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Tired of money influencing politics? You don’t want Trump.

If you are in the least bit politically active, you are probably tired of looking at your email inbox. The messages are urgent and straight to the point:

  • Send money or we will lose.
  • We are down in the polls.
  • Our opponents are outspending us.
  • It all depends on you whether we win or lose.

In 2012, I registered Republican in order to vote in the presidential primary. I have been receiving Republican fundraising emails ever since, even though I have not given them a penny. (Well, I did respond to a Trump fundraising letter, as I blogged earlier.) Regardless of party, the messages are all the same. Send us more and more money. Many people agree there is too much money in politics. How we get it out is the issue.

In the 2008 primary, I was registered Democratic and about to mark my vote-by-mail ballot. I was choosing between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, two good candidates who had strengths and weaknesses. For me, Obama’s biggest weakness was his lack of experience in elective office, mostly in the Illinois legislature and a couple of years in the US Senate. On the other hand, Obama came with a lot of life experience, growing up outside the US and understanding what life is like for people who are not like us. He also had a lot of campaigning experience as a grassroots, community organizer. If you don’t have the skills to run for office, you will never get the chance to use your skills for holding office. Clinton had more experience than Obama, but I was concerned about the strong animosity against her, which I believe is rooted in misogyny.The right wing has been organizing since she was elected to the Senate, sensing that the White House would be her eventual goal. On the other hand, Obama would have racism to contend with as the first black nominee.

As I looked over my ballot, my housemate Bob came to my room to tell me the latest news he had heard.of a 527 political group calling itself Citizens United Not Timid. Yes, the initials spell out CUNT, and the man who organized the group is Roger Stone, who now works for Donald Trump. http://www.salon.com/2008/01/24/roger_stone/. As soon as I heard that, I was angry enough to mark my ballot for Clinton. I would go on to vote for Obama in the general election, but I am still proud of my vote for Clinton as a blow against such blatant misogyny.

The Citizens United that created the anti-Hillary movie and took its case to the Supreme Court was a different group, and that is a strange story. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/09/time-trump-aide-sued-trump-adviser-over-anti-hillary-group-called-cunt. Both are examples of how big money has been used to create negative images of Clinton and her trustworthiness that are devoid of any evidence of wrong doing.

In her current run for the presidency, Clinton does rely on Super PAC money. She realizes she needs to use that money to combat the Super PACs that have been organizing against her for years. One that has been sending me emails calls itself the Stop Hillary PAC. It spent much of last year boosting Trey Gowdy’s Benghazi investigation. This year, they are supporting Donald Trump.

stop-hillary-pac

If elected, Trump promises more judges on the Supreme Court like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Scalia and Thomas ruled in favor of Citizens United. He promised that to the religious right. In addition, he promised them to end the IRS rule that prevents churches from using their tax-free money to fund partisan political campaigns. I call it Citizens United for the Mega Churches.

Donald Trump bills himself as an outsider who is unbought by special interests. I blogged earlier how that is a myth. Trump is in the pocket of the religious right and, possibly, the Russians. He uses his wealth for lobbying and promoting his own business interests.

That is another reason I urge voters to reject Trump. We need to overturn Citizens United and get Supreme Court justices who recognize the corrupting influence of money in our democracy. I have heard some argue that money does not influence elections, using examples where the candidate who spent the most had lost. I have my own theory of how the current system hurts democracy, though I don’t have evidence to back it. I have been observing how the percentage of voter participation continues to decline as the money spent on campaigns continue to grow. Much of that money has been spent on negative ads. Even though people say they don’t like the negative ads, the sad fact is that those commercials are effective. They are effective at suppressing the vote. They are designed to get supporters of the attacked candidate to give up and not bothering to vote. (Trump is relying on voter suppression to get elected. During the primaries he told those who were not supporting him to not vote. Not voting in this election is giving Trump exactly what he wants.)

If you want to stop the obscene amount of money going into our elections, you are better off with Clinton, not Trump.

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November 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rejecting Trump is the best way to save the Republican Party

I have been blogging whenever I can on the reasons why I believe Donald Trump is completely unfit to be president and why he should be rejected by the voters on November 8. I suggested there may be 50 reasons, probably more. I doubt I will come even close to listing 50 before election day. I think I can do a few more. Today, I want to explain why I believe rejecting Trump is the best way to save the Republican Party.

In my last post, I shared my response to a fundraising letter from the Trump campaign that included a postage paid envelope. (BTW I received a second letter and envelope several weeks after the first. I’m still thinking about what to send back.) In that response I wrote, “I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me.” 

It is true that I have previously voted for Republicans. I voted for John McCain in the 2000 primary and Arnold Schwarzenegger in his re-election as California governor . Being a Republican on the right side of the climate issue was a major factor in my selections. I want to support Republicans who share my concerns on issues that are important to me.

My Irish Catholic parents were lifelong Democrats. Growing up in the depression, they idolized FDR. Electing an Irish Catholic president in 1960 was a dream come true for them. While I maintained my liberal bent in adulthood, I drifted away from the Democratic Party and viewed myself more as an independent. I came to reject the two-party system that has defined American politics since the early nineteenth century. There has to be a better way to select candidates. My late housemate Bob Berry also believed in a multi party system. His efforts to revive the Whig Party was mostly a joke that reflected his own frustration with the system that has come to be known as choosing between the lesser of two evils. For a number of years I was registered as a Whig.

When I have changed my registration to Democratic or Republican, it has been to be eligible to vote in that party’s presidential primary. in 2012, I registered Republican to vote for Jon Huntsman, another Republican who understands climate change. Obama was running unopposed as a Democrat, so no contest there. Unfortunately, Huntsman dropped out before the California primary. I ended up voting for Fred Karger, the first openly gay presidential candidate for either party. Since then, I have been on a number of Republican email lists. The emails keep coming, even though I have not given a penny.

This year, there was no question which party I would be selecting for the primary election. I could not find a single Republican that I could vote for in good conscience. I found several good candidates running as Democrats and finally selected Clinton as the best fit for that office with the best chance to win.

Then Trump became the Republican nominee. That is when they lost me. I can no longer go back to the Republican Party in its present form. Thanks to Donald Trump, I am for now a committed Democrat.

If the Republicans lose control of the Senate, they can blame Trump for their loss. In all of those fundraising emails I receive from Republican candidates, Trump’s name has not appeared even once. Democratic emails proudly align themselves with their presidential ticket.

In addition, to being unfit for the office of president, Trump has shown himself to be an incompetent campaigner. The California primary is a good example. We now have two Democrats running to replace Barbara Boxer, who is retiring from the Senate. That is because Harris and Sanchez received more votes than any of their Republican challengers. In California, the top two vote getters move onto the general election, regardless of their party affiliation. Meanwhile, Trump had sewn up the nomination before the primary. He came to the state and campaigned anyway, for himself. A seasoned candidate in Trump’s position would have looked at the field of Republican candidates and selected one that would have the best chance of coming in second and going to the general. Then campaigning across the state with that Senate candidate would have made sense. Even if the Democrat has the overwhelming advantage, the Democratic Party would still need to divert resources to prevent an upset. Guaranteed that the next senator will be a Democrat, the party is free to spend more in battleground states. Then again, the Republican candidates may have found Trump so toxic that none of them wanted his support. Trump ended up with less primary votes than Bernie Sanders, anyway. His time in California was a complete waste.

I feel for the conservatives’ dilemma. For them, Clinton is too liberal and Trump is completely unfit. I once suggested that they vote for Gary Johnson. He did, at one time, have the opportunity to gain the 15% of the polling numbers he needed to get into the debates. Since then, he has been fading with a series of “Aleppo moments.” Even before that, conservatives where jumping ship to the Clinton camp, including newspapers that have never endorsed a Democrat in their entire publishing histories. They know that a vote for a third party candidate only improves the chances of a Trump win. For them, that is reason enough to support Clinton.

As a Californian, I know I could easily vote for a third party candidate without fear of losing the state to Trump. I would certainly do that if I felt the Democratic candidate was as equally unfit for office. On the contrary, Clinton has shown herself to be quite fit and worthy of my vote. More importantly, I want to make sure that Trump is soundly defeated by double percentage digits. Then Trump would have less of an argument that the election was rigged against him, though I am sure he will argue that anyway. More importantly, I want the Republican Party to reassess its direction and return to the mainstream with candidates who could earn my vote.

I am still dissatisfied by our current to two-party system. A one-party system would be even worse. If Trump succeeds at destroying the Republican Party, we will need to create a better party or parties to take its place.

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Donation to Donald Trump

A few weeks ago, I received a fundraising letter from Donald Trump. I decided to send him a donation in the postage paid envelope that came with the letter.

trump-contribution-envelope

trump-contribution-front

trump-contribution-back

My message on the back of the letter:

I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me. 

khizr-kahn-with-constitution

Khizr Kahn lends his pocket constitution.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z7lN7nQjG0

October 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Donald Trump and LGBTQ Rights

I have so many reasons why Donald Trump should never be President of the United States that I long ago lost count. For now I am listing as many as I can before the election on why Donald Trump should not be president. This one is on Trump and LGBT rights.

A few mainstream papers have published stories of Trump’s past support for gay rights. It was considered a big deal that Trump even said “LGBTQ” in his acceptance speech at the Republican Convention. He even added the “Q” to the released prepared text, though a number of commentators said he sounded like he was reading an eye chart. Why, he even had Peter Thiel come on before him and announce that he is an openly gay man and that Republicans should get off this kick about “bathroom bills” and other distractions from real issues.

Yes, the convention cheered when Trump called the Orlando victims good people, and Trump duly acknowledged their cheers. However, did Trump really challenge his audience position on gay rights? He said he wanted to protect LGBTQ people from foreigners who wanted to kill them. Of course, he not say he wanted to protect us from Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., the American Family Association, or the other religious conservatives who want to take away the rights LGBTQ people have earned in the last couple of decades. He even let them write their bigotry into the party platform to make it the most anti-gay in the party’s history. On the victims of the Orlando shooting, Trump didn’t talk about those in the closet because they were afraid of being rejected by their Catholic families; families who would not know their children’s gayness until being notified of their deaths. He didn’t talk about the victims who may have been undocumented and subject to his deportation policies, but that is getting into a different issue. He just said that it was wrong to kill them. I guess that makes Trump a liberal.

If you had asked most people on that convention floor if they hate gays, they would answer no. In fact they would tell you they love gay people. It is called “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” So it is OK to love and protect gay people as long as they don’t do any gay stuff. Then, in that case, they are going to hell. But that’s God’s business, not ours. Using that logic, it is OK to love LGBT people, while still denying them the right to marry, use the correct bathroom, etc.

Trump could have seconded Thiel condemnation of the culture wars, but he didn’t. Instead, Trump went on assure Republicans and the religious right that he would appointed more judges like Antonin Scalia. Then he spoke about the Johnson Amendment.

It wasn’t the first time Trump mentioned the Johnson Amendment, nor would it be the last. The fist time I heard him address it was during his introduction of his running mate Mike Pence. You remember that long, rambling speech that hardly mentioned Pence. It was during that speech that Trump went off track to a story of a meeting in his office with evangelical leaders. As typical with Trump’s stories, when credit is to be taken for the solution to a problem Trump takes it for himself and shares it with no one else. So Trump talks of this meeting where these leaders are telling him how frustrated they are that they can’t speak out in their churches about all of these important issues and are being forced to keep their mouths shut. Curious Trump, of course, starts thinking about this and finally gets to the bottom of their problem— the Johnson Amendment!

It was Senator Lyndon Johnson who, in 1954, added a rule in the federal tax code that affects charities and religious and organizations. It prevents them from using their nonprofit status from engaging in partisan politics. Simply, if you are a tax exempt organization, you can’t support or oppose a political candidate or political party. Do that and you lose your tax exemption.

During this meeting, Trump said he went to the window and pointed to the people walking on the sidewalks below. Those people have more power than you do, he told the ministers, and the ministers all agreed. The comparison is silly. The people on the sidewalk pay the taxes that created that sidewalk. They are not demanding a tax exemption in exchange for use of their first amendment rights as individuals. Nor do they have a pulpit to amplify their messages.

Of course, those church leaders were not being truthful when they told Trump that they are victims of government censorship. I suspect that Trump was not being truthful about his role in that meeting. It seems more plausible, that those church leaders came to Trump with a deal to win their political support. Part of that deal was removing any roadblocks to their tax exemptions. After the convention, Trump traveled to Orlando, the city where those good LGBTQ people got killed, and addressed 700 religious right leaders, again promising them to end the Johnson Amendment. He has taken his promise to the Tony Perkins’ Voter Values Summit in Washington, DC. (Perkins’ Family Research Council is an anti-gay organization identified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/family-research-council)

While the tax rule has been rarely enforced, its removal could open up a floodgate of money to Republican candidates. Yes, the changes would apply to both liberal and conservative churches. However, I doubt my small Quaker congregation could match the resources of the mega churches, which are dominated by religious conservatism. Taken, for instance, those churches which preach the “prosperity gospel.” These con artists, masquerading as pastors, prey on vulnerable people with promises of great wealth. “Jesus wants you to be rich. Just give your money to me and my church. In turn, Jesus will be happy and make you rich.” With no fear of losing their tax status, I can imagine them telling their congregants, “Jesus wants you to vote for Donald Trump because Trump will make you rich, Jesus wants you to be rich. So now ,give generously as we pass the collection plate and re-elect Donald Trump.” Ending the Johnson Amendment is basically a Citizens United for the mega churches.

And speaking of the prosperity gospel, Trump also brought to the convention stage Pastor Mark Burns, proving that the religious right is not timid about delivering their politics, even with a Johnson Amendment.

Trump frequently credits his success with the support of evangelicals, and now is looking for support of anti-gay Catholics like Rick Santorum. He is promising to sign the “First Amendment Defense Act” and repeal Obama’s executive orders that extend rights to LGBT people.

http://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/09/22/santorum-gets-top-billing-trumps-catholic-advisory-group/

If he wins the presidency, the religious right will expect him to deliver on what he has promised. Which brings us to another reason he should not be President, the myth of “unbought Trump.”

More on Johnson Amendment:

https://www.yahoo.com/news/trump-vows-to-protect-pastors-from-non-existent-irs-threat-221954677.html

https://thinkprogress.org/trumps-top-pastor-delivers-what-may-be-the-most-partisan-prayer-in-convention-history-6dbfab3552dc#.vefbs99qg

September 23, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Shoot the Gays?

There has been a lot of commotion about the filing of an initiative in California that calls for killing LGBT people and imprisoning their allies.With $200, Huntington Beach attorney Matt McLaughlin filed the Sodomite Suppression Act, which calls for gays to be shot or killed by some other “convenient method.” Lawyers have pointed out a number of ways the proposed law violates the state and federal constitutions. There have been calls to have Mr. McLaughlin disbarred. Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked the state Supreme Court to relieve her of her duties to prepare a summary and title for the initiative that would have to happen before supporters can print copies of the petition and gather signatures. Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom has blasted out an email expressing his outrage, and by the way, reminds us he is running for governor. While I am happy to have their support, I disagree with Harris’ and Newsom’s efforts. How do I feel about the circulation of the Shoot the Gays petition? I say, “Bring it on!”

I would like to see the folks behind the initiative get their chance to gather the 365,880 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. The first thing I would do is send a request to Mr. McLaughlin to send me 100 copies. If each copy has space for 10 signatures on a page, I am sure he would be eager to get those 1,000 signatures from me. Then, with petitions in hand, I will head straight to 18th and Castro in San Francisco and set up a table. There, I will invite the voters of California to write on the petitions exactly what they think of Mr. McLaughlin and his Sodomite Suppression Act. Being a believer in free speech, I promise not to censor any of the responses. I will send those “completed” petitions back to Mr. McLaughlin and, of course, ask for another 100 copies.

Even if the Sodomite Suppression Act sees the light of day on the streets of California, I doubt seriously it would becoming to a street corner near me. It takes a lot of money to circulate a petition and usually depends on paid signature gatherers. Initiative backers focus their efforts in places where those efforts will pay off with the most signatures. The plastics industry recently qualified a referendum to overturn the state’s plastic bag ban. I don’t know how many signatures they gathered in the Bay Area, but I did not see any signature gatherers here. I am sure a vast majority of those signatures were obtained from central California and other conservative parts of the state.

When Proposition 8 took away marriage rights from same sex couples, people began to question whether the initiative should be abolished. That was not the first time the California ballot has been used to take away rights. In the November 1964 election, a majority of voters overturned the Rumford Fair Housing Act that had been approved by the legislature and approved a proposition financed by theater owners to ban pay television. As with Prop 8, those propositions were invalidated by the courts.

We learned in history class that the ballot reforms of initiative, referendum, and recall are gifts of the Progressive movement. Progressives were alarmed about the power of the railroads and other big business interests to control the state government and act against the best interests of the people. Through initiatives, people can act when the legislature is inactive. Referendums can repeal unpopular laws enacted by the legislature. Recalls can remove elected officials when the people realize they made a mistake electing them in the first place.

Of the three, the recall has been used the least. The 2003 Gray Davis recall gave the state a ballot with 135 candidates for governor that included a former child actor and a porn actress. As with Prop 8, critics have cited that recall as an example of a dysfunctional process. However, the recall still has a reason to exist. It was an active recall campaign that convinced Bob Filner to resign as mayor of San Diego after being charged with sexual misconduct. While he could have been removed by impeachment, a lengthy trial process would have deprived San Diego of an effective, full time mayor. It should not be easy to recall a public official, but it a tool that should be available when needed.

The initiative process can and should be reformed. One method suggested by a friend is to require that a certain percentage of signatures come from every California county.  That means the Shoot the Gays supporters would have to collect signatures from San Francisco and Los Angeles. If most of their signatures came from Kern County and very few from San Francisco, they will fail to make the ballot.

There is one easy way to keep bad propositions off the ballot. When someone approaches you to sign a petition, don’t sign it unless you really understand what the initiative would do and you really want to see it on your ballot. Many initiatives are deceptive and signature gatherers will not tell you what you are really signing, many times because they don’t know themselves. Besides, the time they spend explaining it is less time they have to gather more signatures. To make you feel better, they’ll say, “Just sign it and get it on the ballot. You can still vote against in the election” They assure you that your signature will not count as an endorsement. Of course, when the backers file their petitions with the state, they will boast that all of those signatures show how much support they have.

Many times we sign because we know the gatherer is being paid for each signature. Petitioning has become a creative spare change scheme, a way of giving to a poor person without that change coming from your own pocket. Unfortunately, the money financing the initiative campaign is coming from special interests that are probably working against your interests and the interests of the person asking for your signature. It may be difficult to say no, but there are better ways to give people employment.

Finally, you can keep a lot of petitions off the ballot by doing one simple thing—vote. The number of signatures required to qualify an initiative is based on a percentage of the people who voted in the last general election The more people who vote in a general election, the more signatures the campaigns have to get, and they have go get them within a 3-month time period.

Some of the most satisfying political work I have done involved collecting signatures to get propositions on ballots, both state and local.Sometimes I was paid, and sometimes it was strictly volunteer. When I was paid, it wasn’t much. Sometimes, the campaign was successful, and other times, we fell short. In every case, it was an issue that was really important to me. Even in those losing campaigns, it was an opportunity to meet voters directly and discuss issues they probably would not have considered. I don’t want to abolish the ballot initiative. I want to return it to be what the Progressives intended it to be; a tool to make democracies even more democratic. The judicial branch would continue to protect minorities from being denied their rights, such as Prop 8 or repeal of the Rumford Act. California will certainly survive such silliness as “Shoot the Gays.”

March 28, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment