Category: U.S. President

One of the most right-wing newspapers in the entire country couldn’t find a single Betsy DeVos supporter in the education community

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post was originally written on Medium by the administrator of this blog and has been republished in full.


Above the fold on the front page of today’s issue of The News-Gazette, a Champaign, Illinois-based newspaper that covers the east-central part of Illinois and has a very right-wing reputation, was this story about how many in the public education community are opposed to the nomination of Betsy DeVos to the office of U.S. Secretary of Education.

In The News-Gazette’s attempt to find a DeVos supporter, they couldn’t find a single one in the educational community in East Central Illinois.

The strongest opposition to DeVos came obviously from teachers’ union leaders, although many in management (i.e., public school administrators) strongly opposed DeVos as well. Sheila Greenwood, the superintendent of schools in the Bement, Illinois public school system (covering southern portions of Piatt County, Illinois), said this about DeVos:

Bement Superintendent Sheila Greenwood was so appalled by how DeVos answered senators’ questions last month that she contacted her legislators, “begging them to put a stop to this insanity.”

“She couldn’t answer basic questions about schools, funding or assessment. She is uber-wealthy and has no experiences with public education because she lives like the 1 percent and knows nothing,” Greenwood said. “I think Trump will have his puppet and others will run the department.

Jeremy Darnell, the superintendent of the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley public school system in Illinois (map of district here), said this about DeVos:

Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Superintendent Jeremy Darnell was unimpressed with her hearing, as well, saying it was “very evident” she lacks understanding of current education issues.

[…]

“Votes should be cast on merit, preparation and the ability to effectively fill an essential role in our national government, not party line politics,” Darnell said. “All appointments should be considered for their ability to effectively advise our elected leadership. No leader can be a master at all so the essential need to surround yourself with experts in their field is more important today than ever.

The Bement and Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley school districts are located in some of the most Republican areas in all of Illinois, and voters in both school districts voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

The closest person that The News-Gazette could find to a DeVos supporter was Mr. Seth Miller, the superintendent of the public school system that I attended, the Westville Community Unit School District in Illinois. I’m paraphrasing, but Mr. Miller’s thoughts about DeVos were basically of the “give DeVos a chance if she’s confirmed” mentality without offering any explicit support of DeVos:

“We have the best educational system in the world. A leader who is committed to children, who need access to public education, would receive my support,” Miller said. “… Spirited debate with informed constituents helps make us a strong country — big enough and brave enough for diverse opinions. It is my hope that whoever is confirmed as the next secretary of education will help perpetuate this democratic ideal in our public school system.”

Having seen video clips of the Betsy DeVos confirmation hearings before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, it is clear to me that, if confirmed, DeVos would be a downright horrible Education Secretary.

PETITION: Tell the Senate to hold confirmation hearings on Steve Bannon’s appointment to the National Security Council

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains the body of an online petition, written by the author of this blog post, republished in full.


President Donald Trump has appointed Stephen Kevin “Steve” Bannon, one of Trump’s closest allies and a top White House adviser to Trump, to a seat on the National Security Council (NSC). The NSC is responsible for advising the President on matters affecting America’s national security.

A federal statutory law, section (a)(6) of federal statute 50 U.S. Code 3021, requires that civilian appointees to the NSC receive confirmation by the U.S. Senate for appointment to the NSC. Although the creator of this petition is not an attorney, it appears that Bannon, whose legally holds the offices of Senior Counselor to the President and White House Chief Strategist, would qualify as an individual of the (a)(6) category, meaning that Bannon would be legally required to receive Senate confirmation in order to legally become a member of the NSC.

Confirmation hearings for Bannon’s appointment to the NSC would give Senators opportunities to question Bannon over his work at the far-right website Breitbart, allegations that he physically beat his wife, and his offensive anti-Semitic remarks. It is very much possible that, even with Republicans holding a 52-48 majority in the Senate, Bannon may be rejected by the Senate.

We, the signatories of this petition, hereby call for the U.S. Senate to hold confirmation hearings for the appointment of Stephen Kevin “Steve” Bannon to the National Security Council.

You can sign the petition here.

Trump hints at declaring martial law in Illinois’s largest city, even though seven cities have higher murder rates

A few hours ago, President Donald Trump took to Twitter and hinted at possibly declaring martial law in Chicago over the city’s high murder rate:

I really don’t know of any presidential powers at Trump’s disposal that could be used in regards to a city having a high murder rate outside of two presidential powers: one would be to declare a state of emergency in Chicago, and the other would be declaring martial law in Chicago. Unlike a state National Guard or a state militia, the President cannot take over a city police force.

States United, part of the Mike Bloomberg-aligned pro-gun control political network that has been known to support far-right Republicans, has a couple of infographics about the actual state of the Chicago murder crisis:

As you can see, guns originally purchased in states like Indiana, and, to a lesser extent, Wisconsin and Mississippi, all three of which have weaker gun safety laws than Illinois does, have played a large role in Chicago’s murder crisis, and seven U.S. cities (St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Cleveland, Newark, and Memphis) all have higher murder rates than Chicago does. Despite the facts, Trump and his Republican allies haven’t hinted at martial law in cities with a higher murder rate than that of Chicago, and Trump and his Republican allies want to make it easier, not harder, for people to take guns across state lines.

While murder is a serious problem in this country, declaring martial law is going to do absolutely nothing to solve the murder crisis of Chicago or any other city.

The women of America are leading the opposition to Donald Trump

madison-wi-women-march-1-21-2017
Sign carried by a participant in the Madison, Wisconsin Women’s March (Photo taken by Kari Nelson and provided by Sarah Lloyd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!

Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.

Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):

The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.

Betsy DeVos confirmation hearing POSTPONED because Trump’s appointees aren’t being properly vetted

The controversy regarding Republican President-elect Donald Trump and his Republican allies in Congress attempting to ram through Trump’s appointees without Trump’s appointees being properly vetted by federal ethics officials is not going away. In fact, one of Trump’s appointees, Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s pick for U.S. Education Secretary, has had her confirmation hearing postponed until next week because the federal Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has not been able to complete its end of the vetting process:

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee announced late Monday that it had rescheduled the confirmation hearing for Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos.

“At the request of the Senate leadership to accommodate the Senate schedule, we have agreed to move the nomination hearing of Betsy DeVos to Tuesday, January 17th at 5:00 p.m.,” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said in a release late Monday.

While Betsy DeVos has made it clear for a long time that she wants to destroy public education in America, what is an even bigger problem than that is the fact that multiple Trump appointees, apparently including DeVos, have not been properly vetted to the legal standard, not a political standard, for vetting a presidential appointment. I’ll even add that, given the seriousness of the fact that OGE has not been able to properly vet Trump’s appointees, the letter from the OGE Director regarding the issue should have been addressed to the entire Senate, not just Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

The 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

As 2016 comes to a close, I hereby present the 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards. The Person of the Year will earn a spot on the list of members of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner. Starting in 2017, listings of individuals on the list of recipients of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner will become separate from the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards.

PERSON OF THE YEAR – JENNIFER WEISS-WOLF

2016 was, all around, an awful year for progressives, both in the United States and worldwide. However, one bright spot in progressive advocacy is Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a women’s rights advocate from New York City. Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy for increased access to feminine hygiene products in public restrooms and advocacy for abolition of sales taxes on tampons and other feminine hygiene products has earned her support for her ideas from Democrats and even a few Republicans. States like New York and Illinois have eliminated sales taxes on tampon thanks to Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy, and Weiss’s hometown of New York City has mandated that tampons be made freely available in public restrooms of city schools, jails, and shelters. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2016.

ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – BERNIE SANDERS

For the second time in consecutive years, Sanders, who represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate and unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, is the recipient of a ProgMid award. Although Sanders didn’t win his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and isn’t technically a Democrat, he has had a significant and largely positive impact on the Democratic Party. Sanders successfully pushed to make the national Democratic Party platform, which is non-binding for Democratic candidates, more progressive than in previous years and decades. Sanders helped bring progressive policies like making higher education truly affordable, single-payer health insurance, and expanding Social Security into the American political mainstream, even though none of those ideas will be enacted in the near future, at least at a national level. Furthermore, Sanders’s candidacy has led to the creation of the DNC’s Unity Commission, which will examine potential reforms to the Democratic presidential nomination process for the 2020 presidential election and future presidential elections after 2020. For his advocacy for progressive ideals and his efforts to improve the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is the ProgMid Elected Official of the Year for 2016.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – LILLY KING

While 2016 was a banner year for the far-right Vladimir Putin regime in Russia, one thing that did not go well for Russia this year was their performance in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Russia sent considerably fewer athletes to Rio than originally planned after the Putin regime was caught running a large-scale doping operation. Even worse for the Russians, they were completely embarrassed by Lilly King of the United States, who, after publicly criticizing Russia’s Yuliya Yefimova for doping, defeated Yefimova in the pool for the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event. King was also a member of the U.S. team that won gold in the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay in Rio. For continuing the time-honored tradition of Americans defeating Russians in international sport, and for promoting ethical competition in sport, Lilly King is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2016.

PLACE OF THE YEAR – REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

While the far-right has gained significant ground worldwide, Austria is, to an extent, an exception. Austrians rejected a far-right presidential candidate not once, but twice, in 2016. In the first of effectively two presidential elections held in Austria in 2016, left-leaning European federalist candidate Alexander Van der Bellen received more votes than far-right fascist candidate Norbert Hofer in a runoff election after no candidate received an outright majority of the vote in the first round of the first election. However, the Constitutional Court of Austria annulled the runoff results because Hofer complained of election irregularities, resulting in the runoff being re-held. Voters gave Van der Bellen an even larger majority in the re-run of the runoff, and Hofer finally conceded. For rejecting a fascist would-be head of state not once, but twice, in the same year, the Republic of Austria is the ProgMid Place of the Year for 2016.

 

CONCEPT OF THE YEAR – POLITICAL RESISTANCE

As I’m sure that virtually everybody who reads this blog knows, Republican Donald Trump won this year’s presidential election despite winning a minority of the national popular vote. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen more than a few people on the left, and even many establishment Democrats, call for a non-violent political resistance to the incoming Trump Administration. With a barrage of right-wing federal legislation likely to be enacted starting early next year, progressives are going to expect resistance from the Democratic minorities in both houses of Congress. Political resistance is the ProgMid Concept of the Year for 2016.

Obama’s legacy: a failed Democratic Party and President Donald Trump

With the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, leaving office in a little over a month, I’ll take this opportunity to talk about Obama’s legacy, which has become a major talking point among Democrats.

First off, I want to mention an op-ed that Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent (D-Madison) wrote about her thoughts about Obama’s legacy for the Madison, Wisconsin-based The Cap Times earlier this month. Usually, I strongly agree with someone like Sargent, who is a staunch progressive who realizes that opposing Republicans and their destructive policies is only half the battle for progressives. In fact, Sargent is one of the few elected officials in the entire country that I have a strongly favorable opinion of, and one has to remember that I live in a different state than Sargent does. However, I have a much more negative view of Obama’s legacy than Representative Sargent does.

President Obama did not get a whole lot of domestic policy legislation enacted in his eight years in office, largely because Republicans controlled at least one house of Congress for six of Obama’s eight years in office. When Obama did have political allies in Congress who were in a position to enact legislation, much of it was legislation that was largely or effectively corporate welfare for private-sector businesses (such as the Affordable Care Act and the automobile industry bailout) that, despite being effectively government handouts to large corporations, did benefit many Americans. In fact, I have personally benefited from the Affordable Care Act. Obama’s attempts to work with Republicans typically failed miserably, because the Republican Party of today is completely unwilling to work with anyone who is a Democrat.

While President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize not long after being elected to the White House, Obama was no champion of peace in the White House. Obama’s only major foreign policy success as president was his ordering of SEAL Team 6 to take out Osama bin Laden (which succeeded). The rest of Obama’s foreign policy record was largely underwhelming and, in many ways, a continuation of the post-9/11 George W. Bush foreign policy in the Middle East.

One of President Obama’s biggest failures was his attempt to cut Social Security benefits, which was rejected, largely because progressives strongly opposed it. Another major Obama failure is the Democratic Party: Since Obama was sworn into office, Democrats have lost hundreds of state legislative seats, dozens of state executive offices, and dozens of seats in both houses of Congress. Yet another Obama failure was the FBI under Obama’s leadership: James Comey, who was appointed FBI director by Obama, used his office to influence people to vote for Donald Trump in this year’s presidential election.

In some cases, left-wing victories under President Obama’s leadership came from unexpected places. Many of the major LGBT rights victories, such as key provisions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) being struck down and marriage equality becoming law of the land, were because of rulings by a right-leaning U.S. Supreme Court. The LGBT community used the justice system to win justice.

Now, America is probably a weaker country than it ever has been since the Declaration of Independence was signed, although it’s mostly not President Obama’s fault. However, Obama’s pursuit of free-trade deals and Social Security cuts opened the door for a far-right demagogue by the name of Donald Trump to win the White House. I strongly fear that Trump will, some way or another, undo pretty much all of the positive aspects of Obama’s legacy and destroy this country in so many ways. If the Democrats haven’t gone the way of the Whigs by 2020, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

For Democrats, winning over rural voters isn’t as simple as talking to a few rural people

For a number of years, Kathy Cramer, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been studying rural resentment towards Democrats and political elites, and seems to be one of only a handful of people who understand why Democrats are so awful at winning over rural voters in Wisconsin.

Recently, Cramer studied Donald Trump’s appeal to rural voters in Wisconsin, and you can read her findings at the end of this article by Jessie Opoien (last name pronounced oh-POY-en) of the Madison-based newspaper The Cap Times. Another thing that I enjoyed reading about in the article is Cramer’s epic response to a person who volunteered for the failed Hillary Clinton presidential campaign:

After Cramer presented her findings, a woman in the audience who said she had volunteered in Madison on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign asked Cramer what advice she would give Democrats on how to talk to the people in rural areas who voted for Trump.

“It’s not speaking to people,” Cramer said. “It will require just spending time with people and asking them, ‘What’s on your mind?’ for months — then trying to deliver a message.”

If winning over rural voters was a simple as talking to a few rural voters here and there, we’d still have Pat Quinn as governor here in Illinois. Obviously, that’s not the case. For Democrats to win over rural voters across the country, Democrats are going to start needing to emphasize agricultural policy proposals designed to give farmers a fair price for their crops and find other ways to connect with rural voters without alienating the progressive urban base of the party. Even better, Democrats should try to use rural resentment to their advantage by trying to paint Republicans as the party of urban and suburban political elites.

While there are several candidates that political insiders have floated as potential Democratic candidates for Governor of Wisconsin in 2018 (such as State Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, Former State Senator Tim Cullen, U.S. Representative Ron Kind, State Representative Dana Wachs, and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ, just to name a few), I’ve wondered for some time whether or not Kathy Cramer would be a good candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin, such as governor or lieutenant governor. Given that she seems to know how Democrats can win over rural voters (or at least enough rural voters to win a statewide race in states like Wisconsin), I think that she could be a great candidate for a statewide race in Wisconsin. However, I highly doubt that Cramer would even consider the idea of running for public office.

Obama’s free trade policies, not race, were the primary reason why Trump won

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Opinions and punditry expressed in this blog post are solely those of the author.


While a core component of President-elect Donald Trump’s unorthodox style of politics is openly spouting all forms of bigotry and appealing to bigots in many different ways, another major component, and the component that got Trump elected, of Trump’s style of politics is his unabashed opposition to free trade policies.

Bigotry did not get Trump elected to the White House. As someone who is an election judge in Vermilion County, Illinois, it is not my responsibility to judge voters based on which candidates they vote for, but it is my responsibility, and the responsibility of my fellow election judges, to ensure that voters are able to vote for the candidates of their choice. In this year’s general election, I was one of five election judges who worked the polls in Danville Township Precinct 4 in Vermilion County, Illinois (although I live in a different part of my home county), and here are a couple of interesting results from the precinct where I worked (source here):

 

PRESIDENT / VICE PRESIDENT
Total Number of Precincts 1
Precincts Reporting 1 100.0 %
Vote For 1
Times Counted 272/447 60.9 %
Total Votes 271
Times Over Voted 0
Number Of Under Votes 1
CLINTON/KAINE DEM 67 24.72%
TRUMP/PENCE REP 189 69.74%
JOHNSON/WELD LIB 8 2.95%
STEIN/BARAKA GRN 4 1.48%
Write-in Votes 3 1.11%

 

COMPTROLLER
Total Number of Precincts 1
Precincts Reporting 1 100.0 %
Vote For 1
Times Counted 272/447 60.9 %
Total Votes 261
Times Over Voted 1
Number Of Under Votes 10
SUSANA MENDOZA DEM 82 31.42%
LESLIE MUNGER REP 155 59.39%
CLAIRE BALL LIB 17 6.51%
TIM CURTIN GRN 7 2.68%

 

The first result I posted is the presidential/vice-presidential general election vote in the precinct in which I was an election judge, the second result is the Illinois state comptroller special election vote. Results do not include any late-arriving absentee ballots that have not yet been counted, which, if there are any received between now and November 22, will be counted no later than November 22. In the precinct where I was an election judge, here’s the difference between the comptroller vote and the presidential/vice presidential vote by party (mathematical formula used is D = cp, in which c is the comptroller vote total for a political party’s nominee and p is the POTUS/VP vote; positive number means party received more votes for comptroller than POTUS/VP):

 

DEMOCRATIC +15
REPUBLICAN -34
LIBERTARIAN +9
GREEN +3

 

The differential figures are my own calculations that are based on the vote totals.

In the precinct where I worked as an election judge, Hillary Clinton got 15 fewer votes against Donald Trump than Susana Mendoza did against Leslie Munger, even though Trump is notorious for his anti-Hispanic bigotry and Mendoza is Hispanic. Had Hillary Clinton received 15 more votes per precinct across the entire country, Clinton would have won Michigan (media has not projected a winner as of this writing), Wisconsin (won by Trump), and Pennsylvania (won by Trump), which, not counting any other electoral college unit (state, Nebraska or Maine congressional district, or federal district) would have resulted in Clinton winning 274 electoral votes, which would have been enough to win the presidency.

Although trying to compare the political power of the largely technocratic state office of Comptroller of Illinois to the highly political federal office of President of the United States is like trying to compare a train to a sports car, Mendoza ran a far better campaign for the office she sought than Hillary did for the office she sought. While Hillary completely ignored large segments of the electorate that she had to win the support of (including Wisconsin, a swing state in recent presidential elections), Mendoza ran a television ad in heavily-Republican areas of Illinois that educated voters about the role of the Illinois Comptroller’s office without insulting voters in any way:

Neither Mendoza nor Munger had to take a position on issues like President Obama’s proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal because they were running for a largely technocratic office responsible for controlling Illinois state tax dollars, but Clinton and Trump, who were running for the highest and most political office in the country, did. Trump railed against the TPP, and that’s how he won enough electoral votes to win the presidency. While Trump indisputably won the presidential election, don’t tell me that Trump won because of his bigotry, because I just cited an example to prove that’s not true.

I’m not suggesting that Susana Mendoza should run for president in 2020 by any imagination, but this year’s presidential election was decided by less than 15 votes per precinct. Remember, every vote counts.

Scott Walker sends out pro-Hillary tweet

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is a Republican. Normally, I don’t have to emphasize that, given that he is infamous for his signing of legislation that gutted labor unions in Wisconsin and crippled his state’s economy, but I am emphasizing that he is a Republican because he recently sent out a Tweet asking people who approve of the job that President Barack Obama is doing to vote for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton:

It’s been slightly over half a day since Walker sent out that tweet, and, as of the publishing of this blog post, he has not yet deleted it.

While Walker claims to be a Donald Trump supporter and has usually acted like one, he seemingly has no problem with sending out a tweet asking people to vote for Hillary Clinton. That is the political equivalent of an own goal, if there ever was one.