Tag: LGBT

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.

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Mike Pence, who signed religious discrimination into law in Indiana, will likely be Trump’s running mate

Multiple media outlets are reporting that Indiana Governor Mike Pence is likely to be picked by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to be Trump’s vice-presidential running mate. This has not been confirmed by Trump himself; Trump intends to officially announce his VP pick sometime tomorrow.

For those of you who have heard of Pence, and for those of you who have not heard of Pence, he’s not worth any pence, and he’s a right-wing bigot with a track record of enshrining bigotry into Indiana state law.

Pence is most infamous for signing into law Indiana’s religious discrimination bill, which allows ordinary Hoosiers to discriminate against people who aren’t like them by, for example, allowing businesses and businesspeople to refuse to serve people because of the religious beliefs of the business owners. That is a law primarily designed to discriminate against Indiana’s LGBT community, and Pence made himself and Indiana a national embarrassment by signing the religious discrimination bill into law.

When it comes to working-class Americans, Pence is solidly against working-class Americans every step against the way. Pence repealed Indiana’s common construction wage law, which was Indiana’s version of a prevailing wage law for state-funded construction projects, and Pence also supports President Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a proposed international trade agreement between the U.S. and countries like Vietnam, a country that killed tens of thousands of American troops in a war the U.S. should have never been involved in, and a country where workers are paid far less than the U.S. federal minimum wage. It’s no wonder why the White House is actually praising Pence, despite the fact that Pence is likely to be the running mate of perhaps the single most bigoted presidential candidate to win a major-party presidential nomination.

Minnesota State House candidate Erin Maye Quaye attacked by GOP opponent for being mixed-race and lesbian

The Party of Trump has proven yet again that it is full of bigots who have zero respect for the American people. This time, it’s Minnesota State House candidate Ali Jimenez-Hopper attacking her Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) opponent, Erin Maye Quade, for being who she is:

Referring to Erin Maye Quade, a staffer for Keith Ellison who has a black dad and is married to a woman, Jimenez-Hopper said “she is really far left [in] her values.”

“She brings up that she is half black and she uses that as a strength. She brings up that she is in support of LGBT and that lifestyle and puts out pictures on Twitter of her and her wife,” Jimenez-Hopper continued. “I believe in the traditional marriage in the sense that it’s between a husband and wife and God and that family is important. We need to have these values so we can go forth and think about your community.”

Following that speech, Jimenez-Hopper was officially endorsed as the GOP candidate for the House seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Tara Mack. Neither Jimenez-Hopper or Maye Quade face primary challengers, meaning they’re set to face off in the general election this November.

Maye Quade of the DFL and Jimenez-Hopper of the GOP are running in the general election in Minnesota State House District 57A. Neither candidate faces any opposition in their respective primaries.

Jimenez-Hopper is using racist and homophobic language to attack Maye Quade for being of mixed race, as well as attacking her for being happily married to a woman that she loves. That kind of conduct from Jimenez-Hopper is disgusting, bigoted, and repulsive. Jimenez-Hopper attacked Maye Quade’s family, which is something that is completely out of bounds in American politics.

If you’re interested in why Erin Maye Quade is running for a seat in the Minnesota House of Representatives, here’s what she is running on:

She said she intends for her campaign to be focused on issues like ameliorating childhood hunger, investing in transportation, enacting statewide paid family leave, and providing people with better mental health resources.

Like many Americans, Erin Maye Quade is someone who is genuinely interested in making her community, state, and country a better place to live. That is what a true patriotic American believes in, regardless of personal background. Maye Quade’s campaign website is here, and her Twitter page is here.

JoAnne Kloppenburg runs brilliant, factual attack ad against Rebecca Bradley

In Wisconsin, the major-party presidential primaries are overshadowed by an officially non-partisan general election for one of seven seats on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, in which there are two candidates vying for a seat on Wisconsin’s highest bench. One of the candidates in the state supreme court race is Rebecca Bradley, a far-right incumbent state supreme court justice appointed to the court by Republican Governor Scott Walker. Bradley’s opponent is JoAnne Kloppenburg, a dedicated public servant and jurist who is currently a state appellate court justice and previously served as a Wisconsin assistant attorney general under both Democratic and Republican state attorneys general.

Many, many years before Bradley became a state supreme court justice, Bradley wrote a series of hateful columns for the student newspaper and student magazine of Marquette University. Bradley also has a very long history of saying incredibly offensive things, even long after she graduated from college.

Kloppenburg is running a brilliant, factual attack ad against Bradley, using Bradley’s own words against her:

Long story short, I believe that the people of Wisconsin cannot afford ten more years of an ideologically-motivated politician like Rebecca Bradley issuing decisions from Wisconsin’s highest bench. That’s why I encourage Wisconsinites to vote for the only independent-minded jurist running for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court: JoAnne Kloppenburg. Kloppenburg believes that justices should interpret the laws, not use the judiciary to enact a political agenda by judicial fiat.

The general election for Wisconsin Supreme Court is April 5, and will be held alongside the Democratic and Republican presidential primaries in Wisconsin. Go, Jo, Go!

VICTORY! Georgia Governor Nathan Deal VETOES religious discrimination!

I rarely agree with Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA), but I strongly agree with his decision to veto Georgia House Bill 757 (HB757), the bill that, if the Georgia General Assembly were to override Deal’s veto, would allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against people, including LGBT people, on religious grounds.

While supporters of legislation like Georgia’s HB757 claim that the legislation that they support “religious liberty” legislation, the legislation that they actually support is religious discrimination legislation. That’s because the legislation would allow people and businesses to discriminate against people because of who they are. That is not the character of the people of Georgia, and it’s not the character of the people of this great country.

Hillary admires war hawks like Henry Kissinger and anti-LGBT bigots like Paul Wellstone

At the most recent Democratic presidential debate in Milwaukee, Hillary Clinton praised one of the most dangerous people in American history, Henry Kissinger, who was Richard Nixon’s right-hand man on foreign policy (Operation Menu was a U.S. carpet-bombing operation in Cambodia that Kissinger played a key role in). Nowadays, a carpet-bombing operation of any kind would be considered a war crime under international law. For someone like Hillary to praise someone like Kissinger is, in and of itself, proof that Hillary does not stand for the progressive values that the Democratic Party should stand for.

In recent days and weeks, Hillary has also praised the late Paul Wellstone, who represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate for nearly two terms before his tragic death in a 2002 plane crash, was nearly a polar opposite of someone like Kissinger. In fact, Wellstone is someone that I admire, as he was progressive on nearly every political issue. However, he committed an unforgivable sin in 1996, when he voted for Bill Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act, a bill designed to discriminate against LGBT  couples by denying federal recognition of same-sex marriages. For Hillary to praise someone like Wellstone and use Wellstone to attack Bernie Sanders for standing up to progressive values amounts to effectively defending Wellstone’s bigotry towards the LGBT community.

Hillary Clinton is running the most right-wing campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination since George Wallace in 1972.

Tennessee Republican Andy Holt supports domestic terrorists

Tennessee State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) is the first elected official in the United States that I have been made aware of who has publicly supported the Bundy family and a group of domestic terrorists who have taken over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. In fact, Holt went as far as to take to Twitter and publicly ask for information about where he could send an unspecified amount and type of support to the Bundy militia (screengrab by Chattanooga City Council member Chris Anderson, Holt deleted the tweet from his account):

As you can clearly see, Anderson flatly called for a federal investigation into possible treason by Holt. Treason is the only crime that is defined in the U.S. Constitution (Article III, Section 3):

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.

(emphasis mine)

Both types of treason (levying war against the U.S. and aiding the enemy) either do or may apply in this scenario, the former to the Bundy militia, and the latter to Holt. According to local law enforcement in Oregon who have knowledge of the ongoing siege, the Bundy militia has intentions of attempting an overthrow of the U.S. government and the government of Harney County, Oregon, so that is clearly plotting an act of treason. By intending to send “support” to the Bundy militia, Holt is at least plotting to aid the Bundy militia, unless his remarks are pure hyperbole. If Holt’s remarks are more than hyperbole (i.e., sending support to the Bundy militia or actually plotting to do so), then he’s committing treason.

However, some of Holt’s other tweets are clearly not hyperbole, and give you a general idea of how much of a vile, disgusting human being that he is. Darrell Bouldin, a 2012 Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegate from Tennessee, compiled a few of Holt’s homophobic remarks towards Anderson, who is openly gay:

https://twitter.com/DarrellBouldin/status/683908639023853568

Andy Holt is even more vile and disgusting than Donald Trump, and I didn’t even think that was possible until now. Please use the hashtag #UNFITFORTN when tweeting about how much of a disgusting human being Holt is.

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.

Hillary Clinton’s claim on the rationale behind Bill Clinton’s support for DoMA is total bull

In case you missed it, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was caught red-handed trying to rewrite history. Specifically, Hillary tried to claim that the unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996, was a defensive measure designed to appease religious conservatives, who were pushing for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would have banned same-sex couples from getting married anywhere in the country.

A 1996 memo, written by Clinton Administration officials Jack Quinn, George Stephanopoulos, and Marsha Scott, gives some insight as to the rationale behind what prompted Bill Clinton to sign DoMA, which was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress with all but one Republican and many Democrats voting for it, into law. While the memo mentioned efforts to enact marriage equality at the state level in Hawaii in the mid-1990’s, nowhere in the memo does it reference any kind of movement to enact a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. In fact, the memo clearly referenced the fact that Bill opposed marriage equality in 1996.

Chris Geidner has done a ton of research on Bill Clinton’s role in regards to DoMA, and he has found zero evidence to back up Hillary’s claim that Bill supported DoMA as any kind of defensive measure to prevent religious conservatives from enacting a federal constitutional amendment enshrining anti-LGBT bigotry in the U.S. Constitution. To put that another way, Hillary’s claim on Bill’s rationale for supporting discriminatory legislation that was struck down by a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court long after Bill was out of office is a bunch of bull.

I’m from an area of Illinois that is full of Religious Right extremists, and I’m very familiar with the Religious Right’s political modus operandi. If they had enough support to amend the U.S. Constitution to enshrine their bigotry in the Constitution at any point in modern American history, they would have done so as quickly as possible. Their whole political modus operandi is to do everything possible to shove their religious beliefs down everybody else’s throats. For the Clintons to try to rewrite history by claiming that DoMA was some kind of defensive measure designed to ward off the Religious Right’s attempt to enshrine their bigotry in the Constitution is flatly absurd.

Joe Biden’s “Susan Happ” problem

With Vice President Joe Biden likely to run for the Democratic presidential nomination, I do want to bring up an historical parallel between Biden’s likely presidential bid and Jefferson County, Wisconsin District Attorney Susan Happ’s failed bid for Attorney General of Wisconsin last year.

The parallel between Biden and Happ is this: Both Biden and Happ are/were, prior to running for higher office (or, in Happ’s case, after winning a statewide Democratic primary in Wisconsin), viewed favorably by voters not because of their actual track records or positions on the issues, but because they liked the candidates personally. In Biden’s case, he’s seen by many voters across the country as an approachable guy with an interesting personality. In Happ’s case, she was seen by many voters in Wisconsin as someone who rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in a television ad.

Happ’s campaign to become Wisconsin’s top prosecutor fell apart not long after Happ won a contested Democratic primary with a narrow majority of the vote. Republicans and the far-right corporate media in Wisconsin viciously attacked Happ’s record as a county-level prosecutor, making her look like a corrupt prosecutor who gave out light sentences to Democrats and political cronies, when, in reality, it was a major distortion of Happ’s record. The sustained attack on Happ damaged her campaign and allowed Republican racist Brad Schimel to be elected Attorney General of Wisconsin.

Biden has a legitimately awful record, especially as a U.S. Senator from Delaware, including, among other things:

  • Helping put right-wing extremist Clarence Thomas on the U.S. Supreme Court despite serious sexual harassment allegations against Thomas
  • Voting to repeal the Glass-Steagall regulations on banks and other financial institutions, which led to the Great Recession
  • Voting for the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA), which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriages prior to being ruled unconstitutional by a conservative U.S. Supreme Court
  • Publicly claiming that “abortion is always wrong”
  • Helping enact legislation, signed into law by George W. Bush, that made it harder for Americans to file for bankruptcy
  • Helping enact legislation that expanded the prison-industrial complex in the United States
  • Voting for George W. Bush’s unjustified Iraq War

It wouldn’t take much for one of the Democratic presidential candidates already in the race to brand Biden as an awful politician, if Biden were to run.

I believe that there is an important lesson that is to be learned from the failure of Susan Happ’s campaign for Wisconsin Attorney General last year. When one runs for public office, his or her track record can, either fairly or unfairly, be used against him or her by any political opponent. While Joe Biden’s decision on whether or not to run for president is entirely Joe Biden’s decision to make, I would caution him that his record as a U.S. Senator would likely come back to haunt him politically.