How To Save Democracy: Year-Round Door Knocking


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A message from Indivisible:

Election night 2018 was rough. As we watched the Blue Wave sweep across the country, it became clear that it had missed us: we elected the same (and more) Trump-loving Republicans up and down the ballot.

It would have been easy for Indivisibles to give up, throw up their hands and say “we’ll never win.” But that’s not what happened. Instead, groups across the South mobilized and built out a MASSIVE year-round voter contact program statewide for 2019. 

I’m not just talking about in the cities: one of our group leaders in Appalachia was out knocking doors three days a week, every week, dogged in her attempt to identify every undecided voter in her county. In Boyle County, Kentucky (where Trump won with 62.1% of the vote), Indivisible Danville wrote postcards, registered voters, and canvassed for months prior to the election: Bevin only won by 4 votes.

All of that work was a testament to the fierce tenacity of group leaders who showed up day in and day out, no matter the literal weather or the political climate. 

And in the end? Well, the results were mixed. We won the top of the ticket, and that’s incredible. Kicking Bevin out of the Governor’s mansion is huge. These results are proof that when on-the-ground grassroots effort meets an unpopular and unprincipled incumbent (sounds like another Kentucky official we know), well, anything can happen. Down ballot though, we didn’t win a single race. After all the work, we still came up short.

But there’s another way we won: Off-year elections like this are used as a testing ground for messaging and tactics ahead of presidential years. Like 2018, Republicans again prioritized a pro-Trump, anti-immigrant, and anti-choice message. The result we earned at the top of the ballot in Kentucky and throughout Virginia show us that theirs is a losing approach.

On Tuesday night, I was at the big election watch party with two Indivisible group leaders. Late in the night, after we were sure we’d won in the Governor’s race and lost the others, one of them turned to me with a wicked little gleam in her eye. “Well,” she said. “We’ve gotta start canvassing.” 

Yep.

One of the questions I get asked most often as an organizer in Kentucky is how on earth are we going to defeat Mitch McConnell. And honestly, the answer is the same as it would be to defeat any regressive incumbent.

We’ve gotta start canvassing. We’ve gotta start calling, and texting, and talking to voters, everywhere.

If we’re going to ditch Mitch McConnell — or win ANY race — it’s going to take everyone and their second cousin. We’ve all gotta start canvassing. 

A few years can’t undo centuries of racism, classism and sexism. It will take more years of dedicated, hyperlocal efforts to make progress, which is why we need to start now. We need people on the ground knocking doors year-round. We need to mobilize the cities and make incremental (or major!) gains in the suburbs and rural areas. We need to pick a nominee who can inspire voters. We need donors who can fund phonebanking and canvassing tools. And we need to start organizing now.

The up-ballot wins in Kentucky this week should be an inspiration. And the down-ballot losses should be a call to arms. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to work.

In solidarity,

Aftyn

Indivisible Senior Regional Organizer, Kentucky and Tennessee

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Ernst Sticks With The NRA


A common tactic of perpetrators of domestic abuse is to accuse the victim of things that he himself is doing.  A classic example is a husband constantly berating his wife or girlfriend of cheating to keep her on the defensive and cover the fact of his own cheating.

In a speech on the senate floor last week, Joni did what Republicans always do when they’re doing something wrong.  She blamed Democrats. Joni Ernst can’t bring herself to displease the NRA and support a bill that would restrict gun ownership for abusers even though she has said that she is a victim of sexual assault herself and has pledged to make VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) a priority.  Wow.

This is what she said prior to voting AGAINST the re-authorization. 

She said that she would leverage her new role on the Senate Judiciary Committee “to get the Violence Against Women Act reauthorized…We have to modernize it,” she continued. “We have to reauthorize it. It was allowed to expire last fall and that shouldn’t happen.”   Link

According to Bleeding Heartland, most of the GOP caucus voted against the bill because of a new provision that bothered the NRA.   Joni’s choice to support the NRA’s point of view rather than stick to her own priorities is one of the clearest displays yet of her inability to represent Iowans.

Check out Joni’s speech below and the full story on Bleeding Heartland.

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Joni Ernst Votes Against Veterans Health Care


Wake up, Iowans. I’ve heard folks say we have to support Joni because she is a veteran.  But she is not voting to protect her fellow veterans who may not  have a decent health care plan like members of congress.  This video was released by Progress Iowa yesterday:

Joni Ernst refuses to stand up for Iowa Veterans. She has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act 4 times. Those votes would cost 8,295 Iowa Veterans their health coverage. Our Veterans put their lives on the line, and they deserve better from Ernst.

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Have A Meaningful Veterans Day 2019

What is Veterans Day?

Veterans Day, observed annually on November 11, is a tribute to military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Not to be confused with Memorial Day, which honors those who died while in service, Veterans Day honors all military veterans, including those still with us.

History of Veterans Day 2019

Veterans Day, originally celebrated as Armistice Day, was first issued on November 11, 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson a year after the end of World War I. The purpose of Armistice day was to honor the fallen soldiers of The Great War for their sacrifice and bravery. 7 years later in 1926, Congress adopted a resolution requesting President Coolidge issue annual proclamations on November 11, making Armistice Day a legal holiday.

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Time For A Real Permanent 50 State Strategy

Image (1) purple-to-blue-v2-sm-300x250.gif for post 31905

Virginia and Kentucky were incredible stories from Tuesday night’s off year election. For that matter so was the major turn that suburban Philadelphia took, changing from nearly straight red to quite blue. For that matter even in Mississippi there was a good showing by the Democratic gubernatorial candidate.

Let’s face it at least since 2000 the Republican Party has been a party of racism, hate, misogyny and policies that almost exclusively favor the wealthiest 1%. They have been able to get elected by employing fear, lying and demonizing their opponents. The SCOTUS decision on Citizens’ United has given that party almost unlimited deep pockets to cover the country with operatives and TV advertisements.

But the last two elections – last year and this – have shown that the electorate is tired of the lies and the policies for the rich. What we need to do now is what Howard Dean proposed a decade and a half ago. We need a 50 state strategy. There are votes out there if we go after them.

Out of Tuesday night’s victories in Virginia comes this interesting article about how years of the very grunt work of democracy was instrumental in turning Virginia blue.  Tram Nguyen (co-executive director of New Virginia Majority ) writing in the New York Times Thursday discusses how the amazing wins in Virginia didn’t happen overnight:

“For decades, Democrats allowed the prize of an Electoral College victory to blind them to electoral opportunities elsewhere, staving off funding and failing to provide meaningful support for candidates, campaigns and local parties in places they had written off as unwinnable. The national Democratic Party spent millions in Virginia this year, but the state wasn’t always such a priority. From its position in the South to its prominent role in America’s legacy of oppression, Virginia was long considered reliably conservative — unbreakable. As recently as six years ago, Republicans controlled the office of the governor and the General Assembly.

Local organizations like mine understood the political potential of Virginia when we got started 12 years ago. We are winning because we recognize the power of an electorate that includes and reflects the diversity of our state. We don’t talk to voters only when campaign season rolls around. We try to reach voters of all colors, women, low-income workers and young people where they are, which has made it possible for us to develop a robust base of support along Virginia’s so-called Urban Crescent, from Northern Virginia to Hampton Roads. Long before Election Day, we registered more than 300,000 voters, knocked on more than 2.5 million doors, and organized within communities of color to help win significant policy changes like Medicaid expansion, which covered nearly 400,000 people.

<<snip>>

The lesson here is that Democrats must not write off entire geographies or communities. It took years of organizing and multiple election cycles that resulted in incremental progress for Virginia to reach the point where a Democratic sweep was possible. The same arguments once used to justify chronic underinvestment in Virginia’s progressive potential have been used to undermine the potential of similar states in the South, including other states that saw important shifts Tuesday night, like Kentucky, where the Democratic candidate for governor, Andy Beshear, appeared to beat the Trump-endorsed incumbent, Matt Bevin, in a state the president won by 30 percentage points in 2016.

States don’t become battlegrounds overnight. Democrats and national progressive organizations have the resources to take their case to the people and win, but they have to start early and organize relentlessly. When they lose, they have to stay in place and keep fighting for every political inch they can get. No place is unwinnable forever.”

Republicans have been running 24 X 7 X 365 campaigns for a long time through their various PACs – such as the Koch ‘s ‘Americans for Prosperity’ – and think tanks for a long time. They also have the money to do that. What we don’t have in money we can make up in volunteers and good policy. It is really time to give hard consideration to Dr. Dean’s 50 state strategy again.

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Sunday Funday: Big Tent Edition

The Democratic Party always amazes me. We take in most everyone. This week we learned that billionaire Republican Michael Bloomberg will be filing in Alabama to run for president as a Democrat. I must be missing something here. 

In other news concerning sleeping with the enemy, The Chosen One has said he is considering an invitation from Putin to attend Russia’s May Day Parade in Moscow. Maybe the Chosen One can get a special shirt for May Day in Moscow:

i'd rather be a russian

Impeachment news keeps roaring along at a pace that few can keep up with. 

  1. “A Warning” is a book on the current administration that will be on sale Nov. 19th. Who is the author? 
  1. The Chosen One had a campaign rally in Atlanta Friday highlighting what group of Americans?
  1. What company, perhaps the highest valued company ever, announced that it would become a publicly traded company last Sunday?
  1. 30 years ago yesterday, what happened that should prove that walls between nations will never stand for very long?
  1. Last Tuesday Iowans voted. What was significant about this year’s elections in Iowa?
  1. The Roger Stone trial has finally begun. In an unusual move the judge in the case ordered jurors not to watch what movie during their off hours Thursday?
  1. What day do the public impeachment inquiry hearings begin next week?
  1. In the continuing downward spiral of a once great company, what retailer announced they will close another 96 stores before February?
  1. Which member of the Chosen One’s family illegally released the supposed name of the whistle blower?
  1. 11,000 scientists from 153 nations warned the world of “untold suffering” due to what cause last week?
  1. The Chosen One’s “beautiful wall” was breached last week using tools purchased from local hardware stores for about how much money?
  1. In Dresden, Germany the city council passed a bill named “Nazinotstand” which is meant to deal with an emergency they see in the rise of what in their city?
  1. A wrestling referee warned what current Ohio congressman and former Ohio State wrestling coach that the team doctor was committing sexual misconduct?
  1. In odd news, a Chicago man built his own version of what famous movie car, complete with a Boeing jet engine in the rear?
  1. Tuesday Juli Briskman was elected to her county board of supervisors. Prior to this, what action made Briskman famous a couple of years ago and caused her to lose her job?
  1. Paula White was need last week to the White House office of Public Liaison. What relationship does Ms. White have to the Chosen One?
  1. His once debilitating problem that kept him from serving in Viet Nam apparently healed, who will be leading New York’s Veteran’s Day parade tomorrow?
  1. CEO Steve Easterbrook was fired by what food chain after he had a consensual relationship with an employee?
  1. What state commuted the sentences of over 500 inmates in an effort to reduce incarceration rates?
  1. The senate passed legislation that would make what a federal crime?

Answers:

  1. “Anonymous”
  1. Black Americans. Black Americans for Trump specifically
  1. Saudi Aramco
  1. The Berlin Wall came down
  1. It was the first election that combined school board and city elections
  1. ‘Godfather’
  1. Wednesday
  1. Sears/ Kmart
  1. Donny, Jr.
  1. Climate change
  1. $100
  1. Right wing fanaticism
  1. Jim Jordon – he ignored the warnings
  1. The bat mobile
  1. Briskman fingered a presidential motorcade as it passed her on her bike
  1. She is the Chosen One’s pastor
  1. The Chosen One. Thus after he moved out of NYC, too.
  1. McDonald’s
  1. Oklahoma
  1. Certain animal abuse.

Trump accuses Hillary Clinton of deliberately losing election so he could be impeached. – Andy Borowitz

Posted in #trumpresistance, Blog for Iowa, Humor | 1 Comment

Forget Quid-Pro-Quo; It Is Attempted Bribery And Attempted Extortion

joni and trump kissing

“There was no quid pro quo” is the current defense parroted by Republicans from sea to shining sea in response to accusations of criminal activity by the White House. You can hear from the lips of both Iowa senators as they duck and dodge reference to the Ukrainian call that started the impeachment inquiry.

Kerry Eleveld at dailykos.com reports that our own Chuck Grassley seems to think if it is done in public it is ok. Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota says what difference does it make if the victim doesn’t complain? This is the kind of Alfred E. Neuman “What Me Worry?” kind of reasoning that passes for thinking on the Republican side of the aisle these days:

“Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa: “What difference does it make? This is all out in the public, with the [summary] the president put out two or three months ago. It doesn’t make any difference what anybody else said.” You tell ’em, Grassley—who cares if the president sold out U.S. national security for a personal political favor.

Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota: ”Neither the president of Ukraine or the president of the United States says there’s a quid pro quo or that there was pressure applied. Does everybody else’s opinion matter if the supposed victim wasn’t victimized?” Exactly, President Zelensky surely felt free to be honest about being pressured after Trump previously withheld $400 million in lifesaving aid from Ukraine on a whim.”

So if we set thinking like that as the new standard for criminal activity it would certainly make it much harder to get convictions. A bank robbery wouldn’t be a bank robbery if the robber didn’t get any money. You know, it was just a joke. Can’t have a robbery without the robber getting some money, right?

How about attempted murder? If no one dies how do you know that the end product was supposed to be murder? We could go on and on listing crimes that may not be crimes if it doesn’t get completed. Of course laws were enacted to punish the crime whether or not it is fulfilled. 

The term “quid pro quo” has been adopted by Trump’s defenders because it clouds the seriousness of what Trump did. It sounds like he is being accused of some foreign sounding technical crime that isn’t a crime unless all part of the transactions are completed. What really happened is that Trump attempted to solicit a bribe of (false) information from the Ukrainian president on a potential opponent of Trump. Such information would certainly be considered a thing of value

If the bribery didn’t work, then Trump would withhold the money forcing Ukraine to face the Russians without the weapons they could have gotten with the money that congress had earmarked for Ukrainian defense. That is extortion. It is like ‘If you don’t play ball with me, then something very bad could happen to you, capiche?’

Quid pro quo (literally this for that) is obfuscating language that makes what Trump did seem like a college prank. Let’s call it what Trump did by it’s real criminal lingo. Trump attempted to bribe the president of Ukraine and just in case that fell through, he attempted to extort Ukraine. In the process he greatly damaged our national security.

Ukraine finally got the money, but only after the whistle blower’s complaint becomes known in the administration. So the argument that the “quid pro quo” never happened is only true because the administration had to give Ukraine the money or be caught red handed. (Timeline here)

Therefore in order to clear the confusion, let’s quit talking about “quid pro quo” and talk about what really happened. The administration attempted bribery and attempted extortion in order to get false dirt on a political opponent. That, Folks, is a serious crime everywhere.

And for those claiming the “transcript” of the call doesn’t demonstrate “quid pro quo” (I am looking at you, Senator Ernst) there is no real transcript so far. There is a rough draft the administration provided that leaves out about 20 minutes of a 30 minute call. Even at that the rough draft does indicate attempted bribery and attempted extortion. 

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Medicare Advantage – Not Medicare With No Advantage

It is sign up time for Medicare. If you are of the age for Medicare as we are you will have an almost daily mailer from some insurance company glorifying the wonders of their Medicare advantage program. Turn on the TV and Medicare Advantage advertisements are all over. Be sure to note that these plans have the word “Medicare” in them. They are not Medicare, but they are trading on the good name that Medicare has built up over 55 years.

Video – 27 minutes with extremely important information, especially for seniors:

Be very, very careful before you sign up for Medicare Advantage. It is NOT MEDICARE!!! It is the same old managed care that has given health care in the US such a deserved bad name.

With Medicare Advantage you may be hooked into a network, thus greatly limiting your factor availability. It also may greatly limit where you can be treated. If you do not get pre-approval for surgeries you may well be denied. Even if you do get pre-approval you may get denied. The list of evils in the Advantage programs mirrors the the evils in health care insurance for all other classes.

Emily Gee, Maura Calsyn, and Nicole Rapfogel over at The Center for American Progress     also notes that an executive order signed by the current president in early October lays out a path to the Republicans goal of privatizing Medicare as quickly as possible. Most of us probably missed this in the fog of crimes by the current president and the coverage of potential impeachment.

Here are a few of the points CAP makes. Please go and read the full article. It has very important information about the Republican plan to totally gut Medicare:

“Last week, President Donald Trump signed an executive order titled “Protecting and Improving Medicare for Our Nation’s Seniors.” The order is the latest example of how Trump says one thing while doing another. Rather than strengthening Medicare, Trump envisions turning large swaths of the 54-year-old program for the elderly over to the private sector while directing the federal government to dismantle safeguards on seniors’ health care access, shift costs onto beneficiaries, and limit seniors’ choice of providers.

Among other things, the executive order lays out a path to:

  • Shift the Medicare program toward private plans

  • Expand private contracting between beneficiaries and providers, putting seniors at risk for higher costs and surprise medical bills

  • Further restrict seniors’ choice of providers in Medicare Advantage

  • Expand Medicare Medical Savings Accounts as a tax shelter for the wealthy”

The above bullet points are topic headlines in the article. Here is my brief summary of what Republicans are shooting for:

  1. No longer having Medicare set rates on services. This could greatly raise costs which could both bankrupt Medicare and force seniors to to pay higher out of pocket amounts to cover bills.
  1. Using “market based approaches” to push Medicare Advantage. Potentially use an automatic system to put people into Medicare Advantage.
  1. Brings back to life the Republican plan to give seniors a yearly amount to shop for a private insurance plan.
  1. Weakening Medicare financial safeguards that could allow doctors to more easily opt out of Medicare and charge higher fees.
  1. Restrict seniors choice of doctors by forcing a network type arrangement on Medicare. Currently a senior can see any doctor who is signed up for Medicare.
  1. The perpetual Republican plan for Medical Savings Accounts would be folded into Medicare which would thus allow yet another tax shelter for wealthy subscribers

The CAP article has this forceful conclusion:

President Trump has laid out a plan to privatize Medicare and undermine the program, breaking his promise that “no one will lay a hand on your Medicare benefits.” Furthermore, he is trying to scare seniors away from supporting congressional proposals that would genuinely improve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to health care and financial security. Although seniors need better protection against out-of-pocket medical costs and better access to care providers, the changes Trump has proposed will only make things worse.

It should be painfully clear that Medicare as it exists now is clearly in the Republicans sights for destruction. It should also be painfully clear that this is now the time to create a healthcares system that will cover every American that is airtight. The Medicare For All (M4A) system as proposed by presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders would do just that:

Video 4 minutes:

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How Our Political Landscape Shapes Our Society

by Ralph Scharnaupublished with permission

With the approach of Thanksgiving, many Americans pause to give thanks. Public opinion polls show that most Americans clearly value and are thankful for family and friends.

Yet Americans also find that their lives can be impacted by local, state, regional, national, and international political events. The two most common topics are taxes and regulations. These issues often result in spirited debates.

Contributing to the intensity of the debates is where they occur. The Unjted States is one of the most diverse countries in the world. This adds to the chorus of folks with differing opinions.

From its inception the territory that embraces the United States included native American peoples as well as Europeans and Africans. Later more peoples from Latin America, Russia, The Middle East, The Balkans, and Asia joined others and became newcomers. These peoples brought a wide array of cultures, languages, customs, and foods with them to their adopted homeland.

All who live in this country are experiencing a continuing revolution in time and space relationships. We are also witnessing the digitization, virtualization, and automation of more and more things. New technologies have thrust a new scale of life upon us.

The rapidity with which these changes occur create tension, anxiety, and even fear. These changes, in turn, are often distilled in politics. Particularly in presidential elections, voters face choices that can have personal consequences. The upcoming 2020 presidential contest with debates on health care, immigration, foreign policy, addiction, housing, education, and gender identity reveal the connections between political decision-making and people’s lives.

Electrifying moments like the election of Barack Obama, for example, had a significant impact on our society. Not everyone approved the outcome, but the impact was clear. Obama was our first black president. His administrations created a new set of progressive policy initiatives.

It seems the current Trump administration is engaged in an attempt to overturn or roll back Obama era policies. These include those on health care, the environment, foreign policy, and immigration.

While change is constant, many analysts contend the upcoming 2020 elections will be the most significant in the last 50 years. Today more than any other time we are divided by extremes of wealth and power. And we are also divided by neighborhood, race, ethnicity, and class.

We need to craft a politics of hope, not fear and true security, not perpetual war. Despite conflicting ideologies and hatreds, we value the fundamental right embodied in words like freedom and liberty. Extremes of wealth and power cannot be reconciled with a genuinely democratic politics.

The critical debate for the future is not about the size of government. The central choice is not between the “free market” and government; it is between a market organized for broadly based prosperity and one designed to deliver almost all the gains to a few at the very top.

Over the course of United States history, belief in freedom or liberty as a right of all humanity has coexisted with persistent efforts to limit freedom by race, gender, class, and in other ways. Today we find workers, women, activists, and some office-holders engaged in the ongoing struggle to secure the right of everyone to equal opportunity, regardless of skin color, sexual identity, residency, and economic status.

The promise of American freedom and opportunity that brought so many people to our shores remains a beacon of hope. The struggle to secure this American Dream remains. It will continue to be forged in the interface between politics and society.

Ralph Scharnau
October 31, 2019

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Naomi Klein On Climate Deniers “They Think Their Wealth Will Protect Them”


In discussing two types of climate change deniers, Naomi Klein says the only thing scarier than a climate change denier that doesn’t believe in climate change, is a climate change denier that does believe in climate change.  She explains how the wealthiest of the wealthy believe their wealth will protect them from the consequences of climate change as they use it as an excuse to create their own privileged inner circle of survivors.

#1 international and New York Times bestselling author Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and This Changes Everything, makes the case for a Green New Deal, explaining how bold climate action can be a blueprint for a just and thriving society.  Her new book is On Fire.

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