Just a reminder that we'll be here tonight liveblogging the final presidential debate.
As always, your presence and participation are encouraged!
Seems ACORN isn't the only organization that's had trouble with contractors submitting fraudulent voter registrations.
Faked names on voter registration forms. Error rates as high as 60 percent. Firing the people responsible for these errors. Investigations launched by local and state police. Sound familiar? This is not ACORN in the 2008 election's final days.
This is the California Republican Party and its contractors in 2006, when the same problems that are now dogging ACORN and providing political fodder for GOP attacks plagued an effort by California Republicans to register 750,000 people.
The details were all spelled out in a series of Los Angeles Times stories, which quoted former California Democratic Party Chairman Art Torres saying these kinds of errors are inevitable "when you use private vendors." Even the state's top election official in 2006, Republican Bruce McPherson, was forced to investigate his own party's actions.
Drew mentioned earlier today that "voter fraud is an almost entirely synthetic issue, cooked up as an excuse to push restrictive voter ID laws." One of the chefs: Karl Rove. (I'm sure you're shocked!)
Via Talking Points Memo comes a video from last year in which Rove talks about voter fraud being "a real problem" that's "not going away":
And did you know that all this is tied to the U.S. attorney firing scandal that came to light last year? Of several districts where Rove claims rampant fraud is taking place, three were districts in which U.S. attorneys got in trouble with the White House — and were subsequently fired — for not bringing enough prosecutions over voter fraud.
Fraud which, as the Brennan Center for Justice has found, "is actually less likely to occur than lightning striking a person."
Ezra Klein points out how the right is using the ACORN pseudo-scandal to undermine the Obama presidency – before the election has even taken place.
It's worth being very clear about what's happening here. It looks like Barack Obama is going to win the election. A directive has been sent down at Fox News that their shows should begin pushing a narrative that the election was stolen for Barack Obama by a group illegally registering poor minorities. In other words, Fox News is working to convince its viewers that the black guy won because a lot of black people voted illegally. Charming.
Having (possibly? momentarily?) decided to back away from the anti-Obama character attacks that we thought we'd see over the last weeks of the campaign, the McCain campaign is now pushing the idea that the race is going to decided by voter fraud committed by the voter registration group ACORN.
To use a favorite word of a certain vice presidential candidate, that's pure malarkey.
As People For has often pointed out in the past, voter fraud is an almost entirely synthetic issue, cooked up as an excuse to push restrictive voter ID laws. (Voter ID laws, of course, lower turnout among communities of color, the elderly, students, and working class voters.)
In response to the accusations, ACORN has created a useful fact sheet which contains some surprisingly interesting information.
Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.
Fact: ACORN flags in writing incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in. Unfortunately, some of these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards. In many cases, we can actually prove that these are the same cards we called to their attention.
The politics of Karl Rove are alive and well! As we near Election Day, we're seeing more smears and attempts at character assassination. The combination of win-at-all-costs politics and the growing financial crisis makes me nervous, because economic hardship has historically provided fertile ground for scapegoating vulnerable people.
People For is working hard to expose, refute, and defuse the kind of dangerous demagoguery the Right is pumping out. A number of pundits have blamed the housing market crash and subsequent drop in people's retirement savings on minority homebuyers who can no longer afford their predatory mortgages. They're trying to stir racial resentment and bigotry among voters who may already be uncertain about casting a vote for a black presidential candidate. The same candidate is falsely portrayed as a subversive Muslim extremist. Sarah Palin this week went so far as to accuse Barack Obama of "pallin' around with terrorists."
Sadly, these attacks work at whipping some people into a hateful frenzy. There were media reports, which were apparently serious enough that the Secret Service launched a threat investigation, that at that same speech Palin made her "terrorist" comment, a member of the crowd shouted "kill him" and another one yelled "treason" loud enough to be picked up by TV mics. It was unclear whether "kill him" was directed at Obama or William Ayers, to whom Palin was referring, but it really doesn't matter.
All of this shows what we are up against, and it shows that real progress means changing the culture as well as public policy. One of the main reasons I came to People For was that it wages the struggle for the heart and soul of America as fiercely as it fights for progressive policies. Two specific ways we'll do both are 1. winning at the ballot box, and 2. by sustaining a movement.
Winning at the polls: People For the American Way Voters Alliance is funding 24 progressive House candidates (all but one challengers) in close races against right-wing opponents in a very strategic way. The Voters Alliance issued a challenge on its ActBlue page pledging an additional $3,000 to the candidate who raises the most on that page by October 15. This encourages blogs to drive traffic to the site to support their favorite candidate, and it encourages the candidates to do the same for themselves (and it gives them the opportunity to ask for support in a different way). The page has already raised over $50,000!!! (Please consider a contribution to one or several of these great candidates and to the Voters Alliance, and spread the word!)
Sustaining the movement: People For the American Way Action Fund is using ActBlue to build the progressive movement's farm team by funding a group of bright young candidates for state and local office. The Right has engaged in similar efforts for decades — Sarah Palin is actually a graduate of GOPAC, the Right's primary candidate recruitment and training program. People For's Action Fund is running ads voiced by Rachael Maddow on Air America Radio starting next week in support of young progressives. Check out these candidates and again, consider a contribution (in these state and local races, a little bit can really go a long way).
THAT'S building progressive power.
Thanks to those of you who wrote in response to last week's note for the very warm and supportive e-mails. Keep the great feedback coming! E-mail me at Kathryn@pfaw.org.
Radar magazine has a great interview this week with Linda Greenhouse, who recently retired after 30 years of covering the Supreme Court for The New York Times.
It's a long, wide-ranging interview, so I'd recommend reading the whole thing, but here's one of the best bits: Greenhouse talking about the Court's power to make the world better — particularly in terms of advancing gay rights. She refers here to the Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas to strike down a law that essentially made it a crime to be gay.
I talk about gay rights quite a lot as a marker of how much better off we are. I believe that very strongly. I think that was probably the most gripping scene I ever witnessed at the Court—when Kennedy read the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas. Usually, when you go up to the Court, you don't know what's coming that day. But it was the last day of the term, and Lawrence was the last undecided case. So everybody knew, and the Court was filled with gay and lesbian members of the Supreme Court bar. When Kennedy got to where he said Bowers v. Hardwick was wrong when it was decided, it's wrong today, and we hereby overrule it, all these lawyers in the bar section started crying. It was just a wonderful scene. It was great.
Judith Schaeffer, our former legal director, wrote a great reflection on Lawrence v. Texas this past June, on the five-year anniversary of the landmark decision. Read it here.
Break out the chilled champagne!
As you may have already heard, the Connecticut State Supreme Court today ruled that the state constitution prohibits marriage discrimination. That means that *gasp* same-sex couples will be treated like everyone else!
It is, of course, worth pointing out one really obvious fact that the right wing will no doubt conveniently forget.
The ruling does not affect church's decisions about which marriages to perform and which not to.
Please, repeat that statement whenever you hear someone talking about how this decision "infringes on religious liberty." (It doesn't.) Churches will always have final say over their own ceremonies.
You can read more about the myths surrounding this decision here.
Now where's that champagne?
If the stock market didn't give you enough heartburn today, check in on Dana Goldstein's rundown of the fight to stop discriminatory anti-marriage amendments. Many of these amendments will be close in the end, so take this as another reminder to get out and vote on Election Day, no matter what the Dow is doing by November.
The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza outlines John McCain’s latest kinda-sorta-maybe change in tactics (we can’t say “strategy” because at this point it’s unclear whether McCain ever had one.) Obama partisans are most likely very happy with the McCain campaign’s performance so far, but they might want to be careful what they wish for.
If you’re taking “the great schlep” or are just in conversation with friends and family members about the coming election, there’s a very revealing profile of Sen. John McCain in the current Rolling Stone: read it here.
Glen Greenwald has a thoughtful and interesting reaction to the conviction of a man who might generously be called a “smut purveyor.” After being found guilty of distributing pornography, the defendent, Paul Little, was sentenced to 3 years and 10 months in federal prison. It probably doesn’t hurt to point out that the line between obscenity and art isn’t always easy to find (paging Robert Mapplethorpe!) but Greenwald takes a very different tact. Why is it illegal to depict fake torture on film but legal to perpetrate real torture in Abu Ghraib?
So, to recap, in the Land of the Free: if you're an adult who produces a film using other consenting adults, for the entertainment of still other consenting adults, which merely depicts fictional acts of humiliation and degradation, the DOJ will prosecute you and send you to prison for years. The claim that no real pain was inflicted will be rejected; mere humiliation is enough to make you a criminal. But if government officials actually subject helpless detainees in their custody to extreme mental abuse, degradation, humiliation and even mock executions long considered "torture" in the entire civilized world, the DOJ will argue that they have acted with perfect legality and, just to be sure, Congress will hand them retroactive immunity for their conduct. That's how we prioritize criminality and arrange our value system.
Of course, consistency has never been one of the Bush administration’s strong suits. And neither has adherence to the Constitution.
It’s not as if we didn’t see this coming, but the ugliness is still shocking. McCain strategists, right-wing bloggers, and their Fox TV propaganda arm have decided that the only way to turn around the seriously slumping numbers for the McCain-Palin ticket is to knock aside discussion of the nation’s economic problems and focus on trying to destroy Barack Obama with charges that would make the Swift boaters blush. Pitbull Palin is at the forefront, beaming broadly while telling crowds that Obama thinks the nation is so imperfect that he’s willing to pal around with terrorists.
The portrayal by Palin, Sean Hannity, and others of Obama’s relationship to William Ayers is so dishonest, so dishonorable, and so disgusting that it’s hard to imagine where things will go over the next four weeks. Actually, it’s not so hard -- we can get a pretty good idea, based on the other elements of the new smear campaign: Obama’s criticism of war-fighting strategy in Afghanistan is misrepresented as a disrespectful attack on our troops, and Palin repeats the bogus charge that he voted to “defund” the troops – even though by the Mc-Palin team’s rationale, the exact same thing could be said of McCain’s Senate votes.
Over the past couple of days, news reports have documented people in the GOP ticket’s audiences shouting “kill him” and “treason” – and telling a black cameraman, “sit down, boy.” If there’s any worry within McPalin’s team about unleashing this kind of ugliness and hatred, there’s no sign of it on the candidates’ smiling faces. They seem to be fully embracing the savagery of the Bush campaign team’s win-at-all-costs tactics, which took McCain down in 2000. And McCain, who has tried so hard and for so long to make his name synonymous with honor, has now welcomed the perpetrators of that dishonorable campaign onto this team and demonstrated his willingness to say and do anything to win his final run at the White House.
John McCain and Barack Obama will meet in Nashville tonight for the second presidential debate -- and you know what that means. Debate games! Get your McCain Bingo here, courtesy Dan Vera, a friend of People For.
And as with the first presidential debate and the VP debate, we'll be liveblogging tonight's proceedings. Join us and submit your thoughts during the debate through the commenting feature.
In case you didn't see, our president, Kathryn Kolbert, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times yesterday:
Some advocates worry that the perennial cries of "Roe is falling" has had the effect of muting such claims.
"What we find scary is that people don't understand what's at stake," said Kathryn Kolbert, president of People for the American Way. "In the next four years, one to as many as three Supreme Court justices may step down, and they all will come from the liberal end of the court."
It is absolutely critical that voters understand that the Supreme Court is on the ballot this Election Day. The kind of judges the next president will nominate to the Court will determine its direction for decades.