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"It was a great demonstration of democracy, whether you agree or disagree with the outcome," Huffington Post's political reporter Howard Fineman told Ed Schultz on MSNBC late tonight, while discussing the results of the historic Wisconsin recall elections.
Fineman's comment is either accurate or it is not. Just as the results reported by the computers across the Badger State are either accurate or not. Who knows? Nobody in WI does, and that's exactly the problem.
The early Exit Poll results had reportedly predicted the race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett a virtual tie, leading media to plan for a long night tonight. A second round of Exit Polls results, however, were said to have given Walker a broader lead over Barrett. Even so, we were told, the race based on the Exit Poll data alone was still "too close to call." That data was either accurate or it was not.
Of course, the raw, unadjusted Exit Polling data itself is no longer entrusted to us mere mortals. It can only be seen by members of the mainstream media, and we are simply left to trust them to report it all accurately to us or not. And when, after all, have we not been able to rely on the mainstream media to report everything accurately to us?
But never mind the Exit Polls. We've got real polls, real votes, actual ballots now to tell us who won or lost. If only we'd bother to actually count them...
Instead, those ballots --- Wisconsin votes on mostly paper ballots --- are tabulated by computer optical-scan systems like the ones in Palm Beach County, FL which, in March of this year, had named several losing candidates to be the "winners". And like the ones in New York City which, in 2010, managed to toss out thousands of valid votes, including as many as 70% in one South Bronx precinct. And like the ones in Oakland County, Michigan where officials found the same machines failed to count the same ballots the same way twice in 2008. And like the ones in Leon County, FL which, in 2005, were hacked to entirely flip the results of a mock election.
In Palm Beach County, FL the failure was discovered during a state mandated post-election spot-check of 2% of the paper ballots. In New York City, it took nearly two years before the failures were discovered after the New York Daily News was able to examine the paper ballots via a public records request. In Oakland County, MI, election officials were lucky enough to discover the failure during pre-election testing. And in Leon County, FL, the hacker --- a computer security expert --- revealed the op-scan system flaw he exploited to flip the results of the election in an Emmy-nominated HBO documentary.
In all cases, it was only a hand-examination of the paper ballots that revealed the mistabulations by the op-scanners.
In Wisconsin, no such hand-examination is done --- not without both a recount request and an order from a judge. They simply do not do manual, post-election spot-checks of ballots in WI, other than for Presidential elections, and even then it is only done months after the election has concluded. So there is no way to know if the results reported by the computers reflect what the actual ballots say in Wisconsin.
The numbers used to certify their elections are based entirely on whatever the computers report the results to be. Those results, therefore, are either accurate or they are not.
So, the Exit Polls, the mainstream media's account of them, and the results themselves in Wisconsin are either accurate or not. The results tonight, according to the Associated Press with 99%of precincts reporting, show Walker winning his recall election by a full 7 points over Barrett.
Similarly, Walker's Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch is said to have won her recall challenge by 6 points, and three of the four Republican state Senators up for recall reportedly won by either similar or greater margins.
The other state Senate race, between Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard and his Democratic challenger John Lehman, is still being reported as "too close to call" with just 75% of precincts in and an almost 3,000 vote margin reported at this hour (approximately 11:06pm PT).
If Lehman wins, it will be the first time in history that a recall flips the majority party in a state legislature. As is, it's the first time in history that a Governor has survived a recall election.
County-by-county results, at least for the gubernatorial race, can be perused very generally here at Huffington Post. Unfortunately, the state of Wisconsin does not report results for the entire state at any central location, so tracking results and watching for anomalies in each of its 72 counties and thousands of municipalities is exceptionally difficult for both Election Integrity folks and even regular old citizen voters simply trying to oversee their own elections.
The networks, including both MSNBC and Fox, called the Governor's race for Walker within an hour after most of the polls had closed, with just 21% of the 100% unverified computer-reported results in, and even as voters in three counties were still said to be voting, thanks to long lines all day and night, as well as ballots and registration forms running out at a number of locations across the state.
In 2000, when the broadcast news networks initially called the Presidential race for Al Gore in Florida while many in the western part of the state were still voting, Republicans were outraged. Tonight, they seemed to have no problem at all with the surprisingly early calls, with voters still voting, as the GOP celebrated Walker's reported victory.
The day was highlighted with reportedly very high turnout; students being turned away due to residency issues (see our earlier report on early Election Day concerns for background on that and more); legal voters being turned away, illegally, for lack of Photo ID; ballots and same-day registration forms running out and other problems and concerns about computer tally systems.
It's to be expected, of course--an election as important as the recall of Scott Walker in Wisconsin today will have some dirty tricks happening.
But this one's especially nasty. Tom Barrett's campaign announced that there's been a wave of robocalls targeting the people who signed the petition to recall Walker, telling them they've already voted by signing the petition and should stay home on Tuesday. (Over a million people signed the recall petitions.)
Josh Eidelson reported:
Last night I talked to a Wisconsin voter who says she received just such a robo-call. Carol Gibbons told me she picked up the phone and heard a male voice saying “thank you for taking this call,” and that “if you signed the recall petition, you did not have to vote because that would be your vote.” After hearing the vote-suppressing message, said Gibbons, “I wanted to take the phone and throw it in the middle of the road.” Gibbons is a retired public employee and a staunch Walker opponent. If he wins the recall, she warned, “He’s going to roll over us like pieces of dirt. He’s going to say, ‘They voted for me twice – I can do whatever I want.’”
Activists in Wisconsin have been expecting voter suppression efforts, but this is still a jarring tactic--going straight after what one would assume are the safest voters for recall. Kevin Pape of Working America commented to AlterNet that the original recall petitions became public record once they were submitted to the state. "It's good for our side to know who these voters are, to know they're strong supporters, but it's also advantageous for the other side," he said.
Just to be clear: voters who signed recall petitions still have to vote in the election to be counted. The Barrett campaign did an emergency round of fundraising to call all the petition signers (again, over one million Wisconsinites) to remind them that they have to vote, and voters can report irregularities or suppression efforts at Defend Wisconsin.
(As an aside, this is possibly the kind of thing we can expect a lot more of in the age of unlimited independent campaign expenditures, which are legally required not to coordinate with candidates. Outside groups can spend money on misinformation campaigns and the candidates can keep their hands clean.)
Update: A Walker spokesperson has not denied the existence of the calls, but, as expected, denied anything to do with them.
As noted in the GOP primaries in Wisconsin, the state's "do-not-call" list exempts "electioneering" calls, so voters can continue to be inundated with robocalls.
By Sarah Jaffe | Sourced from AlterNet
More from Brad Blog:
After well over a year of political, if not all out civil war in Wisconsin in the wake of the state's Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the majority-GOP legislature unilaterally stripping many of the state's citizens of their rights to collectively bargain, Walker's fate is finally up for grabs today, along with that of his Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and the political balance of the state Senate via the seats of four Republican state Senators.
A Democratic win in just one of those Senate seats will return the majority in that body to the Democrats, making remarkably extreme actions like those we've seen over the past two years in the Badger State much more difficult to accomplish no matter who wins today's gubernatorial race.
But we'll see what happens today, tonight and, under several foreboding scenarios, over the next several weeks and/or months as the citizens of the state exercise some direct and wonderful democracy today at the ballot box --- or, at least, at the computerized tabulators.
Aside from expectedly heavy turnout being reported across the state (and particularly in Milwaukee), and races that are thought to be exceedingly tight, here are a few morning news items out of Wisconsin which may (or may not) turn out to have much more relevance in the near future, depending on how things go in the next several hours...
PROTECT THE INTEGRITY OF ELECTION RESULTS
Yesterday, I detailed several steps that citizens of all parties in Wisconsin (and even some of you outside of the state), can take to help protect the integrity of today's election results. Given that WI uses mostly paper ballots which are counted in secret by oft-failed, easily-manipulated computer optical-scan systems, and that they do not bother to verify computer tabulations in any way before announcing those results to the public, there is only so much that can be done. But some of my recommended steps may prove to be quite useful later, and all of them are pretty easy. See my report from last night for those easy steps, and please continue to share them broadly!
Democrats are alleging that dirty tricks are under way, with robocalls instructing voters that if they signed the recall petition, their work is done and there is no need to vote today. The call reportedly says: "thank you for taking this call ... if you signed the recall petition, you did not have to vote because that would be your vote." That, of course, is completely untrue.
A different robocall reportedly uses the old "Election day is Wednesday" ruse, though, unlike the other call, that one seems unlikely to fool many folks. Both calls, at this hour, are still only alleged, since audio has yet to surface from either, but both sound feasible.
Last week, another dirty trick was confirmed when supporters of Walker's opponent Milwaukee Gov. Tom Barrett, were said to have received Spam Text Messages charging Barrett to be a "union puppet" and supplying a phone number along with it. The number, however, went to Barrett's campaign headquarters. A flood of complaints to that number then effectively shut down the Democrats' phone banking efforts for a time.
Walker's campaign claims they have nothing to do with any of the dirty tricks. Nothing similar has been reported to my knowledge as being carried out by the Democrats. The state Republican Party has so far refused to comment on the reported robocalls today, and says they will not do so until actual audio from the calls surface.
LOST STUDENT VOTES
With the race reportedly as close as it is, at least according to pre-election polls, student voters could make a big difference in today's results as they are expected to heavily support the Democrats. Many students, however, may be in for an ugly surprise when they attempt to vote today.
Last year, the Republican state Legislature adopted a number of provisions that make it much more difficult (and in some cases impossible) for legal voters to exercise their legal right to vote.
One such provision was a draconian polling place Photo ID restriction which was, thankfully, blocked by two different judges in two different cases (see here and here). Both found the GOP restriction on voting was in explicit violation of the state Constitution's guaranteed right to vote. Both state appellate courts and the state Supreme Court refused to overturn the judges' rulings, despite a strong push from the Republican state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
But a change in the period of time that a citizen must live in one location in order to vote there was not struck down, and could have a serious impact today, particularly if the race is as close as predicted. The provision says a voter must live in an area for 28 days, rather than 10, before being able to register to vote there (or to update their registrations to the new location.) Think Progress explains:
Therefore, any student at these schools who registered to vote at school but is now home for the summer will not be permitted to update their registration at their parents’ house because they will have been home for less than 28 days. Under the old law, a student not on campus for the summer would have been permitted to update her registration at the polls and vote because she will have been home (or elsewhere off-campus) for more than 10 days.
As a result, thousands of Wisconsin students will likely be barred from taking part in today’s recall vote.
The League of Women Voters of Wisconsin today said that they are "hearing many reports from students whose right to vote is being questioned at the polls because they have moved in the past 28 days."
The LWV goes on to note that "If you voted in the May 8 primary for the recall election, you must vote in the same polling place for today's election. If you did not vote on May 8, you may declare either your college address or your home/summer address as your residence, and you may register at the polls today."
They also recommend folks call the Election Protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE to report any problems at the polling place.
Also remember, same-day registration and voting is still legal in the state of Wisconsin.
KATHY NICKOLAUS AND WAUKESHA COUNTY
As we detailed just before the recall primary, reports of Scott Walker's former Republican Assembly Caucus colleague turned oft-failed and controversial Republican County Clerk of Waukesha (the largest Republican county in the state, crucial to a Walker victory today) stepping aside for the recall elections, at the demand of the County's Republican Board of Executives, were apparently unfounded --- at least according to Nickolaus who suddenly sang a different tune just before the primaries.
While "A group of Waukesha County residents that claim to be a mix of Democrats, Republicans and Independents emailed County Executive Dan Vrakas Monday afternoon requesting that County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus be banned from Tuesday's election process," according to Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel, that is unlikely to happen.
The group is seeking a restraining order to keep her out of County election headquarters today. They are unlikely to get it, as Nickolaus is an elected official who has been charged with no crimes --- just massive incompetence by both Republicans and Democrats, along with flipping the results of last year's state Supreme Court race when she is said to have "discovered" some 14,000 votes that ended up flipping the race from the Independent candidate to her old boss, the incumbent Republican Justice David Prosser.
Washington Post's Greg Sargent reports today that he's been told by County Executives that Nickolaus "will not be involved in the vote counting this evening." But that was the same claim made during the recall primary as well, before Nickolaus announced that she had no intention of stepping aside.
Even the Journal Sentinel at this hour has no idea "Who's running the election in Waukesha County?" as Nickolaus has been observed passing out election supplies to municipal clerks and fielding questions from officials (while refusing to answer questions from the media.)
In either case, even if she steps aside, her own hand-picked and hand-trained deputy Kelly Yaeger will be in charge, which brings little comfort to folks like Election Integrity expert John Washburn of Wisconsin Fair Elections. Washburn --- a Republican who sometime ago had, himself, sat in for Nickolaus at a County Executive meeting, though has since lost all faith in her --- told me that he has no more confidence in Yaeger than he has in Nickolaus to properly carry out election administration and vote tabulation duties in Waukesha.
In opposition to the usual narrative, it seems to be Democrats this time around who are reportedly floating the possibility of a "recount" in the event of a very close election.
We put the word "recount" in quotes, given the fact that almost all ballots cast in the state of WI are not actually counted in the first place. Rather, they are secretly tallied inside optical-scan computers which either tally the votes correctly or not. Tonight there will be no way to know when results announced. The state has no mandated procedures for verifying the accuracy of the computers which, as we reported yesterday, have a tendency to declare losing candidates as "winners", drop thousands of votes without notice, and can otherwise be easily gamed to report anything a malicious hacker or insider might wish them to report.
Unfortunately, "recounts" in the state of Wisconsin, as we learned last year during the statewide Supreme Court "recount" between Prosser and his challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg are largely a complete joke. "Recount theater" if you will.
In that case, a two-month long statewide hand-count ensued, during which "widespread irregularities" were discovered, particularly in Nickolaus' Waukesha, where ballot bags had been discovered ripped open prior to the counting, security seals were found missing or changed, and some computer results tapes were revealed as having dates indicating they'd been printed days prior to the election.
Despite all of those breath-taking revelations, the state's top election agency, the Government Accountability Board (G.A.B.), certified the "recount" tallies without bothering to even read, much less investigate, the thousands of anomalies and exhibits documented during the "recount" process which Kloppenberg would ultimately describe as revealing a "cascade of irregularities" in a process that "should be a wake-up call" to voters of the Badger State.
Despite that wake-up call, few, if any procedures have been changed in the state since last year, so we will hope against hope that more "recount theater" will not be needed this year, no matter who is announced by the computers tonight to be the "winner" of these historic recalls.
To help, towards that end, allow me to once again recommend my article from last night detailing a few easy steps that voters in Wisconsin (and even observers outside the state) can do --- either in Wisconsin or outside of it --- to help make either malfunction or malfeasance just a little bit more difficult to affect today's election results.
Also remember to call both 866-VOTE-WIS and 866-OUR-VOTE to report any problems as they are seen today. The G.A.B. can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org with any problem reports.
The polls close at 8pm CT tonight in Wisconsin, and completely unverified computer results are likely to be reported in short order thereafter, either accurately or inaccurately.
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Wisconsin's Recall Election
by Stephen Lendman
Winter 2011 witnessed an epic worker rights battle. Wisconsin public workers challenged Republican Governor Scott Walker.
By Charles M. Young
The History Channel mini-series “Hatfields & McCoys” reminded me of Clint Eastwood’s “The Unforgiven.” Both productions showed a lot of violence in all its fascination while making it squalid, absurd, arbitrary and devastating to the victims and everyone around the victims. Both productions take as their theme men creating theaters of heroism for themselves out of their own hatred and sense of honor. Both productions show the theaters crumbling in the end as the violence becomes too stupid and meaningless even for the prime agents to continue.
I'm writing you in support of one of the top peace candidates for Congress anywhere in the country: the internationally-known and respected antiwar advocate and author, NORMAN SOLOMON. It is important that you help to elect him.
Norman and I have been friends for almost 15 years. He is a powerful intellectual, a gifted writer and an activist who is willing to put himself on the line for the principled causes of peace, justice and the environment.
He will be one unique member of Congress ... but he won't get here without your help NOW.
Norman is a true progressive. He is an independent thinker. Too many Democrats go along with outrageous military spending, deadly wars and Wall Street greed, all of which demoralize our nation, drain our federal treasury and cause resentment around the world. Norm Solomon is unafraid to stand up and speak out when others are silent.
Norman will stand up to the Wall Streeters who continue their high-stakes gambling at public expense. He refuses to take corporate PAC money or lobbyist donations. That puts him at a disadvantage in this primary battle. This is where you can help.
As you know, I will not be returning to Congress next year. We need Norman in Congress so that he can share his insight with all members. Because of his fierce dedication to the public interest, Norman will be an instant leader in Congress -- on war, on bloated military spending, on Wall Street, on threats to Social Security and Medicare (from either party).
Norman Solomon was an advocate for the 99% -- challenging the 1% -- before there was an Occupy Wall Street movement. Every supporter of mine should be a natural supporter of Norman. Help him carry on the legacy of strong peace and justice advocacy in the U.S. Congress.
Each of you -- in the next few days -- can make THE DIFFERENCE for Norman. Voting has already begun by mail. The June 5 election is in your hands. Help Norman's final outreach to primary voters -- talk to your neighbors about Norman and sign up for phone banking.
And please send him a last-minute donation before the June 5 primary.
P.S. - As always, I welcome your comments at Kucinich.us
U.S. Senate candidate from Massachusetts Elizabeth Warren is taking on the establishment. Her campaign website declares:
"Iran is a significant threat to the United States and our allies. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons, it is an active state sponsor of terrorism, and its leaders have consistently challenged Israel’s right to exist. Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons is unacceptable because a nuclear Iran would be a threat to the United States, our allies, the region, and the world. The United States must take the necessary steps to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. I support strong sanctions against Iran and believe that the United States must also continue to take a leadership role in pushing other countries to implement strong sanctions as well. Iran must not have an escape hatch."
Warren has been asked by local and national activists for months to take this down or correct it. Instead, she is standing by principle and against a corrupt ill-informed establishment.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons. He's joined in that outrageous claim by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, and their Israeli counterparts. Elizabeth Warren knows better, and she knows enough not to cite her sources. We are better off just trusting her, and we feel better just trusting her.
The idea of Iran as a significant threat to the United States and our allies is mocked and laughed at by a motley crew made up of just about everyone who knows anything about the world whatsoever. Iran spends a half a percent of what the United States spends on its military, and a much smaller fraction of what all NATO nations spend together. Iran has never threatened the United States or any of its allies. Iran is literally surrounded by U.S. bases and ships. Iran is seeking to avoid conflict by agreeing to inspections and restrictions on civilian nuclear power not required by any treaty or law. But don't let the established facts fool you. They're a trick of the establishment, and Elizabeth Warren knows better.
Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor admitted that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad never said Iran wanted to "wipe Israel off the face of the map" in an interview with Al Jazeera in April, agreeing somewhat anticlimactically with the known facts as understood by such irresponsible commentators as anybody reading reliable news sources or accurately translating the original speech.
When Madeline Albright said that strong sanctions on Iraq did more good than the harm done by killing over a half a million children, the uninformed imagined they were witnessing a burst of courageous feminism. Ha! They ain't seen nothing yet. If what you want is strong female leadership, and the facts and human lives be damned, get ready for the one, the only, the lying scheming warmongering candidate who will make the bankers pay for part of the killing so it's all OK, Elizabeth Warren!
Elizabeth Warren will stand alone against a mountain of evidence when need be, but if Palestine tries to join the United Nations with the support of the other nations of the world, Warren will denounce any such move as "unilateralism" and support a unilateral veto of it.
Elizabeth Warren says, "We need to continue our aggressive efforts against Al Qaeda, and we need to continue to support the efforts of our intelligence, law enforcement, homeland security, and military professionals." And if that means dumping over half of discretionary spending into war preparations every year, well so be it -- we'll be responsible by not borrowing the money. We'll get a bit of it from the banksters. We'll be bad-ass killers and populists, even if the killing isn't especially popular.
You don't need to understand. You need to trust in Elizabeth.
For more of this profile in courage read:
By Dave Lindorff
The Iranian military must be enjoying the latest spectacle of Pentagon waste and bungling.
Only a few weeks ago, the US attempted to ramp up the pressure on Iran by deploying to the Persian Gulf at the Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, just across the gulf from Iran, a squadron of the Air Force’s spanking new and never battle-tested supersonic F-22 stealth fighter-bombers.
An Open Letter to Opponents of Aggressive, Undeclared, and Unconstitutional Invasions, Wars and Occupations
This open letter will be straight to the point--if you opposed the Bush/Cheney invasion of Iraq--if you knew Bush and Blair were lying about the Downing Street Memo--if you wanted (and still want) Guantanamo shut down--if you oppose the "secret" drone wars--if you opposed the Obama "surge" in Afghanistan--then there is one anti-war candidate running for Congress this year who stands head and shoulders above everyone else--Norman Solomon.
In fact, if you have demonstrated against any of the undeclared, unconstitutional wars that the U.S. has waged over the last 40 years, from Vietnam to El Salvador to Iraq, Norman Solomon was right there with you. He marched; he was arrested for nonviolent protest; he wrote and spoke out; he organized high-profile peace missions to Iraq and Afghanistan; he led the fight for "Healthcare, Not Warfare!"
And since next year's Congress will be missing two of our most dedicated peace leaders, Dennis Kucinich and Lynn Woolsey, we need Norman Solomon elected to stand up for us, no matter where we live.
We know Norman. We've worked with him against illegal wars for 4 decades now. And we can state for a fact that there is no pro-peace candidate running for an open seat in Congress this year who is more deserving of the votes, the donations, or the volunteer help of anti-war activists all across the country.
And now is the time--mail-in voting is starting in California, and primary day is in less than a month. Norman has a great volunteer base, and has raised half-a-million dollars--but two of his opponents have raised even more. Norman does not accept corporate donations, so he needs our help to win.
If you want to donate to Norman Solomon for Congress, click here.
Thank him for his lifetime of standing up against illegal, immoral wars.
If you want to volunteer to make phone calls for Norman's campaign, email Mike Fox.
Thank him for fighting for the Constitution, and against a militarized America.
And if you know someone who lives along the Left Coast, anywhere in northern California along the Pacific Ocean, from the Golden Gate Bridge up to the Oregon border, please remind them to vote for Norman on Tuesday, June 5th.
Norman Solomon has spent his life opposing wars and standing up for peace. He's earned our support. The question for the peace movement is--will we come through for him?
Gael Murphy, Beth Schulman
Mike Ferner, Marcos Rubinstein
Kevin Alexander Gray, Jeff Cohen
We can’t devise a successful electoral strategy for “The Left”—meaning the forces of peace, social/economic justice and sustainability—unless we face a simple fact: We’re getting our asses kicked.
For three decades, our country’s politics have moved steadily rightward and become more corporate-dominated. With few exceptions (gay rights, for example), the right wing has been winning on almost every issue. That’s why we have record levels of war-spending, with near record levels of poverty and wealth disparities. Labor is weakened and under attack, while corporate power over government and both major parties keeps increasing. Our earth faces environmental disasters while the mindless “Drill, Baby, Drill” slogan gains popularity. Issues we thought we’d won decades ago—like reproductive rights and separation of church and state—are under constant threat.
There’s an essential reason for this sad state of affairs: Rightwing activists have seized one of the two major parties, the GOP, and used that party to amass power and dominate the terms of debate on most issues since Reagan was elected in 1981.
Rightwing activists—not always with corporate backing—have been resolute in taking over local and state Republican organizations and electing movement allies to office at all levels. Unlike many liberal/progressive activists, these conservative activists don’t instinctively make apologies for politicians who sell them out or fail to deliver. Instead of apologizing for the GOP elite, rightwing activists keep electing a new crop—ever further right and more closely aligned with their extremist demands and litmus tests.
This determined, strategic electoral activism is the reason that what passes for “mainstream” GOP positions today—denying Darwin and global warming while bestowing personhood on fetuses and ExxonMobil—are more rightwing than 30 years ago. And one can argue that the Tea Party-influenced 2012 Republican presidential frontrunners (including Mr. Etch-A-Sketch) were further right than George W. Bush . . . who was further right than the 1994 Gingrich “revolutionaries” . . . who were further right than Reagan . . . who was further right than the Republican mainstream of previous decades.
A Roadmap for Progressive Power?
Have rightwing activists given progressives a roadmap for political power? If so, why has there not been a concerted effort by progressive movements and activists to enter and transform the Democratic Party into a vehicle that can move our country in a dramatically progressive direction?
Unfortunately, instead of implementing a “remake-the-Democratic-party” strategy, constituency groups like labor and the liberal netroots often function as loyal party operatives, pouring money behind whatever mediocre candidates the Democratic establishment serves up. Some big-spending unions are loath to intervene in primaries—which is where their money and activism could prove decisive in replacing business-as-usual Democrats with genuine progressives.
It should be clear by now that electing Democrats—even Democratic majorities—is not enough. In 2009, Democrats held both Congress and the White House, as they did in 1993-94. How’d that work out for us? We got NAFTA, but no Employee Free Choice Act. It’s more than a trivial matter what kinds of Democrats are nominated.
Among hardened leftists, there’s a different objection to the “transform-the-Democrats” strategy: a purist rejection of dealing with the Democratic Party—one of the “twin parties of capitalism.” So, even in this current period of mass disgust with the powers that be, electoral activism consists of running marginalized protest or third party campaigns that pick up a tiny percentage of votes.
While it’s true that today’s Democratic Party is a corporate-dominated party bolstering elite rule, it’s also the party that most young people, women, people of color and progressive-inclined Americans look to for their choices. The Left needs to offer these groups vastly different choices, and transform the party in the process.
I sure wish rightwingers had spent the last few decades as electoral purists—and instead of working to take over the GOP, they’d confined themselves to “protest politics” and self-marginalizing minor parties. Our country would be much better off.
But the right wing went about seizing a major party, beginning with the failed Goldwater insurgency of 1964. We need to remember that the Republican Party of President Eisenhower was a moderate, status quo party that had acquiesced to the New Deal—with 90% tax rates on the 1 percenters, federal jobs programs and virtually no union-busting.
Perhaps the main excuse for electoral timidity or abstention from progressives of various stripes is: “Rightwing movements have big corporate money behind them, and we don’t.” Actually, we do now have the ability to raise big money from small donors online. And corporate money doesn’t always explain rightwing success: the religious right, which drove much of our country’s conservative shift in recent decades, was largely a grassroots movement of middle-class whites, often triumphing over the moneyed Republican Old Guard.
In my view, money is not the main advantage rightwing movements have over progressive ones. It’s leadership. And zeal for transformative change. Look at a rightwing leader like the late Paul Weyrich, who coined the term “Moral Majority,” founded grassroots religious right organizations and pioneered direct mail fundraising among small donors. (Yes, he also cofounded corporate fronts like Heritage and ALEC.) Thirty years ago, Weyrich remarked: “We are different from previous generations of conservatives. . . . We are no longer working to preserve the status quo. We are radicals, working to overturn the present power structure of this country."
Those who’ve led rightwing activists to power in recent decades have burned with a passion to radically transform our country. Meanwhile, those who lead large liberal/progressive groups today seem to burn with a passion to have lunch with Democrats in Congress, to hobnob with “our friends on the Hill,” to explain to the base why we can’t push too fast or demand too much of the Democrats.
In the past century, the two periods of dramatic progressive reform—the 1930s New Deal era and the 1960s Civil Rights/War on Poverty era—were times when independent Left movements made increasingly bold demands on the Democrats. Martin Luther King, Jr. was repeatedly asked by the Kennedys and LBJ to slow down, but he never did—and he went to his grave as a vocal opponent of the Democrats’ war in Vietnam.
In those eras of social progress, there were progressive movement leaders who acted with independence—more attuned to the base than to Democratic elites. They weren’t prone to constant apologizing for party leaders.
In other words, they acted like left versions of the rightwing leaders of recent decades.
It’s not glamorous work for activist movements to try to transform a major party. It’s slow and arduous—with more defeats than victories. But rightwing movements have shown it can be done.
To do something similar in the Democratic Party will require coordinated efforts—across issues and movements—to elect progressive activists at every level: from local and state Democratic committees (reforming party platforms along the way) to local public offices to state houses. And ultimately to Congress.
If such a process caught fire, we’d hear a drumbeat from mainstream punditry—not just at Fox News—about the “extremism” of progressive Democrats (despite their own polls showing that ending war, taxing the rich, protecting entitlements, etc., are majority views).
Currently, we do have a Congressional Progressive Caucus of 75 members, the largest and most multiracial caucus in Congress. But it lacks cohesion and teeth. About 60 members pledged to reject any healthcare bill that lacked a public option—and then caved. More powerful than the current caucus might be a cohesive 25-member group ready to vote as a bloc against war and corporate policies, even when it’s a Democratic White House promoting such policies.
Getting to a bloc of 25 genuine, principled progressives in Congress is attainable. What’s needed is a strategy and resources to develop candidates in dozens of solidly progressive congressional districts nationwide: black, Latino, college town, liberal urban, etc. When an incumbent Democrat sells-out or leaves office, activists in such a district should be able to call upon national organizational and netroots support to get a 100% progressive into Congress. Once elected by the grassroots in such districts, it’s hard for corporate or conservative forces to ever get them out. Think Bernie Sanders. Think Barbara Lee.
The Norman Solomon Insurgency
Which brings me to the Congressional campaign of lifelong progressive activist/author Norman Solomon (full disclosure: he’s a close friend, with whom I’ve written three books and hundreds of columns). An acclaimed antiwar leader who led three dramatic trips to Iraq in an effort to avert the U.S. invasion, Norman is running in a new, extremely progressive district on California’s North Coast that stretches from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border. The seat is open due to the retirement of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, a steadfast peace advocate who once co-chaired the Progressive Caucus.
To prepare for this race, Norman paid his dues in local Democratic work. He’s been elected three times to be a delegate from the North Bay to the state Democratic central committee (where he coauthored the party’s “troops-out-of-Afghanistan” position). In 2008, he was elected as an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention—but he has never refrained from criticizing Obama policies that bolster Wall Street or the warfare state.
Norman may or may not win, but he’s built one of the strongest, grassroots campaigns for Congress ever—with over 1,000 volunteers and more than 5,000 donors. He’s been endorsed by local elected officials in the district (both Democrats and Greens) as he’s campaigned on an uncompromising agenda popular with voters: tax Wall Street to fund federal green jobs programs; major military cuts; no attack on Iran; enhanced “Medicare for All”; end nuclear power. The primary is June 5, with voting-by-mail to begin early May.
The good news is that the Solomon campaign raised—in mostly small, grassroots donations—an impressive half-million dollars by the March 31 federal filing deadline. The bad (but expected) news is that two corporate-connected Democrats raised $865,000 and $740,000; both will significantly outspend Norman on TV/radio ads. It’s a classic battle of grassroots vs. big bucks. Will his volunteer-based ground game beat the air attack of the moneyed candidates, as Paul Wellstone did when he got into the U.S. Senate after being outspent 7 to 1? (Like Norman, Wellstone had never previously held elected office.)
In a 12-candidate race, experts in the district see Norman as now running second. The frontrunner is the Democratic establishment candidate, a well-funded state assemblyman who has received most of the labor and environmental endorsements—despite having accepted donations in recent years from companies like Walmart and PG&E that are despised by union and green activists. (The Solomon campaign refuses corporate and lobbyist money.)
These membership groups face a choice in primaries: Do they embrace party regulars and the status quo, or back outsider candidates who want to transform the party . . . and the country. Several unions have endorsed the Solomon campaign, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). One of the strongest unions in the state, SEIU California, hedged its bets by endorsing Norman, along with the state assemblyman and another elected official in the race. Some progressive unions (like the California Nurses Association) have so far stayed out.
National groups like Progressive Democrats of America and Blue America have backed the campaign from the start. Norman won the endorsement of Democracy for America (founded by Howard Dean) by finishing second out of 200 liberal/progressive candidates in DFA’s nationwide online straw poll.
The Solomon campaign earns free media coverage each time a notable like Phil Donahue, Daniel Ellsberg or Sean Penn comes into the district to campaign. Other progressive leaders have endorsed, including Barbara Ehrenreich, Dolores Huerta, Rep. John Conyers and Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Raul Grijalva. Musician Tom Morello tweeted his support of the “antiwar, pro-Occupy candidate” to his 200,000 twitter fans. Blogger Glenn Greenwald, known for criticizing both Republican and Democratic politicians, was effusive: “When it comes to Congressional candidates, it just doesn’t get any better than Norman Solomon.”
The Solomon movement is up against tough odds and big money. But, win or lose, it offers a model—a campaign that inspires activists and challenges power and the Democratic establishment, a campaign promoting the full progressive agenda without settling for a puny number of protest votes.
It’s the kind of campaign we need to see in communities across the country in the coming years.
The views expressed here are the author's alone—not those of any organization or campaign.This article is part of a symposium on the elections organized by New Politics.
European Electoral Postmortems
by Stephen Lendman
The morning after election Sunday, French and Greek voters have major issues unresolved. Austerity harmed people in both countries. Technocrats remain in charge. Odds remain long for change.
Choice Not on Ballot in French Election
by Stephen Lendman
France replicates most Western societies. Elections give voters little choice at best. Most often there's none. Two dominant parties usually compete. In France, there's three.
Chavez in 2012
by Stephen Lendman
After 12 years in office, Chavez remains overwhelmingly favored for reelection in October. Given the alternative, most Venezuelans have a clear choice.
Americans who went to the polls in 2008 believing that a vote for Barack Obama was a vote for peace, now face the prospect of a presidential election in which both major party candidates will be openly wedded to endless war, cold-blooded “targeted killings,” record military budgets, and the systematic violation of U.S. and international law.
I recently wrote about a conversation I'd had with a fairly typical Democratic candidate for Congress (O.K. perhaps he was below average) -- a former military officer who claims to be for peace, but whose every solution involves war. I asked him to make commitments on what sort of things he would vote for or against, and he evaded every such question, while maintaining that he held a desire for peace somewhere in his heart.
The suspicion might arise in a reasonable reader that candidates simply don't make commitments and perhaps shouldn't. Every situation is unique. Candidates can't know the details of a future bill or the context in which it might be brought to a vote. They can simply tell you what values they hold dear, what accomplishments grace their resumes, and how utterly worthless their opponents are. More than that one should not ask.
I just had a chat with a Democratic candidate who has just about wrapped up his party's nomination for Congress here in Virginia's Fifth Congressional District. John Douglass is a retired Brigadier General, a former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and a former deputy U.S. military representative to the NATO Military Committee in Brussels, Belgium.
Obviously a candidate for war, right? That's not what people were telling me, and not what Douglass himself says. He tells me he's for peace and for moving from an offensive military to one that is truly defensive. Rather than wars in the Middle East, he says, he'd like to search every container that enters our country and control every passage across out country's borders. Such policies, he says, don't threaten anyone or produce terrorism.
By Keane Bhatt, Truthout
Norman Solomon, a longtime activist and media scholar, first came under FBI scrutiny at the age of 14 for picketing a segregated apartment complex near his home in Maryland. In the following years, Solomon campaigned against nuclear weapons and warfare, spending a total of 40 days in jail for nonviolent civil disobedience. He is author of a dozen books and numerous op-eds that have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times, among other outlets. Currently, he has been engaged in a competitive campaign to represent Northern California's District 2 in the US House of Representatives.
Keane Bhatt for Truthout: The US appears to be committing itself to yet another intervention. At the end of March, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Saudi King Abdullah, an autocrat who recently signed a $60 billion agreement to buy US bombs, missiles, helicopters and 84 F-15 fighter jets. After conferring with him, Clinton joined the "Friends of Syria" coalition and the US will now equip and pay the rebels in Syria. UN envoy Kofi Annan considered a further militarization of the conflict and the arming of rebels "disastrous." What is behind this continuity in US foreign policy?
By Dave Lindorff
I've often wondered why so many innocent people who are shot by police end up dead.
Granted that police officers spend a fair amount of time training with their service revolvers, and are thus likely to be better shots with a pistol than your average gun-owner. But even so, in so many cases where some unarmed person is shot by police, the result is death, and it makes you wonder how cops, often in the dark and on the run, manage with their notoriously hard-to-aim pistols to hit a vital organ with such depressing regularity.
Rocky Anderson is the Justice Party candidate for U.S. president. He explains why he's running and what he thinks we need to do to get our country headed in a more just and peaceful direction. Rocky's website is VoteRocky.org.
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Engineer: Christiane Brown.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Syndicated by Pacifica Network.
Please encourage your local radio stations to carry this program every week!
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After defeating the second-placed Labour candidate by more than 2-to-1, George Galloway had this to say about his former party:
"They have to stop supporting illegal, bloody, costly foreign wars because one of the reasons why they were so decisively defeated this evening is that the public don't believe that they have atoned for their role in the invasion and occupation of other people's countries and the drowning of those countries in blood."
By Rocky Anderson
Let us consider the fundamental guiding principles for the United States of America -- freedom, equal opportunity, compassion, and security.
Then let us consider how those principles have been severely undermined, and how we, the American people, can restore them so that once again our government is of, by, and for the people, rather than a tool of oppression cynically utilized for the benefit of a small, powerful, abusive, elite political and financial class, to the detriment of the vast majority of U.S. citizens, as well as billions of people around the world.
Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning
Citizens United rejected a congressional legislative ban on corporate campaign contributions. It says nothing about the ability to tax such contributions...
'A date which will live in infamy'
Jan. 21, 2010 has become, as we predicted it would be, "a date which will live in infamy."
California's North Coast is nearly synonymous with a New Age-y strand of progressivism. For two decades, Rep. Lynn Woolsey has represented it in Congress by denouncing the wars waged by both major parties' presidents: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. She proudly identified herself as the first former welfare mother in Congress. Now Woolsey is retiring, and the campaign to succeed her prominently features two self-described progressives vying for votes in a June 5 open primary.
Woolsey is staying out of the endorsement game, so voters in her district have been left to make up their own minds. Elect Norman Solomon, who has rallied against America's adventures abroad since Vietnam, or pick Jared Huffman, who has five years' experience in the California Assembly.
"Congress is in danger of losing a lot of its lifeblood, its moral center. We can't afford to lose Lynn Woolsey, Dennis Kucinich, other voices for good alternatives to war," Solomon told HuffPost. "We've got to replenish the strength of antiwar and social justice representation in Congress. Our district and my campaign are crucial to that process."
Solomon, whose hair is streaked with silver and whose face easily melts into a grin, wields a resume more typical of a soapbox rabble-rouser than a congressional candidate. He's never been an elected official. He took Sean Penn with him to Iraq in 2002 to oppose a then-looming invasion. He directed a documentary adaptation of his book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He touts his endorsement by Phil Donohue.
All of that, plus the support of liberal advocacy group Democracy for America, might make him seem liable to the same pitfalls that have befallen losing netroots candidates like Ilya Sheyman in Illinois. But Solomon is quick to argue that his candidacy has more than a virtual presence.
The Post revealed that President Obama -- in hopes of making a "grand bargain" on the budget with Republicans last summer -- had offered billions of dollars of cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
And there’s something even scarier in the new Post account: "White House officials said this week that the offer is still on the table."
Still on the table!
It's bad enough when Congressman Paul Ryan and the Republicans try to gut Social Security and Medicare -- they don't need any help from so-called "moderate Democrats."
I want to go to Congress to stop the right-wing agenda. Even if that sometimes means pushing back against the Democratic Party establishment.
Please support my campaign so I can stand up to immoral budget deals -- just as Sen. Bernie Sanders did when he inspired millions with his filibustering speech against President Obama’s deal with the GOP to extend Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.
Believe me: I was thoroughly honored when a member of Congress (Democrat Mike Honda), after hearing me speak, called me "a young Bernie Sanders."
Please donate if you want me to go to Congress to promote a totally different plan for deficit reduction:
#1 -- Defund the wars, bring our troops home and make major cuts in military spending, which accounts for the majority of federal discretionary spending. Most Americans support big military cuts.
#2 -- Raise taxes on the top 1% and end tax loopholes and subsidies for large corporations. Most Americans want the wealthy to pay their share.
#3 -- Impose controls on Wall Street to curb the gambling that tanked the global economy, including a Financial Transaction Tax that raises revenue while reducing speculation.
If you want to help me fight for this program in Washington, please click here.
In Congress, I will be loud and proud in putting these popular proposals on the table – while standing rock-solid against cuts to our sacred safety-net and healthcare programs.
If we stand and fight for progressive values in Washington, the American public will be with us.
Please help me get to Congress.
By Don Smith, OpEdNews
There's a movement underway to recruit Dennis Kucinich to run for Congress in Washington State.
On March 6, Kucinich lost a primary battle for his redistricted and gerrymandered Ohio congressional district. (See here , here and here.) His loss generated national coverage with commentators lamenting the "end of an era."
Last summer and autumn Kucinich made numerous visits to Washington State, giving speeches (e.g., this) and appearing at fundraisers, largely to test the waters about a possible move to Washington State. However, State Democratic Chair Dwight Pelz reportedly opposed the move, as did Kucinich's likely Democratic opponents for Congress. See the July article Dennis Kucinich looking for a political home, needs our help?
Now Washington Citizens for Kucinch, created by progressive activist David Spring and operating independently of Kucinich, is asking citizens to jump on board the Kucinich bandwangon and sign a petition calling for Kucinich to run here.
Believers in the cause of Peace are not sitting idly by and allowing war profiteers to use gerrymandering and black box voting to drive the leader of the U.S. Peace Movement out of Congress. Clearly, greedy Wall Street bankers and reckless multinational corporations stacked the deck against Dennis Kucinich in Ohio. They've long realized Dennis does not work for them. Thankfully, there are three Open Congressional Seats in the State of Washington -- with no Democratic incumbents running in any of them.
There is also a facebook page for the effort.
As Spring says, "I and thousands of other Peace Activists will support Dennis's campaign where ever he decides to run."
Spring points out there are multiple Congressional districts in Washington State that do not have an incumbent Democrat running for re-election, including the 1st (incumbent Jay Inslee is running for governor), the 8th (=new 9th, where the incumbent is Republican Dave Reichert), and the 6th CD (where incumbent Norm Dicks is retiring). The new 1st CD, which borders Seattle, might be the most convenient for Seattle-based activists, but the district in Olympia, for example, would have a more Democratic-leaning constituency: the new 1st CD extends all the way to the Canadian border.
Homegrown Democratic candidates for Congress would likely oppose a Kucinich run, but his presence would energize thousands of activists and bring lots of national attention to the race and to the state.
Indeed, Kucinich will be coming soon to Washington State. Robby Stern of the Washington State Labor Council reports:
We are very pleased that Rep. Dennis Kucinich will be speaking at the Social Security forum at Highline Community College on April 12th from 6:30 -- 8:30 p.m.
Entitled "The Threat to Social Security -- An Issue for All Generations" the forum will be held in the Student Union Building (Building eight) on the Highline C.C. campus. Additional outstanding speakers include Pramila Jayapal, Executive Director, One America, Marilyn Watkins, Policy Director, Economic Opportunity Institute, and Magdaleno Rose-Avila, Executive Director, The Latino Equality Initiative and a member of PSARA's Executive Board.
Perhaps Kucinich is again testing the waters.
Kucinich has until May 18 to file to run for Congress in Washington State.
By David Swanson, Remarks at Left Forum
I think two opposing trends have been at work in U.S. history. One is that of allowing more people to vote. This is an ongoing struggle, of course, but in some significant sense we've allowed poor people and women and non-white people and young people to vote. The other trend, which has really developed more recently, is that we've made voting less and less meaningful. Of course it was never as meaningful as many people imagine. But we've legalized bribery, we've banished third parties and independents, we've gerrymandered most Congressional districts into meaningless general elections and left one party or the other to exercise great influence over any primary. Rarely does any incumbent lose, and rarely does a candidate without the most money win. Extremely rare is a winning candidate who lacks some major financial backing. Rarer still is a candidate who even promises to pursue majority positions on most major issues, or who convincingly commits to following the will of the public over the will of the party. Most Congress members are pawns in a government with two partisan voices, not the voices of 535 individual representatives and senators. Rare, as well, is any possibility in a close primary or general election of verifying the accuracy of a vote count.