Tomorrow, Puerto Ricans will go to the polls to vote on whether Puerto Rico should continue with an undemocratic status quo regarding Puerto Rico’s political status, become a sovereign country independent from the United States, or become a U.S. state. While statehood is likely to get the most votes by far, Puerto Rican statehood would cause the U.S. more trouble than anything, and it has absolutely nothing to do with race or language.
Long story short, the Puerto Rican independence movement isn’t going to go away, even if Puerto Ricans choose statehood in a landslide. I worry that Puerto Rico, if it were to become a state, would become the U.S.’s version of Quebec politically. Quebec is a Canadian province with a significant independence movement, with a pro-Quebec independence party, often playing a potential spoiler role in Canadian parliamentary elections (and, for a period in the mid-1990’s, was the official opposition party in the Canadian House of Commons). If Puerto Rico were to become a U.S. state, it would be apportioned, if I’m not mistaken, 5 U.S. House seats (and, because Puerto Rico were to be able to vote in U.S. presidential elections if it were to become a state, 7 electoral college votes), although I’m not sure of the actual apportionment math. However, the pro-independence movement in Puerto Rico would likely run their own candidate in the first U.S. presidential election following statehood, with the pro-independence candidate receiving enough votes that would otherwise go to the Democratic presidential candidate to potentially allow President Donald Trump, whose approval rating in Puerto Rico is probably extremely low, to win Puerto Rico’s electoral votes with a small plurality of the Puerto Rican popular vote, and, in a close election, Puerto Rico’s electoral votes could decide the entire presidential election. It would be an embarrassment to America for a separatist movement to potentially wield the balance of power in a U.S. presidential election.
While Puerto Ricans will vote on their political future tomorrow, the U.S. Congress will have the final say on any actual measure to grant Puerto Rico either statehood or independence. While the current status quo in Puerto Rico is completely unacceptable, Puerto Rican statehood is not worth the risk of a second Trump term in the White House. It would be best if Congress passed a Puerto Rican independence bill and granted Puerto Rico full independence from the United States, regardless of the outcome of the Puerto Rican referendum tomorrow, and I support all non-violent efforts with the ultimate goal of full independence for the Puerto Rican people.
If you thought the Trumpcare bill in Congress was bad, well, Republicans are now trying to make Trumpcare, which is the proposed legal vehicle for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that provided millions of Americans with health insurance, a lot worse in order to appease members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of far-right Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Republicans have, since Monday, made two major amendments to the original Trumpcare bill.
The first is the so-called “manager’s amendment”. What the manager’s amendment, if enacted, would end the popular and effective Medicaid expansion a lot sooner than the original bill would have, allows states to raid federal Medicaid funds and use them for purposes other than Medicaid, and makes the Medicaid funding cuts from the original bill a lot more severe, giving state governments, particularly those controlled by Republicans, an opportunity to deprive large numbers of people of health insurance. ThinkProgress, a left-leaning website, gave a more detailed description of the manager’s amendment here.
The second is the Meadows Amendment, named after U.S. Representative and House Freedom Caucus member Mark Meadows (R-NC). Among other things, the Meadows Amendment would allow private-sector health insurers to:
- deny health insurance to those with pre-existing medical conditions
- force women to pay more money for the same exact health insurance that men receive
- enact annual and/or lifetime limits on health care coverage
- force people to pay money out-of-pocket for vital preventative care, such as mammograms and vaccinations
It’s not hard to understand why most Americans don’t like Trumpcare.
The only strongly vocal defenders of the undemocratic superdelegate system used every four years at the Democratic National Convention is a majority of members of the Congressional Black Caucus, a group that includes black Democratic members of both houses of Congress. They recently passed a resolution defending the superdelegate system, which grants Members of Congress, Democratic National Committee (DNC) members, and “distinguished party leaders” automatic delegate slots at convention, and grants them the power to vote for any presidential candidate they want at convention:
The letter — which was also sent to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz — follows a Wednesday CBC meeting where members discussed for over an hour the impact of eliminating superdelegates on the African-American community, according to CBC Chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).
“We passed a resolution in our caucus that we would vehemently oppose any change in the superdelegate system because members of the CBC might want to participate in the Democratic convention as delegates but if we would have to run for the delegate slot at the county level or state level or district level, we would be running against our constituents and we’re not going to do that,” said Butterfield. “But we want to participate as delegates and that’s why this superdelegates system was created in the beginning, so members would not have to run against their own constituents.”
A majority of Congressional Black Caucus members are openly on record as saying that they’re afraid of having to actually campaign for a delegate slot at their party’s national convention. If any politician is afraid of competition, he or she shouldn’t be in public office.
One thing that is roughly equivalent to the superdelegate system is the exemptions from qualifying for the U.S. Open, The (British) Open Championship, and most PGA Tour events in golf for most top professional golfers. However, golf is an athletic competition, so exempting the top professional golfers (the U.S. Open and the British Open exempt a few amateur players from qualifying as well) from having to go through one or more qualifying tournaments in order to get into a professional golf tournament is justified. A political party nominating a presidential candidate is not an athletic competition, but something that should reflect the will of the voters who choose to participate in a particular political party’s nomination contest. Due to elections in the United States being governed mostly, but not entirely, by a patchwork of state laws, a national primary election for any particular party’s nominee is virtually impractical, so the next best way would be for a convention of delegates elected by voters who chose to participate in a political party’s nomination process to nominate the presidential candidate. Currently, the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination process consists of a patchwork of delegates elected by Democratic voters and superdelegates who have a fast lane to the convention. There should be no fast lane to a delegate slot at a major-party national convention. Additionally, the Democratic Party has a very diverse primary/caucus electorate from a national standpoint, so a national convention composed of entirely elected delegates should be very diverse.
While Australia has a short, campaign season for all seats in both houses of the Australian Parliament, America’s campaign season, especially in regards to presidential elections, but also in regards to congressional and even state legislative and other types of elections, is ridiculously long to the point of being seemingly perpetual, and it needs to be shortened badly. However, at the same time, we must allow the same or greater level of ability of voters to participate in the political process.
Here are some of my ideas for speeding up America’s political process:
- Establish a national primary day for party nominations in federal elections, preferably the Tuesday following the first Monday in September
- Establish a filing deadline for federal races that is four weeks before the national primary for non-incumbents and five weeks before the national primary for incumbents
- Overturn the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision by federal constitutional amendment and allow for robust regulations, limits, and restrictions on money in politics
One reason why many voters here in America are burned out by the political process is because campaign season is too long. It’s time to change that.
Granted, it would require amendment(s) to the U.S. Constitution and massive changes in federal and state laws, but America needs a massive overhaul of its election system.
Below are some of my own ideas for fixing America’s antiquated electoral system:
- Drastically increase the size of the U.S. House – There should be one U.S. Representative for every 100,000 residents of the fifty states, rounded up, plus one U.S. Representative with full voting rights each for the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. This would result in a U.S. House size of 3,086, but it would be more representative of the country than a 435-member House.
- Give the District of Columbia and each U.S. territory one Senator with full voting rights each – This would result in a U.S. Senate size of 106.
- Implement a national popular vote system for electing the President, the Vice President, and major-party presidential and vice-presidential nominees – The Electoral College is an antiquated relic of the 19th century, when it wasn’t easy to report election results for a nationwide race. Ideally, an instant-runoff voting system should be used, in which voters can cast first, second, and third preferences, and second and third preferences can decide an election if no candidate gets a majority of first preferences. For party nominations for president and vice-president, a nationwide semi-partisan primary should be conducted, in which those registered with a political party would be able to choose between candidates running for their party’s nomination and unaffiliated candidates, but those not registered with a party can vote for candidates of any party affiliation, as well as unaffiliated candidates. Political parties that get 1% of the total primary vote send their top vote-getter (instant-runoff would be conducted within each party) to the general election, and any independent candidate who receives 1% of the total primary vote makes the general election ballot. Furthermore, presidential and vice-presidential candidates run as a ticket in both the primary and the general election. In the event that a presidential candidate or a vice-presidential candidate seeking a party nomination lacked a running mate, but won his or her primary, he or she would be paired with the candidate for the other office whose ticket got more votes within the party than any other ticket with a candidate for said other office
- Standardize the electoral calendar nationwide – Here’s how I’d set up the election calendar for regularly-scheduled elections in a two-year electoral cycle:
- Tuesday after first Monday in May of odd-numbered year – Political party leadership elections (closed to party members) and some judicial elections (open to all voters, officially non-partisan)
- Tuesday after the first Monday in November of odd-numbered year – County, municipal, and other local elections for the entire country (open to all voters, officially non-partisan)
- Tuesday after the first Monday in May of even-numbered year – Some judicial elections (open to all votes, officially non-partisan)
- Tuesday after the first Monday in September of even-numbered year – Partisan primaries for, depending on the year, President, Vice President, U.S. Congress, state executive positions, and/or state legislature (semi-partisan primary system in place)
- Tuesday after the first Monday of November of even-numbered year – General elections for offices in which nominees were selected in the September primaries
- Use hand-counted paper ballots for all elections, everywhere – Even when an online system is used for some absentee ballots (see below), a printout of the online absentee ballot would be hand-counted at the precinct after the polls close.
- Speed up the absentee and military voting process with an ad hoc, closed-circuit internet system not part of the World Wide Web – If it’s not possible for an absentee or military absentee ballot to be physically sent to the voter’s home polling place on Election Day, set up an ad hoc, closed-circuit internet system not connected to the World Wide Web or any other existing infrastructure in order to allow the ballots to be scanned, uploaded to the electronic system, and printed out at the polling place so that it can be hand-counted on Election Night.
- There should never be more than 1,000 people per polling place – It is absolutely unacceptable to cram several thousand voters into a single voting place, forcing them to wait in line for several hours.
- Make federal judicial posts directly-elected – For federal district court judgeships, each federal district court would have at least four judgeships, with at least one seat being up for election every year. For federal circuit court appellate judgeships, a similar model to the district courts would be followed. For the U.S. Supreme Court, three associate judgeships would be up for election in years ending in “2”, two associate judgeships in years ending in “5”, three associate judgeships in years ending in “8”, and the Chief Justice’s seat in years ending in “0”.
These are just a few of my own suggestions for making America’s electoral process more efficient.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This blog post contains a link to an online petition; the link is located at the bottom of the blog post.
U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, a Republican who represents the 5th Congressional District of Arizona, has proposed federal legislation, officially called the Safe Campus Act (H.R. 3403), that, if enacted, would require colleges and universities in this country to effectively cover up sexual assaults that occur on campus, unless police become involved with a particular case.
I’m not making this up at all…that is an actual bill that has been proposed in Congress.
While the bill is officially called the Safe Campus Act, it might as well be called the Campus Rapist Protection Act, as that’s a more accurate description of what the proposed legislation would do. The legislation would make it a lot easier for college students to get away with the criminal act of rape, and, therefore, make college campuses far more dangerous than they currently are. Furthermore, the legislation would, if enacted, result in fewer people attending college out of fear that they might be raped on campus.
The legislation is backed by numerous fraternity groups, which apparently think that their members have an unfettered right to have sex with every woman they can find, even if the women don’t consent to sexual activity. No person in this country has an unfettered right to sexually assault anyone. In fact, sexual assault is a crime, and it should be treated seriously, not swept under the rug.
I’ve created a petition calling for President Barack Obama and members of both houses of Congress to oppose H.R. 3403. You can sign the petition here.
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.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has ruled that U.S. Representative Frank Guinta of New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District violated federal campaign finance laws by accepting $355,000 in illegal campaign donations from his parents.
It’s 100% clear to me that Guinta should resign before you finish reading this blog post.
I have zero tolerance for those in positions of power who abuse the trust of the people they represent, and Guinta has abused the trust of the people of the 1st District of New Hampshire. That’s because he violated federal campaign finance laws by accepting $355,000 in campaign cash from his parents and claiming that the money came from his own pocket in the form of a loan to his own campaign, when, in reality, it came from a bank account in his parents’ name. What Guinta did is a form of money laundering.
It’s not just Democrats who are sick and tired of Guinta’s Chicago-style corruption. Kelly Ayotte, the far-right Republican U.S. Senator from New Hampshire, is also calling for Guinta’s resignation, likely because she knows that she already has little chance of winning re-election next year without the Guinta scandal dragging down the GOP in her home state, but would have nearly zero chance of winning re-election if Guinta were on the same ballot as her in half of New Hampshire.
If Guinta resigns from office, that would result in a special election for Guinta’s House seat, which includes much of eastern and southeastern portions of New Hampshire, including places like Manchester, Portsmouth, and Laconia. I would love to see Carol Shea-Porter run for her old seat in Congress again, as she’s a wonderful, progressive-minded person who has staunchly opposed the culture of big-money politics that Guinta has long been a part of.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I have made edits to the blog post and title to accurately reflect Nation Consulting founder Thad Nation’s use of a 501(c)(4) organization to give money to right-wing organizations and Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s employment by Nation Consulting.
I’ve found information that proves that Thad Nation, Wisconsin Democratic chairperson candidate Jason Rae’s boss at Nation Consulting, has provided money to at least seven right-wing organizations, including at least four that are funded either directly or indirectly by the Koch Brothers. Nation himself was listed in a 2012 IRS 990 filing as the principal officer of Coalition for the New Economy (CftNE), a 501(c)4 organization that opposes government-run broadband internet services in areas where private-sector firms currently provide broadband internet service. CftNE has also given money to at least several right-wing political groups that have actively opposed Democratic and liberal political candidates, have actively supported Republican and conservative political candidates, and/or have advocated for far-right policies that would have a negative impact on America. Here’s the organizations that CftNE has given money to, according to page 17 of the 2012 IRS filing by that organization:
- $15,000 for “general support” to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU), a right-wing anti-tax organization that has, among other things, effectively supported allowing the U.S. federal government to default on the national debt. NTU has received a total of $32,500 from the Koch Family Foundations from 1998 to 2008, including $5,000 from Charles Koch’s own foundation in 2008.
- $5,000 for “general support” to the Center for Individual Freedom (CIF), a right-wing organization that spent $1.9 million in television advertising in an attempt to help Republicans win U.S. House races that were seriously contested by both major parties in the 2012 elections. CIF spent a slightly larger amount of money on a similar effort in the 2010 elections.
- $5,000 for “general support” to Americans for Prosperity (AfP), a far-right political organization founded by the Koch Brothers themselves. In Wisconsin, AfP spent $866,000 in ads designed to help Scott Walker win the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race and approximately $2.9 million in ads in opposition to the 2012 recall effort against Walker that was strongly supported by Wisconsin progressives.
- $10,000 for “general support” to FreedomWorks, a far-right organization that has, among other things, ran several anti-union campaigns in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania and supported far-right extremist Chris McDaniel, who, among other things, blamed rap music for many of our country’s problems, in his unsuccessful 2014 Republican primary challenge to U.S. Senator Thad Cochran of Mississippi.
- $5,000 for “general support” to Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a right-wing organization that was founded by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX) and, among other things, opposes taxation and supports privatizing Social Security. IPI has received $35,000 from the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is identified by the Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch as one of the four Koch Family Foundations. IPI is the only one of the organizations listed in the CftNE filing that is a 501(c)(3) organization; all of the others are listed as 501(c)(4) organizations.
- $15,000 for “general support” to the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), a right-wing organization that has, among other things, attacked the federal government over the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable, two of the largest cable television providers in the country.
- $14,740 for “general support” to the 60 Plus Association (60 Plus), a right-wing organization funded by Koch Brothers-funded organizations like Freedom Parners and American Encore as part of a complex web of Koch Brothers-funded organizations. In Wisconsin, 60 Plus ran this advertisement attacking now-Democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin for supporting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), federal legislation that provided millions of Americans with health insurance.
That’s a total of $69,740 that Thad Nation has, through CftNE, provided to right-wing organizations that have supported Republicans like Scott Walker, ran smear campaigns against Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, and have supported far-right policies that would make America a much worse place to live. Thad Nation is also the same person who employs Jason Rae as a senior associate at Nation Consulting, and Rae is running for Chairperson of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. If Rae is elected DPW Chair, it would be at least an apparent conflict of interest for someone like Rae to be the head of a state-level Democratic organization if he were to remain employed at Nation Consulting, because the founder of that organization was the head of a 501(c)(4) organization that gave money to groups that support Republicans and their destructive far-right agenda.
Let me finish this post by saying two things about Rae and his supporters. One, Rae’s supporters are some of the most vile people I’ve ever interacted with online. Two, Rae completely lacks the temperament to be in a Democratic Party leadership position of any kind.
The Rachel Notley-led Alberta New Democratic Party (Alberta NDP), which ran on a platform consisting nearly entirely of progressive ideas and values, is projected by CBC News to win a majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, and, therefore, is projected to be the governing party in Alberta’s provincial government. Both the Canadian federal government and each Canadian province uses a parliamentary system to determine control of government.
The Alberta NDP’s platform is very progressive on nearly every issue they gave a position on in their platform, especially when one considers that the Canadian province of Alberta is about as right-wing as the U.S. state of Texas is. The NDP’s platform included planks supporting increasing the minimum wage to $15/hour, getting the undue influence of money out of politics, enacting stronger ethics laws, improving access to health care, investing in public education, raising income taxes on Alberta-based corporations and the wealthiest 10% of Albertans, investing in child care, providing for the safety and well-being of Albertan children and women, and, surprisingly for an oil-rich state, investing in renewable energy.
The NDP’s victory in Alberta speaks volumes about how the corrupt, corporate Democratic Party “leadership” here in the United States is failing progressives and the American people on many levels. Very few Democrats are willing to openly run as progressives, and, as a result, the Democratic Party often has trouble winning races outside of states and constituencies that strongly favor the Democrats to begin with. I would strongly encourage Democratic leaders to take a look at how the Alberta NDP won big in tonight’s provincial elections and use the NDP’s Alberta victory as a model to win back both houses of Congress, as well as many state and local offices.
If progressive-minded people can win in Alberta, progressive-minded people can win anywhere!