Election 2016: What do the numbers tell us

When it comes to numerical analysis, many people over the past two centuries have made variations of the observation that there are “lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics.” Yet, at least up until this election, statistical analysis has proven reasonably successful in predicting the outcome of Presidential elections.

So how did all of the pollsters and pundits fail so miserably? There were a number of circumstances which helped sweep the Drumpf into office. According to Noam Chomsky, traditional political polling based on demographic data overlooked what is most important in elections: Values! One’s sense of right and wrong, and those omissions were crucial in this election.

Other background “circumstances” contributed to this perfect shit storm of an election; starting with numerous voter suppression efforts in Republican controlled states, followed by unremitting propaganda designed to promote fear of others, manifested by; rampant xenophobia-racism-sexism and misogyny. This election also saw an unprecedented surge in 3rd party and undecided voters.

Voter suppression has long been one of the Republicans favorite tactics, and has remained safely out of the public’s eye for decades. Starting with voter caging  a long standing and illegal practice which has now reached national proportions thanks to the efforts of Kris Kobach, former Kansas GOP chair and now current Kansas Secretary of State and member of Drumpf’s transition team

In addition to inspiring Republican voter caging efforts across the country, Kobach is responsible for launching the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck  program, which purportedly compares voter registration data to ferret out evidence of double voting. Since its inception in Kansas over a decade ago, the program has expanded to 29 Republican controlled states including Virginia.

Kobach also tried to take advantage of a Supreme Court ruling on an Arizona law which required police to check the immigration status of people stopped for other reasons if officers have a reasonable suspicion they’re in the U.S. illegally to introduce similar legislation in Kansas  working behind the scenes to get this voter suppression measure introduced and passed in other Republican controlled states.

This year, the Republican Party has taken their vote suppression measures even further. With Republican controlled Southern States closing down 868 polling places after a Supreme Court decision limited federal oversight of their election.

And in North Carolina, local Republican controlled elections boards in 18 counties went out of their way to suppress early voting. State election officials are claiming that that they have no record of people registering to vote the DMV offices in those counties, a likely violation of the “Motor Voter” Law, or National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

In response, a federal court ordered those North Carolina’s counties to give provisional ballots to every voter who affirmed that they registered at the DMV. Meanwhile, Governor McCrory, who lost a close contest to his Democratic opponent, Roy Cooper, where it is commonly assumed that the provisional ballots would lean more heavily in Cooper’s favor, and eliminate the need for an automatic recount.

So far during the count, a number of ‘protesters’ have appeared before the county BOE’s with allegations of voter fraud by individuals who they said were ineligible due to felonies and other matters. In every case, the county BOE’s rejected these challenges because they weren’t factual or they were quickly proven to be untrue.

More than two weeks later, McCrory still refuses to concede. Instead, he and his legal team are alleging that the results were tainted by fraud, petitioning election boards to review the results and determine their validity.  His strategy appears to be to delay the formal declaration of a winner—delegitimizing the voting process—in order to let the Republican-dominated legislature vote to re-install McCrory as governor for another four years.

Meanwhile, one of the most important “swing” states in this election Florida with 29 electoral votes also happens to be one of three states which permanently denies anyone with a felony conviction the right to vote. There is no automatic process for former felons to regain their voting rights, and people have to travel to the state capital and proactively request that the governor grant them clemency on an individual basis.

A process which became even more difficult since Lord Voldemort … I mean Republican Gov. Rick Scott was elected in 2011. During Governor Charlie Crist’s four years in office, more than 150,000 people had their rights restored. Voting advocates claimed that even that number did not go far enough, given the long backlog of applications.

But when Scott took office, the clemency board changed its rules and progress slowed to a crawl. In his first term as governor, fewer than 1,600 people have had their rights restored. During this election, this archaic legacy of Jim Crow will deny more than 6 million people the right to vote.

Along with these developments, comes the passage of restrictive voter ID laws in Republican controlled states. And this election, it’s no coincidence that three important swing states, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Florida have all become case studies for the effectiveness of voting restrictions in this election.

More disturbing are allegations that voter databases may have been hacked. In the states of Florida and North Carolina databases managed by the same contractor were hacked. The FBI warned election officials in these and other states; such as AZ, IL about this more than 2 months before the election.

One state, Georgia after being notified that their ancient database had been hacked, went so far to say they don’t need or want any help from the “federal gov’ment.” In any other election, news like this and the NSA chief saying that Russia hacked the 2016 election, along with the Washington Post claiming that Russia  used over 200 websites to push “fake news” to gullible Americans would read like something out of one of Tom Clancy’s novels.

But it’s not — these are stories which have been mostly ignored by our incurious media, and with the exception of Senators John McCain, and Lindsey Graham ignored by the Republican dominated Congress.

Now the political forecasting site, 538 is claiming their “statistics” prove that this election was not hacked and that demographics explain the results. Perhaps, but given how badly 538 screwed up the fundamentals of predicting this election, and that folks like Lakoff have come up with  some plausible explanations of how they were measuring the wrong things its clear that something doesn’t add up .

So it might be worth investigating whether some combination of voter suppression and  manipulation of the election actually happened.

Developments which have prompted a group of prominent election experts at MIT and UC Berkeley to call for a presidential election audit, along with a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers privately urging Hillary Clinton to call for a recount in three swing states won by the Drumpf.

Meanwhile, the Green Party’s fund raising drive for Presidential recounts in WI, PA and MI have raised over $ 4.5 million in less than 48 hours, and now have enough funds for Wisconsin’s, Pennsylvania’s and Michigan’s filing fees before their deadlines. And the recount is currently underway in Wisconsin.

With Jill Stein’s campaign, saying that “The costs associated with recounts are a function of state law, and attorney’s fees are likely to be another $2-3 million, then there are the costs of the statewide recount observers in all three states. The total cost is likely to be $6-7 million.

Thus far, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri has not responded to any requests for comments on this matter. But some Clinton allies are intent on pushing the issue. And complicating matters, a senior Clinton adviser said, that the White House, focused on a smooth transfer of power, does not want Clinton to challenge the election result.

Jon Taylor

Next: What the numbers can’t tell us

Election 2016: What the numbers can’t tell us

While propaganda and media manipulation have always been part of modern political campaigns, several longstanding trends came together during this election.  Starting with the Republican Party’s wholesale embracement of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” in the 80’s which has systematically stoked up anger, class and racial resentment in the decades since.

But they couldn’t have made it happen by themselves, they needed accomplices in the media who were willing to promote and reinforce their messages. And sure enough, FOX news emerged out of the wave of deregulation which swept the country during the Clinton era. Ever since its inception, FOX has been a toxic influence on their audience’s ability to understand the world around them.

Deceive and Believe

As their success grew, their style of “journalism” was slavishly copied by many other media outlets, leading to the creation of a self reinforcing feedback loop where today most cable viewers are only exposed to the things they already believe. In practical terms, the media’s function has become to indoctrinate what Joseph Stalin’s once called societies “useful idiots.

Their sole purpose is to stir up fear, constantly reminding members of the conservative tribe that they must all band together lest they be swept away by the tides of change, and the deviancy of “outsiders.”

The appeal of their messages appears to be rooted in differences in brain physiology and psychological outlook, with the penchant for selective exposure and closed-mindedness and authoritarianism — running much stronger in some than in others. It still took the emergence of an organization like FOX before these social tendencies could be fully activated.

In many respects,  much of today’s political dysfunction — lies in the fact that FOX has “brought about a hurricane-like intensification of factual error, misinformation and unsupportable but ideologically charged beliefs on the conservative side of the aisle.” And over the years. the actions of FOX and it’s imitators have not only divided the country along political and ideological lines, they have  polarized our very notion of reality itself

Information which confirms opinions you already have isn’t news — it’s FOX News.

Today, we live a world where deceit touches all of our lives, where reality has been privatized and illusion legitimized. Where censorship by media; politics by media; and diversion by media – all offer a surreal assembly line of clichés and false assumptions. Every time we pick up a digital device, turn on our computers and TV’s, or even read a paper – we are being manipulated and lied to. Edward Bernays, who first coined, “public relations” 80 years ago, as a euphemism for “propaganda,” also invented the term “invisible government.”

Writing, “Those who manipulate this unseen element of [modern democracy] constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of …

Going on to say that their aim is a conquest of our sense of the world, our political consciousness, our ability to think independently and most importantly our ability to separate truth from lies. And much of this has been accomplished through decades of cognitive framing, a technique familiar to those in the advertising world which takes advantage of the unconscious thought process.

While many people might like to believe that we are all rational thinkers, and that all “thought” operates at conscious level that may not be the case. Recent studies have shown that conscious thought is likely just the visible tip of our mental iceberg, and that “most” and perhaps as much as 98 percent of all our thinking really takes place at the unconscious level.

Our worldviews determine not only how we think the world operates, but how we think it should operate, and what we believe to be right and wrong. A worldview is a conceptual framework we use to understand the world, and is made up of many unconscious mental “frames.” In the institutions of our lives and especially politics, words are not neutral. Their meanings are defined by frames.

And there are conservative and liberal vocabularies which activate different frames. “Save the planet!” is liberal, and “Energy independence” is a conservative ‘dog whistle. ’

In general, trying negate a frame just activates that frame and makes it stronger. And according to George Lakoff’s book called Don’t Think of an Elephant! Liberals often find themselves caught in this trap. For example, if a conservative says, “we should have tax relief,” she is using the metaphor that taxation is an affliction that we need relief from. If a liberal replies, “No, we don’t need tax relief,” she is unconsciously reinforcing the idea that taxation is an affliction.

During this election, the Clinton campaign consistently violated those principles with negative campaigning, assuming they could turn the Drumpf’s most outrageous statements against him. Running numerous ads showing him expressing views which outraged liberals and his “deplorable” supporters wanted from their white nationalist party leader.

Oblivious to the reality, that the more the public hears one side’s language, the more that side’s frames will be activated, and the more their worldview(s) will be strengthened in the minds of those who watch and listen. And it’s one reason why effective political communication systems matter.

Jon Taylor

Next: What the numbers won’t tell us

 

Election 2016: What won’t the numbers tell us

Lakoff’s observations about conservative’s main “issue” being their sense of self worth, and how their identity is tied to their beliefs about what is right and wrong are supported by the observations of a reporter living in the heartland of America. Who called the post election meme that “Democrats failed to understand white, working-class, America,” is complete bullshit.

Saying that the real problem is rural America; they don’t understand themselves, the reasons for their anger/frustrations, and don’t seem to care why. And in their world the white Christian God is king, figuratively and literally. Religious fundamentalism has shaped their belief systems, and they are not conducive to introspection, questioning, learning, and change. Everyone who isn’t just like them has been sold to them as a threat and they willing buy it hook, line, and grifting sinker.

It is a belief system that isn’t open to outside criticism, especially by anyone who is not a member of their tribe and in a position of power. And just like trying to negate a frame, presenting them with any information which contradicts their entrenched beliefs, no matter how sound, how unquestionable, how obvious, they simply are incapable of even entertaining the possibility it could be true.

And it is one of the reasons conservative America will never listen. Religious conservatives are not necessarily anti-education, they want their kids to read and write. But learning is only valued up to the certain point. Once it reaches the level where it contradicts doctrine and fundamentalist beliefs, it becomes dangerous. Because their beliefs are not built on facts, fundamentalist truly believe that education is not to be trusted, and that it is the enemy. Another problem with rural, Christian, white American is they are racists, people who deep down in their heart of hearts truly believe they are superior because they are white. Once you have this view, it is easy to lower any outside group’s standing and acceptable level of treatment. And the same thought process applies to sexism, misogyny, and homophobia.

While it’s long been known that rural Americans are susceptible to propaganda, their rigid belief systems make it even more so because there are no checks and balances. If bad information gets in, it doesn’t get out and because there are no internal mechanisms to guard against it, it usually ends up very damaging to the whole. If someone is allowed into their closed-off system and is deemed acceptable, anything they say will readily be accepted and becomes gospel.

And for decades, rural, Christian, white Americans have let anti-intellectual, anti-science, bigoted, racists into their lives as “experts.” People like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, or any of the blonde Stepford Wives you see on Fox. And when someone isn’t open to anything not already accepted as true in their belief system, there really isn’t much you can do barring a major shock to the system.

Some of Blue Louisa’s readers may recall an earlier 2104 letter to the editor in the Central Virginian which talked about the pervasive and corrosive influence of propaganda, and particularly FOX news has on its viewers, along with the subsequent wave of vitriolic responses spread out over several letters that it generated.

Starting with comments about how liberals “blame the religious right, the Tea Party, and folks over 65 for not understanding,” and how they are trying to “silence them with vicious attacks. “To being offended by the factual observation that conservatives are “consistently on the wrong side of moral and social progress.

To claiming with a straight face that that “Fox News is the most fair, accurate, and balanced news organization in existence today”, the “only news outlet that has not been co-opted by this government.” along with ending their letters with “thank God for Fox News”, and “God bless the USA!” Remarks to which the comic Ron White might say, “You can’t fix stupid.”

So what does it take to change the beliefs of fundamentalists? Catastrophic circumstances, or when their beliefs clash directly with their personal lives. Both of which are highly likely under the Drumpf administration.

Jon Taylor

Next: The impact of “real” and fake news

Election 2016: Beyond the numbers, the impact of real and fake news on future elections

The Media’s failure to adequately cover this election starts with the fact that locally based journalism has all but disappeared. And in the resulting information vacuum the influence of inflammatory cable and right-wing national media as well as fake news such as we’ve seen recently on Facebook has been to borrow from the Drumpf, “Yuge.”

The MSM’s slavish devotion to “real news,” … I mean obsession with trivial and faux scandal sensationalism, seemingly willing to say and print anything that will attract the attention of their viewers, and enhance their bottom line. And when coupled with their relentless obsession with presenting two “sides” to everything; it prevents common agreement on things which are undeniably facts.

 And it’s a false equivalence which has gotten so bad that I’m surprised we haven’t seen one of the major media outlets come up with story,” titled “Gravity, real or a hoax?”

 The lamestream media’s incurious and stenographic approach to journalism is one of the reasons outright lies, such as the continued denial of climate science spreads unchecked. And when combined with their failure to cover the issues, or to even know anything about them, is it any wonder that fewer and fewer of their readers and viewers listen to them?

 Their hands off approach to journalism was a major factor in why slightly less than half the country chose to put a man in the White House who ran on a campaign of straight-up racism, misogyny, and fear. Enabling them prove beyond a doubt that they are “mad as hell” they aren’t going to “take it any more.”  And in their desire to shake up a political system which has by any objective measure failed them, the American people have revealed the depths of their desperation.

Running parallel to the media’s failure to adequately cover this election is the long standing contempt that their customer’s have for them, and is summarized below:

1) The big disconnect:  Citizens care about what politicians and government will do for them, reporters focus on what politicians will do politicians will do for them.

2) An elite perspective:  Covering politics as part of a game played by political elites, not from the perspective of the reader.

3) All about predictions:   Reporters are more interested now in predicting the future than reporting the news.

4) Laziness:  Political reporters see themselves as stenographers and don’t do the hard work of learning about issues.

5)  Lack of accountability and transparency:   Reporters demand to know every detail of a politician’s life, but despite their hold significant power, politicians aren’t held to any standards of accountability:

6) Out of touch:  Reporters care about the game of politics and don’t really understand what resonates with or is important to voters.

7) It’s all a game:  Reporters aspire to be celebrities famous for their opinions, not ‘just’ reporters who serve the public interest. They don’t take their role as pundits seriously, so the public doesn’t either.

Keep in mind that this still-prescient 20 year old article was written before the rise of Fox News and the Internet, and changes in the media landscape have only exacerbated these trends.

To say that the widespread dissemination of propaganda has done incalculable and perhaps even irreparable damage to our political system is an understatement.  But there may be an even more corrosive legacy of decade’s worth of the media’s failure to cover the issues lurking in the shadows.

One that Isaac Asimov’s famously noted in the early 80’s, when he said that “There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.

And today, there is growing body of evidence which shows that notions of what constitutes reality have shifted so far, that a significant portion of the population now accepts the supremacy of their beliefs over facts, and have become almost pathologically contemptuous of any new evidence, regardless of its source or validity.

evidence

And just to be clear, we’re not talking about the usual garden variety “conspiracy theories,” such as who shot JFK, or aliens in Area 51.  We’re talking about fundamental distortions of reality as these graphics from a recent media analytic study below indicateConspiracy1

Conspiracy 2

Which bring us to another development in the nations discontented disconnect, the rise of “fake news”, misinformation being deliberately spread by everyone from Republican operatives, to alt-right and hate groups, along with state agents, most notably Russia. What those development have to do with 3rd and 4th Party voters, along with “undecided” voter’s wholesale rejection of major Party candidates two months out from the election is anyone’s guess.

npr-3rd-undecideds

But the fact that this number has remained fairly consistent right up to the election indicates that this electoral trend is significantly stronger than in elections past, and may now be a permanent feature of presidential elections to come. More importantly, it the fact that these two groups of voters turned out nationally in numbers sufficient to have changed the outcome of several key state elections.

undecideds-3rd-party-voters

Remember that the purpose of all of this misleading and conflicting information is to sow doubt and confusion amongst the voters. And according to the New York Times, roughly 17 % of the voters are still undecided about which of the two major candidates they will be voting for a month away from the election.  A number which is significantly higher than the five to ten percent range we’ve seen in recent elections.

2008-unedcideds

2004-undecideds

By electing someone as unfit for the Presidency as the Drumpf, any arguments that this country tries to make to the rest of the world that we are an “exceptional nation” based on ideals and principles will and deserves to be laughed at. Not that this is news to the rest of the world, who have extensive experience with as Ted Rall so eloquently put it, America’s penchant for being assholes.

Now we’ve simplified things and removed all doubt by electing a grifting egomaniac asshole to lead our country.

Drumpf will not make things better for this country. What few people know or even remember, is that even before announcing he was running for President, he went on Fox News to talk about Russian foreign policy in 2014 — an unusual subject for a reality TV show host— saying during the interview that in order for America to go back to where it was, to go back to being great, we need total economic collapse and we need riots.

Drumpf’s rise to the presidency is but the opening act. Racism, white supremacy and violence are all bubbling very close to the surface, and the inevitable scapegoating will only add fuel to the fire greatly increasing the chances that this country will explode in anger as it implodes economically.

And they say elections don’t have consequences.

Jon Taylor

 

America in Transition

My Depression-era mother always advised, “Be careful of what you wish for.”

Granted wishes sometimes have unintended consequences. With the election over, my Facebook page and email inbox no longer suffer tsunamis of financial appeals or memes. I now can actually find emails from friends and relatives.

In the news, we receive reports of how the newly forming administration is doing, what historical milestones it has met, who is “in” and who is “out.”

During the campaign, we saw President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly shuffle his campaign staff. It appears that the transition staff is going through the same process. Former transition team leader Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” seems to have tainted him in the eyes certain insiders. Sending the father of Trump’s son-in-law to jail didn’t help. Although Christie was amazingly loyal to Trump during the campaign, apparently loyalty doesn’t win over revenge.

Vice President-elect Mike Pence now heads the transition team. This is the same Indiana Gov. Pence who signed a bill that requires women to conduct a funeral if they have a miscarriage.

The President-elect promised in the closing weeks of the campaign to “drain the swamp” in Washington. This is a great cry for a campaign slogan, but his job now is to govern and we already see well-connected political insiders—oil and gas lobbyists, lawyers, but not so many conservative think-tank experts and members of the foreign policy establishment—joining the transition team. It might have been attractive to elect someone without experience or expertise, but most realize that he better have a good co-pilot.

House Speaker Paul Ryan may see himself as that co-pilot.

The Congress has spent eight years obstructing President Barack Obama’s agenda, blocking, tackling and otherwise throwing sand in the gears of the government. Now, the Congress may finally realize it is supposed to be a positive part of the government.

Nevertheless, 7th Congressional District Representative David Brat and the shrunken Freedom Caucus have already begun attacking the House leadership.

Brat writes on Facebook, “When the American people chose a political outsider to be their president, they made it very clear that they are fed up with typical politicians who say one thing to get elected and then govern as if their constituents have short memories. The people are watching closely and they expect their elected representatives to deliver…” We’ll see if Ryan can make the House toe a consistent policy line, if there is one.

Steven Bannon, appointed as White House Strategist and Senior Counselor, might also see himself as that co-pilot. His years as a Wall Street insider, however, fade in the view of many who focus on his recent role as head of Breitbart News, the premier website of the “alt-right,” a loose-knit group of white nationalists and supremacists who are unabashed anti-Semites and racists. This position doesn’t require congressional approval, but will attract considerable distracting scrutiny.

Republicans spent months during the campaign encouraging Trump to “pivot” to a more presidential style. He resisted, believing that being as provocative as possible gained him his popularity.

No one has a clue how he envisions the role of the president, how he will interact with members of Congress and how he will deal with allies and adversaries. Shortly after the election, Trump tweeted “just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!” Not a ringing endorsement of free speech.

Later he complimented the demonstrators on their “passion for our great country.” Is Trump becoming a politician? We’ll see.

One thing that is hard to see is the restoration of the coal industry, one of Trump’s big campaign promises. It is not government regulations that hurt coal; it is economics. Just as battleships shifted from coal to oil, coal must compete with even cheaper oil and gas industries. The strong dollar and low-cost competitors reduce the U.S. export market. Even the coal industry is giving up on miners. That’s why the industry is turning to chopping the tops off mountains. This approach needs fewer miners. Western coal is cheaper than eastern coal for the same reason.

The massive coal dust explosion at the West Virginia Upper Big Branch coal mine in April 2010 killed 29 miners. Before this explosion, federal regulators cited the mine for dozens of safety violations. When the boss cuts corners on safety to save money, you know you are in a dying industry.

As sympathetic as we may be to them, miners voting for Trump won’t bring back the coal industry in the east. They would be better advised to go to North Dakota and protest the oil and gas pipelines. That industry, combined with wind and solar, is what threatens their livelihoods.

Looking at how the transition is unfolding, a conservative foreign policy insider wrote, “one bad boss can be endured. A gaggle of them will poison all decision making.” He advises that people of talent and experience should not volunteer to serve in this administration. No living president supported Trump; top elected Republicans did not endorse him. Watching the transition will be interesting.

Looking at the consequences of this election, I’m reminded of my mother’s voice saying, “Be careful of what you wish for…

David Reuther is a retired Foreign Service officer with service in Asia and the Middle East. He is a member of the Culpeper Democratic Committee.

 Editors Note: this article is reposted with the author’s permission, and originally appeared here.

 

THE ELECTION AND LIVING IN TRUMP’S AMERICA

Thanks to all the Democratic supporters and voters who came out on Tuesday to vote and who helped add Virginia to the states that supported Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine.

Eileen Bedell ran a great campaign for Congress and we thank her for doing that very hard work and making the personal sacrifice to be a Congressional Candidate.  She made a good showing and got almost 37% of Louisa’s votes.

I also want to thank our Electoral Board members, Patty Driskill,  Larry Lewis and Andi Gilmer,  along with Registrar Cris Watkins and her staff, for the hard work and preparation they put into making this a relatively uneventful and smooth election.

Sheriff Fortune and his deputies patrolled the polls and made sure that it was a peaceful election.  We are grateful for your service.

The election is over. Many things will change over the next four years with a Trump presidency. Trump campaigned on many of these issues so we can count on real changes for Americans.

We can count on over 20 million people losing their healthcare when the Affordable Care Act is repealed.  That is a staggering number of uninsured Americans.  The EPA mandate for state Clean Power Plans which President Obama authorized will be withdrawn.  Coal and oil production, along with the warming of the planet, will accelerate.  Look out for major changes to climate in the next five years. In fact, the EPA will be defunded if not eliminated entirely by Trump.

The Republican Congress and President will most likely privatize Social Security and Medicare.  This has been a Republican goal for decades.

Dodd-Frank is dead and, along with that, any meaningful regulation of Wall Street.

Any kind of college debt alleviation has been delayed for at least four years.  After all, our president-elect himself ran a fake university so what does he care about student debt?

The Paris Climate Accord and the Iran Nuclear Deal are binding international treaties, but they can be obstructed and defunded, rendering America’s leadership meaningless.  Will Trump follow through on his NATO promises? Will he re-ally America with the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East and Russia? It remains to be seen.  It looks like a volatile and unstable period for global politics because of this election.

Many people see a boost to the economy.  Large tax cuts to for the wealthy (trickle down) never worked.  In fact, under George W. Bush, we lost many jobs. Bringing manufacturing back to the U.S. will be next to impossible.  Any tariff increases will have to go through the Republican Congress which has long favored outsourcing of jobs to save big corporations money.

Rebuilding our infrastructure, which Obama has tried to do for 8 years, is unlikely to happen.  Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has already said that it will not be a priority for the Senate Republicans.  Trump can’t make it happen without Congress.

I can’t even imagine what the next very conservative Supreme Court will do to dismantle our rights. I am certain that a woman’s right to choose will be gone in the next two years. I am just as certain that conservatives will take another run at further gutting the Voting Rights Act, to preserve their majority.

One more thing, the deficit will increase hugely under Trump as it has under every other Republican president, including Reagan and Bush.  Cutting taxes and increasing spending has never been a successful deficit reduction strategy.

God help us all.

JoAnna Hickman

Editors Note: This letter appeared in the 11-17-16 edition of the Central Virginian, and is only available online to paid subscribers.

Vote for Eileen Bedell and against chaos

Elections have consequences. Our futures and those of our children and grandchildren are at stake this week. Picking our leaders is serious business. If you want to live in the kind of fear-based world that Donald Trump, Dave Brat and their ilk obviously relish, then don’t bother to vote on Nov. 8—you’ll get your wish.

This will be a world in which the president of the United States has a higher opinion of Vladimir Putin than he does of our own American generals and admirals. He has no respect for our veterans, their sacrifices or their families. In the words of a retired Foreign Service officer writing in the American Foreign Service Association Open Forum, “He relies on affect and emotion of a crypto-fascist kind — especially on encouragement of white racial backlash, misogyny, nativism, and a neo-isolationist attitude toward United States involvement in the world.”

Here is someone with no experience, who tweets at three o’clock in the morning, who has no patience, no sophistication and no background on the issues or the processes. And you see this man, with his deep narcissism and his erratic and impulsive character, as fit for the presidency of the greatest democracy in the world? Need an education? Sign up for Trump University — he’s the expert — New York State will undoubtedly indict him for fraud immediately after the election.

He has promised to jail his challenger, just like any third world dictator would do. Trump says, trust me, I can close the deal, I know all the angles, I’m the only one who can fix everything. Really? This past Thursday’s Washington Post editorial stated unequivocally that Trump is a danger to the Republic. “Only by forgetting or ignoring what he has told us could Americans decide otherwise.”

This will be a world in which our roads and bridges continue to crumble, alarming increases in global warming will endanger the planet, and adventurist wars will continue unabated.

With Trump’s finger on the button, the threat of a nuclear holocaust will be the highest in our lifetimes. The futures of generations to follow will be very dark indeed. Republicans have proved during the past eight years that they care nothing about these issues. A President Trump would only exacerbate these problems. Is this the future you want?

This will be a world where women continue to be second-class citizens, along with every other kind of ethnic, social and religious minority, because the Republican presidential candidate is a vile, racist, bigoted misogynist, by his own words and actions. He’s being sued for raping a 13-year-old. Women head many households, but Republicans oppose equal pay for equal work. More importantly, they have taken women’s most important personal health decisions and politicized them. Republican activists have gone to jail for faked videos critical of Planned Parenthood. Republican state legislatures have voted to defund it or legislate its facilities out of existence.

Trump himself has said a woman should be punished for having an abortion. States have turned a woman’s most intimate medical issues into a three-ring circus where doctors are legislated to perform unnecessary vaginal ultrasounds, or to read medically inaccurate and scary scripts to patients. Republicans bray about government overreach, yet they are eager to legislate themselves into women’s wombs. A man, unless he’s a woman’s doctor, should have nothing to say about her health decisions except in the privacy of loving relationships — period.

There is an alternative. Whatever one thinks of email mismanagement, Trump’s opponent has 30 years of domestic and foreign policy experience, traveling all over the nation and the world talking and negotiating with other leaders at every level. Do you want a president who knows what she is doing or one who is inexperienced and clueless about the workings of the world around him? Do your own fact-checking of what you see and hear in the news. The truth is not hard to find. Here’s one good place to start.

The down-ballot contest here in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District is enormously important because it could help “flip the House” and break the gridlock in Washington by ending the Republican obstructionist stranglehold on the Congress. The race pits challenger Eileen Bedell against incumbent Dave Brat.

There are significant differences between these two candidates, as well.

Eileen, born and raised in Virginia, is an enthusiastic campaigner who has crisscrossed the district talking about issues and solutions. Eileen is a successful attorney who concerns herself with people’s problems every day. She is a small business person who has helped many other small businesses tackle regulatory and other problems. She knows what the world looks like from where it is being lived. She has met a payroll. Brat has none of these qualifications. Her website includes extensive discussion of the problems and issues and her approach to solving them. Check it out: www.bedellforvirginia.com.

Brat is in hiding. He refuses to debate, just like his predecessor, Eric Cantor, whom he excoriated for not debating. He’s been on salary all his life. You won’t find anything of substance on his website—just empty promises about how he’s “working”—whatever that means. If you read his self-serving book, “American Underdog,” perhaps a signed copy obtained on one of his recent book tours, you quickly see he is not a genuine economist—he’s preaching his own weird theoretical economic nonsense.

He is a tea party celebrity because he is a pain to the Republican establishment but he has no credibility with his peers and no clout. He is part of a shrinking minority because voters in other states have realized that the Freedom Caucus is not representing constituent interests, but only its extreme right wing ideology. He is anti-business. He misstates cause and effect in the economic world. He writes that companies use regulations to reduce competition and destroy the free market. He labels lobbyists as “socialists” but sees no need to regulate monopolies for the benefit of the community. He has accomplished exactly nothing during his two years in Congress except the renaming of an arboretum in Richmond.

We look for the best qualities in our political leaders, and elections give us the opportunity to select them. Eileen Bedell and Hillary Clinton will be calm and analytical, patient and deliberate. They have the experience, poise and leadership that will inspire confidence, not inflame cynicism or promote conspiracy theories. They will uphold the ideals of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution and work hard to uplift every single one of “We the People.” Donald Trump and Dave Brat will do none of those things because they are nothing but liars and con artists who have little interest in America’s democratic heritage.

Voters in Culpeper and the 7th Congressional District finally have a chance to vote for their own best self-interests by putting well-qualified women in charge of government—and it’s about damn time. Don’t stay home because you’re angry, complacent or discouraged. Get out and vote for Eileen Bedell and Hillary Clinton.

Mike McClary

Editor’s note: reprinted with author’s permission, and appearing here.

 

 

Renewed Hope

After reading this recent overview of the 7th CD race in the Culpeper Star Exponent, I was surprised to discover how far back into history one had go in order to find a time when the people of the 7th CD were actually represented in Congress.  Not since before, Eric Cantor, but since the mid 80’s.

And if the people of the 7th CD elect Eileen Bedell as their next Congresswoman they will have their first real representation in over three decades.

That being said, I have to take exception to Ms. Fluffer’s…I mean Champion’s false equivalency journalism. Where other than a few selected quotes, most of her article appears to have been cut and pasted directly from the candidate’s web and Facebook pages, and where all their positions have “equal” value.

When if fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

And while I have no fundamental objection to 3rd or 4th party candidates running for office, and wish them every success in promoting a more progressive narrative in the political arena, I would question Mr. Kirk’s last minute entry into this race.

The Green & Libertarian Party’s inability to promote candidates from the grass roots up, rather than from the top down has always been a major impediment to their success. Perhaps if they started fielding candidates for local offices; such as the school board, or Board of Supervisors before jumping directly to larger stages, they might find their level of support would rise above  1-2% of voters .

But when it comes to covering someone as cravenly duplicitous as Brat, Ms. Champion’s brand of stenographic reporting does not inform the CSE’s readers, it allows his misrepresntations and lies to go unchecked.

Take for example, Brat’s claim that he has a “solid relationship with all of colleagues in Congress,”  it’s simply not true. Even his fellow Republicans call him “Virginia’s most useless Congressman.”

He along with many of his fellow Freedom Caucus members, are  bomb throwing anarchists,  determined to reduce our representative government down to a small enough size where they won’t just “drown it in the bathtub,” but to completely remold it in their benefactors favor.

His calling someone as ethically challenged as Drumpf a “true change candidate” who he supports 100%, is just one part of his Manchurian recipe for ensuring that Congress remains as unaccountable as possible. And while his grandiose brand of Judeo-Christian free market philosophy plays well with his weak minded base.

It doesn’t change the fact that his proposal would do nothing to increase economic growth, nor will they reduce any deficits. Like Cantor before him, Brat’s notions of responsible governance are little removed from “nice place you got here, shame if something were to happen to it.”

Eileen Bedell is the first Democrat running in the 7th District who has the courage to call out the Republicans and Brat’s hubris for what it really is … “Nuts

And unlike the xenophobic dog whistle commercials Brat uses to whip up his intellectually incurious base into a fearful frenzy , Eileen Bedell offers more than baseless scapegoating.  She offers workable ideas which would address pressing issues, and help fix our broken Congress.

Now that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Party of Virginia have teamed up to help finance her campaign, we just may have our first real representation in Congress.

Brat has nothing to offer the people of the 7th CD, and the only way he can remain in office is to run out the clock, avoiding being seen in public with, or debating Eileen Bedell, counting on the local media being too lazy to question his positions, lest his chicanery be exposed.

Jon Taylor

Editors Note: This post has been modified for readability from the authors Facebook commentary on this article.