PEOPLE FOR BLOG

Change Doesn't Just Happen

With just over a week to go until the election, things are popping at People For. I want to let you know how we're using your support to make an impact on many fronts.

The Voters Alliance: Building Progressive Power

People For the American Way's federal political action committee is helping build a progressive majority in Congress. We were thrilled that an extremely successful online contest run by the Voters Alliance raised more than $130,000 for 24 progressive House candidates. And now the Voters Alliance is working with Oscar-winning director Errol Morris and volunteers from the award-winning advertising firm Chiat Day (of Apple fame) to create short but powerful online profiles of moderate voters who have decided that Obama has earned their vote. The spots are being digitally filmed and edited this week in time for a final pre-election push. I'll let you know when they're ready to watch online and forward to your friends.

Sounding the Alarm: The Court is at Stake

People For the American Way has succeeded in getting media and progressive candidates talking about the importance of the Supreme Court in this election. Now we're kicking it up a notch, with TV spots for Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Oregon, reminding voters that senators have hurt their interests by backing Bush's extreme judges. People For the American Way Action Fund has been running radio ads holding John McCain and other senators accountable for voting to confirm Bush's worst judicial nominees.

Confronting Homophobia and Anti-Gay Discrimination

In California, where the Right has stirred a vicious backlash against a state Supreme Court ruling protecting marriage equality, People For the American Way Foundation's African American Ministers Leadership Council has launched a radio ad campaign calling on African Americans to reject anti-gay discrimination. Check out the ads here. This work is part of a long-term effort to engage clergy and challenge homophobia in the Black Church and in African American communities. Rev. Kenneth Samuel, the courageous and inspiring head of AAMLC's Equal Justice Task Force, is on the ground in California now, and he'll be leading this groundbreaking effort to create social change in the months and years ahead.

Calling out the Promoters of Fear and Hatred

We're also challenging campaign tactics that are stirring up a dangerous brew of fear and bigotry. For example, when John McCain falsely accused a progressive voter registration group of trying to steal the election, its offices were barraged with hateful and threatening messages. We made it impossible to ignore this hostility and bigotry by posting images and audio of the actual messages online for the world to see. And with a full-page ad in the New York Times and other media outreach we have worked hard to help people understand that bogus charges of voter fraud are meant to give cover to the real threat to the election from right-wing voter suppression. Our Right Wing Watch blog has been all over the Religious Right's bigotry and fearmongering.

Overcoming Voter Suppression

People For the American Way Foundation's Democracy Campaign staff have been traveling the country training community organizers who are running election protection efforts and distributing in-depth, state-specific voter protection toolkits. With the help of SEIU, NAACP, NEA, Unity 08, Democracia Ahora and other partners, our Foundation has distributed more than 180,000 palm cards in key states to help voters understand and protect their rights. The Foundation is working with allies to recruit poll workers where they're sorely needed and will be distributing inexpensive video cameras to members who will document what happens on Election Day. There's no way to stop all the dirty tricks that the Right has in store, but People For Foundation has been working hard to put protections in place, and after the election it will work hard to figure out what went wrong this time, and fight for legal and regulatory fixes. Two New York Times editorials in the past week have confirmed that voter fraud is a myth and affirmed the importance of the Election Protection work the Foundation is doing to help voters understand and assert their rights.

Change is in the air, but as you know, it doesn't just happen. We all need to make it happen. With your help, we and our allies are going to change the country! Thanks so much for making it all possible.

PFAW

Remembering Paul Wellstone

It's hard to believe , but tomorrow will be the sixth anniversary of the death of Paul Wellstone, his beloved wife Sheila and daughter Marcia, as well as three exceptional and devoted staff members who were with the Wellstones on that fateful day. I was working for Paul as his chief counsel on the Senate Labor Subcommittee at the time and will be forever grateful that I had the chance to touch the soul of this exceptional man.  As Tom Daschle said so eloquently in a tribute to Paul on that awful day, "he was a gallant and passionate fighter, especially for the less fortunate."

Paul would love this election cycle - he would love the opportunity progressives have to make this a better country for all. And he would particularly love the energy and the passion of all of the young people who have become so engaged in this wonderful enterprise we call democracy.  Paul's formula for success was to combine grassroots organizing, with sound policy , with electoral politics -- and that's what we're seeing today.

This morning I needed to hear Paul's voice and found this great video from Wellstone Action. 

For the past six years I've carried around with me a button with one of Paul's favorite adages:  "The future will belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." 

Dream on - the future is now!

       

PFAW

U.S. Ranks 36th in Press Freedom Index

Reporters Without Borders released its annual Press Freedom Index today.

The good news: the United States moved up 12 points from last year. (A higher ranking indicates more press freedom.) The bad news: we're still only #36 out of the 173 countries indexed.

RWB explains in its methodology (found here as a PDF) that press freedom is measured by several factors, including the frequency with which journalists are murdered, imprisoned, or threatened; how often the news media is censored; whether those who infringe press freedoms tend to be punished for their actions; and the degree to which a country's press self-censors.

Here's RWB's explanation of why the U.S. did better this year, but still not well enough to write home about: 

The United States rose twelve places to 36th position. The release of Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj after six years in the Guantanamo Bay military base contributed to this improvement. Although the absence of a federal “shield law” means the confidentiality of sources is still threatened by federal courts, the number of journalists being subpoenaed or forced to reveal their sources has declined in recent months and none has been sent to prison. But the August 2007 murder of Oakland Post editor Chauncey Bailey in Oakland, California, is still unpunished a year later. The way the investigation into his murder has become enmeshed in local conflicts of interest and the lack of federal judicial intervention also help to explain why the United States did not get a higher ranking. Account was also taken of the many arrests of journalists during the Democratic and Republican conventions.

(via ThinkProgress)

PFAW

The Choice Is Clear

If you haven't already gotten a chance, be sure to read Joan Biskupic's article on the Supreme Court in today's USA Today, a good primer on the choice that voters face on Election Day.

The appointment of life-tenured judges can be an administration's most consequential legacy, as Obama and McCain observed in last week's debate. Five of the nine Supreme Court justices are age 70 or older, so a new president might have to make multiple appointments.

Because the court is tightly split over issues such as abortion rights, race-based policies and the handling of Guantanamo Bay detainees, even a change of one justice could alter the law across the nation for decades to come.

The article does contain one line of very generous understatement.

[Palin] has invoked God on public occasions and suggested she does not believe in a high wall to separate church and state.

I think that's a pretty safe inference.

The website also offers a fun little SCOTUS quiz.  (I don't mean to brag, but I aced it.)

PFAW

Mixed Poll Numbers in California

Nate Silver at 538 takes a look at poll numbers on California’s Prop 8 (the anti-marriage amendment on the ballot) and declares it a toss up.

While it would be nice if the polls were showing that no one in California wanted to write discrimination into the constitution, these numbers show a race that is definitely winnable, and should be a call to action for everyone who cares about equal rights for all people.
 
(And while we’re on the subject, a shout-out to our friends at No On 8, who have been working tirelessly to consign this amendment to the dustbin of history.)

 

PFAW

What's That on Page A7 of the New York Times?

We already mentioned that People For was taking out a full page ad in the New York Times.  Well, today it ran, and it's pretty cool.  The psuedo scandal seems to be getting a bit less media attention at the moment, but that doesn't mean that the right wing's campaign to supress the vote has gotten any less dangerous.

Anway, here's Laura holding the paper.  We're think it turned out pretty well!

Laura with paper

PFAW

Obama Endorsements and the Court

As the Editor & Publisher reported yesterday, Barack Obama is winning the race for newspaper endorsements in a landslide, 112-39.  Especially notable is the fact that at least 25 papers that supported Bush in 2004 have endorsed Obama this time around.

The Supreme Court consistently appears as one of the foremost concerns.

The Kansas City Star, a key swing state paper, touts a prospective Obama administration as a “safeguard for liberties”:

Obama wants judges who won’t favor the strong at the expense of the weak. He offers hope for a Supreme Court that would reject excessive executive power and protect precious freedoms.

The Santa Fe New Mexican writes:

At least as important is that we can also trust him to restore the credibility of our judiciary as vacancies occur at district and appellate levels, as well as at the Supreme Court. Civil liberties in particular, and justice in general, have suffered enormously in recent years.

Obama endorsers understand that the Supreme Court is on the ballot November 4th, and they understand the importance of repairing the damage done to the federal court system by the Bush administration.  Obama, if elected, will have a mandate to do just that.

PFAW

Voter Suppression and Intimidation

You've seen a lot on this site about the inflammatory campaign being waged by the McCain-Palin team and the RNC against ACORN.  It's a desperate political ploy to cast doubt on the integrity of the elections and to divert attention from the real problem:  voter suppression and intimidation  taking place across the country.  Check out this exccellent video from Brave New Films that tells this story.

And click here to read a letter from House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers and Subcommittee Chairs Jerrold Nadler and Linda Sanchez to Attorney General Mukasey and FBI Director Robert Mueller asking for assurances that "the full weight of the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation will be brought to bear" to protect the right to vote and the safety of citizens "who serve our democracy by educating, registering, and turning out voters."

PFAW

Everybody’s Voting Early!

Andrew Sullivan has notes from a few readers on their experiences at the polls.
 
Yesterday, DCist pointed out that in my own city (where we do have a vote for President but not *ahem* full representation in the House or Senate) turnout has also been heavy. 
 
And the AP has yet another rundown.
 
What conclusions can be drawn from this?  I have two. (1) Americans are getting used to early voting. (2) This election is going to be big. Really big.

PFAW

More Ugliness from the Right: Anti-Gay Sentiment in Campaign Literature

As we have documented in recent days, the approaching elections have, with an assist from the McCain campaign and GOP strategists, brought some real ugliness into the open, including outright racism. 

Of course, an election year would not be complete without overt and covert appeals to anti-gay sentiment from right-wing politicians.  It’s at its most overt in the anti-equality ballot campaigns in California, Florida, and Arizona, which are being massively funded by national Religious Right groups and Mormon donors. 

But it also shows up in appeals grounded in the favored language of family values.  Below you can see scans of a mailing for an Ohio State Representative candidate who announces, under the heading “Love of Family,” that “Michael Keenan will strengthen families by keeping marriage between a man and a woman.”

No word on how that strengthens Ohio families who might be dealing with lost jobs, slumping wages, lack of affordable health care, or any of the other difficulties that could put stress on marriages.  Thank goodness he’ll keep committed gay couples from the legal protections that marriage can provide!  Think how much that will strengthen Ohio’s struggling families!

Kennan Flyer Page 1

Kennan Flyer Page 2

PFAW

Palin Favors Federal Gay Marriage Ban

Via ThinkProgress comes news that Gov. Palin said in a recent CBN interview that she (unlike her running mate) is in favor amending the Constitution to make gay marriage illegal:

In Alaska, Palin said,

I have voted along with the vast majority of Alaskans who had the opportunity to vote to amend our Constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman. I wish on a federal level that that’s where we would go because I don’t support gay marriage. I’m not going to be out there judging individuals, sitting in a seat of judgment telling what they can and can’t do, should and should not do.

 TP's got the video here.

PFAW

What Do "Voter Fraud," Unicorns, and The Tooth Fairy Have in Common?

Answer: They don't actually exist -- except in the minds of right-wingers. (Well, I'm not actually sure if Pat Robertson and the like believe in unicorns or the Tooth Fairy, but given the outlandish nature of some of their other beliefs, I wouldn't really be surprised.)

Chris Hayes breaks down the non-problem of voter fraud in a great post on The Nation's blog about how he "voter fraud" -- emphasis on the scare quotes -- is a problem that doesn't actually exist:

Every two years, Republicans gin up baseless accusations of "voter fraud," often directed at ACORN. The strategic imperative is simple: create a pretense that will allow them to more credibly hassle and hopefully suppress poor and minority voters.

Just to get this out of the way: in the real world, there is no such thing as voter fraud. There will be roughly as many fraudulent votes cast in this election as there were stockpiles of biological weapons in Iraq. That is to say, none.

Read the whole thing here.

PFAW

Powell Stands Up to the Real Muslim Smear

In all the effort to defend Barack Obama against the rumor that he’s secretly a Muslim, too may people have missed the real point. Why would it matter if he were a Muslim? The Constitution clearly states that ”no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” but the anti-Muslim smear is usually only addressed as an afterthought, with a Sienfeld-esque “not that there’s anything wrong with that.”

In his interview on Meet the Press, Colin Powell elegantly swats down the rumor that Obama is a Muslim, without taking his eye off the real issue.

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.”

Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian.

But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.

Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?

Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards -- Purple Heart, Bronze Star -- showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old.

And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross; it didn’t have the Star of David; it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life.

A good reminder that the “correct answer” isn’t always the same as the “really right answer.”

PFAW

Uglier and Uglier and Uglier

In case you didn’t think that attacks against Senator Obama could get any worse, they, umm, did.

Barack Obama, the Democratic Party's nominee for President, has become a target for white supremacists and other extremists on various Websites and Internet forums since he began his campaign.

The Anti-Defamation League has been tracking these kinds of threats, and they’re pretty nauseating. 

I do not want a half-breed negro prancing around the White House in a loin cloth, smoking crack…I see no reason at all to allow a Communistic negro to occupy the most powerful political office on earth. I see no reason at all to allow a sub-human to do for the United States, what his sub-human pals have done in their countries like Zimbabwe, South Africa and other black-run failed states…Wherever blacks run things, those things are totally corrupt, grossly dysfunctional and ultimately, complete failures.

 Click through to read more, but it’s difficult to get through the whole thing.

PFAW

ACORN Is Not The Problem

I'm not going to sit idly by while good people are thrown under the bus ... especially if that bus is John McCain's "Straight Talk Express." And I am not -- I repeat, NOT -- going to let the Right steal another election by demonizing community organizers while doing all they can to disenfranchise voters.

That's why People For the American Way is not taking the attacks on ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) lying down, and we're not going to let the Right's latest distraction work. We're taking out a full page ad in the New York Times to tell the truth about ACORN, the myth of "widespread voter fraud" and the actual voter suppression being perpetrated by the Right. Check out the ad and find out what you can do to help with these efforts at www.PFAW.org/ACORN.

ACORN has tirelessly worked to uplift the less fortunate and advocated for improved housing, a fair and living wage, and yes, continues to fight to give a voice to the underserved by promoting civic engagement and voter empowerment. John McCain used to know that but he seems to have forgotten.

During Wednesday's presidential debate, McCain was again over the top, saying ACORN "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy." No, Senator McCain, the fraud is GOP attempts to challenge the registrations of eligible voters who are on the verge of losing their homes to foreclosure ... the fraud is right-wing efforts to purge thousands of eligible voters from the voter rolls ... the fraud is the long history of your party's attempts to resurrect Jim Crow.

Let's set the record straight. ACORN plays by the rules, but they register voters the Right would rather exclude, so they are a perfect target in the ongoing effort to stoke paranoia over so-called "widespread voter fraud" (a proven myth). Out of the 13,000 field workers ACORN hired in its drive to register hundreds of thousands of voters, a small fraction submitted inappropriate registration cards. In most cases, ACORN was required by law to submit these incorrect forms, along with the valid forms, to election officials, and in most cases, the incorrect forms had been flagged for officials by ACORN as problematic. But bad registration forms don't add up to "voter fraud."

The Bush administration has spent a good deal of time on fishing expeditions to find problems with groups like ACORN that register voters. In fact, they fired US Attorneys for refusing to participate in this partisan witch hunt.

Using "voter fraud" to distract from real voter suppression is nothing new. But it's still extremely troubling that the McCain-Palin campaign has decided to put party before country and not denounce the GOP's attempts to squash voter participation. I don't think the American people are buying any of this. But even if scapegoating ACORN doesn't work, the Right will have won if they are successful in getting people to look the other way on the real voter suppression in which they are aggressively engaged.

It's up to us to make sure the distraction doesn't work.

PFAW