Our society was founded on these self-evident truths as much as any other. Words with much meaning. Recently we have seen actions by our government that challenge this constitutional model. Starting with the recent era of money-in-politics and corporate personhood, we have seen a long list of behaviors by our elected officials that certainly does not feel right. Recent legislative events in Texas and North Carolina shine a light on this disconnect as much as anything else going on.
Democrats and Republicans
Where does it say in the Constitution that we must accept these two parties as our choices to govern? Where does it say in our election laws that these two parties get to decide who is allowed to be part of the debate process during the election? Where in the Constitution does it say that private corporations get to decide who participates in the election debates? Nowhere. Could this be part of the problem behind the current uncomfortable relationship between citizen and elected?
I am proud to be working with Christina Tobin, tonight's guest. She is the Founder and Chair of the Free & Equal Elections Foundation, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, organization dedicated to creating open and transparent elections that give power back to the individual voter.
Christina and Free and Equal are continuing the work of breaking up the two party duopoly we are now living with. The United We Stand Fest on October 12 in Los Angeles will kick off the Free and Equal campaign for change.
Tobin started her career as a non-partisan ballot access coordinator. An expert in defending signatures and coordinating petition drives, Tobin helped gather and defend over 1 million signatures for the Green Party, Constitution Party, Republican Party, Democratic Party, Libertarian Party, Socialist Equality Party and independents.
In 2008, Tobin served as Ralph Nader’s national ballot access coordinator helping to collect more than 500,000 signatures to put Ralph Nader on the District of Columbia and 45 state ballots, more than any other third party or independent candidate.
Tobin’s recent activities have emphasized electoral reform and bringing visibility to alternative candidates. In 2008, she organized debates for the presidential and vice presidential candidates, and in 2010; Tobin organized a series of debates for the Illinois gubernatorial candidates. Tobin also ran as the Libertarian Party candidate for California Secretary of State in 2010. Most recently, Tobin co-moderated the 2012 Presidential debate with media personality Larry King on October 23. The debate provided a venue for four U.S. presidential candidates from the Constitution, Green, Justice, and Libertarian parties to address topics that the mainstream debates censored, drawing worldwide attention to our two-party-dominated electoral system.
Where the heck is main stream media? There are huge demonstrations in Texas and North Carolina, but listening to NPR this morning, there was NOTHING mentioned about the pending legislation in Texas and North Carolina, as our rights are being skillfully dismantled by new legislators that have been sponsored by wealthy special interests with specific agendas. You may be asking, what are you talking about?
In North Carolina, where the GOP won a super majority and the governorship in 2012: “In the last year, Republicans have eliminated the “racial justice” appeal to the death penalty, cut unemployment benefits, opted out of the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, repealed the state’s earned income tax credit and put a same-sex marriage ban on the state ballot. Just last week, abortion restrictions were added to the litany, when the Senate unexpectedly passed new rules for abortion clinics. The GOP also has pushed to expand charter schools and taken steps to allow hydraulic fracturing.” Source
In Texas, a courageous filibuster by State Senator Wendy Davis, will be for naught this week. Davis has admitted that the anti-abortion bill, reintroduced in another special session called by Governor Rick Perry, will likely pass and become law. This will force the closure of most women’s clinics, leaving 5 locations where abortions may be performed in the entire state. This is NOT in the interests of women’s health. It IS in the interests of both parties building their war chests and ground games for the 2014 and 2016 elections. Regardless of your position on abortion, the process of how this legislation has come to be must be examined.
Make no mistake: Coffee Party is speaking to the political process we are witnessing, and the root causes of this drastic, regressive legislation. We are a stand for civil liberties and for transparent due process. But what we are seeing these days is what Jeanene calls “smarty pants political gaming” where the elected become marionettes and big campaign donors have become the puppeteers, emboldened by gerrymandering and control of the media.
This country is submerged in legislation that does not reflect the will of the people. We always follow the money, and in this case it tracks back to crony capitalism and the eventual privatization of women’s reproductive care, going the way of education, military and prisons. Our elected have become cash puppets, and we need to save them: #FreeTheElected.
Coffee Party has member boots on the ground in Austin and Raleigh, documenting the citizen response to the surge of bills aimed at dismantling and privatizing government services in those states and across America. Eric Byler and Egberto Willies will share their experience with you.
Also joining us is Linda Young, President of National Women’s Political Caucus, an organization dedicated to electing pro-choice women. Linda is based in Austin, TX, at the center of the Texas melee.
Tonight, the Middle Ground welcomes back co-host Michael Charney for a discussion on Democracy Inaction—and, no, that’s not a typo…
Both Michael and Eric have been wondering lately about what’s happened to our democracy. It seems that some wish to use it as bludgeon in order to force their beliefs on others. In North Carolina, for example, the state legislature has taken a stance that can only be thought of as oppressive. Meanwhile, across the globe, Americans respond with fitful stares as democracy suffers birth pains and false starts in places long unused to voting booths and freedoms. Those responses aren’t always without agenda, either, as too many choose to redefine democracy to mean just what they want it to mean…
Michael’s written on the topic here and, as you can see, is both puzzled and anguished at what he sees.
Tonight, on the Middle Ground, we invite you to Call In and tell us what you think. Is Democracy working? If so, where? And does it even mean what we want it to mean anymore?
Join co-hosts Eric Byler and Michael Charney for an hour of civil conversation on the topic: How do we go from Democracy Inaction to Democracy, In Action?
As we again celebrated the birth of our nation it occurred to me that we are at an important time in our history as a free people and citizens; it is once again up to us to make sure our government works for our betterment. As I do a roll call of the important issues we are dealing with in our society:
Money in Politics
2011 and 2012 N.D.A.A.
Restrictive legislation and gerrymandering attacking voting rights,
Drone warfare and surveillance
Due process and equal protection being removed by way of legislative acts like the Patriot Act
Legislation and policy specifically attacking women's privacy rights
All the recent revelations of the NSA, and
The deceptive practices of our media not keeping us fully informed about these and other issues
I find it necessary to remind us on how important it is to be an active activist. Two guests tonight will talk about what inspired them to "do something about it."
Dan Johnson is 20 years old, an Eagle Scout, and has been recognized as one of the top 30 impromptu speakers in the United States. He is a Political Science Major at Bowling Green State University, and speaks a moderate amount of Japanese. He was always interested in politics, and was appalled when he saw the direction our country was heading in.
His wake-up call was watching a video on the NDAA in November. After doing further research, in late January, he founded PANDA (People Against the National Defense authorization Act). PANDA is supported by groups across the political spectrum, and is now one of the fastest growing liberty movements in the nation; with over 30 state teams across the country.
Recognized by many as an upcoming expert on the subjects of Liberty vs. National Security, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the 2001 AUMF, and the gradual slide toward an American Police State, Dan Johnson has spoken at the Northwest Ohio Conservative Conference, the Oathkeepers Midwest Regional Conference and P.A.U.L. Fest, writes for many online publications including the Huffington Post, Policy Mic, and Western Journalism and has been interviewed on multiple radio shows including Coast to Coast AM, Liberty Roundtable, and Red Ice Radio. (Not to mention Lunch with Louden.)
Matthew Munk was born in 1995 and was raised by a single mom. Matthew's father was an alcoholic, and his mother was left to work long hours to make ends meet. While this may seem cliché, it's true. For most of his childhood, Matthew spent a lot of time with both of his grandparents, or at his mother's place of work. In essence Matthew Munk's life has been an epitome of the African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child."
Following a series of death threats from his mother's mentally ill boyfriend, Matthew was looking for a change. In the spring of 2011, Matthew was a panelist for a marriage equality forum sponsored by The United Methodist Church, where he met Mark Patro. Mark, Matthew and three others met following the panel and developed what would become the The Esimorp Coalition.
Esimorp (which stands for Empowering Successful, Innovative, Movements Organized to Redistribute Power) is a community organizing group based in Baltimore, and looking to expand around the country and world. Matthew's term as Lead Organizer of Esimorp - Baltimore will expire this August, but he will continue to stay on as Esimorp's National Chief Organizer, to oversee its growth. The Esimorp Coalition employs an organizing model based on small group development, insofar as to use relationship building as a key to effectuating social, economic, and environmental change.
In 2013, Matthew has collaborated with organizers, many of whom were former Esimorp organizers across the United States to develop a collection of community organizing projects organized around the same values and approaches of Esimorp, but with a larger appeal and potential to growth. So far this process has hit the ground running and within a matter of months there will be organizing projects in Arizona, Atlanta, Houston, Baltimore, Delaware, Southern Maryland, Western Maryland, Providence, and Baltimore.
What a week! Don't you feel like you've been on a roller coaster? Up one day, down the next? Or perhaps, down one day and up the next? How do we get off this ride? Or perhaps we've become addicted to the adrenalin?
The Supreme Court biggies include:
sent voters protections from the civil rights era back to Congress for a rewrite;
refused to hear the California Proposition 8 challenge against gay marriage;
struck down the Orwellian Defense of Marriage Act;
and sent college affirmative action challenge back to the Texas courts.
Speaking of Texas, the filibuster of the century blocked more anti choice legislation, which would have closed 37 of 42 women’s health clinics in the state.
And President Obama gave us a clue that he would up his fight for environmental protection under the right circumstances.
So...where do we start? Where do we go from here? Is there an end game to all of this? Or just more partisan wrangling...setting up the fundraising game for 2014?
Posted by Eric Byler · June 25, 2013 11:49 AM
· 12 reactions
Since the 2008 election, the Supreme Court has issued two mammoth decrees that impact our democracy. On Jan. 21, 2010, Citizens United radically expanded the influence of money on elections, and today's 5-4 decision to undermine The Voting Rights Act of 1965 will radically curtail the influence of People on elections.
The Moral Monday protests in North Carolina provide a glimpse of what could spread throughout the nation if lawmakers continue to follow the Supreme Court's agenda: less power for People, more power for profiteers.
Many are saying after today's ruling that the Civil Rights Movement must begin again. If so, it is already well under way down here.
My take: Five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court may think they are doing the Republican Party a favor with today's ruling that essentially neutralizes the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. But, voter suppression and "Rebranding the Republican Party" are incompatible. It's an either/or situation, and, this ruling will make it so much more tempting for the GOP to pursue the former rather than the latter.
I share in common with "moderate Republicans" a view that the GOP urgently needs a long-term retooling in order to appeal to a 21st century electorate — an electorate that is already too diverse for the divide and conquer tactics of days gone by, and one that is increasingly connected to the Internet, and thus less susceptible to the high-dollar television and radio advertising that both parties rely upon today. Soon, if your party agenda represents the interests of your donors and not your constituents, no amount of race baiting, and, no amount of political advertising, not even 24/7 political advertising disguised as "news," will convince us otherwise.
But in the short term, voter suppression combined with big money can keep the Republican party competitive — if not at the national level, at the state and local level, and in the U.S. House of Representatives, whose districts are drawn by state governments. And herein lies the problem, too many politicians and paid consultants are involved in government primarily to enrich themselves. To do that, they need to be in power now. The long-term viability of the Republican party is not their problem, by then they will be lobbyists pulling down 7 figure salaries.
Take a look at the new voting laws being proposed by the North Carolina legislature, who, despite rapidly shifting demographics, have been afforded a "last stand" opportunity to warp the electoral process thanks to grotesque, race-based gerrymandering that packed African Americans, and the diverse communities in which they reside, into a minimum number of districts:
Laws that seek to limit voter participation have been found mostly in swing states (Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania) in recent years — spurred, many argue, by the election of Barack Obama in 2008. In many cases, these laws have helped the Republican party. They also helped Justice Roberts argue that it's no longer fair to apply the pre-clearence provision to states in the South, by and large, but not in the north.
The Republicans on the Supreme Court believe they are doing their party a favor by unleashing a deluge of laws that will impact voting rights and overwhelm the courts — especially since all such laws will have to go into effect first, and then be challenged after harm can be shown, rather than being blocked before they are implemented in jurisdictions covered under section 5.
Laws that limit minority voter participation will impact elections in the short term. But, while an aging, shrinking consumer base for Republican entertainment programs will be convinced that it is perfectly okay to disenfranchise minority communities in order to win elections, a growing majority of Americans know voter suppression when we see it. And, we don't like it.
The danger for the Republican party is that they will constantly find themselves grappling with potential voting restriction laws, not unlike the wave of anti-immigrant laws that followed what seemed like an anti-immigrant electioneering bonanza courtesy of Lou Dobbs, CNN, Fox News and others. Anti-immigrant electioneering backfired, and so will this.
The GOP cannot rebrand itself by putting yet another divisive issue front and center, and being forced by their base to take a backward-looking, racially insensitive stance. They can survive, and might even have some modest gains with this tactic during the next few years — when trimming off a percentage of the minority vote will still be enough thanks to the block vote of the Fox News audience (white, over 70). But how long can a voting block that is over 70 maintain its influence, with another crop of diverse, mixed race, and multi-cultural Americans turning 18 every year?
This might be a short term fix for the 2014 election. Voting restrictions will also help in Virginia in 2013. But the narrative that flows from on-going battles over voting rights will accelerate the speed at which Republicans lose the white, under-70 vote, starting with women and independents.
And, based on the strategy we’ve seen executed by the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, the voting rights narrative will flow “like a mighty stream.” Compare the crowds in the video at the top of this post to those you see in the first video we did about the Moral Monday movement for Story of America:
A movement is growing in North Carolina, and it's powered by People, not profiteers.
Below, we interview the attorney who led the defense of the Voting Rights Act before the Supreme Court earlier this year:
Our Founders envisioned a new world where the rights of individuals was respected and valued. At the time of the writing of the founding documents, our Declaration of Independence and Constitution including the Bill of Rights were written with thinking that was advanced for the average person of the time.
And we’ve grown to be a society that our Founders foresaw. We’ve also developed new conditions and challenges that are beyond the imagination of our Founders. If we were writing such documents today, what advanced thinking could we offer to grow into next? Are we brave enough to envision something new? And then go for it?
Are we a civil society or are we just a marketplace? The power of money-in-politics appears to be driving us toward the latter. Freedom has come to mean “my way” and justice is usurped with legal loopholes.
Is freedom a conversation? Does it have a context? Where is the line between the good of the individual and the good of society? Where do you see the juxtaposition?
Join us today for a rip-roaring good time with your favorite story and opinion.
Tonight on The Middle Ground, I look forward to taking your calls on the domestic spying issue. Unlike the TV writers at Fox News, I remember grappling with this when the president was white and Republican. I have respect for those who remained consistent on the issue, no matter what side they land on. And, I have to laugh at Sean Hannity and other partisan performers for doing an about face. But the fact that we debated this controversy many years ago doesn't mean we got it right the first time. So my question to you is, Did we?
Once again I'll depend on you to let me know what's happening outside of the Old South. Our latest Story of America video release comes from Montgomery, AL. Chief Kevin Murphy told Annabel Park that police work in Montgomery, AL had faced "a wall of mistrust" from the community they serve, namely the African American community, due to abuses of power before and during the civil rights movement. His apology to Civil Rights hero Rep. John Lewis may help to change that. Annabel Park has the interview with Chief Murphy and his African American colleague, Chief John Brown.
As the news media scrambles to dramatize the leaks coming about the government’s level of surveillance over citizens and foreigners on U.S. soil, we want to ask the question, where were you all when the Patriot Act was passed? Or when the provisions added to National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allow detention of US Citizens without charge or counsel?
What’s the big story NOW? It’s been 11+ years since the Patriot Act and NDAA began the infringement on our privacy and civil liberties. Are we just waking up? Did a possible or perceived defection to China enrage us to the point where we may take action? Or are we too complacent and too afraid of terrorists? Personally, we’re more afraid of fascism.
Many have fought the Patriot Act since day one. Some of those people are on the Congressional committees that have oversight. Where was their support when it would have made a difference?
On Monday of this week, Eric Cantor was asked by Norah O’Donnell on CBS THIS MORNING if the surveillance under President Obama is worse than under President Bush, and his answer was “I don’t know”. To which Ms. O’Donnell replied, “why don’t you know?” This smacks of smoke and mirrors.
Is the NSA story really a story? Or is it more of the same? Is there something else you’d like to talk about? A penny for your thoughts? Please call in today with your story, your opinion. Of course, facts are more than welcome.
Last month, we started fundraising offering free Restaurant.com Gift Certificates equal to the amount you donated to fund FREE THE ELECTED. Many of you have asked, what are you doing with the money? The 535 Campaign, which envisions in-district voters in contact with every elected representative in the House and Senate needs up to $50,000 for online infrastructure. We are excited, but we are not waiting. We will work and recruit volunteers as we build. Thank you to everyone who is already participating.
Last month, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I) introduced an amendment to the Agriculture Reform, Jobs and Food Act of 2013 (aka Farm Bill) that would allow states to require labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food. It failed in the Senate, 71-27 (2 not voting).
What was surprising was the number of supporters of states rights and supporters of consumer information who voted AGAINST the bill. Included among the “nays” were Elizabeth Warren (MA-D), Sherrod Brown (OH-D), Al Franken (MN-D) and others.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (VT-I) said afterward that he would continue to push for Congress to make it clear that states may require the labels. The Vermont House passed a labeling bill in May, putting the state at the forefront of the effort. Similar legislation is pending this year in 26 other statehouses around the country. “The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what's in the food that they eat,” Sanders said.
Was this amendment a poison pill? Would there have been enough opposition to labeling GMOs to sink food stamps? farm subsidies? job seeking programs? We don’t know. But the House of Representatives has approved an amendment (Steve King, R-IA) that reject states authority that may require GMO labeling. And what is the will of the people? Do you want to know what is in your food?
According to the Organic Consumers Association, Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) have admitted privately that they've "lost the battle" to stop genetically engineered (GE) food labeling at the state level, now that states are aggressively moving forward on labeling laws. On May 14, Maine's House Ag Committee passed a GMO labeling law. On May 10, the Vermont House passed a labeling bill, 99-42, despite massive lobbying by Monsanto and threats to sue the state. And though Monsanto won a razor-thin victory (51 percent to 49 percent) in a costly, hard fought California GMO labeling ballot initiative last November, biotech and Big Food now realize that Washington State voters will likely pass I-522, an upcoming ballot initiative to label GE foods, on November 5. "If Monsanto can't stop states from passing laws, then the next step is a national preemptive measure," Cummins said. "And all signs point to just such a power grab."
This appears to be another showdown of money in politics trampling on states rights...and we’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share them with us on the show today...or in the comments below.