad the conversations were, and then explained just why they were so bad. For the U.S. to expel a diplomat is exceedingly rare and difficult, and usually results in a tit-for-tat expulsion of one of our diplomats. In both cases, the individuals usually are spies, which means that losing them is a big deal for our intelligence. For the Obama administration to expel 35 Russians in response to Russia’s attack on our 2016 election, along with imposing economic sanctions, was a microphone-dropping sign to Russia that we would not look the other way.
But Flynn assured Kislyak that they could expect a different response from the Trump administration, essentially telling Russia that, so far as the Trump team was concerned, the 2016 attack was okay. So the Russians did not retaliate as expected for the expulsion of their diplomats. But Trump could not get rid of the sanctions and instead, in July 2017, under great pressure, signed a bipartisan sanctions bill that had such strong support Congress could override his veto. In retaliation for the measure, Russia expelled 775 American diplomats, crippling our intelligence in that country.
And over all this looms Covid-19, which has killed more than 104,000 of us already. Infections are climbing again.
I started out tonight by noting that this chaotic onslaught of news is designed to divide Americans and make us fall back into old animosities in order either to get us to accept a strong leader or to exhaust us until we quit caring what happens. In either case American democracy is over.
But there is another possibility. Chaos does not have to destroy us. The leaders creating it are doing so precisely because they know they are not in control, and the same uncertainty they are trying to leverage can just as easily be used by their opponents. At this crazy, frightening, chaotic moment, it is possible to reach across old lines and create new alliances, to reemphasize that most Americans really do share the same values of economic fairness and equality before the law, and to rebuild a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.”
The old world is certainly dying, but the shape of the new world struggling to be born is not yet determined.
Pulling out of WHO is a disaster for the lives and health of all people, including Americans. I can’t imagine a worse thing to do in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing work to fight back TB, HIV, polio, and other health threats. America First does not work for global disease.
BREAKING: Trump announces that U.S. is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization. Story to come.
May 29th 2020
4,141 Retweets10,868 Likes
Atul Gawande @Atul_Gawande
Pulling out of WHO is a disaster for the lives and health of all people, including Americans. I can’t imagine a worse thing to do in the midst of a pandemic and ongoing work to fight back TB, HIV, polio, and other health threats. America First does not work for global disease. https://t.co/gxcoATZN7T
May 29th 2020
860 Retweets3,609 Likes
Russia and Europe: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/08/world/europe/unit-29155-russia-gru.html
The coronavirus pandemic has ripped the remaining tatters of cover off this country’s racial inequality as black Americans are dying in much higher numbers than white Americans. Racial inequality is not new, but racial brutality has become more and more obvious in the past several years as cell phones have recorded the deaths of black Americans at the hands of authorities or white Americans who took it upon themselves to police their black neighbors.
On Monday night, a Minneapolis police officer killed a handcuffed man, George Floyd, by kneeling on his neck for ten minutes as other officers either held him down or looked away. It took only five minutes for Floyd, who had initially begged “Please, please. I can’t breathe,” to stop moving. A passerby captured the murder on video, and it has been widely shared on social media.
Last night, in Minneapolis, and then Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago, and Manhattan, protesters took to the streets. In Minnesota, the protests turned into riots and looting after police greeted the protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets. This morning, after two nights of violent protests, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would make a federal investigation into the killing a “top priority.” Tonight, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) called in the state’s National Guard to keep the peace.
It didn’t work: as I write, it appears the Minneapolis precinct police department whose officers were involved in the murder is on fire. Police are reporting that 170 businesses in St. Paul have been damaged and dozens of fires have been set. Protests have spread to Phoenix, Arizona, and to Louisville, Kentucky, too, where 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was killed in her home on March 13 by plainclothes police executing a warrant for a man who lived in a different part of Louisville and had already been arrested.
Historically, political rioting in America is an attempt to call attention to a perceived injustice. In its aftermath, ordinary citizens decide whether or not the rioting was justified. Usually, they support social justice movements and shut down reactionary mobs.
When associated with a political riot, looting takes on a political meaning as well. If a population feels that the law is oppressing them—as it did for African Americans during slavery times, for example—they often break the law deliberately to illustrate their opposition to it (as African American abolitionists did in the years before the Civil War). There are always bad eggs in any mob scene, but in this case the larger story of the looting, after an event where an officer of the law murdered an unresisting man in full view of an audience, demonstrating his sense of untouchability, falls into a pretty well established historical pattern.
Crucially, white Americans are finally paying attention to the violence against the black community. I suspect the reason for this attention is that the current leadership of the Republican Party has gone so far toward consolidating power in favor of an oligarchy that ordinary white Americans are identifying with marginalized people. This is precisely what happened in the 1850s, when even desperately racist white Americans pushed back against the elite slave owners taking control of the American government because they recognized that they, too, could be sacrificed if leaders thought they stood in the way of the economic system that enriched a few.
Another story from last night illustrates exactly this point, showing the lengths to which Republican leaders are willing to go to achieve their legislative goals. In Pennsylvania, a member of the state legislature tested positive for Covid-19. He told his Republican colleagues, who engaged in appropriate quarantining and distancing, but neither they nor the Republican House Speaker, Mike Turzai, told the Democrats, who learned much later that one of their colleagues had tested positive for coronavirus from a reporter.
People outside the legislature learned of the situation last night, when Democratic Representative Brian Sims posted a passionate video on Twitter, angrily calling out his Republican colleagues for putting lives at risk. Sims revealed that he had recently donated a kidney to a patient dying of kidney failure, putting him at particularly high risk of contracting the coronavirus. His outrage that his Republican colleagues would keep such vital information from him and his Democratic colleagues, in order to make sure their goal of reopening the state did not falter, resonated. The idea that Republicans who, theoretically, were supposed to be working with Democrats for the good of Pennsylvanians, would deliberately endanger the life of a man who had secretly donated a kidney seemed the epitome of partisanship gone toxic.
More stories today illustrated that the Republicans are determined to cement their ideology into law no matter what voters want. Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told judges over 65 that they should consider retiring to make sure Trump could fill their seats. “This is an historic opportunity. We’ve put over 200 federal judges on the bench. I think 1 in 5 federal judges are Trump appointees. … So if you’re a circuit judge in your mid-60s, late 60s, you can take senior status; now would be a good time to do that if you want to make sure the judiciary is right of center. This is a good time to do it,” Graham added.
Yesterday, Senate Democrats released a report examining how Republican leaders, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have packed the courts. Funded by millions of dollars of “dark money” contributions, they are “rolling back the clock on civil rights, consumer protections, and the rights of ordinary Americans, reliably putting a thumb on the scale in favor of corporate and Republican political interests.” The report notes that the House has passed more than 350 bills this session, nearly 90% of which are bi-partisan and popular, but that McConnell has refused to take them up, focusing instead on judicial confirmations. This “judicial capture” is designed to rewrite federal law “to favor the rich and powerful.”
Their point had another illustration today, when we learned that Marc Short, Vice President Pence’s chief of staff, owns between $500,000 and $1.5 million worth of stocks in companies linked to the administration’s pandemic response, in apparent disregard for the law.
But it appears that ordinary Americans have had enough. CNN reported today that GOP operatives are afraid that Trump will both lose the White House and tank the Republican Senate majority in 2020, something borne out by Graham’s call for older judges to retire and be replaced by partisan Republicans while they know they can be.
Knowing that the economic crisis is hurting the president’s chances of reelection, the White House announced today that it will not release the usual economic forecast this summer. Those projections would show the skyrocketing unemployment and ballooning deficit shortly before the election.
Symbolically, it also appears that the anti-maskers are losing ground to those advocating mask wearing. While Trump still refuses to wear one, McConnell, and FNC personality Sean Hannity, among others, have called for wearing masks to help contain the coronavirus.
And finally, Trump’s executive order today attempting to clamp down on social media so that it will not fact-check his inaccurate tweets about the election seem designed not to change policy—legal analysts say it will not withstand legal challenges—but to continue to push the idea that there is a grand conspiracy against him and his supporters. A Washington D.C. District Judge appointed by Trump threw out a lawsuit against Twitter and Facebook today, that claimed they were biased against right-wing users.
Trump’s executive order will shore up his supporters’ sense of grievance, and add more fuel to the argument he seems to be preparing: that any election he loses must be “rigged.”
Economic projection halted: https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/05/28/white-house-coronavirus-economic-projections/