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PEOPLE FOR BLOG

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

Voting Rights – We Can Win

This Saturday marks the 51st anniversary of the signing of the Voting Rights Act. Though we have a long way to go to restore this landmark law and ensure that every voter can cast a ballot that counts, it's important to recognize the progress being made.

Yesterday a ruling in North Dakota provided relief for voters facing restrictive voter ID this November. From the Native American Rights Fund:

[A] federal district court enjoined North Dakota’s strict voter ID law and ruled that voters unable to obtain the necessary identification may vote in the upcoming election by completing a declaration or affidavit. The court agreed with the seven Native American voters that the new law disproportionately burdens Native Americans and denies qualified voters the right to vote.

Last week was huge for voting rights victories, with voters in five states receiving favorable rulings.

Kansas: A Shawnee County district judge ruled that thousands of questioned (thanks to Kris Kobach) voter registrations will count in the August 2 primary. As reported by the Kansas City Star:

A Shawnee County district judge ruled Friday that the votes of 17,500 people whose registrations had been questioned are to be tallied in Tuesday’s primary.

Judge Larry Hendricks issued a temporary order, meaning the votes will be counted Tuesday. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit against Secretary of State Kobach on behalf of Kansas voters who were told that they could vote in federal elections but that their votes in state and local elections would not be counted.

Louisiana: A federal district court held the state accountable for its neglect of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which expands voter registration access to motor vehicle offices and other agencies. Niyati Shah provided this Project Vote analysis:

In this exhaustive opinion, the court basically held that mere lip service to the public assistance provisions of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) is not an option . . . In Louisiana, however, the state had apparently decided that our vulnerable citizens weren’t all that important, and gave all sorts of excuses for neglecting Section 7 of the NVRA. But, in a resounding victory for the right to franchise, a federal district court rejected the state’s arguments.

North Carolina: The state's monster voter suppression law that covers a number of harmful policies was struck down by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Paul Gordon provided this PFAW Foundation analysis:

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed a lower federal court and struck down North Carolina’s notorious voter ID law, as well as its provisions curtailing or eliminating early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration of 16 and 17 year-olds.

Significantly, the unanimous circuit court concluded that the law does more than "just" have a discriminatory impact, in violation of a section of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  The court also found that the law’s purpose was to discriminate, putting it in violation of the United States Constitution. One piece of evidence: state officials moved to enact the law within days of the Shelby County case removing any preclearance requirements under Section 5 of the VRA.

Virginia: Though here it was a state court pushing back on voting rights progress, Governor Terry McAuliffe stood strong in defense of voting rights restoration for formerly incarcerated persons. After the Virginia Supreme Court struck down Governor McAuliffe’s executive orders restoring the voting rights of over 200,000 formerly incarcerated persons, McAuliffe said "he would forgo his blanket declaration — and, instead, individually sign about 206,000 restoration orders for ex-felons, including 13,000 who had registered after his April order."

Wisconsin: A federal district court struck several provisions of the state's voter suppression package. Rick Hasen provided this Election Law Blog analysis:

This is a pretty sweeping opinion, which rejects many of the state’s arguments for its restrictive voting rules as [pretextual], and really aimed at giving Republicans advantage in elections. The judge was particularly skeptical of measures which made it harder to vote in Milwaukee, with its large population of minority voters, and to a lesser extent, Madison, a liberal stronghold in the state. But this is a careful opinion which parses the evidence and does not accept all of the claims.

Two weeks ago it was Texas and, again, Wisconsin.

Texas: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed previous rulings against voter ID. As reported by the Texas Tribune:

Texas' voter identification law violates the U.S. law prohibiting racial discrimination in elections, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed previous rulings that the 2011 voter ID law — which stipulates the types of photo identification election officials can and cannot accept at the polls — does not comply with the Voting Rights Act.

Wisconsin: A federal district court provided relief for voters facing restrictive voter ID this November. From the American Civil Liberties Union:

Wisconsin’s voter ID law has been a mistake from day one. This ruling is a strong rebuke of the state’s efforts to limit access to the ballot box. It means that a failsafe will be in place in November for voters who have had difficulty obtaining ID.

There is a lot of work left to do in the voting rights arena. Not even these victories signal the end of the road for voting rights advocates. But they are important signs of progress.

Onward.

PFAW

NC Voting Restrictions Struck Down as Intentionally Discriminatory

A three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals today reversed a lower federal court and struck down North Carolina’s notorious voter ID law, as well as its provisions curtailing or eliminating early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration of 16 and 17 year-olds.

Significantly, the unanimous circuit court concluded that the law does more than “just” have a discriminatory impact, in violation of a section of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).  The court also found that the law’s purpose was to discriminate, putting it in violation of the United States Constitution.  One piece of evidence: state officials moved to enact the law within days of the Shelby County case removing any preclearance requirements under Section 5 of the VRA.

The district court had concluded that the provisions at issue had neither a discriminatory intent or effect, noting that there was little “official discrimination” in the state since the 1980s.  The unanimous Fourth Circuit took a more careful look:

The record reveals that, within the time period that the district court found free of “official discrimination” (1980 to 2013), the Department of Justice issued over fifty objection letters to proposed election law changes in North Carolina -- including several since 2000 -- because the State had failed to prove the proposed changes would have no discriminatory purpose or effect. …

During the same period, private plaintiffs brought fifty-five successful cases under § 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

In other words, it was only the VRA (including its preclearance provision) that prevented discriminatory voting changes from being enacted and enforced.

In the court’s analysis of the law’s elimination of one of two Sunday early voting days (which were used as “souls to the polls” voting turnout efforts by African Americans), the judges pointed to North Carolina’s own attorneys’ explanation to the lower court of why the state did this.  Among other things, the state claimed it had an interest in more uniform rules across the state, and not all counties had Sunday early voting.  The attorneys elaborated on its justification, noting that counties with Sunday early voting in 2014 were disproportionately African American and disproportionately Democratic.  The Fourth Circuit judges called this as close to a smoking gun as we’re likely to see in modern times.

Using race as a proxy for party may be an effective way to win an election. But intentionally targeting a particular race’s access to the franchise because its members vote for a particular party, in a predictable manner, constitutes discriminatory purpose. This is so even absent any evidence of race-based hatred and despite the obvious political dynamics. A state legislature acting on such a motivation engages in intentional racial discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act.

In 2008 and 2012, the state’s more open voting laws empowered more African Americans to vote.  Armed with this knowledge, and soon after Shelby County, the state legislature took action to adopt the laws being challenged in this case.  The discriminatory intent was transparent, but with a wink and a nod, conservatives devised rationales for the restrictions.  The Fourth Circuit today rejected those rationales and recognized that these were all “solutions in search of a problem.”  Those bogus explanations may not get probed very deeply by the media, but it is harder to get away with the “wink and nod” approach before an effective federal court.  All three judges agreed that the provisions were adopted with the intent to discriminate, in violation of the Constitution.  (One of the judges would have sent the case back down to the district court to see if post-enactment changes to the voter ID law affected the court’s legal analysis.)

Although the court could have used the unconstitutional motivation as a basis to impose a preclearance requirement on the state, the judges concluded that would not be necessary in this case.

If you ever wonder if courts matter, think about this case.  We need fair and independent courts with highly qualified judges to protect our rights and our democracy.  Courts matter immensely, as does the identity of the president who nominates federal judges to the bench.

PFAW Foundation

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."

Donald Trump’s big speech last night was full of false humility, false promises, false sympathy (for minorities, women, and workers), and outright falsehoods. He affirmed various right-wing tropes for his base, but the speech was -- at its core -- a naked attempt to con the voters Trump and the Republicans need to sway to their side by November.

Trump was introduced by his daughter Ivanka, who was completely out of touch with the Republican Party by claiming that Trump would change labor laws to ensure equality in the workplace for women and, especially, mothers. Of course, the Republican Party has firmly opposed those same policies for years, and the federal judges promised by Trump subscribe to an ideology that shuns protections for women -- not to mention the fact that Trump himself has called pregnancy “an inconvenience” for business.

Citing the recent mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Trump promised to keep LGBTQ Americans, specifically, safe from Islam … but what they really need is to be kept safe from Republican policies.

Trump’s chosen running mate, Mike Pence, is the most anti-gay vice presidential nominee in memory. He once called for HIV/AIDS funding to be reallocated to “gay conversion therapy.”

This Republican Convention, just days before Trump’s speech, passed the most anti-gay major party platform EVER -- including opposition to same-sex marriage, adoption by LGBT people, and protections for transgendered students, as well as support for, you guessed it, “gay conversion therapy.”

And almost the very next part of Trump’s speech focused on the kind of Supreme Court justices he wants to appoint -- the kind that have consistently opposed legal protections for LGBT rights! (Let’s not forget that earlier this year Trump pledged to nominated justices who were against what he called the “shocking” Supreme Court decision affirming marriage equality as a right.)

Trump also distorted statistics to gin up the anxiety and inflame many of the false perceptions driven by right-wing media lies, oversaturation of sensationalistic news stories, and the violent videos and memes that constantly go viral on social media.

The reality is that, despite recent high-profile, and rightfully concerning, tragedies, violent crime is at historically low levels, and has been trending down, not up. Same goes for illegal immigration. And those are just two examples -- Trump also promoted Orwellian notions about our military being “depleted,” refugees not being vetted, and the US being humiliated on the global stage that run directly counter to the actual facts.

As one of my colleagues here at PFAW pointed out, Trump was lying from his very first breath last night, when he said he “humbly” accepts his party’s nomination -- clearly, this is not a man who does anything “humbly.” In fact, Trump seems to believe a previous convention speaker’s assertion that he “is sent from God.”

The entire theme of Trump’s speech was that the country is beset by crises of a historic magnitude and that Trump and ONLY Trump can save us. His speech, which has widely been called "apocalyptic," made the case that Americans are completely unsafe, and are under siege from enemies both within and outside our borders … that the state of the economy is terrible.

He said he would fix all of our problems quickly upon taking office -- make the streets safe, bring back all of our lost manufacturing jobs, expand opportunity for young people and minorities, and more -- but declined to say how.

He also reminded the crowd that his economic “plan” includes the biggest tax cut of all of this year’s candidates in either major party -- weighted heavily for the ultra-rich, of course -- but at the same time promised wildly expensive programs, including his infamous border wall -- the price tag of which analysts estimate would be at least $25 billion (no, Mexico is not going to pay for it). It’s a recipe for a behemoth deficit … but of course, facts don’t matter … and never have for Trump.

Now, as if all of that wasn’t scary enough, here’s the really scary part: There are many -- too many -- Americans that will find all of Trump’s blustery rhetoric and empty promises appealing. If there is anything history has taught, it’s that when people are afraid, they will put power in the hands of strongman leaders who promise safety and national glory. We’re even seeing it right now in other places in the world.

Sadly, no one should be surprised to see Donald Trump get a significant post-convention bump in the polls, both nationally and in key swing states (like the Rust Belt states he is specifically targeting).

We need to keep voters’ attention on the GOP’s radical agenda, and on the hate and extremism that were on display all week long at their convention.

We need to ERASE any polling bounce and success Trump gets from last night’s speech.

And we need to DEFEAT right-wing extremists like Trump and many of the other candidates running in the GOP.

PFAW

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

The Pew Research Center has released a new report (“More minority federal judges have been appointed under Democratic than Republican presidents”) examining the presence of people of color serving as judges in our nation’s federal judiciary.  Their study’s conclusion, apparent from the title, quantifies what many Americans probably already suspected: Democratic presidents have done more to increase judicial diversity than have GOP presidents.

Pew’s report shows that:

The number of minorities named to the federal courts has increased faster under Democratic presidents than Republican presidents. From 1945 to today – a period in which Republicans and Democrats have each occupied the White House for a total of 36 years – Democratic presidents have appointed three times as many black judges as their Republican counterparts (162 vs. 49). Democrats have also named more Hispanic judges to the federal bench (73 vs. 51).

Pew’s analysis also indicates that President Obama has put more Asian Americans on the federal bench than all his predecessors combined:

Before 2009, Republicans had appointed 10 Asian judges, while Democrats appointed six. During Obama’s presidency the number of Asian federal judges greatly increased: About half (17) of the 33 Asian American judges to ever serve on the federal bench were appointed by Obama.

As we have written before in discussing why it is important to have a judiciary that looks like America:

For much of our nation's history, judges were uniformly white men. When women argued for equality under the law, they were repudiated with sexist arguments that only men could have come up with. African Americans were told that separate can be equal. Native Americans were told that they never really owned the land they had been on for centuries, but were only in temporary possession of it until Europeans arrived.

A judiciary that looks nothing like America is far less likely to understand how the law affects other people, a misunderstanding that has often led to great injustice. As Republicans exacerbate judicial emergencies, their obstruction is preventing us from having a judiciary that looks more like America.

We see this at all levels, including at the Supreme Court.  Justice Sotomayor’s dissent in the Schuette affirmative action case and her condemnation of a prosecutor’s attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence are great examples.  At the Obergefell oral arguments, when Justice Scalia suggested that a ruling for same-sex couples could force anti-gay clergy to conduct marriages against their religious beliefs, Justice Kagan had to inform him what Jewish Americans already know: that many rabbis refuse to conduct marriages between Jews and non-Jews without raising any constitutional problem.

Diversity brings people with more varied life experiences to our courtrooms, and that helps judges make better decisions.  And when Senate Republicans engage in record obstruction of President Obama’s judicial nominees, the result is a less diverse federal bench.

PFAW