Category: Political Activism

What is patriotism?

To me, it seems like the Democratic Party has completely lost its way in regards to patriotism. You almost never hear Hillary Clinton talk about patriotism in any way (and Hillary is an ardent internationalist), and, although Bernie Sanders is a left-wing nationalist (or the closest person to a left-wing nationalist in American politics), you don’t hear too much of any patriotic rhetoric from Bernie. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been pushing a brand of phony patriotism that involves thumping the Bible at every opportunity and stirring up hatred and resentment to anyone who isn’t a white, male, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, evangelical Southern Baptist for decades.

I think that it’s time to ask ourselves: what is patriotism?

My own vision of patriotism is derived from two pieces of inspiration. The first is from the late former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who was twice the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, but lost both times to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, from his 1952 speech to the American Legion convention in New York City:

We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power — to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. The dedication of a lifetime — these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.

The second is a country music song called “America First”, performed by Merle Haggard:

Now, I’ll talk about what is not patriotism. Patriotism is not shoving your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) down everyone else’s throats. Patriotism is not sending American troops off to war for the mere sake of sending troops off to war. Patriotism is not making America more a part of an international community that threatens America’s economy on a daily basis. Patriotism is not making America the police force for the entire world. Patriotism is not putting the national security of foreign countries before the national security of America. Patriotism is not infringing on the rights of the American people in the name of a religious deity and/or America.

Most importantly, I’ll talk about what is patriotism. Patriotism is fighting to make America, not foreign countries, a better place to live for everyone. Patriotism is fighting to ensure justice and fair treatment for all Americans. Patriotism is protecting and expanding the most important of all rights, voting rights. Patriotism is understanding that civic duty is a lifelong responsibility. Left-wing nationalism is true patriotism.

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Chicago teachers go on one-day strike against Rahm-Rauner austerity

K-12 school teachers represented by the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) have gone on a one-day strike to protest budget cuts by Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner and the Rahm Emanuel-appointed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board (tweet from March 23, strike took place today):

Republicans like Bruce Rauner and his allies, as well as neoliberal corporate Democrats like Rahm Emanuel and his allies, have teamed up in an effort to destroy public education in Chicago, as well as the rest of Illinois. This is despite the fact that investing in public education, not charter schools, school vouchers, or other forms of education privatization, is one of the best investments that politicians can use the people’s taxpayer money for. The more money that government invests in public education at the elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels, the more likely students are able to go on to work in good-paying jobs, thus stimulating the economy when those who have good-paying jobs spend their hard-earned money on goods and services.

I stand with striking Chicago teachers!

As a progressive in a conservative region of Illinois, I can relate to people like these

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post includes a blockquote from a book titled Blue in a Red State: The Survival Guide to Life in the Real America, written by Justin Krebs. The blockquote comes from an excerpt of the book published on the Salon magazine website, as I do not have the actual book in question.


As someone who lives in a conservative region of Illinois (specifically, Vermilion County, Illinois, located in the east-central part of the state), I can relate to this:

Lisa in Waukesha, Wisconsin, has two Facebook accounts. One reflects her liberal politics; the other is for acquaintances and family members to whom Lisa shows only her cat photos. Christina, in Milford, Massachusetts, has a sign in the back window of her car proclaiming support for a Democratic candidate. But as soon as she parks in the company lot, she puts it facedown on the backseat. Byron has lived in the same small town of Pomeroy, Iowa—population 662—his entire life. He brings his partner to family dinners but has never actually said to his conservative sister that he’s gay.

Lisa, Christina, and Byron are “blues in red states”—liberals who live in conservative communities that exist in every state, Republican or Democratic-leaning, across America. They and people like them are constantly reminded they aren’t quite like everyone else: from the churches they do or don’t attend, to their purchases and media preferences, to their loyalties at the ballot box. On a daily basis, liberals who have made homes, formed friendships, and participated in the civic life of conservative towns and cities are confronted with unsettling reminders that they’re different, and they’ve found myriad ways to take that truth in stride.

Although Massachusetts, Iowa, and Wisconsin aren’t exactly “red states” (MA is a blue state with a Republican governor, and IA and WI are presidential swing states with Republican governors), all three of the people featured in the above paragraphs live in areas of their states that are more conservative than the state as a whole.

For someone who is very vocal about politics online, I almost never talk about politics when I’m away from my house. In fact, I blend in surprisingly well with other people in my community, as virtually nobody outside of my immediate relatives (mostly Democrats who are not as progressive as I am) know about my political views. In fact, virtually nobody in my community knows that I’m an atheist, and that’s because I never talk about that outside of online to a receptive audience.

In fact, regarding Lisa from Waukesha, Wisconsin, I’m actually an online friend of hers, believe it or not. There’s not too many people I’m comfortable communicating with (either in person or online), but I’m more than comfortable talking with Lisa online. I don’t agree with Lisa 100% of the time (although I’ve never agreed with anyone 100% of the time and I agree with Lisa more often than not), but Lisa is far more understanding of opposing viewpoints than me or most other people.

Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams EXPOSES Hillary donors as racist

Just a few days before South Carolina votes on a Democratic presidential nominee, a Black Lives Matter activist by the name of Ashley Williams interrupted a Hillary Clinton fundraiser in South Carolina to question Hillary over her past statements referring to black people as “super-predators”:

The predominantly-white group of Hillary donors booed Williams, and here’s how one of them responded on Twitter to Williams’s questioning of Hillary:

Hillary’s people think that Bernie Sanders is the most racist piece of trash on the planet (that award actually goes to Donald Trump), yet they’re the ones who are actually racist and act like they’re entitled. This is a textbook example of white privilege.

If you want a president who will fight for racial equality and not act like some privileged racist, vote for Bernie!

Hillary supporter John Lewis disses Chicago

All right, John Lewis didn’t actually diss Chicago explicitly, although the civil rights leader, U.S. Representative, and Hillary Clinton supporter claimed that he didn’t see Bernie Sanders participate in the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th Century, and used that claim to justify his support for Hillary.

While I have a ton of respect for John Lewis, as he’s someone who put his life on the line to fight for racial equality in America, just because I have respect for someone doesn’t make someone immune from my criticism of him. I think that Lewis’s remarks, while likely accurate, were very elitist of him.

While Lewis’s claim that he never saw Bernie in the Civil Rights Movement are probably true, since most of Lewis’s activism was concentrated in the South, virtually all of Bernie’s civil rights activism, outside of being one of hundreds of thousands of people in the crowd at the 1963 March on Washington, was on the campus of the University of Chicago, located in Illinois’s largest city. Specifically, Bernie, Bruce Rappaport, George Wells Beadle, and other civil rights activists fought against racially-segregated apartments that were owned by the University of Chicago, and Bernie has the arrest record to prove it.

The reason why I’m criticizing Lewis over a likely factual remark is this…Lewis implied that he thinks that he’s the gatekeeper who was and wasn’t a civil rights activist (he’s not, and nobody is), and he also implied that civil rights activism in Chicago wasn’t/isn’t as valuable as civil rights activism in the South. Both of those are examples of absolutely absurd logic. Even today, there are many activists affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement who are based in one part of the country who haven’t met Black Lives Matter activists in other parts of the country. That doesn’t devalue their work for racial equality in any way. What John Lewis did was devalue Bernie’s work at ending segregation in Chicago, and that is flatly unacceptable.

Gloria Steinem and Madeline Albright offend women who support Bernie

AUTHOR’S NOTE: From this point forward in the 2016 race for the Democratic presidential nomination, “Hillary” refers to Hillary Clinton, and “Bernie” refers to Bernie Sanders.


This is really one of those times where, admittedly, I wish I had a female co-blogger to help push back against the offensive remarks by some of Hillary’s supporters towards women who support Bernie.

If you’re wondering what I was referring to in the above paragraph, I’m referring to recent remarks by women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright, both Hillary supporters. In both cases, offensive remarks were made about women who support Bernie.

Steinem went on the HBO show of Bernie backer Bill Maher (YouTube video here, Steinem’s remarks about Bernie supporters begin at the 3:50 mark) and claimed that women who support Bernie are only doing so to meet men:

The feminist icon made an alarmingly sexist remark on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night, suggesting that young, female supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders only support him because dudes do, too.

Steinem was discussing Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Sanders. When Maher noted the Vermont senator’s popularity with young women, Steinem responded with her theory that women get more “radical” as they get older.

“When you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie,” she said.

I’m not going to comment on Steinem’s theory about men becoming more conservative, and women becoming more liberal, as they get older, since I’ve not seen any scientific study on that matter. However, what I will say is that women who support Bernie are not doing so because they want to meet men. After all, if they did, I’d probably have a girlfriend by now (in reality, I don’t have or want a girlfriend). Women who support Bernie support him because they share and support many of his values and ideas, such as restoring good government, making college truly affordable, raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, and significantly reducing health care costs.

Not to be outdone by Steinem, Albright claimed that women who support Bernie are going to hell:

Former Sec. of State Madeleine Albright attempted to shame young women voters at a Hillary Clinton campaign event on Saturday, repeating her now-famous line: “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.”

[…]

The 78-year-old diplomat, who served in the Bill Clinton White House, complained that some young women “don’t understand the importance of why young women have to support Hillary Clinton.”

In my opinion, Albright’s remarks were even worse than Steinem’s remarks for one reason. To claim that women who don’t support a particular candidate are going to hell and saying that they have to support a particular candidate is basically a way of saying that you don’t believe in democracy, without actually saying that. Democracy is about choosing between political candidates, not forcing someone to support a particular political candidate.

While women make up approximately 56-58% of the Democratic primary and caucus electorate nationwide due to the institutional gender gap in American politics, you cannot completely run on shaming women into supporting a female candidate and win nationally, even in a Democratic primary or caucus. The Democratic Party cannot be seen as being condescending towards women who don’t see eye-to-eye with the party elites, or we’ll end up with a President Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, or some other Republican.

Time to seriously look at reforming the Iowa Democratic Caucuses

With the fiasco that was the Iowa Democratic Caucuses behind us, it’s now time to take a serious look at ideas to reform the caucus process in Iowa. Here’s some of my own ideas:

  • Require the state party to report county delegates, state delegate equivalents, and popular vote on election night.
  • Require the state party to apportion county delegates to precincts based on a “30-30-20-20” formula, in which there are a set number of county delegates apportioned to each county based on a county’s Democratic ticket vote total in the previous presidential election (30%), a county’s Democratic ticket vote total in the previous gubernatorial election (30%), the number of registered Democrats in the county at the time that candidate filing for the caucuses closed (20%), and the population of the county at the time of the Census in which Iowa’s state legislative districts in use at the time of the caucuses were drawn in accordance to (20%). The figure calculated by using the “30-30-20-20” method is called the “population equivalent”.
  • Require that state delegates be apportioned to counties based on the “30-30-20-20” method.
  • Require that there be one county delegate per 40 population equivalents, and that there be one state delegate per 500 population equivalents.
  • Require votes to be reported as soon as possible after caucusing is finished in the precinct in question, preferably by an internet-connected electronic device, although, if that is not possible, reporting can be done via phone or, as a last resort, delivering a tally sheet to the state party headquarters as soon as possible. In all cases, paper documentation of the vote count should be conducted and delivered to the state party headquarters as soon as possible.
  • Require that a presidential candidate automatically be declared non-viable in a particular precinct if said presidential candidate lacks a precinct captain, and require that the precinct chair request that a caucusgoer step forward and become a precinct captain for said presidential candidate if said presidential candidate does not have a precinct captain in a particular precinct after the start of the caucus, but before voting begins.
  • Require that public ballots be used for each round of voting in the caucuses, unless DNC rules are amended to allow for secret ballots in the caucuses.
  • In the event that there are fewer caucusgoers than the number of county delegates apportioned to a precinct, require that all caucusgoers be sent to the county convention as uncommitted county delegates.
  • In the event that a significant tie for a delegate occurs in a precinct, require that one final round of voting be conducted, and, if there is still a tie, require that two county delegates with half-votes are elected (or three county delegates with one-third votes for a three-way significant tie, and so on).
  • In the event that, counting “uncommitted” as a candidate, there are more presidential candidates than either seven or the number of county delegates apportioned to the precinct in question (whichever is fewer), require that, if necessary, multiple rounds of voting, with only the last place candidate being declared non-viable after each ballot, be held until there are either seven or a number of candidates equal to the number of county delegates apportioned to the precinct remaining, and/or the top seven candidates or a number of candidates equal to the number of county delegates apportioned to the precinct have either 85% (for precincts with seven or more county delegates) or [[(n-1)/n]+1]% (n is the number of presidential candidates) of the precinct vote combined. At that point, all candidates below the viability threshold shall be declared non-viable, and, barring a significant tie, one additional round of voting shall take place.
Texas grand jury INDICTS two anti-abortion zealots behind Planned Parenthood smear campaign

Texas grand jury INDICTS two anti-abortion zealots behind Planned Parenthood smear campaign

A grand jury in Harris County, Texas (includes nearly all of Houston) has officially indicted two individuals associated with the altered videos that were part of an attempt to smear Planned Parenthood over fetal tissue research:

  • David Daleiden, executive director of the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress (CMP) – Indicted on a felony count of tampering with a governmental record and a misdemeanor count related to the purchase of human organs
  • Sandra Merritt, employee of CMP – indicted on a count of tampering with a governmental record

The grand jury was originally convened to investigate Planned Parenthood over the videos, but decided to turn the tables on the anti-abortion smear artists and indict two of them instead. I hope that Daleiden and Merritt are prosecuted to the fullest and fairest extent of the law.

Hillary supporter Jessica Valenti plays the “vote for someone that looks like you” card

Jessica Valenti, a Hillary Clinton-supporting columnist for the British newspaper The Guardian, effectively called for Democrats to vote for Hillary simply because she’s a woman:

When it comes to women in politics, the United States is pretty much the pits. Women make up half the population in this country but hold less than 20% of congressional seats and comprise less than 25% of state legislators. The numbers for women of color are even more dismal.

On the world stage, the US ranks 72nd in women’s political participation, far worse than most industrialized countries – and with numbers similar to Saudi Arabia’s. A United Nations working group late last year called attention to this disparity in a report that found massive discrimination against women across the board, an “overall picture of women’s missing rights”.

And so it seems strange that at a time when the country has the opportunity to elect the first female president, the idea that gender might be a factor is considered shallow in some circles.

Valenti, for all intents and purposes, effectively said the truth about Hillary’s presidential campaign: many, but not all, of Hillary’s supporters are supporting her because she’s a woman. I think that’s just as sexist as a Bernie Sanders supporter saying that he or she is supporting Bernie because he’s a white male and/or Jewish, something that virtually no Bernie supporter believes. I’m not supporting Bernie because of race, gender, religion, etc. (in fact, I’m a white male atheist), but because my political ideology closely lines up with that of Bernie.

One would only need to look to Wisconsin for a couple of real-life examples of how destructive this style of race and gender-baiting politics truly is. In a 2012 Democratic primary for a seat in the Wisconsin State Senate, Elizabeth Coggs called for voters in a Democratic Wisconsin State Assembly primary that year to “vote for someone who looks like you”, a reference to the fact that Millie Coby, a black woman, was running against Sandy Pasch, a white Jewish woman, in the Assembly primary. Both Coggs and Coby lost their primaries. Additionally, five of the seven members of the Wisconsin Supreme Court are female, yet Wisconsin’s highest bench is probably the most right-wing government institution in the entire country. As a matter of fact, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is ridiculously corrupt (outside political groups have had considerable influence on re-writing ethics rules for Wisconsin Supreme Court justices), hyperpartisan (the Wisconsin Supreme Court has sided with Republican Governor Scott Walker on every major case they’ve ruled on since Walker became governor), and even violent (in one instance, conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser put liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley in a chokehold).

It’s pretty clear to me that Hillary Clinton and her supporters think that it’s a valid crime for a white man like Bernie Sanders to stand up for progressive values and seek the Democratic presidential nomination.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz launches condescending attack on pro-choice millennials

Ladies and gentlemen, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, has, once again, insulted a large segment of her own party’s electorate. No, I’m not talking about Bernie Sanders supporters. I’m talking about millennials who support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health care decisions, including the right to decide whether or not to have an abortion.

In an interview with The New York Times, Wasserman Schultz was asked a beltway media-type question about whether or not she thought there was a generational divide in regards to enthusiasm for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign among female Democratic voters. Wasserman Schultz didn’t directly answer the question (apparently because she’s supposed to remain neutral in the Democratic presidential race, although she’s not been truly neutral) and decided to launch a political attack against the future of her own party:

Here’s what I see: a complacency among the generation of young women whose entire lives have been lived after Roe v. Wade was decided.

I’m a proud millennial who supports a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions, and I am deeply offended by Wasserman Schultz’s offensive remarks. Us millennials are not stupid, lazy, or complacent. Us millennials strongly believe in democracy and civic engagement, most of us are very progressive on many issues, and most of us regard protecting women’s rights to be very important. There are three Democratic candidates running for president, and all three of them are strongly pro-choice when it comes to reproductive health issues.

I think that it’s past time for Debbie Wasserman Schultz to leave politics altogether and let the future of the Democratic Party lead the way on protecting women’s rights and many other important political issues. It’s clear to me that Wasserman Schultz has a deep-seeded bigotry towards young people.