Committed to Equal Rights & Justice – Voting Demographics

While Dave Brat may claim he and fellow Republican’s are committed to equal rights and equal justice for everyone, this simply is not true.

Their claims are hollow for two reasons; long term changes in the countries demographics, along with the continuing extraction of the middle classes economic wealth by corporations and the behind the scenes support he receives from folks like the Koch brothers.

Together these changes make it impossible for the Republican Party to continue their one sided relationship with their supporters without making some significant changes to how they conduct their politics.

Its one of reasons why we’ve been seeing what can only be described as polar opposites in their recent messaging. On one hand; there are the usual bat shit crazy divorced from reality statements by Republican candidates and politicians.

And on the other hand, we’re starting to see what appears to be a Republican movement towards populist positions. Like how the Tea Party has been railing against big banks and corporate crony capitalism since the days of Bush’s bailout.

Or how Paul Ryan, architect of the 2012 Republican House slash and burn budget has recently set out to develop an anti-poverty program—definitely not a brand of libertarianism that his idol, Ayn Rand would have approved of.

Or how Rand Paul’s forceful zealousness has allowed him to corner the market on the NSA intruding into our privacy along with how  over sized defense budgets are killing our future. Like a fox stealing chickens from the henhouse, he’s been busy pilfering formerly Democratic and populist issues.

This is the kind of rhetoric one would expect from a social radical back in the 1920’s, definitely not from anyone in today’s Republican Party.

Yet no Democrat is willing expose the errors of Paul’s many rants or even his parties hypocrisy in saying one thing, and doing another. And by continuing to do nothing Democrats have effectively ceded economic populism over to the Republicans.

Without the potent public anger over the bailout and stimulus it’s difficult to imagine the Tea Party having much clout, or the Republicans retaking Congress, or even our government being so utterly paralyzed.

Clearly Republicans want to capture this growing sense of populist anger, taping into the deep public alienation which emerged out of the Great Recession.  As much as Citizen’s United and a flood of corporate money, it was this sense of rage which saved the Republican Party in 2010.

While the economy continues to stagnate along, public alienation is deepening, and Republicans are anxious to test drive their latest populist messaging to see if they can change the political narrative.

Just as they have done over these past two elections they will be paring their new and improved message up with their tried and true Tea Party angry man resistance  to anything remotely Democratic.

This time, instead of just fear and angry opposition, they will be offering voters the false hope of change, while retaining most of their angry flavoring. Thinking that this two pronged messaging strategy will attract more voters, and distract them from what the real issues are.

More importantly, this distraction helps them to mask the fact that many voters will for the first time in their lives find it difficult to cast their votes. It’s no coincidence that all of these restrictions on voting rights we’ve been seeing lately happened in Republican controlled states.

While the Republicans primary constituency of older and whiter voters shows up at the polls in much higher percentages than Democrats do, particularly in mid-term elections. These core supporters are significantly older than most other voters and they are dying off, with fewer and fewer of their descendants following in their footsteps.

Making the Republican’s long term political future uncertain, along with their ability control our economy to their masters liking. It is the primary reason why the Republicans are so aggressively suppressing voter turnout.

First, by making sure their candidate’s messages come across as firebrand populist or conversely as socially inflammatory as humanly possible, helping to ensure that a very high percentage of most passionate and ideologically motivated voters show up at the polls, and secondly, making it difficult as possible for certain demographic groups to cast their vote.

The groups most likely to vote Democratic are younger, come from various minority groups and increasingly are women. Meanwhile, Republican’s are staying true to their principals of pursuing their selfish definition of freedom with a vengeance, believing if they suppress the ability of these groups to vote by any means possible they will be rewarded on Election Day.

So far it’s working. This year, according to a recent nonpartisan survey by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate turnout in the 25 states that held statewide primaries for both parties was down by nearly twenty percent from the 2010 midterm. Three fifths of the states (15/25) primary elections saw record-low turnouts.

Less than 50 years ago, national primary turnout was twice as high at 32%. This declining rate of voter participation is part of a long term trend which has affected both parties. Putting us on-track to set a new low for midterm election turnout, where a number of states could set new records for the lowest percentage of voters casting ballots.

overall primary turn out


Overall primary turnout by party

Democrats saw a 29 percent drop in voter participation from the 2010 primaries, the 11th consecutive midterm election that their party’s voter participation has declined.  This primary was their biggest national decline on-record. When it comes to Democrats’ long standing turnout problem this is hardly their first warning sign.

Should the 2014 election be anything like 2010, Democrats could be in serious trouble.

People should remember how in the afterglow of electing the first black president, Democrats and progressives got complacent and didn’t show up in the 2010 midterms to vote.  So take those bitter lessons of the wack-a-doodle Tea Party leading the Republican charge in retaking congress in 2010 to heart.

While the Republicans may have posted a 15 percent decline from 2010, their rate of decline was closer to historical norms, especially given the tea party lead enthusiasm in 2010 which created a massive spike in turnout.

So far, the numbers show that for both Parties; their committees, independent super PACs, and individual candidate’s campaigns will be spending record amounts to reach fewer voters than ever before, greatly increasing  the cost of each vote compared to any previous elections.

The report also pointed out that a major contributing factor to this asymmetrical voter turnout was the congressional and state redistricting which followed the 2010 census. Lawmakers drew district lines to overwhelmingly favor one party, thus leaving the minority party unmotivated to show up at the polls for someone all-but-certain to lose.

Organized interests representing the views of only 3 to 4 percent of the electorate can win those primaries and propel one of their own to office,” the report’s author Curtis Gans wrote. “The result can be seen in how the tea party has become a dominant player in Republican congressional and state legislative politics. But the danger exists for both parties.

In terms of  strategy, Republican’s suppressing voting by key demographic constituencies is the only game in town, even if it means abandoning some of their own supporters.  Hard working folk’s who’s economic prospects have fallen significantly in the past decade.

Overwhelmingly conservative, increasingly poor and stubbornly proud, they have consistently been supporting Republicans through thick and thin, reacting to social issue after social issue, voting against their own economic interests in election after election.

Next: voting restrictions

Jon Taylor

Committed to Equal Rights & Justice – Voting Restrictions

When someone like Dave Brat claim’s to being committed to equal rights and equal justice, what’s he’s most concerned about is working behind the scenes to do his masters bidding in denying those rights, while giving himself plausible cover for his actions.

Since the 2010 election, new voting restrictions have gone into effect in 22 states. Voters in nearly half the country will find it harder to cast a ballot in the 2014 midterm election than they did in 2010. These laws range from photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to voter registration restrictions. Partisanship and race were key factors in this movement. Most restrictions passed through GOP-controlled legislatures and in states with increases in minority turnout.

In 15 states, 2014 will be the first major federal election with these new restrictions in place. And the courts will play a crucial role in 2014, with ongoing suits by voting advocates challenging these laws in seven states. The seven states — Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. There is also an ongoing case in Iowa over an administrative action that could restrict voting. It’s possible we will see more cases as we get closer to the election.

The consequences of the Supreme Courts Citizens United decision and the subsequent Tea Party wave in 2010 election brought about a major shift in restricting voting rights. From early 2011 until the 2012 election, state lawmakers across the country introduced at least 180 restrictive voting bills in 41 states. By the 2012 election, 19 states passed 27 restrictive voting measures, many of which were overturned or weakened by courts, citizen-led initiatives, and the Department of Justice before the  election. States continued to pass voting restrictions in 2013 and 2014.

What has the cumulative effect of this legislative movement, along with the hyper partisan Supreme Court recent gutting of sections 4 and 5 from Voting rights Act been? As of now, a few months before the 2014 midterm elections, new voting restrictions are set to take effect in 22 states. Ongoing court cases might affect laws in six of these states. Unless these restrictions are blocked, citizens in nearly half the nation will find it harder to vote this year than in 2010.

Partisanship played a key role. Of the 22 states with new restrictions, 18 passed through GOP-controlled bodies, and Mississippi’s photo ID law was passed by a voter referendum. Two of the remaining three states — Illinois and Rhode Island — passed less severe restrictions. According to a recent study from the University of Massachusetts Boston, restrictions were more likely to pass “as the proportion of Republicans in the legislature increased or when a Republican governor was elected.”

Race was also a significant factor. Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote, and nearly two-thirds of states — or 9 out of 15 — previously covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of race discrimination in voting have new restrictions since the 2010 election. Social science studies bear this out.

According to the University of Massachusetts Boston study, states with higher minority turnout were more likely to pass restrictive voting laws. A University of California study suggests that legislative support for voter ID laws was motivated by racial bias, and a desire to swing the outcome of elections in their favor.

Here in Virginia, voters are facing new voter ID requirements for the third time in recent years. Virginia’s new photo ID law is now being implemented. Despite over a year of time to plan, one crucial question still has to be answered: what IDs may actually serve as voter ID?

This is not an unintended consequence of the law – it is part of a deliberate Republican strategy to sow as much confusion in the Commonwealths voting process as possible.

The State Board of Elections recently confirmed that election official may only consider a voter’s name, picture and the authenticity of an ID when deciding if an ID is “valid” for election purposes. Following the SBE’s decision, Senator Obenshain, the mastermind behind Virginia’s Voter ID bill wrote to the board questioning their authority to define “valid” and urged the board to reverse their decision.

Implying such actions were necessary to guard against voter fraud and ensure the integrity of elections, when in reality all it does is make it more difficult for seniors, minorities and the poor to obtain an ID, and to vote.

Claiming that only unexpired IDs never intended for voting purposes and that ID’s such as driver’s licenses and passports are the only ones that should be considered eligible. Surely he knows that the free and official Commonwealth of Virginia Voter Identification Card does not contain an expiration date, nor do many student IDs and most employee IDs.

Requiring voters to present a photo ID which have not lapsed provides unnecessary hurdles to voting. There should never be any haggling over the rights of any registered voter to vote, any attempt to do so goes against the grain of democracy plain and simple.

Senator Mark Obenshain’s recent out of legislative session move raises the question — is Virginia’s photo ID requirement really about  protecting election integrity, or is it all about creating unnecessary barriers to voting?

With the State Board of Elections down to a bare bones educational budget, they can do little to educate voters, and are relying heavily on community partners to help educate voters about what is required for them to vote this November. Changing the standard of what constitutes a valid voter ID shortly before November’s Election Day will only confuse voters and nullify any educational outreach completed between implementation and the end of August.

Senator Obenshain’s extra legal attempts to change the voter ID law just before Election Day strengthens a growing body of evidence that this law was never about election integrity, but was deliberately designed to suppress the vote amongst voters they felt were likely to vote Democratic.

Next: Young Voters

Jon Taylor

Committed to Equal Rights & Justice – Young Voters

To give you an idea of how important the youth vote will be in 2014, in many of the states holding key Senate races, those  states had a much higher-than-average turnout of younger voters in 2012. Meaning there is plenty of room for a drop off among young voters – a concern for Democrats, who are counting on them to be vital part of their “Obama coalition.”

A new poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics  shows that young voters aren’t just much less likely to vote than they were in 2012; they’re significantly less likely. When Democrats lost control of the House, young voter turnout went down significantly from 2008 in one of the worst turnouts ever recorded.

Young Voters

Younger voters are generally Democrats’ best age group in terms of numbers at the polls. This year, only 23 percent said they planned on voting in the primaries. Should this lack of enthusiasm persist into the general elections in November, Democrats will have to gain those votes elsewhere. Furthermore, 32 percent of conservative young voters say they plan of voting in this election, compared to 22 percent of liberals.

Lawyers for seven college students in North Carolina have responded to the most visible aspect of suppressing voting among young voters by making the novel constitutional argument that the law violates the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18 from 21, which held the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age. us/college-students-claim-voter-id-laws-discriminate-based-on-age.html?_r=1

There’s an unprecedented effort nationally by Republican-controlled legislatures to restrict the franchise in a way we haven’t seen in a long time,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic election lawyer which is bringing the age-discrimination claim. “Young voting in particular is a part of that effort.” Changing the voting rules particularly affect college students.

In Ohio, legislators proposed a law that would have cost colleges millions of dollars for helping out-of-state students vote. In Maine, at the behest of the state party chairman — the Republican secretary of state — investigated 200 students for fraud. After finding no evidence, he sent the students a letter warning them to register their cars in Maine or to cancel their voter registrations.

In Texas, voters must show a photo ID, a state university identification card does not qualify, but a state handgun license does. North Carolina students are also complaining of State efforts, separate from the new voting law, to shut down voting sites at Appalachian State University and Winston-Salem State University, both historically and predominately African-American schools.

Under the North Carolina law passed last year, the early voting period was shortened and same-day registration was eliminated. Beginning in 2016, voters will need to show photo identification, and student ID cards, including those issued by state universities, will not be acceptable, nor will an out-of-state driver’s license. The law also eliminated a program where teenagers filled out their voter-registration forms early and were automatically registered when they turned 18.

For people like me, it makes what should be a simple process very difficult,” said Josue Berduo, 20, an economics major at North Carolina State University and a Democrat one of the plaintiffs.

Jeff Tarte, a Republican state senator said lawmakers do not want to keep younger voters away from the polls; disingenuously claiming they want to prevent students from submitting absentee ballots in their home states and also voting in North Carolina. “Not that they would necessarily,” he said, “but why even offer that possibility to occur?

After signing the law, Governor McCrory, the former CEO of Duke energy claimed “While some will try to make this seem to be controversial, the simple reality is that requiring voters to provide a photo ID when they vote is a common-sense idea.” While lawyers for North Carolina argued that the state’s voting law is neither discriminatory nor an impediment to voting, claiming since law’s provisions have taken effect, state election data showed no decline in minority turnout in the recent primary.

One way of maintaining confidence in elections is to ensure that only those who are qualified to vote are actually registered to vote,” the state’s lawyers wrote in court documents, failing to even address the 26th Amendment claim.

While courts have consistently held that refusing to register students is as unlawful as refusing to register African-Americans, they have never before addressed allegations of age discrimination, like those charged in North Carolina. “If that’s a winning claim, that’s a big deal,” said Edward B. Foley, an Ohio State University law professor who runs the school’s election law center. But, he said, “there is a big ‘if’ here.”

The decline in younger voters alone won’t sink Democrats in the 2014 midterms. But coordinated efforts of voter suppression in Republican controlled states, combined with a lack of enthusiasm among several other key groups, including African Americans, Latinos and unmarried women, is a combination that could prove lethal. blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/04/29/another-really-scary-chart-for-democrats/

In order to win, Democrats will need more votes than in 2010; not less.

Next: Women Voters

Jon Taylor


Committed to Equal Rights & Justice – Voting & Women

As was the case with student voters, the same demographic trends are driving Republican efforts to split the votes of women who since 1984 have been the largest share of the electorate.  Since 1976, women have reliably voted slightly more for Democrats than they have for Republicans, and over the past two presidential elections, approximately 10 million more women voted than men.

Women Historical vote

While over the past few elections, older, married women have voted more consistently Republican by a slight margin.  Republican’s like to believe this is because of a concerted effort to get out their message, one that projects a reassuring image of constancy, something which married women have a greater stake in maintaining.

While maintaining the existing status quo is usually associated with something conservatives crave, preserving it can also be thought of as a symbolic way to ward off any unpleasant changes, something that most people feel they have little control practical control over.  Generally speaking, married women are more concerned with maintaining the status quo in their lives. It wouldn’t be surprising to discover if the most crucial change they hope to ward off is the loss of their married status. Given the economic times we live, even the thought of separation and divorce can be terrifying for many women.

So when looking at female voters, asking the question “Who’s most anxious?” is a good way of predicting which women are most likely to vote Republican, don’t be surprised if the answer is: married ones, which is probably why Republicans have put in so much effort to winning over this key voting bloc who are supposedly the secret weapon in presidential elections.  In the mid 1990s, they were the soccer moms, and in the 2004 presidential election, security moms. In 2008,  hockey moms, and then in 2012, there was the war on women – a divide which is an ideological rallying cry through both parties today.

While Republicans were exasperated by Democrats’ constant reminders in 2012 that they were engaging in a “war on women” calling a gross mischaracterization. Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter, pointed out that their claims were based on Republicans actions, and that “This shows Republicans are completely ignorant about their unpopular policies with regard to women.”

Women don'

Now Republicans are trying to “flip the script”, by using this term to remind voters about Democratic men who behaved badly towards women, thinking this will help them nationally not just in specific districts or states. For the Republicans who are desperately trying to hold on to their slim advantage with married women, they are finding themselves victims of their own ideology.

Other than the need to persuade certain women to vote for them, they have never been concerned with learning what is important to them, or doing anything about it.And in no small measure, it explains why their recent efforts to win over unmarried women have been so ham fisted, as they launch PAC after PAC designed to convince women to overlook Republican policies.

Like the communications director for the newly formed Republican group, Concerned Women for America who said “…the war on women is an attempt for women’s vote. Because it is a large demographic, a huge voting bloc, and we should be honored that people are trying to figure it out…” Disingenuously claiming that “The war on women is the left’s attempt to narrow women down to one-issue voters …”  Seriously?

Republicans efforts to win over this segment of women voter’s shows that their thinking about what helps their electoral success has  clearly evolved over time, but given their current “war on women” rhetoric it’s obvious that they still don’t have a clue.

And right on cue, Republican congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers unveiled a bold new campaign that connects with the half of the population the GOP has been trying to keep broke, barefoot and pregnant with a new slogan  “The War for Women.

While Democrats are  concentrating on women already inclined to support them, minority and unmarried women, who don’t always show up at the polls. Particularly unmarried women, who according to the Voter Participation Center dropped by 33% in the 2010 midterm election from the 2008 presidential election.

Using advanced data-gathering to identify these unmarried women, especially those who voted in presidential elections but skipped the midterms. They are spreading the word by e-mail, phone, letters and personal contacts about Republicans’ opposition in Washington — and state capitals— to pay equity, minimum wage and college-affordability legislation; abortion and contraception rights; Planned Parenthood; and education spending. us/single-women-midterm-elections.html?_r=1

This may explain why the Obama administration has been pushing heavily a bill for equal pay for women, who make up two-thirds of all minimum wage workers, since many of they are the ones most affected by it.

Women Voter participation

Since the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to pass in the Senate, and no Republicans voted for it, it was not surprising that he framed his comment in “war on women” rhetoric. “This isn’t just about treating women fairly. This is about Republicans seemingly opposing any efforts to even the playing field for working families. I don’t know why you would resist the idea that women should be paid the same as men and then deny that that’s not always happening out there.”

This one issue alone is anticipated to heavily influence this key group of women voters, who haven’t figured prominently in the electoral calculus of past elections. Half of all adult women over the age of 18 are unmarried—accounting for one in four people of voting age. Single women are Democrats’ most reliable supporters, behind African-Americans.

You have a group that’s growing in size, and becoming more politically concentrated in terms of the Democrats,” said Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey at the National Opinion Research Center of the University of Chicago.

Democrats are concentrating on increasing turnout among single women by focusing on a broad range of issues. Supporting their claims that they better represent women’s interests, using examples like the Supreme Court’s recent Hobby Lobby decision that family-owned corporations do not have to provide birth control in their insurance coverage.

Single women, will determine whether Democrats will keep Senate seats in; Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and North Carolina — and their Senate majority — along with governorships in Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Without single women voters, Democrats can’t win.

Next: Voting and Minorities

Jon Taylor

Committed to Equal Rights & Justice – Voting & Minorities

When it comes to  Dave Brat who has never held any public office proclaiming  his commitment to equal rights and equal justice for all, particularly voting rights for minorities, all you really have to go by are what issues he ran on during in his historic upset of Eric Cantor.

Take his attacks of Cantor’s supposed “support” for immigration reform, which consisted of nothing more than the standard Republican tactics of delay and do nothing.  Yet the perception that Cantor was somehow “for” immigrants and foreigners carried considerable weight with the 7th Congressional Districts libertarians and tea-party activists.

Beyond these nativistic prejudices, most of the credit for his upset goes to various radio hosts who in contrast to Brat’s brand of mild racism ran a no holds bared smear campaign after taking payola from wingnut sugar daddies like the Koch brothers.

Mark Levin took almost $800,000 from the Koch brother supported Americans for Prosperity. Brat’s staunchest talk radio supporter, Laura Ingraham also raked in the Koch cash; she was just a little better about hiding exactly where her money came from.

The biggest reason Brat won was that the real force behind his campaign was a dark money machine which brought him critical and non-stop right wing wack-a loon radio exposure, a cultural phenomena  which flew completely under the radar of most people living in the 7th Congressional district.

While the main stream media frequently portrays Brat as an underdog, who somehow scored a historic electoral upset, he was actually strapped to the hilt with support and  money provided by the Koch brothers and their buddies.

Brat also seems to owe his job as Director of Randolph-Macon’s BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program to Cato Institute president John Allison, the former CEO of BB&T bank.

The Cato Institute coincidentally is a right wing think tank founded by the Koch brothers, and they gave Randolph-Macon a $500,000 fellowship back in 2009 so Brat could teach Ayn Rand and libertarianism.

In funding academic institutions like George Mason University’s Mercatus Center;  they are fostering young academics in their libertarian tradition to realize their political ambitions. Like hundreds of other college professors across the country, Dave Brat is nothing more than a bought-and-paid-for shill of Charles and David Koch and associates.

Considering that one of the Koch’s spin off’s the powerful American Legislative Exchange Council’s finger prints are all over many of Republican dominated Voter suppression, ahem Voter ID efforts,  it’s quite likely that Dave Brat is aware of and supports their ongoing efforts to deny those rights.

As was the case with student and women voters, the same demographic trends are driving Republican efforts to make minorities, particularly Latino’s and African Americans ability to vote even more difficult.  Given the long term implications of these demographic and population changes we should expect to see Republicans try to double down on their efforts to suppress the black and Latino vote.

Minority voters will continue to grow in proportion to the population, increasing about two percentage points each Presidential election. For both parties, their future lies in courting and capturing the minority vote, nothing else will be more important to American politics in the decades to come.  Given the latest Census population projections minorities are expected to represent around 30 percent of the voters in the 2016 election, and roughly 32 percent by the 2020 election.

The consider the impact of registered black voters, who according to a mid-2012 Pew analysis, 87 percent identified with the Democrats, versus 8 percent identifying with Republicans, a huge 79 point gap. Given their long standing and historic ties to the party, and strong support for an active government in combating discrimination and providing opportunity and services, it’s hardly surprising.

The same Pew analysis found party identification among registered Hispanic voters was 61 percent Democratic to 29 percent Republican, a sizable 32 point differential. Perhaps not as pronounced a gap as found amongst African-Americans, but given the Republicans and the more extreme Tea Party’s aversion to even addressing the increasingly volatile issue of immigration, expect to see Democrats continue to be overwhelmingly viewed as the party most favorable to resolving it.

While Latino’s historic ties to the Democrats, may not be as strong as blacks, they are as strong or stronger in their support for active government, a working safety net and provision of services

In a detailed 2012 Pew study of Asian-Americans found that they are surprisingly, almost as oriented towards Democrats as Hispanics. Registered Asian voters party identification favored Democrats by 50-28, a 22 point margin.  In addition, at 31 percent self-identified Asian liberals  outnumbered self-identified conservatives, who came in at 24 percent, perhaps because, as a group Asians have the highest average educational level of any racial or ethnic group in the United States.

This gap is more significant that it seems given that conservatives typically outnumber liberals by a substantial margin in the general population, and like Latino’s and blacks they strongly support Democratic positions on active government and immigration.

The larger question of how long will these minority voters continue to lean so heavily Democratic remains unanswered.  The possibility of radical political change is always present, but at this point those leanings look very solid now and into the next few decades.

Republicans are convinced that Democratic support among minorities will fade over time, if they can just get their message out. Today’s GOP believes they have what it takes to appeal to minorities, looking back fondly to the time when George Bush got 40 percent of the Hispanic vote in the 2004 election.

Forgetting what happened when his Latino dawn turned out to be nothing more than a false promise — it lead to a Democratic dominance which today remains clear and overwhelming.

A longtime approach Republicans have been using to get their message out, particularly among Hispanics whom they believe are a much better target for conversion than blacks, is to emphasize “values” issues like abortion or gay marriage, based on the preconception that Hispanics are socially conservative and that it will motivate them to vote for the GOP. Thus far this strategy has not been very effective and there are few indications it will succeed in the future.

It turns out Hispanics are much more likely than whites to vote on the basis of cultural issues, nor are they nearly as socially conservative as many believe.  On the specific issue of gay marriage, surveys have repeatedly shown that Hispanics are no more conservative on this issue than whites are.

Younger Hispanics are typically more progressive than their older counterparts on social issues, so generational replacement will make the tomorrow’s Hispanic population less conservative than today’s.

Another favored Republican approach is to cast their economic policies in terms they believe will resonate among minority constituencies, believing that Latinos should be attracted to their tax and regulatory policies because of the high number of small-business owners among them.

The primary assumption that Republicans make about Latino’s and Asian’s self-interest and material aspirations, is that they should hate taxes and despise big government. But most Latinos and Asians do not despise government or desire more libertarian economic policies, as confirmed repeatedly by a wide variety of survey data. Yet this is the message Republicans continue to preach.

If Republicans want to effectively compete for minority voters, there is really only one way for them to accomplish it. They must, become less conservative, jettisoning their bitter hostility to active government, immigration reform and spending on social services. In addition to working with these minority communities to develop grassroots support.

So far, this is a path the Republicans have rejected. Should they continue down this trajectory, it’s likely that Democrats will continue to get 75-80 percent or more of the minority vote, and winning more elections in the process .

Jon Taylor

Commited to the Free Market – Republicans first pricipal

Exactly how Dave Brat and his fellow Republicans define their commitment to the free market has never been clear. When you look at the effects their unquestioning commitment to this ideology has had on most Americans over the past 35 years, and especially over the last fifteen years the conclusions are clear and inescapable.

These past fifteen years, have been when the effects of most of their free market principles started to kick into overdrive. None of this would have been possible without the big push for deregulation by the Republican dominated House in the late 1990’s. The list is quite extensive – The telecommunications industry, NAFTA, CAFTA and finally the banking and financial industry.

At the end of the Clinton administration, we were on a path to addressing our growing national debt, which then stood at 4.5 Trillion dollars. In fact there was a projected 500 billion dollar government surplus when Bush took office. This was also when the Census bureau was collecting data on the state of the economy, something that they do at the beginning of every decade.

In general, poverty went up nationwide from 33.9 million people in 2000, or 12.4 percent of the population, to 49 million people in 2010, or 14.9 percent of the population, an overall increase of 2.5 percent. Considering that in 2000 we were at the peak of the nations longest sustained period of prosperity, and in 2010 we were emerging from one of our worst-ever financial crises, it was a surprisingly small increase.

 Poverty 1

But if we take a closer look at he 2010 numbers above showing a breakdown of poverty levels by state, it’s clear that the most extreme levels of poverty are concentrated in the Southern states. The one characteristic all of these states have in common was their commitment to the principals of the free market. Now compare the numbers of people living in concentrated regions known as “poverty areas.” In 2000, 49.5 million people, or 18.1 percent of the population, lived in these “poverty areas.” In 2010, 77.4 million people, or 25.7 percent of the population, lived in “poverty areas.” This increase of 7.6 percent is considerably larger than the overall 2.5 percent increase in poverty.

Poverty 2

Many of these areas were already running well above average — say 15 or 18 percent in poverty—before the Great Recession hit in 2007, and it didn’t take much to push the whole area into “poverty area” status. You can see a multiplier effect at work with the startling increase in the number of “poverty areas.”

The percentage of people in poverty who live in these concentrated “poverty areas” also surged. In 2000, 15 million people in poverty, or 44.4 percent of all people in poverty, lived in “poverty areas,” but in 2010, 24 million people, or 53.5 percent of all people in poverty, lived in these “poverty areas,” an increase of 9.1 percent.

Overall, the trend seems to be more poverty in places where it didn’t used to be as prevalent. The percentage of people in the remainder of metropolitan areas (the suburbs and exurbs, in other words) living “poverty areas” went from 7.2 to 14.3 (an increase of 7.1 percent), and outside of metropolitan areas (rural areas), it shot up from 20.0 to 32.5 (an increase of 12.6 percent). Historically that jibes with the broader trend that has been seen at the end of the last few post-Recession years, where economic growth and population growth are disproportionately found in the major cities.

The rise in poverty has affected many people around the country, who have been left behind by this new economy, particularly during the recent Great Recession. These are the people who are most likely to hold those in government responsible for their plight. A cultural dynamic which helps explain some of the passion we’ve seen for the tea party’s popularity among the working poor.

These hard working, proud and now inexplicably poor folks find themselves desperately clinging to a long-held notion dating back to the time of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy’ that government affirmation action gave their futures to the less qualified, to minorities and immigrants.

In many areas of the country, people remain stuck in these poverty areas, and for many being bitter might be all they have left.  Those who could get away already did and are managing to “get by” somewhere else where the economy still works.

The sad truth is; we are in the middle of a culture war, where judgments fly back and forth, on one side a bunch of ignorant racists, and on the other a bunch of lazy takers. With over a decade of neglect to our roads, bridges and basic infrastructure there is plenty of stuff to fix and build and new technologies to develop that could create jobs for everyone.

And the primary reason this country continues to disinvest in its own people is simple, cultural and institutional prejudice.

One kept in place by voters who’d rather vote against their own chances rather than consider including those they would rather blame for their misfortunes, and brought and paid for shills like Dave Brat representing the interests of their masters.


Jon Taylor

Commited to the Free Market – Economic Failures

Rather than attempt to name even a fraction of the Republican parties’ many economic failings because of their robotic devotion to free market economics, let’s take a look at Dave Brat’s economic ideology.  Jordan J. Ballor, a research fellow at the Acton Institute, a religious and libertarian think tank, claims Brat is part of a growing movement between economic and religious conservatives.

According to him, people who are religious and write about economics are becoming more “comfortable being explicitly religious in their identity.”  Until recently, religious conservatives were focused on social issues like abortion, while secular conservatives focused on economic ideology. Ballor said “I think you have — especially in the context of the global economic downturn — a need to look at the foundations and ask hard questions about the moral formation going on among people who are working on Wall Street.” And conversations among economists about ethical systems — “are becoming more and more prominent as people realize the models we’ve inherited are inadequate.”

This so called movement, like the past three decades of Republican economic practices is faith based. While it may make reasonable sounding common sense observations that our economic system isn’t working, it is a deliberate distortion. And like all good lies it’s works because it contains that singular grain of truth.

Its real purpose is to conceal a fundamental flaw in their economic ideology. In their so called “debates” about economics and morality, conservatives deliberately overlook a fact as obvious as the one that our economy isn’t working, the impossibility of encapsulating an empirical, objective and rational way of looking at the world and problem solving into a religious faith based framework.

These two schools of thought use two radically different methods to solve real world problems, with equally different results. While they may try to depict their efforts as being intellectually based, a “grand synthesis,” a bold attempt to reconcile two diametrically opposed world views nothing could be further from the truth.

What they are offering is a good old fashioned con, using religion to justify the existing social and economic status quo.  In a 2011 essay entitled “God and Advanced Mammon”, Brat piously claims that “Usury is not something to be studied. It is something to be condemned.” He then also claims that, “The church needs to regain its voice and offer up a coherent social vision of justice and rationality.” It is comments likes these we need to pay attention to.

Like the Republican’s approach to economics, it’s was never made clear from his essay how his faith based approach to reconciling Christianity and economics actually translates into specific policies. This is not an oversight, or even a subject beyond the scope of his paper, it is part of a pattern of obfuscation.

During his 18 year career as an academic economist, Brat has not published many papers, nor are his colleagues impressed with his academic résumé. Dr. Nicolaus Tideman, an economics professor at Virginia Tech says that since Brat has published his most notable papers in 1995 and 1996, co-written with his Ph.D. adviser at American University only 3 of his subsequent works have been cited by other economists.

He goes on to say that that the journals which have featured his work in the past decade are obscure ones like the Virginia Economic Journal, where he published at least seven papers between 1998 and 2009

The journal might be good place for graduate students to submit work, but it is not considered a significant venue for professional academics. “It’s a bit unusual on an academic CV that a person publishes over and over in fairly obscure places,” says American University economics professor Robert Blecker. Dr. Tideman concludes that, “One could say this lack of citations reflects a career that is not impressive.”

Dave Brat’s history of un-impressiveness is strangely similar to another well known ideologue, Supreme Court Justice, Clarence Thomas. A career marked by little real achievement in his field, coupled with high profile political assignments seemingly well above his pay grade.

According to his resume, at the state level, he has worked as a special adviser and consultant to ultra conservative Virginia Senator Walter Stosch since 2005. Stosch was the Senate’s Majority leader until 2007, and is currently the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, in addition to being the Chair of Senate Finance Committee.

Dave Brat is not just some random 2nd rate “college professor,” he is part of a well oiled political machine, one of the Koch brothers’ many Manchurian candidates. While he may pretend to the people of the 7th District that he is a libertarian Republican with a simple six point message, his true purpose is to carry out his master’s economic and political agenda.

Recall how he ran against Eric Cantor attacking his brand of “crony capitalism” and the incestuous relationship between big money and politics. Like all good misrepresentations; it contained an inescapable truth, that our political system has been captured by folks like the Koch Brothers.

Who through front groups like Americans for Prosperity are now the nation’s third-largest political party. They are actively supporting candidates around the country precisely because they have aligned themselves with their agenda of deflecting voter’s anxieties and frustrations away from their economic priorities.

With Dave Brat’s upset of Eric Cantor, the Koch’s and their supporters have created a blueprint for beating establishment Republicans all across the country, and for them,  the revolution has just begun.

Their insurgency carefully harnesses the forces of religion and libertarianism, and Dave Brat is one of their first wave of soldiers who are “comfortable being explicitly religious in their identity”… and with their politics and economics.

They are quite comfortable spreading their so called populist and progressive “messages” to the people, and the pathologies behind their brand of populism are quite real: “fascism, nativism, anti-intellectualism, persecution of unpopular minorities, exaltation of the mediocre, and romantic exaggeration of the wisdom and virtue of the masses.”

Should there be any doubt about his where his loyalties lie, consider that Dave Brat has been the Director of Randolph-Macon’s BB&T Moral Foundations of Capitalism Program since 2009. A program coincidentally started and funded by John Allison, head of the Koch brothers funded Cato Institute, one of 68 programs around the country, and according to Allison, “at most of the major universities in our operating area.” “…for many students, this program is the first time they have heard capitalism defended from an ethical perspective.”

Required reading for this curriculum includes the works of Ayn Rand, “The Fountainhead” a wonderful piece of young adult fiction, filled with one-sided characters, all affirming their sense of identity with shameless and brazen simplicity. Along with “Atlas Shrugged” an endless succession of rants by cartoonish figures, featuring an undisguised worship of mammonism, famously symbolized by a giant statue of a dollar sign made of solid-gold.

This course is nothing more than a nihilistic denial of moral virtues hiding under an academic facade. They are teaching a philosophy which justifies pitilessness; one so extreme that Friedrich Nietzsche isn’t considered tough enough, a semester of learning that does not in any way resemble reality.

We may chose to laugh about it now, but remember that some of these young adults coming out of these programs will be the ones advising economic policy at the state and federal level in a few decades, or like Dave Brat running for political office doing their masters bidding.


Jon Taylor

Commited to the free market – Wolves in sheeps clothing

Dave Brat goes out of his way to portray himself a free-market conservative who believes in the simple concept that our society’s ethics and moral foundations have been lost. Ethics rooted, he says not in man-made laws but in Christianity — specifically, Calvinist Protestantism.

Remarks that remind me of an observation by one of his favorite philosophers, Aristotle, who said that “A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion,”  Something that Brat like many Republicans is quite adept at, allowing him to disguise the fact he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing doing his masters bidding.


wolf sheep

According to Brat, “Give me a country in 1600 that had a Protestant-led contest for religious and political power and I will show you a country that is rich today,” claiming that economists were “slow to acknowledge perhaps the most powerful institution in Western civilization, religion.Robert Nelson, a University of Maryland economist who writes about economics and religion claims Brat is trailblazer for talking about religion as a serious force. “The study of religion with economics didn’t get started until the 1990s,” he said. “It’s still somewhat outside the mainstream.”

His doctoral dissertation, called “Human Capital, Religion and Economic Growth,” looked at the role of religion in three European countries and how it influenced the advancement of science, technology and economic growth. He concluded that Protestantism helped Britain and Germany and that Catholicism hurt in France. Arguing that economic and technological progress happens when there is a powerful ‘bottoms up’ approach which favors the individual.

Given his present day conservativism, which according to his website, consists of a wholehearted support for the 6 principals of Republicanism, it’s astonishing to learn that Brat once attributed a philosophy lead by dissenting branches of Protestantism, especially Calvinism which supports “the decentralization of power” lead to the rise of scientific, technological and economic progress.

Considering the Republican Party’s penchant for adopting a reflexive top down approach to any problems, it’s especially surprising. Somehow critical thinking, questioning of assumptions and the status quo, even in a religious context does not sound like any policies they would embrace. In the days covered by his thesis, the Reformation, religion influencing economics was not something the Catholic Church was known for. Even today, the church remains extremely skeptical of capitalism, seeing it as being unconcerned with the common good, and that their trickle-down economic theories are crude, naive and unproven.

In that context, Brat’s claims are at best a superficial and at worst a misinterpretation of Max Weber’s “Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” In his writings, Weber was concerned that modern society was increasingly governed by rational and impersonal institutions, one fostered by the growing economic and cultural power of capitalism, and that we  had become detached from our spiritual roots. Where Brat attributes determined purpose, Weber saw unintended consequence.

Weber wrote, “The Puritan’s wanted to work in a calling,” but under modern capitalism “we are forced to do so.” Brat seriously misinterprets how as a way of thinking the degree to which Christianity changed how Western European societies lived and though.  According to Alexis de Tocqueville writing in “Democracy in America,” Christian social ideas, asserted throughout the western world that “the equal rights of every man to the goods of this world” and “the duty of those who have more is to help those who have less.” Charity could no longer remain a private virtue; Christianity had transformed it into public responsibility, even to the point of demanding governmental relief of hardship and suffering for the poor and the downtrodden.

In contrast, in his essay  “God and Advanced Mammon”, Brat asks: “Are you willing to force someone you know to pay for the benefits for one of your neighbors? Will you force them? Very few Christians I know are willing to say ‘yes’ to this question. It gets very uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow Republican’s, Brat’s social, political and moral order is narrowly focused and self-interested.  He’s is primarily concerned with promoting welfare of individuals, not humanity as a whole. In his world the notion of community barely exists and people must take fend for themselves.  The pursuit of selfish interests in the free market is his definition of freedom, and outward success is the mark of inward righteousness.

His vision is a formula for continuing inequality and injustice.

It’s not surprising to see him manage to justify those selfish interests using twisted economic religious theories — claiming that if we don’t embrace Christian capitalism, a Hitler like figure will emerge. Such fearful rhetoric is deliberately intended to mislead people, and create fundamental misunderstandings about how our economy and society really work.

In that essay he wrote that “capitalism is here to stay, and we need a church model which corresponds to that reality.   . .  Read Nietzsche. Nietzsche’s diagnosis of the weak modern Christian democratic man was spot on. Jesus was a great man. Jesus said he was the Son of God. Jesus made things happen. Jesus had faith. Jesus actually made people better. Then came the Christians. What happened? What went wrong? We appear to be a bit passive.

Hitler came along and he did not meet with unified resistance. I have the sinking feeling that it could all happen again, quite easily.  The church should rise up and prove Nietzsche wrong. We should love our neighbor so much that we actually believe in right and wrong and do something about it. If we all did the right thing and had the guts to spread the word, we would not need the government to backstop every action we take.

If that weren’t enough to make one say WTF, he makes the fantastic claim on his website that “Our national debt has skyrocketed, reaching over $17 trillion dollars.  What our leaders in Washington fail to mention is the $127 Trillion dollars in unfunded liabilities. This lack of leadership on both sides of the aisle threatens our nation’s stability and long term growth and forces an undue burden on our children and grandchildren. We must balance the federal budget by reducing spending.  I will support a balanced budget amendment which will force Congress to reign in the out of control federal spending and to restore confidence in the American economy.”

When he talks about $127 trillion in unfunded liabilities he is deliberately misleading the public.  The IER estimates that total fossil fuel resources owned by the Federal government are valued at over $150 trillion and the assets of the USA likely exceed $200 trillion.

So when we take  the asset side of the balance sheet into account, Brat’s  entire economic argument is exposed for what it is.

While there are legitimate arguments for reducing the size of our government, cutting spending and encouraging private sector investment, his brand of fearful religious messaging only leads to poor decisions at the polls voters, and even worse economic decisions by elected officials.

Jon Taylor

The dark side of newspapers


One of the paradoxes of the modern information age is how little people actually know about what is happening in their state, particularly at the county level. The more local an issue or political office is the greater impact it has on any given person’s daily life. State and local legislators, who decide funding levels for local transportation projects and school districts, have far more influence on the average person’s life than even the president of the United States.

Recently, the Washington Post ran an article citing a Pew Research Center study which showed that less than one third of the daily newspapers in the U.S. send a reporter to state capitols to cover the latest legislative developments.

One aspect that this study did not adequately cover was that the more local a particular issue or election was the less informed local residents tended to be, along with their being less active in the civic and political process. Take for example, Louisa County paper of record, The Central Virginian’s recent story about a proposed gas pipeline stretching from Pennsylvania to North Carolina stretching across the county.


On the surface it’s a fairly straightforward story about a proposed pipeline that cuts across a historic farming district. Shortly after this article appeared, two thirds of the people responding to their  online survey said they thought it was a good idea to have a gas pipeline running over private properties in the National Historic Green Springs District where some of the counties most important underground water supplies are located.

Speaking on behalf of Historic Green Springs Inc., Rae Ely, had this to say, “It’s unthinkable to have this enormous pipeline run through the source of water for so many people.”

It should be noted that the CV’s public link to this important local story is only a few paragraphs, and that this type of coverage is part of their parent company, Lakeway Publishers ongoing strategy to give on line readers of their papers a “Cliffs Notes” version of local news, in addition to forcing them to purchase online subscriptions.  The story is re-posted here for those who don’t have one.

This degree of disconnect between Ms. Ely’s common sense statement about the dangers of running a pipeline which could potentially spill, contaminating one the counties few sources of fresh water, and the handful of local folks responding to this survey is one of the consequences of newspapers declining coverage of local and state issues and reducing their coverage down to the barest essentials.

In the case of these folks responding to the survey; it’s clear that they have brought into the prevailing conservative mantra that any business is “good”, and that this pipeline would benefit Louisa County regardless of the actual cost.

The decline of newspapers fortunes has led to a substantial reduction in informative reporting.  The number of statehouse newspaper reporters throughout the country has declined by over thirty five percent in the past decade.  As newspapers budgetary pressures increase, many are leaving for greener pastures. Several of Virginia’s better known long time statehouse reporters are now working for various public relations firms. At the local level, the Central Virginians’ past editor now performs similar duties for Louisa’s school system.

According to one now retired statehouse reporter, “The industry changed. We went through this really difficult time … particularly during the recession,”  “It’s not the kind of profession people feel secure in and going into,” one reason why many of the remaining reporters covering Virginia statehouse are entry-level, with low starting salaries and few benefits.

The absence of reliable information has given public relations professionals, lobbyists, and politicians, an unprecedented opportunity to control the message. Using YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets, lobbyists, politicians are increasingly generating their own news, and spinning their own stories

It’s no secret that most media outlets rely heavily on wire services like the Associated Press instead of their own reporters. Several non-traditional outlets have popped up to fill this void. Most have an online-only presence; while some focus on insider audiences of lobbyists and government executives; others can nominally be called “non-profits”.

The biggest of these “non-profits” is the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity which promotes their coverage of statehouse affairs specifically from a conservative point of view, according to another Pew study.  The Franklin Center is also staffed by veterans of groups affiliated with Charles and David Koch.

The group’s editors claim that their “professional journalism” work is walled off from the organization’s political operations which include seminars and webinars promoting conservative journalism coverage with staffers from The Daily Caller and, claiming their “pro-taxpayer, pro-liberty, free market perspective” doesn’t compromise their accuracy or independence.


Media Funding

Most of their funding comes from Donors Trust and its affiliated organization, Donors Capital Fund, who have raised more than $500 million from various organizations and individuals, including the Koch Brother.  Donors Trust gives many of its funding sources a way to hide their donations or “pass-through” money to various right-leaning organizations and media outlets, many of whom promote free-market ideas. The size and character of these donations has earned the Donors Trust group the title of ”the dark money ATM of the conservative movement.”

Jon Taylor


The Dark Side: local reporting isn’t much better

At the local level, it has been noted in a previous post that since mid 2012 the Central Virginian has undergone a decided change in their coverage of local issues, particularly on their Editorial & Opinion page.   Like the large notices at the bottom of most of their op-ed pages telling us how newspapers keep the government from controlling their access to public information.

Public Information

One might be tempted to believe there was some truth to their claim if they weren’t so busy taking up even more space on their op-ed page with over-sized and decidedly conservative political cartoons from King Feature’s Syndicate, something they coincidentally share with the rest of the local papers controlled by Lakeway Publishers.

In addition, roughly one quarter of the CV’s op-ed page has been taken over by a semi-regular stream of consciousness piece, which while occasionally amusing would find a better home in their community or style sections.

Finally, like many of the Lakeway chains papers, they periodically run ultra conservative commentaries and op-ed’s, from organizations on the farthest right like The Family Research Council, and The National Review, who are also part of their King Features Syndicate.

The problem with this style of journalism runs deeper than a steady dose low cost syndicated content; it’s a wholesale descent into conservative and  misleading reporting, along with a decidedly stenographic approach to covering local news and events, particularly the actions of our public officials.

Quite often, the CV’s reporter’s fail to ask obvious follow up questions that even a child would think to ask.Repeating the same pattern of presenting news we have seen from “non-profit” news organizations like the Franklin Center. The most notable example of this would be their ongoing failure to report on a recent Town Hall meeting with Louisa’s two state senators and delegate.

If several local citizens hadn’t submitted letters to the editor  outlining what took place, most of their readers wouldn’t have even known this meeting even took place. The CV’s decision to concentrate on reinforcing conservative messaging over informing their readers makes a mockery of their claims of supporting your right to know.

In their case it’s not the government that’s keeping you from being informed, it’s your local paper.

Still, when it comes to telling us about gas lines running through the county or informing their readers about the problems associated with how this gas is produced, our local coverage could be much worse.  Like how the development of the Utica Shale deposit in the Appalachian foothills of Eastern Ohio is being covered by local newspaper.

The Harrison News Herald is Harrison County’s only paper of record and everyone, from managing editors and photographers to reporters and sales directors, pulls double duty at both the News Herald and Pipeline Connections, an oil and gas industry trade rag. Both publications are owned by a local publishing company, Schloss Media.



When local residents were asked about their coverage of the gas industry their response was “The News Herald? …. You’ll learn 10 times more just looking at people’s Facebook feeds”… “You’ll see something on Facebook real quick about some accident that happened and then, before you know it, it’s just gone…vanished.”


And when asked about Pipeline Connections magazine their response was “They give them out for free at gas stations and mini marts and that sort of thing.” “…trying to brainwash us all into thinking fracking is going to make everyone rich, but it doesn’t. It just makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.”

Just like the folks at the Franklin Center, claim that their “professional journalism” work is separate from their political work, and the folks at the Harrison News Herald expect the public to believe that their coverage of the gas industry is separate from working for a publication dedicated to promoting those interests, when in fact, they are grossly misrepresenting their journalistic independence and the accuracy of their reporting.

With few exceptions,  this is how the impact of gas lines and hydro-fracking will be covered by most local newspapers throughout the country.

Secret Sauce

Perhaps it’s time we started demanding more from them.

Jon Taylor