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Sen. Elizabeth Warren Talks With PFAW Members About Judicial Nominations

Yesterday, Massachusetts senator and progressive hero Elizabeth Warren joined PFAW’s Michael Keegan and Marge Baker on a member telebriefing to discuss GOP senators’ unprecedented obstruction of judicial nominations at all levels, including their refusal to give fair consideration to President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.

Sen. Warren noted on the call that Senate Republicans are now “setting new records for obstruction.” She suggested that they “might want to pull a copy of the Constitution out and take a look,” since the document is “crystal clear” about the Senate’s responsibility to confirm or reject the judges the president nominates. Instead, Warren said, GOP senators are trying to hold the Supreme Court seat open for a President Trump so that he can nominate judges who will bend the laws to suit their interests and the interests of their powerful friends.

Sen. Warren encouraged PFAW members and supporters to ask their senators why they won’t do their jobs and to keep up the pressure. “People For the American Way has done a fantastic job of putting pressure on Senate Republicans to give these judges timely consideration and an up-or-down vote,” she said. “This is a tough fight, but you don't get what you don't fight for.”

Marge Baker reviewed the work that PFAW is doing to make sure Republicans are held accountable at the ballot box on Election Day, including on-the-ground organizing targeting senators who have refused to do their jobs and PFAW’s massive Latinos Vote! campaign, designed to make sure Latino voters are ready to help deliver a progressive victory in November.

You can listen to a recording of the call here:

PFAW

Trump Protects Fraudulent Trump University with Racist Attacks, Possible Bribes

Donald Trump will seemingly stop at nothing to try to get what he wants at the expense of everyone else.

At this point, in the public eye, Trump University is seen for what it was: a scam university used to pad Trump’s pockets by deceiving students. The school offered no real degree, it lied to students about the caliber of its professors and it systematically targeted potential students who Trump University employees knew would have to take on debt or empty their retirement savings in order to pay for it.

But even with universal condemnation, Trump University has suffered no legal repercussions for its con. 

Now, though, Trump University is facing three lawsuits. One of these is a class action suit in California. Trump responded to the case in typical fashion: by launching racist, personal attacks. He baselessly attacked the federal judge in the case, U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, accusing him of not being able to preside over the case impartially simply because of his Mexican-American heritage.

It seems though that the racist attacks were only his backup plan. In at least two states, it appears that Trump acted before any charges reached the courts: Trump engaged in pay-to-play with attorneys general to get them to drop any possible actions against Trump University.

Here’s an excerpt from an interview that NPR’s Robert Siegel did with Associated Press reporter Michael Biesecker about Texas’ decision not to prosecute Trump University:

Biesecker: Well, in Texas, public records obtained by the Associated Press show that there was a very robust investigation of Trump University and that lawyers in [then-Texas Attorney General Greg] Abbott's own Consumer Affairs Division proposed suing Trump and his associates for about $5.4 million in fines and restitution back to their alleged victims. The case files show that they spent more than a year investigating Trump University, had what they considered very strong evidence that Trump University had violated numerous state laws and was operating in the state without a license.

Ultimately, people above the Consumer Affairs Division decided not to take action. Abbott denies that he knew of his agency's investigation or that he decided to drop the suit. What AP has reported is that three years later when he ran for governor of Texas, Mr. Trump put forward two checks to his campaign totaling $35,000.

SIEGEL: You can't demonstrate a quid pro quo here that either in the Texas or the Florida case somebody said, you drop the case; I give you money.

BIESECKER: We can't, but the former deputy chief of consumer protection of Texas, a man named John Owens, stepped forward and was quoted in local media there saying that he believes the case was dropped for political considerations because Mr. Trump was a donor of Republican causes.

In Florida, it looks even worse. From that same interview:

BIESECKER: Well, in 2013, Pam Bondi - the attorney general's office was quoted by the Orlando Sentinel as saying they were reviewing New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's proposed lawsuit against Trump University to determine whether Florida should join that multi-state case. Four days after that appeared in the newspaper, Bondi's campaign account notes that it received a $25,000 check from the Trump Foundation, the family foundation of Donald Trump.

It was subsequently reported that Bondi herself may have been involved in soliciting the contribution, so it should be deeply troubling (but not all that surprising) that Bondi chose not to sue. These allegations were first reported earlier this summer. If all this wasn’t bad enough, this story is finally picking up steam because not only does it seem that Trump potentially bribed Bondi, he made the suspicious donation to Bondi’s campaign from the Trump Foundation.

That’s blatantly against the law. Nonprofit foundations, which are tax exempt, cannot in any way, shape, or form contribute to political candidates! This isn’t some murky situation where the law wasn’t clear—foundations are nonprofits, and they cannot engage in political campaign work, much less make a direct contribution. But as Trump has made clear time and time again, he doesn’t care what the rules are or who he hurts along the way, as long as he gets his way.

Trump had to pay a $2,500 penalty to the IRS because of the donation. This is far from the first time Trump has found himself in deep water over campaign contributions (as just one example, in the 1990s he spent $47,050 over the campaign contribution limit in just one year). With the allegations against Bondi and Abbott, and with renewed focus on the Trump Foundation’s payment to the Bondi campaign, this story won’t go away any time soon. But if there’s one silver lining, it’s that as more and more details emerge about the pay-to-play schemes and the fraudulent university, voters can hold Trump responsible in the polls, and judges can hold Trump responsible in the courts.

PFAW

PFAW and Granite State Progress Bring the "Supreme Court" to Sen. Ayotte

In light of Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s continued refusal to fill the Supreme Court vacancy, members of People For the American Way and Granite State Progress donned Supreme Court justice robes Wednesday in front of her Nashua office to demonstrate that Granite Staters will be watching the Supreme Court vacancy when she returns to DC from Congressional recess. Members of both groups also brought a symbolic empty chair and a sign reading “fill this seat.”

scotus justice protest

“We’re bringing the Supreme Court to Sen. Ayotte today, since she’s tried so hard to ignore it,” said Linds Jakows, New Hampshire Campaign Organizer with People For the American Way,  “Obstruction that results in leaving the seat open for Trump to fill is neither independent nor bipartisan, as she likes to call herself, and she’s ignoring the majority of her constituents who understand filling this vacancy is crucial in bringing forth justice for millions of people.”

scotus justice protest

Ayotte has remained in lockstep with her party leadership on this vacancy, forcing the highly qualified Merrick Garland to wait more days than any nominee in history. Recently Ayotte called Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist a “good start,” apparently ignoring the many extreme rulings from these judges. One judge on Trump’s shortlist, Steven Colloton, said that a woman who reports sexual harassment cannot take legal action if her employer retaliates by firing her.

scotus justice protest

Participating activists took photo petitions amplifying this message -- Margaret and Rocco Femia and Carol and Karl Stamm called out Ayotte’s hypocrisy and so-called independence, while Marcel ‘Dusty’ Liberge and Steven Goldstein focused on the lack of justice from an 8-member court.

PFAW

While Trump Champions The Alt-Right In America, Putin Spreads Its Ideology Through Europe

This piece originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

For years, the GOP has been moving away from its identity as a traditional center-right party and morphing into something that more resembles the populist fringe parties of Europe.

Donald Trump’s candidacy has all but completed this transformation. If anyone still had doubts, Trump’s hiring of Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon was the clearest sign yet that the Republican Party has become a vehicle for what in the U.S. is known as the ‘alt-right’ movement.

The alt-right thinks the mainstream conservative movement has been compromised by feminism, racial tolerance and “globalism,” and that only a reactionary, populist movement that speaks to the plight of white men can save America from political correctness and multiculturalism. The alt-right is drenched in racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia and misogyny. But that didn’t stop Bannon from calling his outlet “the platform for the alt-right.”

While avowed white nationalists have always had a place in the conservative movement—most recently, Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa proudly detailed his white supremacist views to a cable TV audience—Trump has thrown such forces into the mainstream.

Trump’s view of America as a weak, crime-ridden and chaotic place would resonate with any regular reader of Breitbart’s news coverage.

Breitbart News depicts an America where white people are under attack from the Obama administration, anti-Christian feminists and LGBT rights activists, African Americans who seek to discriminate against white people, Latino immigrants obsessed with rape and violence, and Muslim refugees who support terrorism.

The U.S. isn’t the only country experiencing a surge in the alt-right’s ideology. Anti-immigrant ethnic nationalists are on the rise in Europe, and European far-right leadersfrom France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen to the Dutch politician Geert Wilders have jumped aboard the Trump Train.

This is all good news to one of the European far-right’s most enthusiastic backers: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia under Putin’s leadership has been promoting ultraconservative political groups in Europe with the goal of weakening the EU and the liberalism, democracy and cultural pluralism that comes with it. The National Front, a French political party rooted in Holocaust denialism and anti-immigrant sentiment, is open about its financial links to Russian banks, and neo-fascist parties including Jobbik of Hungary, Vlaams Belang of Belgium and the Northern League of Italy likewise have Russian ties.

“As European far-right leaders openly voice their support for Moscow, it would be wise to remember that Putin’s Russia is not just another ‘meddling power’ lobbying for its interests,” writes Alina Polyakova. “It is a government hostile to the West and the value system—democracy, freedom of expression, political accountability—that it represents.”

The Syrian refugee crisis has presented a great opportunity for these far-right movements in Europe to spread their messages of xenophobia. Russia, whose bombing campaigns in Syria have ravaged the civilian population, has been happy to help promote the anti-refugee message. Russian state-sponsored media outlets haveenthusiastically fanned the flames of anti-refugee suspicion, bolstering the far-right’s criticism of how the EU and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have approached refugee resettlement.

The Russian government has also sponsored a global right-wing effort to portray the U.S. and Europe as victims of cultural rot due to homosexuality, abortion rights and secular government, and Russia as the protector and preserver of traditional Christian values. In 2014, major conservative groups from the U.S. and Europe convened at the Kremlin to praise the government’s crackdown on LGBT rights advocates whilelamenting the social liberalism in their home countries.

Trump, who aspires to be the Russian president’s “new best friend,” has praised Putinas “a leader, unlike what we have in this country,” and has seemed to side with Putin’s position on the conflicts in Ukraine and Syria and shared in fueling doubts about the future of the EU and NATO. Trump’s campaign is stacked with officials with Russian ties and, at least according to his eldest son, his businesses have seen “a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Merkel, on the other hand, has been a frequent target of Trump’s attacks, and the GOP nominee has dubbed Clinton “America’s Angela Merkel.” (Just to show how far to the right the GOP has drifted, Merkel is the leader of Germany’s main center-right party).

Beyond his expressed support for Russian policies, Trump seeks to govern in the same illiberal, authoritarian manner that Putin has demonstrated, itching to dilute the freedom of the press and laws barring war crimes and human rights abuses and deport undocumented immigrants and refugees legally settled in the country. Like the Religious Right activists who have rallied behind Putin, Trump believes that Christians have been sidelined and marginalized in America, promising to return them to their rightful positions of power.

Such contempt for civil rights, diversity and democracy pervades the alt-right, which calls for a more “masculine,” racially chauvinist response to a society it sees as weak and rootless. One alt-right meme shows “President Trump” congratulating Putin, both decked out in military garb, “on retaking Constantinople.”

While Trump and the alt-right emerged without the help of the Russian government, Putin’s display of authoritarianism and aid to far-right movements have helped bring their ultraconservative designs into the political mainstream.

 

 

PFAW

It's Time to Hold "Trumpublicans" Accountable in 2016

"Trumpublicans" might claim to oppose Trump's agenda of hatred and bigotry, but they're still working to protect his interests and advance his agenda -- like by holding a Supreme Court seat open for him to fill.
PFAW

The Hostile Takeover of the GOP Is Now Complete

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

At Goldman Sachs, Steve Bannon’s job was to defend companies against hostile takeovers by junk bond raiders from Drexel Burnham and First Boston. This morning Bannon himself completed a hostile takeover of the Republican Party, when it was announced that he would move from his post as chairman of Breitbart.com to become CEO of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Beyond its enthusiastic cheerleading for the GOP presidential nominee, Breitbart, since its namesake’s passing, has represented a formulation of conservatism identical to that which drove Trump’s campaign to victory in the Republican primary. While lacking the ideological consistency of most political movements, it is a blend of right-wing populism, Saul Alinsky’s tactics and Sun Tzu’s strategies. It is jingoistic, angry and anti-institutional.

For years the Republican Party used dog whistles to avoid accusations of racism. (The strategy was famously explained by former RNC Chair Lee Atwater.) The Trump/Breitbart ideology now unflinchingly promotes racism, while openly courting the support of bigots. Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro noted this in a post this morning that under Bannon’s leadership “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with [Milo] Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist meme makers.”

It is a thin-skinned ideology, consistently positioning those who adhere to it as victims of the liberal media, progressive college professors (and even students), and institutional Republicans, that relies on a constant stream of conspiracies theories about government institutions out to get white conservatives.

Those who adopt the Trump/Breitbart ideology ignore any evidence that does not conform to their worldview and live their lives in a completely binary world. One is either a friend or an enemy with no in between. This means that even those who are ideological allies are targets for their enmity, including members of the political elite such as John Boehner and Paul Ryan, who, by not showing 100 percent fealty, have committed some crime against the movement. The movement’s enemies list also includes conservative media figures who don’t necessarily toe the line and former employees who are no longer viewed as loyal.

The Trump/Breitbart ideology is defined not by any coherent set of conservative beliefs but instead by rabid anti-liberalism. For the past eight years that has meant standing in opposition to the Obama administration, even when it took stances that more traditional conservatives would have been happy to adopt, and now translates into unquestioning opposition to the Clinton campaign.

Trump’s campaign has demonstrated the extent of the support for this anti-liberal ideology among Republican Party voters. Yet for the past few weeks, Trump’s poll numbers have flagged as promised resets, marked by teleprompter-driven policy speeches, are undercut, often in less than 24 hours, when the candidate’s often racist gaffes step on his own news cycle.

In July, the ousting of former campaign manager Corey Lewandowsky and the elevation of campaign chairman Paul Manafort signaled an attempt to bring Trump back into the Republican fold. This has clearly failed.

While Bannon’s elevation marks the completion of the takeover, it in fact began long ago.

For eight years, Fox News served as a megaphone, promoting anger among the base of the Republican Party. It promoted and fueled the Tea Party in the spring of 2009 and the angry town halls that members of Congress came home to that summer. These voters became a dominant force in the party, leading to Republican victories, most notably taking back the House of Representatives in 2010.

The rise of the Tea Party also led to embarrassments, such as the nomination of Christine “I’m not a witch“ O’Donnell, that year in the Delaware Senate race.

Looking back just 24 hours, yesterday’s New York Times report that former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes is now assisting the Trump campaign with debate prep is even less surprising.

Republicans who claim that Trump and Breitbart do not represent their movement now face a new reality: Warriors for an ideology they claim not to support are now on their way to gaining full control of the institutions of their party.

Steve Bannon, in business and politics, has shown himself to be a crafty merger artist. While arranging the sale of Castle Rock, in lieu of a fee he accepted the rights to several television shows, among them “Seinfeld,” which had not yet become the dominant cultural force of the 1990s, leading to an untold financial windfall.

Now, by force, he and Trump have taken over the Republican Party. They control their own media platform and have demonstrated influence over a base far larger than any other in the party. Most of all, Trump and Bannon are fighters, unafraid to get in the mud, and they are unlikely to surrender the institutions they now control without open warfare.

PFAW

Norman Lear: Will Republican Leaders Show Decency and Stand Up to Trump?

This piece originally appeared as a guest column in The Hollywood Reporter.

Having just turned 94, I am aware that each day I spend as an American, in the company of loved ones, engaging with creative colleagues, and yes, swearing at the television news, is a gift. So maybe I owe Donald Trump, that human middle finger to the American Way, a bit of thanks for getting my heart pumping better than any exercise routine.

One benefit of having been around so long is that what may seem like ancient history is alive within me. Most of my fellow Americans do not personally remember World War II, in which the United States led the free world to defeat the forces of fascism in Europe and Asia. Like so many of my compatriots, I left college to enlist in that war. Unlike too many of them, I returned home safely after flying 52 combat missions. For that good fortune I can thank the Tuskegee airmen and others who flew escort and protected us during those bomb runs.

After the war, when I was a young writer hustling to make my way in show business, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee were on a rampage, targeting political opponents, people in the arts, and ordinary Americans. One of the real American heroes, who stood up to those who were pretending to be, was Joseph Welch, chief counsel for the U.S. Army when it became a McCarthy target. After McCarthy used a public hearing to drag the name of a young lawyer through the mud, Welch challenged his cruelty and recklessness. And in words that expressed what so many felt but feared to say, Welch asked, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Those just might be the most famous words in American political history that were not uttered by a U.S. president. They didn’t change McCarthy, but they did help others find the strength to stand up to him.

The witch hunts and blacklists didn’t end overnight. One target was John Henry Faulk, a civil libertarian and folk humorist who fought a successful libel lawsuit that finally helped bring an end to blacklisting. In my recent memoir, written before Donald Trump had blessed us with his candidacy, I wrote of Faulk, “How do you not love a man who, in that East Texas drawl of his, says of some fatuous asshole in the news, ‘I’d like t’buy the somunabitch for what he’s worth and sell’m for what he thinks he’s worth!’”  That would translate to selling for a billion dollars today the Trump you payed a nickel for yesterday.

I have little to add to what has been said about Trump’s cruel treatment of immigrants and other political targets or his relentless demeaning of anyone who challenges him. As painful as it was to watch Trump’s attacks on the family of a soldier who sacrificed his life so that others might live, it was even more revolting to watch him suggest that maybe “the Second Amendment people” could do something about a President Clinton and her judicial nominees. Trump is making it clear to Americans who he is; we need to pay attention and avoid the horrific mistake of making him our leader. 

Trump is not the first demagogue we have faced; neither was McCarthy. One of the formative experiences of my youth was when, as a young child playing with my crystal radio set alone in my bedroom, I stumbled across Father Coughlin and learned that there were people in this country who hated Jews. But I also learned in civics classes that were held in grade school then (unfortunately not now) that people like Coughlin held ideas that were antithetical to those of our Founding Fathers and the Constitution they bequeathed us, ideas and ideals which we have strived to realize, and which have inspired so many generations of people from across the globe to make their way to our shores.

For all our continued flaws, we are a more decent nation than Donald Trump imagines. That’s why Joseph Welch’s words packed such a punch. And it is why Americans deserve more courage from their political leaders. As for Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, and others who have climbed on board the Trump train even though I have to believe their hearts knows better, it’s time they looked at themselves in the mirror and asked, “Have you left no sense of decency, Sirs, at long last?”

Norman Lear is a television and film producer and the founder of People For the American Way.

PFAW

Hillary Clinton Continues to Call for Democracy Reform on Campaign Trail

Big money in politics has been a banner issue this election, with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders including a comprehensive set of solutions to this fundamental problem as a core focus of their campaigns from the very beginning. Now that the primaries are over and the election is less than three months away, Hillary Clinton continues to express her support for legislative changes necessary to level the political playing field and create a democracy that is of, by and for the people.

"We've got to get unaccountable money out of politics, overturn Citizens United, and expand voting rights" said Clinton yesterday at a campaign event in Michigan.

Clinton is supported by a vast majority of Americans who support taking action on this issue, as well as a broad coalition of organizational supporters working to pass solutions on the local, state and national level. Donald Trump, while occasionally suggesting that the system is ‘rigged’, has offered no concrete policy solutions to address this problem and his party’s platform calls for the further erosion of our nation’s campaign finance laws.  

PFAW

PFAW Members Catch Up to Kelly Ayotte in Manchester 5K to Ask if She Trusts Donald Trump to Fill Supreme Court Vacancy

kelly ayotte

Yesterday, at the Cigna/Elliot 5K Road race in downtown Manchester, Sen. Kelly Ayotte revealed a level of trust in Donald Trump’s ability to choose a qualified Supreme Court justice when questioned by a Manchester voter.

Watch her response:

Ayotte, who has repeatedly ignored the vast majority of Granite Staters who want her to do her constitutional duty and support moving forward with hearings and a vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, seemed unconcerned with the particulars of Trump’s judgement regarding the next Supreme Court justice, but said she’d looked at the list and thinks it’s a “good start.”

PFAW

PFAW Hosts Telebriefing on the Supreme Court and 2016

Even as GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump hits new lows in his campaign—from attacking Gold Star parents to suggesting gun violence as a way to stop Hillary Clinton—Republican senators continue to hold open the vacant Supreme Court seat for Trump to fill.

Yesterday People For the American Way held a telebriefing for members and supporters about the critical role the Supreme Court plays in 2016 and beyond, and how progressive activists can hold GOP senators accountable for their unconscionable blockade of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. PFAW’s Marge Baker, Drew Courtney, and Elliot Mincberg were joined by Public Policy Polling director Tom Jensen to discuss how to make the Supreme Court a winning issue in the election.

You can listen to the full telebriefing here:

PFAW

Donald Trump Exploits Years Of GOP Voter Fraud Conspiracy Theories

This piece originally appeared on Huffington Post.

For longtime observers of voter suppression laws, it wasn’t a surprise when it was discovered that Wisconsin and North Carolina lawmakers were deliberately disenfranchising minority voters under the guise of preventing voter fraud. After all, conservative politicians have all but admitted that these laws purportedly combatting “voter fraud” are meant to help elect conservative candidates.

It also came as no surprise when Donald Trump suggested that Democrats will use voter fraud to win the 2016 presidential election.

Just as Trump has embraced years of GOP attacks on President Obama, Hillary Clinton, immigrants and others, the GOP presidential nominee has seized on the widespread but erroneous belief that Democrats have used voter fraud to win election after election. Trump has regularly claimed that voter fraud is rampant in America,baselessly charging that Republicans were defeated in 2012 due to voter fraud andcalling for a “revolution” to protest President Obama’s victory. Indeed, large swaths of Republican voters believe that Obama used voter fraud to win in both 2008 and 2012.

Now, Trump insists that polling firms are deliberately skewing poll results against him, and at least one of his advisers, Roger Stone, claims that this is part of a grand conspiracy to cover up the fraud that Democrats are planning to unleash in the coming election. If Hillary Clinton defeats Trump but his “private polls” show him leading, Stonesays, the real estate mogul should try to block Clinton’s inauguration and call his supporters into the streets to protest. “It will be a bloodbath,” he warned.

While Trump and Stone’s suggestions have raised eyebrows from Democrats and Republicans alike, no one should be shocked after years of GOP claims that elections have swung to Democrats because people unlawfully vote multiple times by impersonating othersundocumented immigrants are illegally voting and thegovernment hands out free cell phones — the notorious “Obama phones” — in order to win votes for Democratic candidates.

For example, then-congresswoman Michele Bachmann falsely claimed that Obama won re-election in 2012 because he gave millions of undocumented immigrants the right to vote by executive order — an order that never existed. William Gheen of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC said that 2008 was the most “fraudulent election I’ve seen in my life.” Trump surrogate Wayne Allyn Root said the community activist group ACORN, which has been defunct since 2010, stole the 2012 election by having people vote “10 times each for the Democrats” and predicted that ACORN “will steal states with weak voter ID laws,” “stuff the ballot box in inner cities” and “have illegal aliens voting” in 2016. And conservative activist Tony Perkins erroneously alleged that “there is some evidence” that the “Obama phone” was used to help re-elect the president. More damagingly, GOP lawmakers have cited such bogus claims in attempts to justify laws that strip voting rights from thousands of eligible voters.

Thousands of people across the country have already lost or are on the verge of losing their ability to cast a ballot as a result of this push to suppress the vote, even though, as Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice noted, “Statistically you are more likely to be hit by lightning than to commit in-person voter fraud.” Studies consistently demonstrate that widespread voter fraud is nothing but a myth. When Pennsylvania’s restrictive voter ID law was challenged in court, the state even admittedthat there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.” 

Beyond just Trump’s paranoia, the Republican Party’s sweeping attacks on voting rights will be the real legacy of the voter fraud craze. Republicans promoted the voter fraud myth so they could impose damaging laws in the hopes of winning elections. They were so successful in convincing their base of these myths that their presidential candidate is now taking them to dangerous extremes.

PFAW

On Trump's Views of Women, the Headlines Speak for Themselves

One of the constants of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has been insulting, demeaning, and blaming women—from talking about women as animals, to suggesting “punishment” for those who seek abortions, to saying that women should do “as good a job as men” if they want equal pay. A new video PFAW released today compiles some of the many headlines on Trump’s insulting anti-women rhetoric and proposed policies:

PFAW

No, Trump, Women Who Are Harassed At Work Should Not Have to Find a New Career

This piece was originally published on Huffington Post.

After over a dozen women came forward to say they were sexually harassed by former Fox CEO Roger Ailes, last week Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump offered his “solution” to the pervasive problem of workplace harassment: women who are targeted should just quit their jobs. If his daughter Ivanka were harassed, Trump said, “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company.” As others have noted, it was a response breathtakingly out-of-touch with daily realities for most women, who could not afford simply to leave our jobs and who, it should go without saying, should never be asked to change careers for becoming the target of harassment.

For almost anyone else in the political spotlight, such an outrageous response would have been hard to believe. But for Donald Trump, these remarks are simply the latest example of his dehumanizing brand of sexism, where women are objects to be ranked from one to ten and where proposed “solutions” to the challenges women face are constituted of victim-blaming rather than actual policy changes.

Take his view on the gender pay gap. At an event in New Hampshire last year, a woman in the audience asked Trump about it, telling him that she wants to be paid the same as a man for her work. His response was that “you’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job.” Seriously? In our country, white women are paid 78 cents for every dollar white men make, while African American women make 63 cents and Latinas make only 54 cents. It’s a discrepancy that causes women to lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars across our lifetimes and threatens the economic stability of countless women and their families. Suggesting that the real issue behind the gender pay gap is that women just don’t do as good a job as men could not be more offensive, or more wrong.

The same can be said about Trump’s comments on workplace harassment. According to a 2011 ABC News/Washington Post nationwide poll, a staggering one in four women has experienced sexual harassment at work, with some polling showing even higher numbers. It’s a pervasive and disturbing trend that affects women across all types of workplaces and requires a serious policy response. But instead, Trump’s answer is to place the blame on those who are harassed, asking them to upend their careers in hopes that they might find in a new career an environment free of harassment. His son, Eric Trump, even went as far as to say that a woman like Ivanka Trump “wouldn’t allow herself to be subjected” to workplace harassment, implying that women who are targeted are part of the problem themselves.

Women who are harassed at work should just quit, and women who are paid less than men should just do a better job: this is how the Republican presidential candidate sees women in the workplace. If voters elect Trump when they go to the polls in less than 100 days, that’s the disturbing worldview he would bring to the presidency. Trump’s brand of chauvinism – one in which he takes every opportunity to demean, blame, and undermine women — doesn’t belong in our country, and it certainly doesn’t belong in the Oval Office. On Election Day, let’s make sure he doesn’t get that chance.

PFAW

The Trump Test -- Searching for Decency

This piece was originally published in Inside Sources.

What first seemed like faux pas and jabs at political correctness by Donald Trump have turned out to be a series of deeply troubling revelations about his malignant character and his seemingly pathological dishonesty. Trump’s campaign is providing Republican Party officials with repeated tests of their character, tests that they are failing again and again, to the long-term detriment of their party and our country.

Consider Trump’s devotion to — in his words — “getting even.” As he promised during the Republican primary, “Anybody who hits me, we’re gonna hit them 10 times harder.” He’s given us many examples, including his declaration during a rhetorical feud with Sen. John McCain that McCain (and by implication other prisoners of war) was not a war hero because he had been captured. “I like people who weren’t captured,” Trump said.

This Trump trait was on full display during the Democratic convention. When retired four-star general John Allen criticized Trump over his support for torture and other violations of international law, Trump responded by calling Allen a “failed general.” Michael Bloomberg, who Trump had previously called a “fantastic” mayor, became a “disaster” who “couldn’t get elected dog catcher.”

Most notoriously, Trump attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of an American soldier who was killed in Iraq. Khizr Khan challenged Trump’s vow to block Muslims from entering the United States, speaking movingly about his son’s sacrifice and asking Trump if he had ever read the U.S. Constitution. Trump considered this criticism a “vicious” attack, and responded to the family’s loss with shameful religious bigotry and innuendo.

When his actions generated significant outrage, Trump did not acknowledge error or apologize. Instead, his allies are doubling down on Trump’s bigotry. Mike Huckabee, for example, has flatly denied the fact of Trump’s repeated vow to block Muslims from entering the United States. Trump confidant Roger Stone and campaign adviser Al Baldasaro both promoted a stunningly irresponsible post from fringe extremists alleging that Khan is a Muslim Brotherhood agent and suggesting that his son was an Islamist double agent who was killed before his murderous mission was accomplished. Baldasaro tweeted a link to the article, saying “Read the truth about your hero.” (He later tweeted that he was “not sure” about the extremists’ credibility.)

In the face of this ugliness, most Republican elected officials have remained weak kneed or shamefully silent. Some have put out statements supporting the Khan family but they didn’t have the courage to criticize Trump by name.

Even John McCain, who strongly criticized Trump, has not repudiated his endorsement for a candidate whose recklessness has become undeniable. This is the same John McCain who, in refusing to consider President Obama’s nomination of the unquestionably well qualified judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, is holding the vacancy open to be filled by the reckless, irresponsible and unprincipled Donald Trump.

More than 60 years ago, a dangerous, bullying demagogue was deflated with a simple question, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

An open letter to Donald Trump from a group of Gold Star families echoes those sentiments, calling Trump’s comments about the Khans “repugnant,” and saying, “This goes beyond politics. It is about a sense of decency. That kind decency you mock as ‘political correctness.’”

It is time for Republican Party leaders to recognize that Trump poisons everything he touches, including, and especially, them and their party. Trump shares Joseph McCarthy’s cruelty and reckless disregard for others and for the truth. So the question must be asked of Reince Priebus, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders who have refused to leave Trump’s side: Have you left no sense of decency?

And we as Americans should ask ourselves, is there decency enough left among people of good will to reject Trump and Trumpism, and begin to recover an honest discourse, grounded in facts and shared values, about the future of our country?

PFAW

DNC & RNC: Facts vs. Feelings

This piece originally appeared in the Huffington Post.

As millions of Americans tuned into the national conventions of the Democrats last week and Republicans the week before, the tone and substance between the two parties could not have been more different. During his weekly satirical news show, comedian John Oliver put the contrasting frames used by the political left and right in perspective while commenting on the Republican National Convention.

“It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts,” said Oliver.

It doesn’t take an especially sensitive person to see that fear is a common theme in Republican messaging, particularly this election cycle. Whether it’s lies about Mexican immigrants or smears about Muslim Americans, fear is consistently used as part of the core Republican message. Donald Trump, perhaps the worst offender of this in modern history, has presented himself as the sole solution to all problems - real and perceived - faced by the United States, without explaining how he would actually solve them.      

It’s not uncommon for the fear and insecurity stoked by Republicans to conflict with facts. For instance, in his RNC commentary, Oliver included a news clip from an interview with former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The segment does an excellent job of highlighting how in the world of Republican rhetoric, feelings often get conflated with facts. In the clip Gingrich says “the average American, I bet you this morning, does not think that crime is down, does not think they are safer.” He presents his statement as a fact, which may be technically true in terms of feelings, but in reality, people are actually safer. For that matter, crime rates have been steadily dropping across the board since the 1990s, with few exceptions.   

Compared to the Democratic National Convention, the difference could not be more clear. The message of the event was largely rooted in empirical facts, citing job growth and other quantifiable factors to show the progress that has been made over the past eight years with Obama in the White House. But it was also a message of enduring hope. In her speech accepting the democratic nomination for president of the United States, Hillary Clinton quoted the famous line from Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, “the only thing to fear is fear itself,” presenting a stark contrast to the paranoid and divisive rhetoric of her opponent.

Clinton’s campaign slogan, “Stronger Together,” invokes unity, collaboration and creating common purpose in order to make a “more perfect union.” Indeed, many of our nation’s greatest advances in history have come about through people coming together to find common ground, working as one with a shared sense of optimism. When voters go to the polls in November to cast their ballots, they will be faced with a choice of historic proportions: take a radical step to the right, deepening divisions and elevating hateful rhetoric, or continue along the path exemplified by the American ideals of diversity and inclusivity.

 

PFAW

New Guard of Progressive Elected Officials Represented On Stage at DNC

Something the planners of the Democratic National Convention seem to be getting very right is the selection of top-notch speakers, which include some of the strongest progressive voices in national politics and reflect the ever-increasing diversity of America. Communities of color, the LGBT community, disabled and Native communities, and young people are all represented.

Activist leaders and various everyday heroes are taking the stage to speak simultaneously to the vast diversity of American experiences and the common needs and values, hopes and desires, that unify us as one people.

Included in the impressive list of speakers are several dynamic young elected leaders, and among them, some very familiar faces to the People For family. And we could not be prouder.       

Mayor Andrew Gillum

Andrew Gillum, 37, is the mayor of Tallahassee, Florida. He has repeatedly set the example for unapologetic progressive leadership, and was included in Huffington Post’s “50 Young Progressive Activists Who Are Changing America.” He is the youngest person to ever be elected to the Tallahassee City Commission, assuming that office at the age of 23.

Andrew is the national Director of Youth Leadership Programs for PFAW’s affiliate, People For the American Way Foundation (PFAW Foundation).

US Rep. Joaquin Castro

Joaquin Castro, 41, uses his strong progressive voice to superbly represent the people of Texas’s 20th District in the US Congress.

Both Joaquin and his twin brother Julian -- the current US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, former mayor of San Antonio, and keynote speaker of the 2012 Democratic convention -- were charter members of PFAW Foundation’s nonpartisan Young Elected Officials (YEO) Network, which works to nurture the leadership abilities and provide a supportive nationwide network to America’s young progressive elected officials.

Colorado Rep. Crisanta Duran

Crisanta Duran, 35, is the Majority Leader of the Colorado House of Representatives and one of America’s boldest progressive champions in such an influential state-level leadership position.

Crisanta is also an active member of PFAW Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network.

This is just a small sampling of the growing number of young progressive champions running for and winning elected office at every level around the country.

Be on the lookout for live or recorded speeches from all of these excellent young leaders, and you will no doubt find inspiration and hope about the future of our movement.

We will try to obtain video clips after the speeches to embed in this post as updates. So stay tuned!

Update 1: Mayor Andrew Gillum's 2016 DNC speech:

PFAW

PFAW's Peter Montgomery Discusses the Trump-Pence Ticket and the RNC on Democracy Now!

Last week People For the American Way Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery was in Cleveland, Ohio, covering this year’s Republican National Convention for Right Wing Watch.

On Thursday, he joined Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! to discuss Donald Trump’s selection of Governor Mike Pence as his running mate, the Religious Right’s response to this choice, and Montgomery’s recent piece in Right Wing Watch entitled, “How Would Religious Right Respond to Pence as VP?” Montgomery told Goodman:

“I think he [Trump] probably chose Mike Pence because Mike Pence is close to both the Koch brothers’ political network and to the Religious Right. And those are two hugely important parts of the Republican infrastructure that have not been uniformly excited about Trump.”

While on the program, Montgomery also detailed some instances of hate speech and intolerance that he observed in Cleveland, including misogynistic rhetoric about Hillary Clinton, attacks on Black Lives Matter activists, and attacks on immigrants. “It’s really been a disturbing show,” Montgomery said.

You can watch the full interview here:

[https://publish.dvlabs.com/democracynow/360/dn2016-0721.mp4?start=4548&end=5065]

PFAW

Trump: "I alone can fix this."

Trump's campaign is trying desperately to con voters with fear.
PFAW

Pew Report: With GOP Presidents, We Get Fewer Judges of Color

It's important to have a federal judiciary that looks like America, bringing varied life experiences to the bench.
PFAW