Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Morality of Abortion

the Ironic Cherry reads...


Life's Work:
A Moral Argument for Choice
by Dr. Willie Parker



This is a book with heart.  It is a short book; I wanted it to go on forever, but I wanted it to end so I could sit here and write about it.  I want to take each one of you by the hand and bring you to the library to check out your own copy of it.  I want to read it out loud to you.  I know I am unable to describe it to my own satisfaction, to the point where you can't wait to read it yourself.  But I will try.

Dr. Willie Parker begins his story by talking about "The Women."  It is the women, us, to which he has devoted his life's work.  He is a man of faith, African American, raised in the South, in poverty.  He acknowledges his hard work and intellect, but appreciates the support of family and educators that brought him to the work he now does.

He is a physician who performs abortions, visiting clinics where there are no other abortion doctors, in states where legislatures have chipped away at women's right to choose to have an abortion.  He is an activist, serving on boards from Planned Parenthood to the Center for Reproductive Rights, traveling to D.C. and throughout the country to give testimony in support of women's reproductive rights.

In Life's Work, Dr. Parker takes us through the changes in his life's philosophy, in which he went from being an Ob/Gyn who avoided abortion to becoming one of the nation's foremost advocates and front-line abortion doctors.  He speaks from a personal perspective, telling how he began to question the rigid moralism of the scripture, and how he became a "born again born again" Christian.  He also speaks clearly from a medical point of view, describing the aspects of the abortion procedure, because he knows that too much myth and distortion controls the conversation.  He tells us to speak out, speak to one another, speak without fear.

Speak without fear.  Dr. Parker has lived, since he has made his decision to work in the service of women who seek abortion, with the knowledge of the risk he is taking.  Each and every day that he walks into one of the clinics in which he works, he has to walk the gauntlet of antis carrying signs and yelling to the women who are merely seeking to live their lives freely.

He calls them "antis."  He does not give them any more title than that.  He writes about and debunks the lies that have been perpetuated, that doctors have been forced by legislators to tell.  He talks about the TRAP laws, those laws that are created under the pretense of protecting the safety of women, but which sole purpose is to close clinics and to make abortion inaccessible.

He tells us about the women and girls who come to the clinics, and those who are forced to carry a pregnancy to term because clinics have closed down or rules about waiting periods run out the legal timeline.  He tells about how doctors have been threatened, how laws have made it harder to practice.  He tells about the terrorists who threaten and who have killed.  And he talks about people who use their religious beliefs to intimidate and to control, and of the people of faith who have stepped up to help provide access to abortions to women who seek them.



Dr. Parker describes the changes in language on the left, wherein sincere abortion rights proponents tried to compromise with the antis, by talking about how abortion was a bad but necessary option, and how we need to make abortion safe, accessible and rare.  And how this reframing actually worked to fuel the antis.  He states with medical authority that abortion is not a "bad" thing; it is a medical procedure, a simple and safe one.  It does not have the essence of evil with which the religious right has attempted to imbue it.

In 2014, in PRO: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, Katha Pollitt began the conversation we needed to be having.  We needed to hear that we have no need to feel guilt or shame, we have the right to medical privacy and medical choices.  The government needs to get the hell out of our reproductive lives.  And, as borne out during the Women's March, we women (and men) are beginning to wake up from that deluded sleep that since Roe v. Wade led us to think we would no longer have to fight.

And now, Dr. Willie Parker has added another strong voice to our fight.

I hope you will take the time to give this book a read.  It is not just an important book, it is inspirational. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

The Method and Madness of Trumpcare

We should not be surprised that after all the protests, phone calls and town halls, and the first attempt at jamming the AHCA through the House, the bill was resuscitated, bribes were bribed, and it was forced through successfully last week.

We should have known that each and every time a snarky remark was made by a liberal about his failing first 100 days, Trump's determination to win grew.  Much as the truly clever and funny jabs that Obama made in 2011 at the White House Correspondent's Dinner set in concrete Donald's determination to run and win the presidency.


It is said that Donald Trump has no understanding of the complexities of health care... by Donald himself in fact.  And he really does not care, any more than he cares about refugees or American workers.  He wants to be liked, and he wants to win.  He would rather be liked by rich and powerful people than by disgruntled Americans, but if the latter can help him do the bidding of the former, he will say whatever he needs to say to get there.

One of the groups of peons that Trump has courted successfully is the republican Congress.  Don't laugh.  They may be a lot richer than the rest of us, but they aren't in the same league as the Kochs or Vladimir Putin.  They are just rich enough to be insecure about keeping that wealth.  They are just rich enough to know that losing could be just around the corner.  In other words, except for the money, they are a lot like the middle class Trump supporter.

Ryan and McConnell and their cronies want nothing more than to be in the club, and Donald Trump can smell that vulnerability.  When he bused all those senators to the White House for that meeting on North Korea, it had all the makings of a Trump sales pitch.  Inviting a group of powerful people to "his" house is to Trump like inviting the Chinese president to share his delicious chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago.  It puts the power in his hands.

Imagine his surprise when even republican senators were unimpressed.

Donald Trump is a man of limited intellect but a craving for attention and approval that has created a finely-honed instinct for manipulating others.  Of course, he couldn't have done it without his father's wealth and influence, but what he developed has worked quite well for him in his businesses -- even when he lost he made sure he won, regardless of who he had to throw under the bus to do it.

What looks like erratic behavior is really a pattern of responses that is coming to be fairly predictable:  assumption of success; disbelief followed by rage -- insults and attacks; withdrawing briefly to regroup; followed by approach and flattery; and then the deal.

He has done this with each of his primary opponents, with the media, with foreign leaders, and now with Congress.

But he is finding that he is playing in a different league these days.  Even psycho leaders like Duterte of the Philippines are offering fairly lame excuses to avoid looking like they want to be seen associating with our own psycho leader.  And he was brushed off by the inaptly named Freedom Caucus, the group formerly known as the Tea Party, when he tried to prod them into the original AHCA bill.

Like a rat learning to press the lever to get another rice krispie, however, Trump is a good learner.  He knew how to get Paul Ryan to be his House lapdog, and it didn't take that much more wheeling and dealing to sell the really bad health insurance bill to the people that were actually looking for really bad health insurance to pawn off on the American people.

But that group of people in Congress who are just insecure enough that they will work with Trump to get what they need don't mind throwing him under the bus either.  So what we all tried to call "RyanCare" is now "TrumpCare."  And the republicans who have been at the art of the political dirty deal far longer than Trump, have laid the ground work for laying the blame on him AND gotten their nasty piece of legislation passed.

There are a couple of important factors here, things we need to keep front and center as we watch -- and even try to influence -- the outcome of this struggle.

First of all, we need to stop pretending that the Senate is that much more grown up and responsible than the House.  They are mostly smarter, and definitely shrewder, than their wacky counterparts, but they are still rabid about success, and equally insecure about their futures.  They are in the pockets of the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, but because they can't count on guaranteed gerrymandered districts, they have to pretend to be listening to and working for all their constituents.

We in South Carolina have learned the hard way to never make the mistake of assuming that Lindsey Graham is on our side.  He is on Lindsey Graham's side, the side of the right wing, whether it be religious or corporate.  He was tickled that he could vote Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court, and did whatever mental maneuvers were necessary to defend his desires.  This is true of Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and all the other folks that have been bought by corporate money.

And that leads us back to Trumpcare.  It is a truly egregious scheme, a tax cut for the really wealthy that takes health care away from pregnant women, cancer patients and sick children.  But in that, it is not much different than what has been happening to workers and education since the 80's, and what will be happening to our environment.  Every piece of which will make us sicker, less able to care for ourselves and our families, and less able to fight the plutocratic oligarchy that has managed to lie, cheat and steal their way into Washington.

The irony is, you can call it Trumpcare, but Trump doesn't care.  Ryan and the rest of the right-wingnuts are looking for continued wealth and security.  But the joke is on them.  The only ones Trump cares about are Trumps.  And every single damn thing he has done since he came into office has profited the Trumps.  That is the other thing we need to keep remembering to keep our eyes on.

Talk about the art of your deal made in hell.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Unsubscribing from The DCCC

I imagine most of you are getting the same kind of hysterical emails from the DCCC that I am, with headings like:

"BIG LOSS!"

"SHOCKING NEWS! (Special Election)"

"BIG WIN!"

"GEORGIA UPDATE"

or the ever hopeful:

"FINAL-NOTICE@dccc.org"

They all turn out to be fund-raising emails (of course), and they aren't asking for much, even $1.  But they are like a three-year-old who really, really, really, wants JUST ONE MORE cookie.  The begging never ends.

The content is either we have Trump on the run, or Trump has us on the run.  In other words, moronic.  There is nothing about issues, or about why any of us would want to care, much less donate a dollar.

I have had some terrible jobs in my life, but I have never had to fund-raise.  I may be wrong, and this ham-handed, annoying, harassing technique may actually bring in millions of dollars, and may get people really fired up about the candidate.  So I asked a group of friends who had the DCCC for a penpal how they responded.  "I don't even read those anymore."  "I just throw them away."  "No, I've never given them anything."  My unofficial poll was unanimous.

And it isn't just DCCC.  Other Democratic groups, including candidates themselves, have taken on that exact same format, although I have to say, Archie does work to achieve a folksier tone in his messages (I may have made a fortune at Goldman Sachs, but I really am still one of y'all.).

Now a couple of months ago, our own South Carolina Democratic Party actually changed their modus operandi, and began to send messages that were actually relevant to issues that affected our lives.  And today, first out of the corral, with a bright new party chairman and a candidate for the general election, came the SCDP's email, with the heading:

"SC's Next Congressman:  Archie Parnell"


Trav Robertson, SCDP via bounce.myngp.com 

9:53 AM (4 hours ago)
to me
Dear Agnes,
 
As the general election campaign in the 5th Congressional District special election begins, I want to thank all three Democratic candidates—Alexis Frank, Les Murphy, and Archie Parnell—for throwing their hats into the ring and for running a positive, issues-focused campaign.  Pursuing elective office requires significant sacrifice, but in this challenging time, we need Democrats throughout South Carolina to follow their example and become candidates for offices up and down the ballot.  
 
Congratulations to Archie Parnell on becoming the Democratic nominee!  Archie won the most votes of any candidate in either party, reflecting broad support among voters who want a congressman who will fight for people in the 5th District.  Archie is committed to lowering the cost of prescription drugs, cutting taxes for the middle class, protecting Social Security and Medicare, and preventing corporations from hoarding money overseas to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
 
The choice on June 20 will be clear.  Join us in uniting behind Archie Parnell, and let's put him on the path to victory!
 
 
Sincerely,
 
Trav Robertson
Chair, SCDP 
 
 
 
 
Paid for by the South Carolina Democratic Party
South Carolina Democratic Party
915 Lady Street, Suite 111
Columbia SC 29201 United States

Not to be too snarky, but you just can't turn SC blue by telling us we can do it.  Or that it is important.  I truly hope you plan on pacing yourselves with the Parnell emails.  Because: congrats, SCDP, you've managed to be the first to begin the process of immunizing the voters to the fact that there is an election coming up.  And sending a special message to the young potential voters by encapsulating Archie's goals of tackling the cost of prescription drugs and protecting Medicare and Social Security.

What I would like to suggest here is:

1.  Stop sending fund-raising emails.  Nobody reads them anymore, nobody likes them, they are an insult to our intelligence.  In fact, if you do find someone who donates a dollar every time they get an email, you might want to consider that it is being sent ironically.

2.  If you really, really, really want people to get involved in this election, tell them what is going on.  Busy people can't possibly know all the terrible things the House of Representatives has been up to.  If you send a news alert every couple days that has one sentence about a bill that those creeps are voting on or actually passed, with a message that Archie Parnell (or Jon Ossoff, or that bluegrass musician in Montana) would oppose those bills or even would propose their own bill)... well, now even I might be interested.  You could even put an unobtrusive link at the bottom for donations and I wouldn't mind.  Just for god's sake, end with the name of the candidate, the office, and the DATE OF THE ELECTION -- for god's sake.

Because when you don't do that, it's like you aren't even pretending this is about winning an election and changing the bad things that are being done to our country by the republican Congress.  It's like you want people to just send you money for the sake of making money.  Jeez, even Donald Trump sends out a pair of socks when he gets a donation.

3.  Actually listen to the people.  Pay somebody to not just put some thought into those emails, but one who understands the issues and will respond to people who attempt to communicate.  This is actually the most important thing you can do to get a candidate elected.  Because if somebody is going out of their way to send you a message, a reply is going to be memorable, and appreciated.  Enough so that they might even end up sending a donation and more important, telling their friends about it.

It seems that Archie Parnell had a lot of people on the ground being his surrogate.  I don't think that is going to work because Archie just doesn't have the passion to fight for the people, and it shows.  But I hope I am wrong.  Jon Ossoff has the passion.  He is also a progressive, despite what Bernie thinks.  He understands the issues as well as the quality of life that is at stake.  Ossoff might have been helped by the DCCC but it is communicating his message to people who got excited about him that will win him the election.

If the DCCC can help with that, maybe their emails won't get sent to spam quite so often.  And maybe next time I find myself on their email list, I won't hit "unsubscribe."

Friday, April 28, 2017

I'm With Wendy

Weary with Trump fatigue, I had the good fortune to hear Wendy Davis speak at the 100 year anniversary celebration of Planned Parenthood last night.

from Post & Courier

I made my way through the half dozen misfits carrying Defund Planned Parenthood signs (the Post & Courier reported two dozen) into Cannon Green, where the event was held.  I would have been more disconcerted by the creepy protesters, but it is pretty much the same small bunch that show up at any event where women are celebrating the fight for freedom, privacy and the right to the best medical care.  Someone commented, "Well, this is the south."  But back in the 80's, when I lived in Stony Brook, Long Island, there was a small clinic in a strip mall a half mile from my home, where every Saturday morning the local scruffy old men and sad looking women would carry their nasty signs.  So, South Carolina, don't be too quick to take all the credit for misogyny.

I had been ruminating for a couple of days about the bizarre turn of events wherein Bernie Sanders threw his support behind an anti-abortion mayoral candidate.  Apparently he was right on all the other issues, so Bernie claimed his stance on abortion was less consequential than having his opponent win.  Apparently Bernie forgot that he was the politician with clout, that he could have stood up to candidate Mello the way he stood up to the Democratic Party last summer.  He didn't mind doing the "my way or the highway" until it came down to women's reproductive rights.

After all, the guy had the support of "the labor movement and environmentalists and Native Americans and the African American community and the Latino community" so of course he would offer his support.

Seems he forgot that 1/2 of all those people are women.

And sadly, women who will fight their hearts out for all people whose rights are being trammeled will forget, or make excuses for, not fighting for our own rights.

Wendy Davis spoke last night about her own coming to awareness of this during her run for governor.  Once, upon being asked if she was a feminist, she said no -- she still sounded amazed as she recounted the experience.  And later, during the dirty campaign in which her parenting was being dragged through the mud, when she was asked if she thought she was being treated differently because she was a woman... she said no.

And she said we have all done that at some point in our lives.  We still suffer the cultural bias that our welfare comes second, that it is our job to take care of everyone else before ourselves.  That if we stand up for our rights we are being selfish -- and none of us wants to be selfish.

Imagine Bernie saying he would stand behind a candidate who was right on all the issues except that he thought African Americans should not be entitled to the same education as white children.  Or that businesses had a right to not serve members of the LGBT community.  Or that immigrants should be required to show proof of citizenship whenever asked.

This whole "big tent" argument is so typical of Democrats, who live with so much insecurity about their identity that you can argue them into a pretzel on just about anything.  Suppose someone wants to be a Democrat, holds Democratic values in everything but abortion -- do we keep them out of the party?

OMG, don't be ridiculous people.  Anyone can be in the Democratic Party.  But we don't have to support a candidate who is against any one of those values.  Not if we value our values.

I am thinking of the leaders of the Women's March, who initially agreed to partner with the anti-abortion group New Wave Feminists, and then after backlash, changed their mind.  Come to our march, we are all-inclusive, stand with us, but you cannot lead us because your cause is against one group's individual rights.

I am not quite as open-minded.  It angers me that a group which purpose is to deny women rights would call itself "Feminist."  Just as I was appalled that Susan B. Anthony's name had been taken over into the anti-abortion cause.

And there it is again, that double standard.  We would not have welcomed marchers who held signs that were anti-Muslim (pro-Christian freedom), or anti-LGBT (pro-traditional families), but there were signs and banners that heralded "Feminists for Life" and other anti-choice (pro-life) messages.

Ayn Rand said it best (!) when she talked about the importance of selfishness.  Of course, she got it screwed up pretty badly when profit and greed came in to play.  But taking care of ourselves first is a bit like the announcement the flight attendant makes before take-off.  If those oxygen masks come down, you need to put one on yourself before you put them on your kids.  Otherwise, you aren't going to be around and functioning to take care of them at all.

Last night, Davis spoke about why everyone needs to support women's right to determine their own reproductive path.  When women succeed, when they are free to join the work force, make a living wage and work to their potential -- whenever that happens -- the economy flourishes.  Our families flourish.  Our democracy flourishes.

And I have to say it.  I am not as old as Bernie, but I am getting there, so at the risk of offending any men out there, I will speak my mind.  Women are smarter.  Women are able to learn more and faster, juggle more important tasks, because they have always had to do that.  Unless we are Mitt Romney's wife, we don't get away with just raising the kids.  When we work, we work harder, but always having to take care of all those important jobs outside of work.  We can squeeze a lot into the day, and do it well.  And we can prioritize, and get it right.

We empathize.  We don't have to be living on $2 a day, as too many Americans are doing, or live without health care.  We can understand what that means to our quality of life, and also how the suffering of others ripples through the rest of America.

What we women need to do now is put that oxygen mask on ourselves before we take care of anyone else.  We need to stop letting right wingnuts and christian extremists tie our hands, cut off our ability to live well and then criticize us for not working hard enough to succeed.

What do you get angry about?  Really, really angry?  Take that anger and personalize it.  Don't minimize what it means when our Democratic Party suggests that they can support a candidate who won't fight for us just because he will fight for other groups.

And we need to stop trying to find a rational argument that will convince the anti-abortion bigots that it is their right to determine the path of our lives.  The argument is:  It is my body, and it is none of your business.

After all, that argument has been working quite well for the NRA, despite all the lives lost because of their perceived right to carry weapons.  But that is an argument for another day.



Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Letting Women In

Nikki Haley was no doubt appointed to be UN ambassador because the idiot who had been elected saw the UN as irrelevant.  But, as we here in South Carolina know, Nikki is smart.  And as I said after Hurricane Matthew, give her a task that isn't partisan, and she may well shine.  So here we have this woman who seems to be one of the very few decisions Trump has done right.  With the added bonus of getting her out of our hair, and out of partisan politics.

Meanwhile, with all the incredibly stupid things being said by Trump's minions, I wonder why it is only Kellyanne Conway who appears to be confined to the White House basement where she continues to carry the title of counselor to the president without actually having to be in his face.  If she were a man, like say, Sean Spicer, maybe she would continue to be welcome at all the questionable goings-on, and the dumb things she says publicly could actually be traced back to the dumb decisions being made by her boss.  And let us not forget that, after managing to step up and reign the batshit crazy candidate in to the point where he was actually elected, Trump had the nerve to offer her the position of press secretary, rather than a role with substance.

What to do with the women?  Party Democrats don't seem to be having any better time with this problem.  The party that claims to represent the American people just keep choosing what they believe is the safe option.  Elizabeth Warren scares them.  They couldn't ignore Hillary the second time around, but their lukewarm support conveyed to voters, who walked away in droves shaking their heads saying, "I don't know what it is about her, but I just don't trust her."  You could barely see the excitement from the party regulars.

And yet these are both incredibly smart, competent women.

Now this weekend, here in South Carolina, our state Democratic Party apparently is having their convention.  I am in the position where I tend to know more than the typical voter, but have kept a cautious distance from official political organizations.  So if I speak out of ignorance, you can imagine that most voters know even less about what is going on.  And yet they make decisions about who to vote for, and possibly even more important, whether to vote at all, based pretty much not from what they are hearing from us, but what they hear from our more powerful and ballsy opponents.

It disturbs me that the Democratic Party, state and national, keeps banging their heads against the wall hoping that this time they won't end up with a headache.  Tom Perez instead of Keith Ellison for national party chair, for example.  The result of this being the awkward pairing of Perez with Bernie Sanders in a nationwide tour that is trying to convince voters that they need to get excited about being Democrats.

Here in SC, the Democratic Party is about to begin their convention.  They will be voting for party leaders.  I am hearing of support by party members for a candidate for party chair that they are bringing back to SC from Oklahoma, where he headed the state party from 2011 to 2015.  Trav Robertson seems to be a safe candidate, with experience, who has led a center-conservative Democratic Party to very little success.  Oh, and he managed Vincent Sheheen's first unsuccessful big for governor in 2010.  And let me point out the obvious:  he is a man.

Also running is:  a woman.  Susan Yarbrough Smith has been an activist since her college days.  She has operated on the grassroots and Party level, and has the kind of brains, dedication and energy that I can only envy.  And yet, what I have heard, is that Robertson is being more seriously considered because of his experience.  And I have also heard it said that "he is originally from here."

I don't know if y'all who are supporting a man instead of an extremely qualified woman can hear yourselves, but what I am hearing is the sound of being afraid to make waves.

And just as in the upcoming primary special election in SC's fifth district, people in the party, people who should know better, are throwing their support -- and their money -- behind the shiny object that is a white, male, former senior advisor at Goldman Sachs.  Rather than a smart young woman who actually lives and works among the middle class in her community.  The reason?  You guessed it:  she is too young and inexperienced (unlike the yahoos that are running Congress into the ground on the republican side these days, but please don't get me started...).

So, as I take a deep breath and attempt to regain my composure, I would like all you Dems and liberals out there to seriously think about your commitment to moving women forward.  We aren't going to get experienced women unless you are willing to actually trust women to be in positions to get experience.  And there are plenty of smart women to choose from.  What it will take is to stop making excuses.

And here is the thing.  You can keep throwing your support behind the safe guy, and you can keep coming up with the same outcome.  Or you can get really excited about someone who is different.  Someone who talks like a Democrat and really understands the people she would be working for.  And then maybe they would actually be motivated to come out and vote.

Friday, April 21, 2017

When Money Just Isn't Enough

The Ironic Cherry reads...

Ratf**ked:
The True Story Behind the
Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy
by David Daley

I continue to wait for Democrats to create a catchy (memorable) phrase for "emoluments clause."  You know, like republicans renamed the "estate tax" the unforgettable and terrifying "death tax."  Something that would put Trump's obscene conflicts of interest front and center in the mind of the American people.

David Daley realized that the most important threat to democracy today is the redistricting that happened in 2010.  But not even its more apt term, "gerrymandering" is enough to cause us to bolt upright from a sound political sleep.  That's why he titled his book "Ratfucked."  He defines it as "a dirty deed done dirt cheap" and places it originally, and not surprisingly, in the Nixon White House, where the term was used to describe operatives in Nixon's inner circle.

The plot to steal America once and for all for the republican party began with the gift by the Supreme Court of Citizens United.  One clever and far-sighted republican realized that it really wouldn't take a lot of money in a lot of races to turn the tide; a study of the states where legislatures would control the redistricting after the 2010 census showed which states would gain or lose seats after reapportionment and would then be redrawing maps from scratch.  A fairly modest amount of money (by today's standards) poured into a few critical state races.  Sleepy Dems would wake up to find blue and purple states suddenly controlled by republicans, states like Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina.  (Remember when NC used to be the smarter of the Carolinas?)

The gerrymander goes way back, but these days it is done with computer programs and the enormous amounts of personal data collected on each of us resulting in stunningly bizarre district maps.  With chapters about several of the more fascinating and dysfunctional gerrymanders, he describes the process and the result in a way that makes this a true page-turner.  For one instance, he takes us into Michigan's District 14:


He takes a day to drive the entire 170 miles of the border, in order to "understand those juts, notches and tangrams and to see what, if anything, is different from one side of the street to the other."

What he finds is a surgical precision wherein poor, mostly African American communities are forced into the district, including boarded up houses and a completely closed national park.  On the other side, even right across the street, are the affluent neighborhoods.  This is part of his description:

"The mapmaker draws his first joke farther down Michigan Avenue.  Tiger Stadium used to sit at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull; the site is now a park.  It would have been in the 14th.  The baseball team's new home, Comerica Park, is just a mile away, as is Ford Field, where the Detroit Lions play.  Both are outside the lines.  This may be the mapmaker's favorite dig:  time and again, whenever the 14th might include a local landmark -- Faygo soda's headquarters, the Detroit Zoo, a major General Motors plant -- it contorts itself in another direction.  There will be no easy campaign cash and no famous constituency for the member of Congress from the 14th."

What he describes as "the growth atop the snake's head" is on a street that cuts in and out across three districts.  Turns out that that strange growth at the top of the 14th is an actual dump.

There are two critical aspects to this national redistricting.  First, you want to pack a couple of districts in the state with minorities.  Which leads to races, as in my own District 6 in South Carolina, that resulted in 2016 in a victory for Jim Clyburn with over 70% of the vote.  I then lost the ability to vote against Mark Sanford in my former district, District 1.  Sanford won with a more modest 58.6 % of the vote.  Which is part two of this devious scheme.  Not only do you want to pack a few districts with Democrats, you want to spread a few out over primarily republican districts, so you can have more of those majority republican districts that will nonetheless be safe.

Here is the gerrymandered District 1:


Sadly, republicans have been able to use the part of the Voting Rights Act which mandated the opportunity for minorities "to elect representatives of their choice" to advance their own power grab.  In 1990 the then head of the Republican National Committee made a proposal to the Congressional Black Caucus.  It was an unholy alliance that gave African Americans more representation in Congress by packing a few districts so that republicans could spread their constituencies across more districts.  In retrospect, this turned out not to increase the representation of the black communities in Congress, merely to assure them a few seats.  And those districts continue to be poor and powerless, with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure, and polluted drinking water.

The result of all this trickery is mind blowing.  Democrats consistently receive more votes for congress, but republicans walk away with a crazy but untouchable majority in the House.

While Democrats are agonizing over how to reach Trump voters, even though Hillary got three million more votes (and how many more presidential elections are we going to lose before we figure out a way to get rid of the electoral college?), we really, really need to take a smart look at the process.  If you pack Democratic voters in a couple of districts, giving them 80% majorities, spread out the rest in majority republican districts with more modest but reliable majorities, it doesn't matter how many $3 donations, how much door-knocking, how relevant the message.

Some states are actually moving toward fixing this abomination, including our own state of South Carolina.  A bill sponsored by Dems Nikki Seltzer, Mia McLeod, and Mike Fanning proposes establishing an independent, bipartisan commission to redraw districts.  Unfortunately, those in power have no incentive to support such a bill.  But a recent Winthrop Poll shows that 63% of South Carolina voters support such a commission.  We need to raise the same ruckus over this issue as we have over the ACA and Trump's taxes, because it is the issue on which the future of our democracy depends.

I hate to say it, but this book is an entertaining way to become more informed, and more passionate, about redistricting.  The number crunching, the map-making, the incredible amount of information about each of us that has gone into this bastardization of the democratic process, isn't just important.  It is really a gripping story.  And it is too bad that in our pseudo genteel society the Dems haven't come up with a more attention grabbing word than "gerrymander."  Because what it really is, is ratfucking.









Friday, April 14, 2017

Dems with Time on Their Hands

I have been known in these pages to gripe about the Democratic Party standing on the sidelines while good candidates struggle to be heard against well-connected and well-heeled republicans.  I have urged in a strident tone party Democrats to jump in and help level the playing field.

Well, be careful what you wish for.

While Tea Bagger Mick Mulvaney is fulfilling all his wet dreams by being able to use the eraser end of his pencil to cut from the budget every penny his former constituents depend on to survive, the race to replace him in South Carolina's District 5 has heated up.

In Kansas, in a district in which Trump won by 27 points, the House seat in last week's special election went to the republican candidate, but beating Democrat James Thompson by less than 7 points.  It appears that, while actual Democratic voters are fired up and ready to go, the Democratic Party took a look at the race and said, "Nah, too hard."

In Georgia's 6th, Jon Ossoff has had such a head of steam by virtue not only of his great credentials, a strong endorsement by Congressman John Lewis and the excitement of voters, that the Democratic Party has leaped into the battle.  He has been in the news for months, beginning with Rachel Maddow's interview with Daily Kos' David Nir, in which she scolded Party Dems for sitting on the sidelines and ended up lighting a fire under them.  He is so hot that republicans are paying for ridiculous attack ads to counter the groundswell of support.  And don't be surprised if the Trump-and-Pence show makes an appearance.

I am proud to say that here in South Carolina's 5th, while the republican clown car predictably is full (seven candidates) we have had three good people stand up to run in the Democratic Primary for Mulvaney's seat.

Here's the thing.  A few weeks ago, to my amazement, I got an email from Daily Kos endorsing Archie Parnell.  Not too long after that I heard that he was being endorsed by former Congressman John Spratt.  Then, last week, my email box was hit by pleas for donations from familiar names like Robby Mook, Daniel Barash, and the candidate himself.

Since I am not in the district, my first thought was to wonder who had given away the email list.  I hadn't gotten any mass emails from the woman I am endorsing, Alexis Frank.

And the publicity has been skewed.  The Union Daily Times reported on an event appearance by a Parnell staff member by referring to Parnell as "the sole Democrat" running.  Take this headline in The State:  "In SC Congress race, Goldman Sachs executive faces student."  Maybe if Alexis was a guy, the headline might have been "...Goldman Sachs executive faces army veteran."

This was an octopus of a candidate.  Suddenly he was everywhere.  It was a slick political race of the type we don't usually see in sleepy South Carolina towns.

When I first became aware of the race, I had sent an email to Alexis, asking for her positions on an array of issues.  She responded immediately, and I wrote endorsing her on my blog.  Parnell may look harmless,



and the video of his announcement with his wife wisecracking in the background was certainly clever.  But behind it all is the fact that he is a former Goldman Sachs senior advisor -- a fact that he does not explicitly mention, merely talking about his international financial expertise.

And with that, along with all the fund raising spam I have been getting from the various and sundry familiar names, and with the professional slickness of the campaign, I realized that Parnell's connections come not just from GS, but from Hillary.

I can almost picture those big guys at GS urging Archie to run.  And political contacts being made.

I hate to say it.  I believe Hillary's heart is in the right place, as are the campaign staff that don't really want to be twiddling their thumbs while Democratic candidates fall in special elections.  But here's the thing.

A primary is a different animal.  A primary is where the Democratic Party gets a chance to make headlines, to get people to show up.  It is a time when the Party can say, "look at all these great candidates that want to run for office.  Give them a listen."  It is a way of making people aware that, for one thing, there is an election happening, and for another, that there are real issues that need to be talked about.  And we Democrats have a few really good people that aren't afraid to get up there and debate those issues.

And, by the way, it gives the eventual winner the experience and confidence to go on and make their case to all the people.

Instead, we have the national Democratic Party coming into our town and putting their finger on the scale.  Much like what the DNC did under Debbie Wasserman-Schulz, when she decided that it would be better to try to block Bernie Sanders from the spotlight because he might hinder Hillary Clinton's shot at the nomination.  When in fact, the more the merrier should have been the call.

Meanwhile, Parnell never got back to my email asking for his stand on the issues, but at least now he has issues listed on his website.  It concerns me that his primary cause seems to be simplifying the tax code so we all can pay less in taxes.  That is a republican game, wherein they throw a few dollars at the middle class, millions more to the 1%, resulting in budget cuts to important programs to cover the loss in taxes.

The other concern I have is that he is running on his ability to "work with" republicans.  Wow.  So we have a Congress run by an extreme right-wing party which purpose is to cut needed programs from the working class and the poor, and Archie wants to work on compromise?  For too many years our party has been Charlie Brown hoping to get a chance at the football.  We make deals that cost us dearly, like Obama backing off on a public option so that the health insurance industry could retain control over the market, for that matter Ted Kennedy "working with" W. on the Medicare drug plan that would fatten the already bulging pockets of the pharmaceutical industry.

We saw President Obama get smacked around by a party that will do anything to win, including refusing to hold hearings for a moderate, well-respected Supreme Court nominee.  That is an insult to the Constitution that I believe even Scalia might have balked at.

It is a sad day when once again, the Democratic Party chases down the shiny object instead of doing the smart thing -- and more important, the right thing.

So here is what we can do about our SC District 5 special election.  The primary is coming up fast, on May 2.

1.  Continue to spread the word.  If you aren't in District 5, you surely know somebody who knows somebody who lives there.  Facebook, phone calls, or over Easter dinner, introduce people to Alexis Frank.

2.  Tell them why it is important to vote in the primary.  Let them know we don't need another representative of Wall Street going to Washington to simplify the tax code in order to make his old buddies richer.  And we don't need someone who is eager to work with republicans to cut programs.  It chills me when I hear people even suggest "working with" Trump on health care.  Because I guarantee, whatever we gain we will have more to lose.  We have been sliding down that slippery slope of compromise for too many decades.

3.  Those who live in District 5, show up whenever there is an event.  Support Alexis, ask questions of her and Parnell.  Ask Parnell the tough questions he hasn't yet had to answer.  What would he do about the minimum wage?  About raising the Social Security retirement age?  About vouchers for schools?  What business incentives does he support/oppose?  Where does he stand on women's reproductive rights?  Funding Planned Parenthood?  What rights should religious institutions have?  What would he do about campaign finance?  What should be done about immigration?

4.  Donate.  She's like us.  She doesn't have Wall Street bankrolling her.  That's why we need her fighting for us.  But she needs all we can give.

And Vote, Vote, Vote.  Remember that these special elections have low turnout, and getting out there, and taking someone with you, will make a difference.

Let's show the Goldman Sachs / Hillary bunch that we Dems can make our own decisions among ourselves.  And when we have a primary winner and we really need the power, the expertise and the deep pockets, we hope they will stand there with us.

Alexis Frank for Congress
SC District 5
Primary Tuesday May 2