Estar en la misa y en la procesión

This op-ed by Dolores Huerta, civil rights activist and board member of People For the American Way, was originally published at La Opinion.

Los republicanos en el Congreso están amenazando con cerrar el Departamento de Seguridad Interna de manera inútil, para impedir que el Presidente Obama permita que miles de familias y niños inmigrantes vivan sin el miedo a ser deportados.

Los republicanos proclaman que las familias inmigrantes ponen en peligro a los Estado Unidos, y como receta, están dispuestos a cerrar el departamento que se encarga de la seguridad nacional. No tiene mucho sentido, pero propagar miedo sobre los inmigrantes nunca ha estado basado en el sentido común.

Mientras ellos atacan a las familias latinas con la intención de aplacar a los extremistas de su partido, los líderes republicanos están conscientes de que nuestros números están creciendo y con ello, nuestro poder en las elecciones. Los votantes latinos fueron la razón por la cual Barack Obama derrumbó a Mitt Romney en 2012, y los republicanos saben bien que ello volverá a pasar si no actúan. Por eso, algunos grupos republicanos están gastando millones de dólares para convencer a los latinos que voten por su partido.

Por ejemplo, los hermanos Koch, quienes preven gastar casi mil millones de dólares comprando las elecciones de candidatos en el 2016, financian un grupo llamado "La Iniciativa Libre", el cual trata de fabricar una imagen amistosa del Partido Republicano hacia los latinos.

El problema es que La Iniciativa Libre promociona ideales conservadores que ofenden a nuestra comunidad. Ellos se oponen a los sindicatos, se oponen a un aumento en el salario mínimo y se oponen a medidas que protegen el medio ambiente. Sostienen que apoyan la reforma migratoria pero respaldan a candidatos republicanos que la oponen. El año pasado, publicaron anuncios que ayudaron a un candidato que apoyó la ley antiinmigrante de Arizona, SB 1070.

Y el grupo elogia la declaración a favor de la reforma del presidente de la Cámara de Representantes, John Boehner. Sin embargo, Boehner fue la razón principal por la cual el proyecto de ley del Senado para la reforma migratoria integral, apoyado por ambos partidos, nunca se debatió ni votó en la Cámara Baja. Y ahora, él encabeza el intento de cerrar el Departamento de Seguridad Interna para detener la orden ejecutiva del Presidente Obama sobre inmigración.

Eso no es crear enlaces verdaderos hacia la comunidad. Es solo una fachada.

Los republicanos saben que tienen un problema con el voto latino. Pero no pueden solucionarlo con solo tirarle plata. Todo el dinero en el mundo no puede esconder las prioridades y retórica antilatina del Partido Republicano. Si los republicanos quieren que los latinos los tomen en serio, ellos tendrán que tomarnos en serio primero.


Unbelievable Nerve - Republicans Finally Discover Income Inequality

Have you noticed the Republicans’ latest central talking point -- evident in their multitude of goofy “responses” to the president’s State of the Union Address this week?

It’s this: America has a major problem with income inequality, the middle class is being squeezed and … wait for it … it’s all the fault -- somehow, although they don’t clearly say how -- of President Obama and Democrats.

Well, look who decided to show up! Republicans from Ted Cruz and Joni Ernst to Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney are all finally acknowledging the crisis-level problems America faces with economic inequality and wage stagnation, but only because they think they can somehow flip the blame onto their political opponents.

It’s their new favorite tactic. The same one that worked for them in the 2014 elections. Create a big problem and when frustration with that problem becomes widespread enough, blame it on President Obama. Leading up to 2014, the GOP on Capitol Hill was responsible for unprecedented obstruction and gridlock -- very intentionally, as their political strategy. They then used Americans dissatisfaction with Washington to achieve a “change” election, which went against the president’s party, because the president’s party is inherently the one seen as “in control.”

So, after decades of pushing deregulation of rapacious corporate interests, policies favoring no rules for Wall Street, attempts to deny workers a living wage, deny people health care coverage, deny people unemployment insurance and deny opportunity to students at every level of their education, the Right is going to try to blame progressive policies and progressive leaders for the new Gilded Age that they created?

Granted, too many Democrats over the years have pursued and allowed policies that promote rather than rein in Wall Street greed, as well some other speciously labeled “pro-business” policies. But those policies never were the product of a progressive agenda, and always had much backing among Republicans.

Now, as I noted, EVEN MITT ROMNEY is on this new message … Mitt Romney, who himself is a living symbol of opulent wealth and the stark disconnect between the top 1% and the struggles of the vast majority of Americans.

Clearly, Republicans are trying out this messaging tactic as the central theme for their 2016 campaign efforts. And, based on its ongoing proliferation, we can only assume that so far it is working.

Presented with the facts, Americans are undoubtedly smart enough to see through the GOP’s latest hypocrisy. But with the vast millions of corporate special interests and billionaire ideologues fueling their propaganda machine, and a powerful media empire led by Fox News, we cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Please do your part, in your community and among your peers, to call out Republicans’ dishonesty and challenge them to articulate real solutions to economic inequality and strengthening America’s middle class.

Ted Cruz's video response to State of the Union Address:


Kentucky Activists Protest Mitt and Mitch Fundraiser

On Thursday, PFAW members joined, Kentucky AFL-CIO, and other activists to protest Sen. Mitch McConnell’s pro-corporate agenda outside of a high-dollar fundraiser for the senator featuring Mitt Romney. The exclusive event was priced at $1,000-$5,000 a ticket.

Activists, standing up against big money in politics, called for Sen. McConnell to listen to Kentuckians and not just to the billionaires and corporations that fund his politics. They held signs that read “Ditch Mitch” and “Corporations are not People.”


Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan joined the protest, along with PFAW organizers and grassroots activists.



David Perdue: Too Extreme for Georgia

On Tuesday, David Perdue triumphed over longtime representative Jack Kingston in the Republican runoff for Saxby Chambliss’ U.S. Senate seat. The former Dollar General CEO has never run for political office, a distinction he has made the central theme of his campaign. Perdue has boasted that he is a “different kind of candidate,” but we’ve seen a candidate like him before: 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

The similarities between Romney and Perdue are striking: both CEOs, both millionaires, and both completely out of touch. Romney, however, was accused by right-wingers of being one thing Perdue clearly isn’t: moderate. Perdue has made no attempt to seem even relatively moderate and has dragged his extremist ideals as far to the right as he can. Make no mistake: he will not represent Georgia. Instead, he’ll represent those like him: wealthy, anti-immigrant and anti-equality.

Perdue already has proven that he is wrong for Georgia. He signed the FAIR Pledge, a pledge created by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) Task Force, vowing to oppose not only a pathway to citizenship for undocumented students but also any increase in work visas for legal immigrants. He is also anti-choice and anti-equality. With nearly 10 percent of Georgia’s population identifying as Latino and over 260,000 Georgians identifying as LGBTQ, Perdue would have a duty to represent all of his constituents—and that is a duty he won’t fulfill.

David Perdue has made it clear that he does not understand needs of Georgia’s diverse, changing population, which is why PFAW will help to make it clear that he is not the right choice for Georgia.


New Hampshire Moves Forward With First Steps to Overturn Citizens United in Bipartisan Vote

Yesterday, Republican and Democratic state representatives in New Hampshire came together to pass a bill calling for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of our elections and overturn Citizens United. Since the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that corporations have a First Amendment right to unlimited political spending, states all across the country have begun the process to put democracy back in the hands of the people.

During the first post-Citizens United presidential election, the American people were able to see just how distorted and outsized corporate and plutocratic influence has become in our democracy. Citizens United and related cases led to the rise of super PACs, limitless election spending, and “dark money” groups that are not required to disclose their donors. In the 2012 federal election cycle, super PACs received over $100 million from corporations. The top 32 super PAC donors, contributing an average of nearly $10 million each, matched the amount of the money that President Obama and Mitt Romney raised from small donors combined.

The bipartisan passage of HCR 2 in New Hampshire shows that ensuring our elections remain free from outside and outsized influence is not a Democratic value or a Republican value; it’s an American value. This is an issue that cuts across party lines and speaks to the core of our democratic principles. Fully 83% of Americans (85% of Democrats, 81% of Republicans and 78% of independents) support limits on how much money corporations can spend in elections.

Unprecedented public support for meaningful reform has already led to substantial progress in states all across the country, and a mounting public movement demanding a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and restore our democracy has emerged. Over 400 cities and towns, as well as 11 states, have called on Congress to send the states an amendment proposal that would overturn the disastrous decision. Last month, PFAW and ally organizations re-launched the “Declaration For Democracy” campaign, which helps identify and amplify the voices of public officials who support amending the Constitution to overturn Citizens United and related cases. Already, over 100 members of Congress have joined the cause in support of a constitutional amendment.

The New Hampshire bill now moves to the Senate side of General Court, where legislators will decide whether democracy is still for the people. Let’s make sure they again put democratic principles above party politics.


The New March Madness: CPAC's Guest List

It's getting very hard to keep track of who is and is not allowed in the conservative movement these days. The issue of how much smaller the tent is getting always comes to a head at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, at which warring factions fight to keep each other off the guest list. In 2011, prominent anti-gay groups boycotted because the gay Republicans of GOProud were allowed to cosponsor the event. Last year, GOProud was banned but white nationalists and anti-Muslim extremists were allowed.

The guest list for this week's conference is even more byzantine. Following last year's bad publicity, the white nationalists have been disinvited. And anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller has been denied a panel slot, which she claims is because CPAC's organizers are "enforcing the Sharia." You know things are getting bad when CPAC has fallen to Sharia.

But excluding white nationalists and an anti-Muslim extremist doesn't mean that CPAC has suddenly become a friendly and open-minded place. This year, gay groups did get a consolation prize: a rogue, unofficial panel "A Rainbow on the Right." But don't look for any rainbows inside -- the conference still bars gay Republican groups from its official proceedings. And even without Pamela Geller, the conference will keep its strong anti-Islam tilt, hosting speakers who routinely attack American Muslims. And it's not just gays and Muslims. New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who vetoed a marriage equality bill in his state, has been deemed too liberal to speak at the CPAC. So has Virginia's Gov. Bob "Transvaginal Ultrasound" McDonnell, who apparently became some sort of leftist radical when he agreed to raise taxes to fund his state's highways.

So who was conservative enough to make the cut for CPAC? War on Christmas analyst Sarah Palin, unhinged former congressman Allen West, and orange birther crusader Donald Trump, for starters. Mitt Romney has also been invited -- presumably holding on to the right-wing makeover he underwent for his presidential campaign -- though he loses top billing to his former running mate Rep. Paul Ryan.

In many ways, CPAC is caught in exactly the same bind as the Republican Party. The party's leaders know that to survive in the long-term it must moderate its positions and expand its base. But they're still in the grips of an extremist fringe that just won't let that happen. Last year, fringe candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock helped sink the GOP's hopes of gaining seats in the Senate. This year, strategist Karl Rove has threatened to launch primary challenges against fringe candidates in an effort to keep the party relevant. But in doing so, he's provoked the anger of the Tea Party, whose leaders correctly note that they're the only reason the GOP has any power at all right now.

This year's CPAC can be seen as a preview of the 2016 Republican presidential primary. The party's main movers and shakers are trying to keep their base happy by turning away leaders like McDonnell and Christie who have deviated, in however small a way, from the party line. But they're also trying to hide some of the most disturbing aspects of their party's fringe.

McDonnell got snubbed for daring to fund a transportation bill. In his place, CPAC will highlight Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who led the legal charge against the Affordable Care Act and who is running to be McDonnell's successor. White nationalists and Pamela Geller were ousted for being too far off the fringe, but Donald Trump, who's devoted himself to claiming that the nation's first black president isn't a real American, is a highlighted speaker.

As hard as CPAC's organizers may try, their guest list is still a mess. But the problem isn't just the guest list, it's what they're serving. They're trying to represent a movement -- and a party -- that wants the American people to think they got the message while still relying on extremists and insisting on a rigid orthodoxy. That's a tall order for any party. And they can't have it both ways.

This post originally appeared at the Huffington Post.


GOP Electoral College Scheme Advances in Virginia

It’s been less than three months since the presidential election, but GOP leaders unhappy with November’s results are already developing a multi-state plan that would further disenfranchise voters in their quest to achieve victory in 2016. On Wednesday, Republican state senators in Virginia cleared the first hurdle in their push to fundamentally change how state Electoral College votes are allocated. The Associated Press reports that under the proposed bill, Virginia would:

[A]pportion electors according to which presidential candidate carries each of the state’s 11 congressional districts. The candidate winning the majority of districts would receive the two electoral votes not tied to congressional districts.

If this bill had been in effect in 2012, Mitt Romney would have walked away with 9 of Virginia’s 13 electoral votes, despite losing the popular vote in the state by nearly 150,000 ballots and four percentage points.

These Republican state senators, who are already under fire for their surprise redistricting scheme on Martin Luther King Day, are no strangers to cutting corners in their drive for political power. Alex Pareene at Salon points out a major motivation behind the plan:

You can see why they like this plan: It is effectively the same thing as mass disenfranchisement of minorities, but it doesn’t look as awful and Jim Crow-y. Instead of trying to take votes away from black and poor and Hispanic people — which led to some bad press and a bunch of lawsuits — these new proposals simply ensure that the votes of rural white people will count more…Electoral vote-rigging plans show a Republican Party that is finally acknowledging the reality that a majority of Americans don’t subscribe to its brand of conservatism.

Yet not all Republicans are jumping on board with these new pushes. In Pennsylvania, where a similar bill was proposed in 2011 and looks to be reintroduced later this year, some GOP officials worry that the plan could backfire. Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason, for example, is not sold on the idea:

“I was against it last year, and I am still not convinced it is the way to go. It puts a lot more pressure on the Congress members and could hurt their efforts to hold their seats,” said Gleason, an RNC member, here.

Commentators, such as Jamelle Bouie at American Prospect, see the potential massive political backlash against this electoral system rigging as the real thing the GOP needs be aware of. Bouie says:

[I]t tells you something important about the current Republican Party that—when it comes to winning elections—it’s more interested in changing the game than changing its policies.

Is That Bryan Fischer or Mitt Romney?

Earlier this week, PFAW’s Right Wing Watch caught this rant by American Family spokesman and all-purpose bigot Bryan Fischer, who declared on his radio program that American Latinos voted Democratic in record numbers this year because “they want big government goodies.”

 Hispanics are not Democrats, don’t vote Democrat, because of immigration. That’s not the main reason why they vote for Democrats. It doesn’t have anything to do with lax immigration policy. It has to do with the fact that they are socialists by nature. They come from Mexico, which is a socialist country. They want big government intervention. They want big government goodies. It’s primarily about that.

Now, they want open borders, make no mistake, because they’ve got family and friends that they want to come up and be able to benefit from the plunder of the wealth of the United States just as they have been willing to do. Republicans can pander all they want to Hispanics, to immigrants, and it will not work. There is no way on Earth you’re going to get them to leave the Democratic party, it’s one reason we’ve got to clamp down on immigration.

Fischer’s racist diatribe echoes generations of right-wing innuendo about “handouts” for minorities. It also, as it happens, lines up pretty closely with the worldview of 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. In a call with donors today, Romney blamed his presidential loss on the “gifts” President Obama offered to African Americans, Latinos, women and young people. What “gifts” did he mean? Universal health care, contraception coverage, college loans and the DREAM Act.

The New York Times reported on the call:

A week after losing the presidential election to President Obama, Mitt Romney blamed his overwhelming electoral loss on what he said were big “gifts” that the president had bestowed on loyal Democratic constituencies — including young voters, African-Americans and Hispanics.

In a conference call on Wednesday afternoon with his national finance committee, Mr. Romney said that the president had followed the “old playbook” of wooing specific interest groups — “especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community and young people,” Mr. Romney explained — with targeted gifts and initiatives.

“In each case they were very generous in what they gave to those groups,” Mr. Romney said.

“With regards to the young people, for instance, a forgiveness of college loan interest, was a big gift,” he said. “Free contraceptives were very big with young college-aged women. And then, finally, Obamacare also made a difference for them, because as you know, anybody now 26 years of age and younger was now going to be part of their parents’ plan, and that was a big gift to young people. They turned out in large numbers, a larger share in this election even than in 2008.”


“You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you’re now going to get free health care, particularly if you don’t have it, getting free health care worth, what, $10,000 per family, in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge,” he said. “Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus. But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for that voting group.”

Sure, Bryan Fischer is more willing than Mitt Romney to say outright racist things. But the content of what they’re saying is pretty much the same. Bill O’Reilly put it even more clearly when he opined that “traditional America” was being lost to people of color who “want stuff.”

I have to guess this is not going to be the way for Republicans to win back non-white voters, women and young people, all of whom have been fleeing their party in droves.


The Election Gives Obama a Mandate on the Supreme Court

The importance of the Supreme Court as an election issue – which was clearly predicted by pre-election polls – made itself clear in President Obama's overwhelming victory last night. Americans recognized that Mitt Romney would have driven the Court even further to the right, and they cast their votes accordingly.

Last month, People For the American Way, the Alliance For Justice Action Campaign, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights released a poll demonstrating that the Supreme Court was not only an important issue for voters, it was one that significantly favored President Obama over Mitt Romney.

A remarkable 63 percent of voters said the issue of who will serve on the Supreme Court was an important consideration in their vote for president. By a five-point margin, voters said they trusted President Obama over Mitt Romney to nominate Supreme Court justices. President Obama had an 18-point advantage among swing voters overall and a 26-point advantage women swing voters.

The survey also explained why: What most concerned voters – a full 54 percent – was that Romney would nominate justices who would consistently favor corporations over ordinary Americans. After all, Romney very openly said that he would nominate Justices like John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito – the solid backbone of the current Corporate Court. And every corporate-funded hit job TV viewers were assaulted with just served as reminder of their handiwork and what more Justices like them would do to our country.

So it was no surprise that President Obama, Vice-President Biden, and Senators-elect Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts), Chris Murphy (Connecticut), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) reminded voters of the importance of the Court during the campaign.

Conservatives will try to say the election tells us nothing about the Court. Like Karl Rove on Fox News when the election was called, they will try to wish the hard numbers away, but they can't. Yesterday, the American people repudiated the conservative vision of the Supreme Court, giving President Obama a clear mandate to nominate strong progressives to restore the nation's highest court as a place where Americans can be confident in Equal Justice Under the Law.


Endorsements Cite Supreme Court

As we await the results of today's elections, it is important to remember that the next president will likely be able to nominate multiple Supreme Court Justices which could cause dramatic shifts in the ideological make-up of the Court. Do Americans want a more diverse Supreme Court with justices committed to a balanced approach that treats all Americans fairly or do they want justices who, like the current far right majority on the Court, routinely favor large powerful corporate interests over the rights of individuals? The implications are huge.

A review of a large number of editorial boards that have weighed in on this subject are evidence that Americans understand the magnitude of what is at stake here.  That being said, a giant number of regional and student newspapers as well as a significant number of national newspapers have endorsed President Obama for reelection. And an overwhelming majority of  these endorsements cite the Supreme Court as an enormous contributing factor to keeping President Obama in office due to very real fears that the ever-flip-flopping Mitt Romney will be forced by his radical Republican electorate and team to nominate justices who intend to overturn Roe v. Wade, expand special interests' power like in the the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, and guarantee an extremist conservative majority.

From the Washington Post to the New York Times to the Economist, publications of every political stripe cite the concerns over what a Romney Court would do to women, the LGBT community, immigrants, and the rights of the common American as reason to deny Romney the presidency.

Be sure to check out PFAW’s new report on the Court’s importance.