In the run-up to the first general election in which Kansans have been required to provide one of a narrow set of “proof of citizenship” documents in order to register to vote, nearly 20 percent of voter registration applications in the state have been rejected or suspended, according to a Kansas political science professor.
University of Kansas professor Patrick Miller told Kansas City’s NPR affiliate last week that a large percentage of these suspended or rejected registrations are from independents, “essentially making the electorate more Republican”:
An even larger group than those who have had ID problems at the polls are those voters who haven’t yet proven U.S. citizenship, another provision of the new law. There are 22,468 voters whose registrations are suspended because they are lacking citizenship documentation, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That’s larger than the population of Prairie Village, a Kansas City suburb.
“This is a big change for Kansas. In 2010, we only rejected .03 percent of voter registration applications,” said Patrick Miller, a University of Kansas assistant political science professor. “Whereas in 2014, we’ve suspended or rejected almost 20 percent. That’s a massive increase.”
Of the nearly 22,468 suspended registrations, 18 percent are Democrats, nearly 23 percent are Republicans and a whopping 57 percent are independents, or unaffiliated. The new law has effectively made the electorate more partisan, Miller said.
“It’s filtering out independents, the swing voters, making proportionately the electorate more Democratic, more Republican,” Miller said. “In Kansas, the effect of this is essentially making the electorate more Republican, given that Republicans have a registration advantage here.”
The new Kansas law was championed by Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who has also been in charge of implementing it. Kobach is facing his own tough reelection battle this year thanks in part to the mess created by his new voting restrictions.
It's official. In case there was any doubt left, this election cycle shows that the GOP's hyped-up "rebranding" efforts with Latino voters have been all but abandoned.
Last month, we found out that Virginia GOP congressional candidate Barbara Comstock thinks immigrants should be tracked like FedEx packages. Rep. Steve King from Iowa, who previously shared his belief that most undocumented immigrants are drug runners with "calves the size of cantaloupes," is trying to link immigrants toISIS and Ebola. And Republican candidates across the country, including Tom Cotton in Arkansas, Scott Brown in New Hampshire, Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, and Pat Roberts in Kansas, are running anti-immigrant ads. "Illegal immigration is threatening our communities," warns one of Roberts' ads.
Not exactly the kind of rhetoric one might expect from a party trying remake its image among voters who care deeply about immigration reform. But far more important than the failed rebranding efforts of an increasingly out-of-touch party is the harm done to real people whose lives are touched by these dehumanizing myths. Ads labeling immigrants a "threat" to other Americans and comments comparing immigrants to objects or rodents don't just go out into the abyss of TV land. They reach - and hurt - real people in communities across America.
Not only is this anti-immigrant bigotry morally wrong, it's also bad politics. Someone may want to tell Republican strategists about the research showing that these ads actually have a reverse effect. According to Latino Decisions, studies have found that "anti-immigrant rhetoric and ads do not mobilize Republican voters, but rather lead to higher turnout among Latino voters who are angered by this campaign strategy."
It's possible that the GOP is making a cold (and ill-advised) calculation that relying on nativist myths about the supposed "threat" of undocumented immigrants will turn out their base in the midterms and that Latino voters will forget all about it by 2016. But I'd imagine that it's pretty hard to forget being called a drug runner or being compared to a FedEx box.
Or maybe Republicans are thinking that they can simply ignore Latino voters in the midterms since their numbers are relatively small in the states with the closest races. But this is also a bad bet. Though Colorado seems to be the only state where the mainstream media is talking about Latino voters, there are actually six states - Alaska, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, and North Carolina - where the polling margin between the Senate candidates is smaller than the percentage of the eligible electorate that is Latino.
And there is a very real possibility that Latino discontent with the GOP could cost them races in these states. For example, new polling this month shows that 77 percent of Latino voters in Colorado either believe that Republicans "don't care too much about Latinos" (37 percent), "take Hispanic voters for granted" (23 percent), or "are being hostile towards Latinos" (17 percent). In North Carolina, the numbers are similar. PFAW has been running Spanish-language ads in these and other key Senate states to make sure that when Republican candidates are spouting anti-immigrant rhetoric or pushing an agenda that harms Latino communities, voters hold them accountable on Election Day.
As Salon's Elias Isquith recently wrote, "The more Republicans attempt to turn anti-immigrant sentiment into a defining issue... the more they prove that the GOP is currently more of a faction than a national party interested in appealing to citizens of all 50 states." The Latino community, both immigrant and non-immigrant, is here to stay, and it's a growing, vibrant part of this country. So if the GOP wants to remain relevant, this so-called national political party has to start thinking about the whole nation and stop demeaning and alienating a large, and rapidly growing, swath of our country.
With less than a week to go before this year’s midterm elections, People For the American Way hosted a telebriefing on Wednesday to update PFAW members and activists on the shifting electoral landscape in key races around the country. The call, which was moderated by PFAW President Michael Keegan, featured political strategist and President Obama’s 2012 campaign manager Jim Messina, as well as PFAW’s Executive Vice President Marge Baker, Political Director Randy Borntrager and Coordinator of Political Campaigns Carlos Sanchez.
With Democrats locked in a number of tight battles to maintain a majority in the Senate, Messina and Keegan emphasized how critical recent demographic changes in the U.S. are to mobilizing progressive voters. In particular, Messina cited the power of Latino voters on Election Day. As Messina outlined the battleground races that will likely have the biggest impact this year, Political Director Randy Borntrager discussed PFAW’s on-the-ground efforts to inform and turn out voters in key states like North Carolina and Colorado.
Executive Vice President Marge Baker spoke of recent Republican-backed restrictions enacted to curb voter turnout and disenfranchise particular groups, like students and communities of color, that have a history of supporting Democratic candidates. She also touched on the work PFAW has done to both help voters overcome these attempts to suppress their votes and our work challenging the flood of big money into elections.
Questions from callers centered on the need to overcome redistricting maneuvers and on the challenges of obtaining accurate polling information on key demographics.
You can listen to the full telebriefing here:
Starting today, a new Spanish-language radio ad supporting Senator Mark Udall will hit the airwaves in Colorado. The ad is part of a NextGen Climate and PFAW Spanish-language campaign to highlight the stark differences between Udall and GOP candidate Cory Gardner on issues important to Latino voters.
The radio ad underscores Udall’s support for immigration reform and environmental protections. It points out that Udall is “the only candidate who supports immigration reform” in the Senate race.
Latinos make up roughly 14 percent of the state’s electorate, and a recent poll of Latino registered occasional voters in Colorado showed that 89 percent are either “almost certain to” or will “probably” vote in the midterms, making this community a critical voice in the tight Senate race. PFAW and NextGen Climate have been working together in the state to engage and turn out Latino voters. The two organizations recently began airing Spanish-language TV ads in Colorado highlighting GOP candidate Cory Gardner’s record of supporting polluters and encouraging voters to cast their ballots for Udall instead.
You can read a transcript of the new radio ad, as well as an English translation, below.
Los republicanos nos quieren engañar acerca de quién es Mark Udall. Pero no lo lograrán. Mark Udall es un auténtico defensor de la comunidad.Udall ha luchado para mantener limpios el aire y el agua, protegiendo la salud de nuestros hijos. Además, él es el único candidato que sí apoya la reforma migratoria.
Tu voto es tu poder. ¡Votar ahora es muy fácil! Busca la boleta de votación que fue enviada a tu casa. Márcala y envíala por correo inmediatamente.¡Así de fácil! Confiamos en Mark Udall porque él nos dice la verdad y por eso, merece tú voto. Marca tu boleta y envíala por correo hoy mismo. El voto es tu poder. ¡Usalo!
VO Disclaimer: Pagado por NextGenClimate Action Committee, nextgenclimate.org. No está autorizado por ningún candidato o comité del candidato. NextGen Climate Action Committee es responsable por el contenido de este anuncio. Endosado por People For the American Way.
English translation of radio ad:
Republicans want to deceive us about Mark Udall. But they won’t accomplish it. Mark Udall is a champion for our community. He’s fought to keep our air and water safe – to protect our children’s health. Udall is the only candidate who supports immigration reform.
Your power is your vote. And now voting is easy! Search for the ballot that was mailed to your home. Just mark your ballot and mail it back immediately. It’s that simple! We trust Democrat Mark Udall because he tells us the truth – and that’s why he deserves our vote. Mark your ballot and mail it back today. The vote is your power. Use it!
Paid for by NextGen Climate Action Committee, nextgenclimate.org. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. NextGen Climate Action Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. Endorsed by People For the American Way.
Today PFAW is releasing a new digital ad in Virginia highlighting GOP Congressional candidate Barbara Comstock’s dehumanizing rhetoric toward immigrants. Taking a page out of former gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli’s playbook, who has compared immigrants to rats, last month Comstock compared immigrants to FedEx packages.
Comstock said in a recent debate: “Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time. We can track people who are coming into the country, and we can do that right.”
Beginning today, the ad (pictured above) will run in Northern Virginia until Election Day, as will a Spanish-language version of the ad. The text above the ad notes:
Virginia Republicans continue to use dehumanizing and degrading language towards immigrants. Hold them accountable on Election Day, November 4!
Comstock’s comment is just the latest example from a political party that continues to alienate the Latino community with its demeaning rhetoric and harmful agenda. Despite what GOP candidates may believe, immigrants are not rats, or Fed Ex packages, or dogs, or drug runners. That’s why PFAW is working hard this election cycle — in states including Georgia, North Carolina, Colorado, and Wisconsin — to highlight for Latino voters the harmful track records of GOP candidates, and encouraging voters to keep that in mind when they cast their ballots on Election Day.
During a speech earlier this week supporting Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, former President Bill Clinton drew attention to Sen. Mitch McConnell’s obsession with keeping big money in politics.
Clinton questioned McConnell’s commitment to public service in light of remarks McConnell made during a closed-door meeting to a roomful of billionaires in which he said that the day the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill passed was the “worst day” of his political life:
How can that be the worst day of your life, even if you thought it was a bad idea? That was worse than 9/11? That was than the day we had the biggest crash since the Great Depression?…Wouldn’t you feel sick if you spent 30 years representing Kentucky in the Senate, and the worst day of your life was when there was an honest attempt to limit black-bag operations from foreign billionaires from buying your elections?
It should come as no surprise to voters, then, that McConnell has pushed an agenda that routinely favors corporate interests over Kentuckians. His willingness to sacrifice the needs of his constituents to support big businesses was put on display when he helped to lead the opposition against the Democracy for All Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment to overturn decisions like Citizens United that was voted on in the Senate last month.
McConnell’s careless remarks about his “worst day” say a lot about the danger of big money in our elections. Through public demonstrations, petition deliveries and rallies, PFAW members and local activists have been working hard to spotlight McConnell’s devotion to wealthy special interests, and show Kentuckians that their needs have never been his primary concern. Without limits on spending to influence elections by deep-pocketed special interests, corporations and the super wealthy are given free rein to buy elections and stack the political deck against the will of the American people.
Radio listeners in Colorado will be hearing a new Spanish-language radio ad today highlighting the stark differences between the Senate candidates’ stances on environmental issues.
The ad, aired by NextGen Climate and supported by People For the American Way, sheds light on GOP candidate Rep. Cory Gardner’s ties to wealthy special interests who pollute the environment as well as Democratic candidate Sen. Mark Udall’s commitment to protecting clear air and water for Colorado families. The ad closes with a call to action for voters: “Let’s remember: our vote is our strength.”
On Monday, PFAW and NextGen Climate began airing a TV ad that also calls Gardner out on his record of standing on the side of polluters and wealthy donors. This work is part of a multi-year, nationwide campaign to engage Latino voters in key states that PFAW has been leading since 2011.
You can read a transcript of the ad, as well as an English translation, below.
El republicano Cory Gardner nos quiere engañar.
Dice que valora a nuestra comunidad, pero su campaña acepta dinero de contaminadores multimillonarios que envenenan el aire y agua. Y nosotros estamos expuestos a la contaminación ambiental hasta 4 veces más que a otros residentes de Colorado.
Por esto ¿A quien apoyaremos este Noviembre? ¡Al demócrata Mark Udall!
El lucha para que tengamos agua limpia y aire sano en nuestros hogares y vecindarios.¡Y el protege la salud de nuestras familias y de nuestros hijos por que valora a nuestra comunidad! Por eso, en estas elecciones tenemos la responsabilidad hacia nuestro pueblo de votar por Mark Udall.
Recordemos: nuestro voto es nuestra fuerza.
Pagado por NextGenClimate Action Committee, nextgenclimate.org. No está autorizado por ningun candidato o comité del candidato. NextGen Climate Action Committee es responsable por el contenido de este anuncio. Apoyado por People For the American Way.
Republican Cory Gardner wants to deceive us.
He says he values our community, but he takes money for his campaign from billionaire polluters who poison the air and water. And we are exposed to pollution by as much as 4 times greater than other Colorado residents.
Because of this, who will we be supporting this November? Democrat Mark Udall!
He fights so that we have clean air and water in our neighborhoods and homes. And he protects the health of our families and children because he values our community! That’s why we have the responsibility to our community to vote for Mark Udall in this election.
Let’s remember: our vote is our strength.
Paid for by NextGen Climate Action Committee, nextgenclimate.org. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee. NextGen Climate Action Committee is responsible for the content of this advertising. Supported by PFAW.
On Monday night, Sen. Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes went face-to-face in debate for the first and only time in their race, and PFAW activists were paying attention.
More than 50 people turned out to a debate watch party that People For the American Way co-hosted in Louisville – one of the largest in Kentucky.
Candidates sparred over raising the minimum wage and on whether to repeal the Affordable Care Act. McConnell tried repeatedly to tie Grimes to Obama and to portray her as anti-coal. Grimes fired back by blaming the gridlock and dysfunction in DC on McConnell. She also highlighted who McConnell really works for: “I'm not bought and paid for by the Koch brothers or any special interest.”
Sen. McConnell reminded Kentuckians that if he is re-elected and becomes Senate majority leader, he will help set the nation’s political agenda next year. That’s a pretty scary thought. And that’s why PFAW is working hard on the ground in Kentucky to save the Senate and keep millionaires and billionaires from deciding the future of our nation.
On Thursday, PFAW members joined MoveOn.org, 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.
People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch closely followed this weekend’s Values Voter Summit, an annual event hosted by the Family Research Council where GOP elected officials pander to Religious Right leaders.
On Friday, PFAW’s Director of Communications Drew Courtney joined Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s Politics Nation to discuss the summit, as well as the Republican party’s ongoing lurch to the right.
“The difference between the fringe Right of the party and the establishment is less and less,” Courtney told Sharpton. “That’s not because the fringe is getting less extreme; it’s because the establishment has been dragged to the right along with them.”
Watch the full interview here:
It’s been a monumental week for our campaign to end corporate sponsorship for the right-wing group ALEC. Three of the country’s biggest tech companies – Google, Yahoo! and Yelp – announced plans to end their ALEC membership, with tech titan Facebook stating that it is "not likely to renew membership." Google was the first to make the announcement on Monday when Eric Schmidt told NPR that the tech giant’s relationship with ALEC had been "some sort of mistake."
Wednesday brought a triple blow to ALEC’s corporate sponsorship, with Yahoo! and Yelp both announcing plans to terminate their relationship with ALEC, and Facebook stating that it would likely follow suit. Not only are ALEC’s latest defectors some of the world’s biggest tech innovators – they are some of the country’s most profitable companies, with both Google and Facebook listed in Fortune 500.
This week’s "tech exodus" comes on the heels of Microsoft’s announcement earlier this summer that it would not renew its ALEC membership.
ALEC is a key voice for corporate special interests in state legislatures across the country. The group works to connect right-wing legislatures with corporate lobbyists, and is responsible for some of the country’s worst anti-worker, anti-environment, anti-voter legislation. ALEC has helped create laws that harm consumers, endanger individuals, and deny the constitutional rights of millions. In addition to pushing legislation that discriminates against minority voters and protects corporate polluters, ALEC is notorious for its history of working with the NRA to aggressively spread passage of “Stand Your Ground” laws, which encourage dangerous vigilantism and were implicated in the tragic shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
PFAW, along with allies including Color of Change, Center for Media and Democracy, and Common Cause, has spearheaded the campaign to urge ALEC's corporate sponsors to end their membership. To date, nearly 150,000 PFAW activists to date have taken action to put pressure on consumer brand companies to cut ties with ALEC. The momentum created by this week’s "tech exodus" is an opportunity to pressure ALEC’s remaining sponsors to follow suit. Sign our petition now – and share it with others – urging these companies to separate themselves from ALEC’s extreme and reckless agenda.
In a debate yesterday, Barbara Comstock, GOP candidate for Congress from Virginia’s 10th District, compared the tracking of immigrants to the tracking of Fedex packages.
I think first and foremost we need to stop playing politics with this, secure the borders, and just do it. We know how to do it. Fedex can track packages coming in here all the time. We can track people who are coming into the country, and we can do that right.
Comstock is not alone in her dehumanization of people coming to the U.S. Last year, Ken Cuccinelli compared immigrants to rats: “It is worse than our immigration policy. You can’t break up rat families…and you can’t even kill ‘em.”
People in Virginia and around the country need to know about the hateful rhetoric coming from the Right and the extremist views held by candidates vying for leadership positions. These are not fringe conservatives, but candidates in contested races who could eventually influence how immigration policy is shaped and the way our country is run.
Immigrants are not Fedex packages to be tracked, families of rats, or drug runners with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”
Attorney General Eric Holder, who today announced his plans to resign, has been a leader in addressing systems of racial discrimination and protecting the fundamental rights of every American to be treated equally under the law and participate in our democracy.
Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that the Right loves to hate him.
In February of this year, the American Family Association demanded Holder’s impeachment after he had the audacity to treat married same-sex couples like married opposite-sex couples with regard to a host of legal rights and recognitions. Shortly after, both Faith and Freedom Coalition head Ralph Reed and Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp echoed the call for Holder’s impeachment because of his support for marriage equality. Televangelist Pat Robertson also joined the impeachment parade, alleging that under Holder, “sodomy” was being “elevated above the rights of religious believers.”
Holder’s commitment to redressing racial injustice was no more warmly received by the Right than his work in support of LGBT equality. After Holder spoke out against voter ID laws, which disproportionately harm people of color, Texas Gov. Rick Perry accused him of “purposefully” “incit[ing] racial tension.” Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt argued that Holder’s open discussion of racial discrimination in the criminal justice system means that he is the real “racist,” asserting last year that Holder wants to “intimidate the rest of the country so that we don’t think about defending ourselves” against “attacks by black mobs on white individuals.” Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association went so far as to say that Holder would never “prosecute someone if the victim is white.” And after Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri last month, David Horowitz outrageously commented that the attorney general was leading a black “lynch mob.”
And those are just a handful of the attacks the Right has leveled against Holder for his work protecting equality under the law.
The fact that the far Right has reacted with so much vitriol to the attorney general’s leadership is a sign not only of how uninterested they are in the civil rights that the Justice Department is meant to protect, but also of how effective Holder’s work has been. The next attorney general should share Holder’s deep commitment to protecting the rights of all Americans – and, by extension, make all the “right” enemies among those hoping to turn back the clock on civil liberties.
The Public Religion Research Institute has published a new report on inequality and economic insecurity. The report, released this week with a panel discussion at The Brookings Institution, is based on findings from PRRI’s 2014 American Values Survey, which was conducted in July and August. The survey showed that registered voters are roughly split in their partisan preferences for the congressional midterm elections, but that Republicans have a substantial advantage with regard to likely voters, highlighting the Democratic Party’s long-term challenge of getting the mid-term electorate to look more like the electorate in presidential election years.
The survey indicates that Americans’ belief in the continuing existence of “the American Dream” is slipping amid growing doubts about the future and a widely shared belief (about two-thirds of Americans) that neither the government nor the economy is operating in the best interest of all Americans. But on those issues, like nearly everything, there are strong partisan divides.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the economic system in the US unfairly favors the wealthy, but only one third of Tea Partiers and less than half of Republicans agree. More than two-thirds of Americans believe the government should do more to reduce the gap between rich and poor; 86% of Democrats and nearly two-thirds of independents say the government should do more, but less than half of Republicans and Tea Partiers agree.
Republicans are most likely (52%) to report being in excellent or good financial shape themselves, but the least likely (15%) to believe the economy has gotten better over the last two years. Less than one-third of Republicans (32%) live in households facing moderate or high economic insecurity, while more than 4-in-10 Democrats (42% do). More Americans than not believe their children’s generation will be worse off than their own, with the most pessimistic being Americans who most trust Fox News for information about current events. African Americans and Hispanic Americans are more optimistic about the economy getting better than white Americans.
On specific economic policies: about 8-in 10 Americans favor requiring companies to provide full time employees with paid leave for birth or adoption of a child and paid sick days if they or an immediately family members gets sick; about 7 in 10 favor increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour; about 2/3 of Americans agree government should to more to reduce the gap between rich and poor; about 6-in-10 Americans, but only 4-in-10 Republicans, favor increasing the tax rate on Americans making more than $250,000 per year.
On racial justice, the survey showed significant movement between 2013 and 2014 in the number of Americans who don’t think blacks and other minorities get equal treatment as whites in the criminal justice system, from 47 to 56 percent. But there are huge partisan, racial, and generational divides. Large majorities of Black Americans (84%), Democrats (69%), and Young Adults (63%) disagree that minorities get equal justice, while only minorities of Republicans (38%) and Seniors (44%) say the same. The number of white Americans who don’t believe minorities get equal justice rose from 42% in 2013 to 51% in 2014.
On the question of so-called “reverse discrimination,” 45% of Americans believe that discrimination against white Americans has become as big a problem as discrimination against black Americans and other minorities, with large majorities of Republicans (61%), Tea Partiers (73%), white evangelical Protestants (63%) and older white Americans (59%) agreeing. Almost 60% of white working class Americans believe discrimination against white Americans has become as big a problem as discrimination against black Americans and other minorities.
Henry Olsen, a conservative and a Senior Fellow at the Ethics & Public Policy Center, said that the data sends a message to Republican leaders that the standard GOP playbook will not be enough for the party. Opposing gay marriage won’t energize enough voters as long as the Party is not addressing the serious economic anxieties facing white working class people who make up a substantial part of the electorate in key swing states. There is a disconnect, he suggested, between people who are feeling left out economically and many party leaders’ ideological opposition to government support programs. There is a reason, he says, that every swing state Republican governor has embraced Medicaid expansion.
Joy Reid, host of the Reid Report on MSNBC, said that southern Democratic politicians used to be better at having a “dual conversation” that would address the fact that rural white voters still had needs from the government. Many southern whites who had supported the New Deal, she said, saw the Johnson Great Society programs as a betrayal. Today, she says, many white working class people are voting more out of a sense of cultural identity than on the details of economic policy.
Among the commenters was Alan Abramowitz of Emory University, who said that partisan polarization in America is the highest it has ever been. Forty or fifty years ago, people liked their own political party more than their opponents, but they respected the other party. Now, he says, we not only hate the leaders of the “other” party, we hate their voters, too.
Abramowitz said that stark racial divides are driving political polarization. The Democratic Party, he said, is already a majority-minority party, and the GOP seems to be doing nothing to improve its appeal to non-white voters. Reid said that if the Republican Party continues its current behavior, and Democrats and their progressive allies are able to do more to improve voter turnout among Hispanics, the 2020 election will be “Armageddon” for Republicans.
In the arena of religion and politics, Americans are equally split on whether they are more concerned about government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion or about religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others. White evangelical Protestants (66%) and Hispanic Protestants (57%) are the only groups with a majority that is more concerned about the government interfering with the ability of people to freely practice their religion, while White Mainline Protestants and White Catholics are more evenly split. Black Protestants, Hispanic Catholics, Jews, and Unaffiliated Americans are more likely to be concerned about religious groups trying to pass laws that force their beliefs on others.
PRRI’s Jones noted that Latinos are becoming less Catholic, and that shift is going in two directions: some are becoming evangelical Protestants but some are also joining the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. Jones noted that white evangelical Protestants are a shrinking part of the electorate, making up about 3-in-10 seniors but only 1-in-10 millennials. Today, he said, white evangelical Protestants are about the same size in the electorates as people with no religious affiliation.
That data point provides a bit of counterpoint to recent headlines – “More Americans Favor Mixing Religion and Politics” for example -- generated by a Pew survey showing that more Americans wanted churches and other houses of worship to get involved in social and political issues. Americans are about equally split on that question, but almost two-thirds, 63%, still believe that churches should not endorse candidates.
In anticipation of this weekend’s annual Values Voter Summit, a multi-day event where GOP elected officials and presidential hopefuls rub elbows with Religious Right leaders, People For the American Way President Michael Keegan joined the leaders of the Southern Poverty Law Center and five other civil rights and LGBT organizations in an open letter calling on Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus to ask members of his party to disassociate themselves from the summit.
The letter, printed in the Washington Post and The Hill this morning, highlights the repeated and vicious demonization of LGBT people by the groups responsible for the summit, including its host, the Family Research Council:
Its president, Tony Perkins, has repeatedly claimed that pedophilia is a “homosexual problem.” He has called the “It Gets Better” campaign — designed to give LGBT students hope for a better tomorrow — “disgusting” and a “concerted effort” to “recruit” children into the gay “lifestyle.”
… Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, a summit sponsor, has said the U.S. needs to “be more like Russia,” which enacted a law criminalizing the distribution of LGBT “propaganda.” He also has said, “Homosexuality gave us Adolph Hitler, and homosexuals in the military gave us the Brown Shirts, the Nazi war machine, and six million dead Jews.”
By participating in the summit, Republican Party leaders risk legitimizing this kind of virulent extremism. Given that reality, the letter asks a simple question: where does the GOP stand on gay bashing? Reince Priebus himself has said, “People in this country, no matter straight or gay, deserve dignity and respect.” But will he walk the talk and, as the letter asks, “tell the members of your party to shun groups that demean other people and deny them dignity?”
You can read the full letter here.
It’s not hard to understand that the Right Wing is out of touch, but sometimes it is hard to recognize just how out of touch its leaders really are.
Take, for instance, ISIS, the group of radical militants committing atrocities across Iraq and Syria, recently beheading two American journalists among many others. It’s a scary organization, but to the Right, it’s not as scary as, say, comprehensive immigration reform.
To Pat Buchanan, the threat of immigration and the “decomposition of this country” is significantly greater than that of ISIS. William Gheen of the anti-immigrant group Americans for Legal Immigration (ALIPAC) also claimed that undocumented immigrants are a greater threat to America than ISIS since, according to Gheen, “ISIS could cut off the heads of journalists once a month for the next five years and that’s not going to destroy America, but Obama’s pumping of illegal immigrants into the country will.”
Nor is immigration the only domestic issue the Right thinks bears a resemblance to a vicious foreign threat.
Vic Eliason and Mat Staver last week linked same-sex marriage in the U.S. to the beheadings by ISIS. According to Eliason and Staver, gay rights advocates are destroying morality and biblical values and creating an anything-goes society where people do whatever they need to—killing or beheading—to get what they want, just like ISIS.
What’s terrifying about these comments isn’t that they’re extreme, but that these right wing figures aren’t speaking in a vacuum. Their audience continues to represent an important part of the GOP base, and in some cases these speakers have a direct line to Republican politicians.
As progressives, we can’t ignore this extremism just because it seems disconnected from reality. For the far right, that’s never been an obstacle at all.
A poll released last week by NBC/WSJ/Telemundo showed that Latinos prefer to see a Democrat-controlled Congress over a Republican one by a 2 to 1 margin, even while being frustrated with Washington as a whole. That’s no surprise considering the intolerant rhetoric coming from the Right Wing about immigration.
One need only to look at the last few weeks to appreciate the tenor of rhetoric coming from the GOP and its allies:
While President Obama announced a delay in taking executive action on immigration reform until after the 2014 elections, conservatives are pushing to expand their footprint in the Latino community. As Ed Morales wrote in this month’s The Progressive magazine, the Libre Initiative — which promotes itself as a nonprofit that provides social services and talks about helping Latinos achieve the American Dream, ensuring economic freedoms, and promoting a “market-based” solution to immigration reform — is making it its mission to build ties between the conservative movement and the Latino community.
“On its website, the Libre Initiative tries to soften its image with a series of gauzy and polished short videos called "Share the Dream." They feature a New Mexico preacher named Pastor Mike Naranjo, who overcame alcoholism with self-reliance and religion. They also feature Libre's national spokesperson Rachel Campos-Duffy and [Daniel] Garza himself.
“With string music playing behind her and a picture of the sun shining on the Washington Monument, Campos-Duffy tells her family's personal story. Then she adds: "I'm worried that government programs that are supposed to help Hispanics are actually doing harm. . . . A sense of entitlement and dependency on government is starting to take over." (Campos-Duffy is married to GOP Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.)
“Garza's three-and-a-half-minute video tells of how he and his family worked in the fields. "My father never took welfare," he says, but got ahead because of self-reliance. Garza warns that folks are "caught in dependency that government offers," which, he says, has "condemned their children to a life of mediocrity and subsistence. This is not the American dream. This is an American nightmare." Garza says: "Advancing economic freedom is the best way to improve human well-being, especially for those at the bottom." Taking an evangelical tone, he concludes: "The Libre Initiative is reaching the Hispanic community before they are lost forever."”
But as Morales also points out, Libre is funded by the Koch brothers, who actively work to prevent the advancement of causes that would greatly help Latinos by fighting against them, like voting rights protections, raising the minimum wage, and expanding access to healthcare.
“And when you look at Libre's funding, you see the tentacles of the Koch brothers, who have spent millions of dollars funding rightwing groups through intermediaries like Freedom Partners and an outfit called the "TC4 Trust." Libre is one of the recipients.
"Libre received $3.8 million from TC4 and Freedom Partners" in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And Yahoo News reported that Libre's Arlington, Virginia, headquarters "also shares a floor in the same office building as Freedom Partners."”
“Robert Maguire of the Center for Responsive Politics says this type of funding arrangement is typical of the Koch brothers. "The Koch network is unique because of the concentration of money and the lengths that they go to make the flows of money as complex as possible," he says.
“Two of the main issues on Libre's agenda are denouncing the Affordable Care Act and opposing increases to the minimum wage. Ironically, Latinos stand to benefit more from expanding access to health care and raising the minimum wage than many other groups.”
Despite the challenges, Libre’s access to the bottomless bank accounts of the Koch brothers means it’s a player progressives should take seriously — and a reminder that the votes of Latino citizens are not to be taken for granted.