WELCOME TO THE 2014 ELECTION! “IT’S ON AND POPPIN’!”

Two weeks removed from national election, that re-elected President Barack Obama, the 2014 mid-term elections are “on and poppin’.”  I wonder if the Democratic Party has sufficiently learned from the debacle of 2010.

It is obvious that the Republican’s have not learned any lessons from this last election season, so the test is, will the Democratic Party stand by what they profess and force the Republican Party to stand by their failed logic, and their total disdain for the American people, and the election process, that returned the President to office, and gained seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives for them?

At stake, for the Democrats, at the national level, is a possible re-taking of the House of Representatives and gaining a filibuster-proof Senate.  At the local level there are several “red-state” Governorship’s and State Legislatures in play.

From what I’ve read, the assault on women’s reproductive choices, by Republicans, has resumed with refreshed attempts around the country to try to circumvent Roe v. Wade, using the states as their primary vehicle.  The war on the uninsured and the poor is advancing with Republican Governor’s rejecting certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Provisions such as the “insurance exchanges” for entrepreneurs and small businesses with less than 50 employees, and refusing to expand Medicaid services for individuals and families living at or near poverty levels, and the poor.

Yogi Berra said it best, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

As for the battle over reproductive choices, that’s a battle Democrat’s and Progressives should welcome.  A true conservative court will stand by the rights of the individual against the state.  A Republican court will not.  Chief Justice Roberts has shown, with his decision on the ACA, that he does not want his court to be branded as the “Republican Court.”  Notwithstanding some of the other Justices, it is my belief that the right’s of the individual will prevail.  We’ve seen that already with laws like “stand your ground,” and “open carry” laws, for guns.  We just have to be prepared, and willing to fight for what’s right.

Now, about the ACA.  Caught inside the Republican bubble, they believed that the President would not be re-elected, they believed that the ACA would not stand constitutional muster, they believed that their party would win the Senate and increase their majority in the House.  After the ACA was upheld by the SCOTUS, they believed that, when elected, a Romney/Ryan administration would repeal it, or at the least not fund or enforce it.  With this as their thinking, many of them simply did not prepare to commit to the exchanges by the deadline.  They also knew that the Federal government would step in and create the exchanges if they fail to do so.

As you know, the Medicaid expansion provision will mean approximately 17 millions people will receive coverage they otherwise would not have, and will mean the hiring or re-hiring of thousands of people nationwide, to handle the increased case loads.  The Republican Governors, as one of their excuses, claim they cannot afford to implement the exchanges or the expansion, though the Act will pay 100% of the cost for 2 years and 90% of the cost of the expansion for many years after that.  Another excuse is that they don’t want the Federal Government interfering in their state policies.  Their reticence means that millions will not be covered and thousands of jobs will not be made available, simply, because of their politics.

That being said, [this] becomes a prime opportunity for Democratic candidates as they begin their campaigns.  Many of November’s winning Democratic Party candidates ran on these very issues.  I wouldn’t wait another minute in these “Red States,” to force the Republican politicians, from the state legislatures to the Congress, to declare where they stand, on the record, about these issues, and challenge them publicly, about their stance.

These red states are among the most in need of the ACA and their Governor’s, State Houses, and Congressmen and women, should be forced to explain to their constituents why Obamacare is not being made available to them.  At the same time, the “Blue State Governments” should boldly tout the advantages of the Act to their constituents.  Their “red state” neighbors, seeing the benefits of the Act will challenge their leadership to comply, or opportunities will be created for Democrats to take over these State Houses and Legislatures, and to represent them in the Congress.

These are just a couple of the issues that will define this election.  There’s also Planned Parenthood, personhood, voter ID, state election laws, and much more.

We, Democrats and Progressives, must understand that we cannot relax.  2014 will be here before we know it and the race to the “mid-terms” has already begun.  It’s “ON AND POPPIN’.”

“STEELE RESOLVE”

I’m going to start by saying that there are few areas in politics where Michael Steele and I agree, particularly regarding some of the issues facing America today.  Still, I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.  The fact that he has chosen the current Republican Party, though, is one area that confounds me.  It is, at the same, time both “bewildering and admirable.”

I’ll start with “admirable.”  From the time of Abraham Lincoln’s presidency until that of  Lyndon Johnson a Democrat, African-Americans had a strong reciprocal relationship with the GOP.  With that in mind, it’s not too difficult to understand, from a historical standpoint, how he could make that choice.

Here is an excerpt from the keynote address given to the Jackson County Republicans Lincoln Day Dinner, March 4, 2006.  The speech is entitled:

“The Ship and the Sea: ‘The Party of Lincoln’ and Civil rights.”

“For 150 years, the Republican Party held high the banner of civil rights. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party defended slavery, segregation and allied itself with the Ku Klux Klan to take the vote away from black and white Republicans and terrorize them into submission. Little wonder the Democratic Party was known as the “party of the Klan” well into the 20th century. When Democrats finally embraced the cause of racial freedom in the 1960s, they were the “Johnny come latelys” of the civil rights movement, simply undoing the damage their Party had inflicted on racial minorities during the prior 100 years. We, the Party of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass and Ward Connerly, have a far better claim to civil rights but we have forgotten our own history.”

The entire speech is a must read and it can be found at George Mason University’s “History News Network.”  http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/22526.html

There is another reason that I find Michael’s choice “admirable.”  The lack of African-Americans in prominent positions of authority within the party has been a persistent point of consternation for Blacks throughout the nation, and I have to admit that seeing him being interviewed in 2008, representing the party as head of the Republican National Committee, wearing a baseball cap on occasion, speaking with occasional “street slang,” and vowing to diversify the party, and expand the republican “big tent,” offered a measure of hope that, perhaps, given the emergence of then candidate Barack Obama, the republican’s may have found the right man to counter the drift towards homogeneity the party had taken.  But alas…..

The “hip-hop chairman” image was not something that a large group within the party, ultimately, could embrace.  Still he showed tremendous “resolve” by clearly pointing out some of the problems facing his party.  He worked to find solutions to them and attempted to mitigate some of the concerns that many of those on the “far right” had with reaching out to non-members.  Despite his avowed efforts to open up the party to other African-Americans, to reach out to Latinos, to diversify the thinking on issues important to women, the “LGBT community” and other specific demographics within the electorate, all that many within his party saw was that “cap.”

After, what turned out to be, an expected loss to now President Obama in November 2008, the party decided to circle the wagons around their fundamentalist right-wing dogma, and in spite of leading, what turned out to be a remarkably successful 2010 mid-term election run for Republican candidates (the Republican’s gained 60 House seats, 7 seats in the Senate, and 7 Governorships), Michael found himself “odd (at least to their way of thinking) man out.”  In January 2011 was replaced by Reince Priebus.

For all of the party’s finger-pointing, casting aspersions upon the chairman,and, in my opinion, not giving him proper credit, one thing was true.  Michael had correctly pointed his finger at a whole host of problems, that would come back to haunt the party in ways that, though it shouldn’t have, seemed to catch them completely by surprise.

Watching and listening to Michael in the weeks leading up to the November, though it was obvious that he wasn’t surprised.  With the republicans, having moved away from their 2010 mantra of jobs, jobs, jobs to an all out assault on social programs, women’s right’s, voter suppression, anti-union efforts, their reluctance to discuss immigration reform, their fundamentalist attitude’s about marriage, his frustration with the party could be seen on his face and heard in his voice.

So, this is where the “bewilderment” comes in.

Why, given the way they treated him and the direction the party has taken, would Michael want to, again run for chairman of the RNC.  Could it be that his love for his party is greater than his disgust with what they have  become?  Could it be that what he wants is his party back?  “The Party of Lincoln?”  The party of Frederick Douglas?  The party of  Ward Connerly?  The party of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower?  Could he want it back?

Again, I am not a Michael Steele fan.  I am, though, a fan of commitment, a fan of devotion.  It’s clear to me [that] Michael’s commitment and devotion extends “to and beyond” his party, to all of America.

So go for it, Bro.  This time, though, I hope they love you back.

OH(BAMA) WHAT A NIGHT!!!!!

OH WHAT A NIGHT.

Candidate Barack Obama made history in November 2008.  That’s true.  But what President Barack Obama has done in November  2012 is truly historic.  When all is considered, when the story is told, not through the simplistic lens of who won and who lost, America will shudder at revelations revealed by this electoral process, but in the end stand tall in revelry at her ability to stand up against the powerful whose will is, not to live up to the founder’s intent to “form a more perfect union,” but to create a union that “perfectly” suits their purposes.

The Republicans, over the last four years, have used virtually every underhanded tactic imaginable.  They’ve lied, they’ve deceived, they’ve cheated, they’ve attempted to make a mockery of the very process that makes this the greatest country in the world.  They vowed to obstruct the President, and turned around and attempted to blame him for the slow recovery of our economy.  They’ve challenged his birth origin, his citizenship, his legitimacy as President.  They’ve challenged his love of America.  They’ve call him a liar, a Muslim, they’ve refused to acknowledge any of his accomplishments.  Indeed many Republicans, including Romney, have tried to co-op the things he has been able to get done, while at the same time, retreating from their own policies simply because the President embraced them and tried to implement them.  They accused President of “palling around with terrorist,” said that “he has apologized for America around the world,” castigated him for attending a church with a radical preacher (is he Muslim or Baptist?)  They’ve attacked his wife, and family.  They even went after his dog.  They didn’t stop with the kitchen sink, they threw the whole damn kitchen at him and he didn’t flinch.  He didn’t back down.

The amazing thing about this race, is that it was so close.  How, in the face of all the lies, in the face of all the stupid challenges, in the face of all the obstructive tactics by the Republicans, with their attacks on minorities, with their assault on women’s rights, their shifting positions on issues, with their disdain for the LGBT community, their overt attempts to suppress the vote, could anyone have voted for Romney or any of the republicans running for office.  It’s amazing to me.

But, in the end, “Oh what a night.”

I was at the Michigan Democratic Headquarters, in the Grand Ballroom at the MGM Grand Hotel, on election night, and there was, remarkable as it may seem, an air of confidence in the room as I arrived, about 8:30.  Everyone that I spoke with was upbeat, even as the early returns showed the electoral count favoring candidate Romney.  When the polls in the east began to close, the early projections showed the challenger with a 33 to 3 lead, with Romney winning the early vote in the south plus Indiana and the President winning Vermont.  Still I didn’t sense any panic among his supporters.  There was an energy in the calm, though.  There was much on the table with the US Congress elections and several other important down ballot contests and initiatives, that had the attention of the attendee’s.

By 9:00, with more polls beginning to close, more projections had been made.   The President had been projected to win all of New England (except New Hampshire, which soon came on board), Michigan, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.  But with Romney winning Arkansas and Tennessee, CBS News projected that Romney was leading the President in electoral votes 88 to 78.  With each state projection there were cheers or boos depending on who won or lost, but there was no panic, just an expectation that everything was going to be just fine.

An hour and a half into the evening  you could feel the excitement building inside the room.  A little past 9:30 newly re-elected Congressman John Conyers approached the podium to address the crowd and a raucous cheer erupted in the room.  Conyers, who had faced a primary challenge after being the victim of redistricting by a republican state legislature that moved him from the 14th district to the newly aligned 13th district handily, defeated Republican challenger Harry Sawacki.  (This is another example (alignment of voting districts),  a perfect example, of why elections matter.  Even down ballot.

After a few words the congressman introduced newly re-elected Senator Debbie Stabenow to the crowd.  The crowd went berserk  as the Senator took to the podium.

The Senator, armed with the endorsement of the republican-leaning Michigan Farm bureau, easily defeated republican Pete Hoekstra to return to Washington for a third term.  Hoekstra, if you’ll remember was widely criticized for running a controversial ad that featured an Asian woman talking in broken english about China taking our American jobs.  An ad that even some republicans rebuked as racially tinged and insensitive.  He attempted to brand Sen. Stabenow as the “follower-in-chief” because of her relationship with President Obama, and ran numerous negative ads on TV and the internet as he tried to bring her down, but the Senator stayed strong and positive.  “I am proud that we stuck with our positive message about what we’ve gotten done for Michigan,” said Stabenow.

As we approached 10:00 we had more projections.  Pennsylvania for Obama.  Moments later New Hampshire, Wisconsin (so much for the VP home-state bump), and Minnesota.  The vote was so close at this point that CNN was projecting Romney ahead by 152 -143, NBC projected Obama ahead 158-153, and Fox News Channel had it as a tie 153 electoral votes a piece.

Between 10 and 11:00 Romney picked up Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, Utah and Montana and there was a slight nervousness in the crowd, but that all went away at 11:00 when the west coast polls closed.  Pandemonium broke out in the ballroom when it was announced that California, Washington State, Hawaii, followed by New Mexico and Iowa were going to The President.

The exuberance began to ebb, somewhat, as we became aware that Ohio was pending.  At 11:13 NBC announced that President Obama was going to win Ohio and moments later announced Barack Obama would be re-elected President of the United States.  As you can imagine the excitement, the energy, the anticipation all came together and the ballroom could not contain it all.  It spilled out of the room, down the hallways, throughout the hotel.  It was Christmas and New Years eve all wrapped up in one.

I don’t know about you guys, but I was ready for a cigarette.  What a night!  I wasn’t surprised by the outcome (I had predicted that President Obama would win with 331 electoral votes.  He finished with 332).  As much as I believed in the President, I also believed in the American People.  Yes, the republican party did everything possible to steal this election.  Yes, their candidate flip-flopped all over the place and outright lied about himself and the President.  But America saw through it all and did the right thing.  I wrote in a previous post a thank you to the voters, and I really mean it.  There is much yet do and I believe our President is going to get it done, from completing his healthcare initiative to Wall Street reform.  We are going to have tax and immigration reform.  Hopefully we’ll get campaign finance reform, a change in the way we conduct national elections and a change in the filibuster.  President Obama, not burdened by re-election, can use his executive powers to enact programs if the congress does not.  America is moving forward and the Republicans can’t stop us.  It’s time to get to work.

First though, I’m gonna have that smoke.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *    *

Here’s some more pictures from election night at the MGM Grand Hotel:

Senator Debbie Stabenow greets her supporters

Supreme Court Candidates, (left to right)Connie Kelley, Sheila Johnson and Bridget McCormack.
McCormack was the only winner.

EVENT ATTENDEES:

DEAR PENNSYLVANIA

To the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Despite the lack of evidence of “voter fraud.”  Despite the fact, that for years people have voted with other “acceptable forms of identification.”  Despite the fact, that the stated objective of the “Voter ID Law,” passed by the PA legislature, is to insure a Romney victory in the Commonwealth, over President Obama, in the November election.  Despite the fact, that older citizens, college students and minorities are disproportionately affected by this law.  Despite all of these facts, Judge Robert Simpson of the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has decided to uphold the PA Voter ID law.

This from CNN.com:  “Judge Robert Simpson, with the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, on Wednesday issued an order expressing no constitutional reason to stop the law from taking effect, despite writing in his decision that he had “sympathy” for the witnesses.

‘At the end of the day, however, I do not have the luxury of deciding this issue based on my sympathy for the witnesses or my esteem for the counsel. Rather, I must analyze the law, and apply it to the evidence of facial unconstitutionality brought forth in the courtroom, tested by our adversarial system,’ Simpson wrote.”  http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/15/pennsylvania-judge-upholds-voter-id-law/

Though the ACLU and others have vowed to continue this fight, next, to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and if necessary, beyond, the PA GOP has declared victory, and is sure that this legislation has given them a leg up, an advantage, in their efforts to retain control of the Commonwealth, and to defeat President Obama, in Pennsylvania, in November.  But, their celebrations could be a bit premature.

Let’s look at a few other facts:

There are 8,478,509 registered voters in Pennsylvania:
• 4,311,203 registered Democratic voters
• 3,132,039 registered Republican voters
• 38,031 registered Libertarian voters
• 997,236 registered all other party voters

(Note: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Pennsylvania’s voting age population is estimated at 9,829,635).

Since Jan. 2010, a total of 345,439 approved new voter applications were processed:

• 149,806 registered as Democrats
• 103,518 registered as Republicans
• 6,537  registered Libertarian voters
• 85,578  registered all other party voters

This data can be found at:  http://gantdaily.com/2010/11/02/nearly-8-5-million-registered-to-vote-in-pa/   More complete data can be found at: at www.dos.state.pa.us.

Now, it is projected that up to 10% of registered voters in PA could be affected by the voter ID law, perhaps as much 20% in urban areas.  Even if those projections are correct there is no guarantee that the objectives of the PA GOP can be met.  Indeed, due to the collateral consequences of their voter suppression efforts, it is more likely that those efforts will energize what might have been an apathetic, over-confident, Democrat base.  There is another collateral consequence that possibly wasn’t considered.  Independent voters are watching these efforts, as well.  It is not difficult to discern what is happening here, and American’s don’t particularly like to see people trying to game the system.  I don’t believe they are taking into consideration, that Americans want their competitors to “play fair.”

The Democrat Party has people working hard to get voters properly ID’d and registered, but what I find truly remarkable, is that groups like Rev. Al Sharpton‘s “National Action Network,” and Rev. Jesse Jackson‘s “Rainbow/Push Coalition are actively working to see that “all” eligible voters have the required identification, and are registered and prepared to vote.  Listening to the Reverend’s Sharpton and Jackson, I’ve not heard any talk about  party, except that one party is disproportionately affected by these efforts.  They, simply, want all eligible people to vote.  They “are” playing fair.

Notice, also, that Democrats are out registering Republicans, in the Commonwealth, by almost 50%.  This will have a significant impact on the PA GOP’s voter suppression efforts, as well.

All of that being said, let’s look at the worst possible outcome.  That the law stands, and all of its negative projections are met.  Based on the statistics, a 10% loss of the Democrat electorate would not give the GOP a majority of the vote in Pennsylvania.  (This is with voters voting along strict party lines.)  When you factor in the Presidents current lead among independents, and several other demographic areas, this entire voter ID episode could end up being, just an expensive charade.

But let’s not take anything for granted, Pennsylvania.  I’ve got a challenge for you.  It’s “EACH ONE REACH ONE.”  If each eligible, properly credentialed, voter takes a moment to insure that a person, a neighbor, a co-worker, a family member, has the proper identification, then, all of these PA GOP voter suppression efforts will be, nothing but, a waste of time and money, on their part.

That waste of time and money just may be the most important part of this entire episode.  I have deliberately stayed away from talking about the groups that stand to gain the most from these voter suppression efforts.  Groups like the people behind the Super PAC‘s, that are spending vast amounts of money to influence your/our elections.  When we stand up to them, when we let them know that our elections are not for sale, when they see [that] there is no return on this, and these types of investment(s)…., well they are businessmen and women, practical thinking men and women.  There is a better way forward for America, a “fairer” way forward for America.  When this episode is over, perhaps, we can direct our combined efforts towards finding, that better, fairer, way.

In the meantime, citizens of Pennsylvania, “EACH ONE, REACH ONE!”

And then, on November 6th, VOTE!!!!!

The Week That Was – The Affordable Care Act

My pick for the story of the week is the August 1st implementation of a significant part of the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” if you will.

47 million women in this country are now eligible for expanded healthcare services.

Think about it, for 47 million women, to quote Rep. Nancy Pelosi, “being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.”  They will pay the same as an equivalent man for their insurance.

For 47 million women there will be no out-of-pocket payments for certain preventive and diagnostic care procedures.

47 million women will have access to contraception, with some religious exceptions, with no co-pay.

There are provisions made for needed maternity care, even counseling for domestic violence where necessary.

These provisions are now added to approximately 30 provisions already in place.  Provisions such as:  No discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions.  Insurance companies cannot drop coverage when a person get’s sick  No lifetime limits on insurance coverage.  Keeping an eligible child on parent’s insurance until age 26.

American’s are [now] better able to see the benefits promised back in March of 2010, when President Obama signed this Act into law.

This moment and those to come, more than a dozen provisions are yet to roll out, are moments some on the right hoped would never come.

Other than the complexities involved in implementation, which has stretched this process out, I can’t help but believe that there were delays built-in, by the right.  I believe that they were hoping that this bill, that became law, could be made unpopular, using distortions and outright lies. (Death panels???)  Or, by bringing multiple challenges before the courts, up to and including the Supreme Court, that the Act could possibly be struck down.

Those on the right knew that the more of the Act’s provisions that were made available to the American public, the more difficult it would be to overturn, repeal or replace.

Imagine what it must have been like, in March when the Act was before the Supreme Court.  Those on the right must have been feeling pretty good about the chance of the Act being overturned when Justice Scalia, and others, raised the “broccoli mandate” question.   Now fast forward to  June 28, the day the Court upheld the mandate (as a tax), keeping most of the Act intact, and they were left  scrambling to find a way to, again, bring down the law, in the court of public opinion.  (Back came the “death panels”)

They realize that with each roll out, with each provision implemented, the American people would appreciate, more and more, what this President’s administration has accomplished, with little or no help from the party on the right.  This legislation was passed, with not a single republican vote [for] in the House and only marginal help in the Senate.

I believe, given the expansive nature of the act, this signature piece of legislation is going to have significant impact, up and down the ballot.  The gains made by the right in the 2010 elections could quite possibly be recovered by the Democrat Party.  All that is required is that the party’s candidates remind the American people [of] what their lives were like before Obamacare.  All that is required is the truth.

Honorable mention went to Gabby Douglas, winner of 2 gold medals in gymnastics at the Olympics.  She won both for team performance and for the overall gymnastic performance.  Congratulations  Gabby!

Have a good week-end.

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