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Here’s where I try to explain the Voting Rights Act like we’re in 3rd grade Social Studies.

Allow me, as a super-regular person, to explain what happened for other super-regular people to digest.

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Now that the furor has died and warm feelings have passed because SCOTUS struck down DOMA, let’s rewind and talk about the VRA.  In light of the progress made on behalf of gays and lesbians, SCOTUS’ earlier ruling on the VRA is even more heinous and I’m going to try to explain it to you in five parts.

What did SCOTUS even rule on?
What’s the big deal with needing an ID to vote?
Does it matter where people vote?
What’s gerrymandering?
Does this even matter anymore?

I’m not an expert and all of this will be in simplest terms because the law isn’t my wheelhouse.  If this were Basketball Wives, I could really dig into the issue.  So allow me, as a super-regular person, to explain what happened for other super-regular people to digest.

In my opinion, part of the reason less people paid attention to the VRA was the fact that nobody really knows what it is.  Gay marriage is easily understood by a lot of people so the joy over DOMA’s demise far outpaced the outrage over the VRA.  That’s why I feel this information is necessary so we can all break it down together.

What did SCOTUS even rule on?

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.  Between Reconstruction immediately following the Civil War and the VRA of 1965, blacks in most of the country were unable to vote due to a series of roadblocks specifically set up to target them.  Poor whites in many locales also felt the consequences of those barriers, but the focus was to keep blacks from voting.  If blacks couldn’t vote, they couldn’t elect people to take up their cause and would by default remain on the lower rungs of society.

SCOTUS ruled on the part of the VRA related to states that have to apply for pre-clearance before enacting voter legislation.  Southern states with a history of racial prejudice are allowed to make changes to their voting regulations but only if they receive the OK from the Department of Justice.  If Justice says, “No, Mississippi, you’re only making these changes so less black people can vote,” then Mississippi doesn’t get to enact those changes.

SCOTUS invalidated the list of states that have to apply for pre-clearance.  Technically, the rule is still on the books, that some states need to be pre-approved, but now there is no standard by which to choose those states.  As a result, it is now open season in the Deep South and southern states can make any changes they want without approval from Justice.

What’s the big deal with needing an ID to vote?

Many people around my age don’t really see an issue with needing an ID to vote because we’ve always assumed that it was necessary for everyone.  Older people hadn’t needed one previously.  Under today’s laws, first-time voters in most states who register by mail must present a photo ID, a copy of a current bill, or a bank statement.  In a few states, they recommend bringing some form of photo ID but it’s not expressly necessary in most locations.  Prior to 2006, no state required a voter to produce government-issued ID to vote.  You registered, got your voting card, and that’s what you used.  A lot of older people who’ve never had an ID and never needed one to vote are now forced to get one.  There are countless stories of older people in their 80s and 90s who’ve been voting for longer than our parents (or grandparents) have been alive who would now be required to obtain a photo ID for the first time in their lives.

11% of voting-age US citizens don’t have a government issued ID.  They wouldn’t be able to vote.  Of those 21 million citizens, the majority are young people, Hispanic, poor, and/or have not gone to college.  That’s a big swath of Democratic voters that Republicans are attempting to disenfranchise.

Also, IDs are not without cost in many locations.  Requiring someone to pay $25 to secure a photo ID just to vote is akin to the poll taxes which kept many poor blacks from voting prior to 1965 because they couldn’t afford to.  $25 doesn’t sound like a lot to most of the people reading this right now, but if you are dependent upon the government for your livelihood (and most likely a voting Democrat) and you budget your finances down to the cent, $25 will many times deter you from attempting to vote at all.  Additionally, factor in the process and cost to secure the necessary documents to get a photo ID (for example, an elderly woman born in rural South Carolina who now has to petition the state for her birth certificate) and you have a situation where people are paying time and money just to vote.

Republicans found a “solution” to a problem that never existed.  They claim voter ID laws will cut down on voting fraud when the overwhelming cause of voting fraud comes from absentee ballots and officials who try to change the voting results.  There have been less than 100 convictions for voter ID fraud over the past 5 years.

Does it matter where people vote?

The last presidential election showed a staggering number of people waiting in line for hours and hours to cast their vote.  Most of those people in line were minorities at their neighborhood voting location.

For an example of voting location changes struck down because of the VRA, we can look at Houston.  In one suburb, there were 84 voting places and they wanted to reduce the number to just 12, most of which were in white neighborhoods.  The location in the neighborhood with the highest percentage of white people was slated to serve 6,500 voters.  The location in the neighborhood with the highest percentage of minorities was slated to serve 67,000 voters.  Clearly the second location would have prohibitively long lines, causing many voters to stay at home or go to work because they couldn’t afford to wait all day to vote.  SCOTUS didn’t approve that scheme and that legislation died.

What’s gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the process by which voting district lines are re-drawn to capture certain demographics.  I’m going to try to explain it in the simplest terms.

This below is Square City and it’s standing in for any number of metropolitan areas throughout the US.  I’ve divided the city into four districts.  Red is where Republicans live and Blue is where Democrats live.  I did it this way to capitalize on the prevailing thought that most inner-cities have minority residents while all of the white residents have moved to the suburbs.

gerrymandering

In the first Square City example, you see the district is drawn simply and evenly with 4 identical sections.  Sections 1 and 3 will probably elect a Democrat while Sections 2 and 4 will probably elect a Republican.  Let’s say that statewide, Republicans control congress and they want to ensure that they keep a Republican majority.  Square City is an easy way to add more Republican representatives during the next election through gerrymandering.  They propose to redraw the voting districts this way.

gerrymandering2

Now, the inner city is all one section and the other three are Republican suburbs.  My example is super-simple.  In practice, Republicans have carved out some truly outlandish shapes in order to essentially rig future elections. Check out North Carolina’s 12th Congressional District that makes absolutely no sense at all.

nc district 12

After Obama won in 2008, the country’s Republicans fired up their constituents and won countless elections in 2010.  Gerrymandering became the hot topic and every piece of voter ID legislation was introduced by a Republican majority legislature aside from the state of Rhode Island.

Does this even matter anymore?

SCOTUS’ decision apparently rested on the fact that,  to quote Justice Roberts, “Our country has changed.“  They feel that the 60 years that have passed since the VRA more than makes up for the 100 years that passed between Reconstruction – when blacks were voted into office for the first time before the Klan and their intimidation tactics put a stop to that – and the 1960s.

Nice thought.  Racism is over.  Warm Fuzzies all around.

But.

The very same day SCOTUS came down with their decision, Texas said they would enact their voter ID laws (which reduce the acceptable forms of ID from 8 photo & non-photo categories to just 4 photo categories) and would re-start legislation to redraw many of their voting districts.  Texas’ previous attempts to do just that were denied by the justice department for being unfair to minorities.  Newly-minted national hero Senator Wendy Davis owes her seat to the fact that Texas was unable to redraw her district into a shape more favorable to Republicans.

Mississippi is now moving forward with their voter ID laws.  The same goes for Alabama.  Both states were denied by the Justice department under the very same parts of the VRA they just struck down because the country has apparently changed.  North Carolina didn’t even bother to petition the Justice department to approve their voting legislation because they knew it would be denied.  With the new ruling, they’re going full steam ahead with a plan to enact new voter ID rules, reduce early voting (which disproportionately affects African Americans working for hourly wages), and eliminate Sunday voting (which led directly to Obama’s election, as massive numbers of black churches organized their congregations to vote after church).  This would have been deemed racist under the VRA, but now they can do it.  Since the year 2000, 74 different pieces of proposed voting legislation were denied by SCOTUS under the VRA…but Justice Roberts says the country has changed since 1965.

In a nutshell, the Supreme Court just turned the clock back to the 1960s and the South is beginning to do all they can to place as many restrictions on voting that are legally possible, restrictions that are primarily put in place to keep minorities from voting.  Congress can take up the matter and draft new legislation, but considering they can never agree on anything, the outlook isn’t that bright.

I advise you to call your 90 year old great grandmother on social security and tell her to start collecting her coins to buy an ID so she can vote in the next election.  That is, unless the South can think of some other creative ways to keep Democrats away from the polls.  Let’s hope dogs and fire hoses don’t come back in style.

 

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economy

Joe Manchin doesn’t want to give money to people who need money.

Conservatives are so intent on giving money to people who already have it.

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When you’re rich, you see money as a reward as opposed to a necessity to live. Joe Manchin is worth over seven million dollars so he has no frame of reference for what a $300 credit is to someone with a child. To him, $300 is pocket change you get as a thank you, not the difference between cooking healthy meals or going to McDonald’s.

Millions of children are set to be lifted out of poverty this year because the Democrats temporarily beefed up the child tax credit in the last coronavirus relief package.

Extending the enhanced credit is included in Democrats’ massive social spending bill. But Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — whose support is needed to pass the legislation — has said he wants to once again require parents to work in order to qualify for the credit, a shift that could exclude millions of the nation’s poorest families.

(cont. CNN)

The impact this would have on children isn’t up for debate. The monthly payments that started in July have kept 3.5 million children out of poverty. Child poverty is expected to be cut in half by the end of the year and low income families with children have seen a 25% decrease in food instability. (x)

But a credit for parents isn’t just about being able to buy food for your children. Almost half of the recipients used some of the money to buy groceries, but others paid bills, which also allows you to provide food for your family.

Poor people know that any money coming from anywhere that goes to anything helps you put better food on the table. If you work two jobs to make ends meet, you don’t always have time to cook. You go to McDonald’s on the way home because that’s the only way you can feed your family. Cutting one job down to two, or even cutting some hours from your second job, gives you more time to feed your family with better food.

Poor people who live or have lived in food deserts also know what that extra money can mean to your family. I’ve lived in a food desert in Bed-Stuy and in Harlem. I’m young, able-bodied, and childless. If I have to walk half a mile to the nearest grocery store with fresh vegetables, I’m able to do that. There are so many low income families who do not have that option. Extra money means a used car so you can get to a grocery store or even just a Lyft once a week so you can stock your refrigerator.

Money gives you options and choices. It gives you ways to be a better parent and provider. So what’s the problem? How could you possibly have an argument against helping parents be better parents?

Once again, rich people are concerned that poor people will get something they didn’t work for. Let’s be clear about Joe Manchin: he did not work for $7 million. He’s been an elected official for the past 40 years. That is his job and you do not amass $7 million on the salary of a public servant. He founded a coal brokerage firm and gave it to his son, but the company still pays him dividends as he stops clean energy bills from passing. That’s where Joe Manchin gets his money, from coal trading that he doesn’t even do. He has $7 million dollars from not working.

So it is absolutely enraging that a rich person who does not work wants to keep $300 from reaching parents who desperately need it because some of them may take it as an incentive to not work, or to work less. To that I say: so what if they don’t work? If $300 a month is enough money to keep you out of the job market, then the job you were doing was grossly underpaying you in the first place. It was probably demeaning work for pennies, and if you can save a bit of your self worth thanks to the federal government, that is a good thing. That is a happier American citizen. That is a better parent raising the next generation.

But that’s just giving Manchin’s position a level of truth it doesn’t deserve anyway. Of the people who have received child credits, only 5% of them decided to work less. Joe Manchin, like so many other Conservatives, will screw the majority just to make sure a minority isn’t “getting one over” on him. Instead, his rationale is to give a credit to people who already have jobs. Joe Manchin, like every other Conservative, wants to give money to people who already have money because, in America, having money means you are morally better than someone who does not have money. It all goes back to the foundation of American Christian Prosperity Gospel Capitalism: rich people are rich because they are good people who deserve it and poor people are poor because of their own moral failures. You can extrapolate that principle out to a host of social policies Conservatives refuse to support.

And if you can get rich by doing absolutely no work at all, kindly forget that you did nothing. Just pretend you worked super hard and the Money Jesus smiled upon all of your endeavors.

 

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Vote or Don’t Vote for Charles Graham…but know why.

A good ad does not a good candidate make.

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Earlier this week, NC State Rep. Charles Graham announced his run for the US House of Representatives, hoping to unseat Republican incumbent Dan Bishop in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. And he came in guns blazing with this campaign ad featuring the KKK…

I’ve never seen a campaign ad for a Congressional race go viral on social media so quickly, but less than a day after it was released, it was all over Twitter. I reposted it too. And then I found out Charles Graham was the only Democrat in the NC House to vote in favor of NC’s HB-2, the state’s infamous transgender bathroom bill.

Back in 2017, Republican state lawmakers wrote a bill that required people to use the public restroom in accordance with the gender they were assigned at birth. Republicans cited their false intention to protect women and children from predators (a thoroughly debunked premise that I don’t need to spend time on), and Charles Graham was the only Democrat to vote in favor of it.

I deleted my Retweet immediately.

Later, I did more reading, and Charles Graham had issued an apology for his vote, and as far as political backtracking goes, this is one of the more sincere and believable ones I’ve come across.

————————————————————–

Text of the above screengrab from Charles Graham’s website reads:

I believe human dignity is a human right. It’s a value I hold dear – but five years ago I failed to uphold my own value when I voted for HB2, and it was a mistake. It was a bill written and voted on within 24 hours, with the conversation surrounding protecting children and women, but I should have done more research to completely understand the impact of the bill. After the hurried vote, I spent the following days talking with colleagues and transgender-rights activists about the impacts of the bill – I became a full supporter of recalling the bill and worked across the aisle to fully repeal it. To the LGBTQ+ community, and specifically to the transgender community who suffered real pain from this bill and the rhetoric that surrounded it, I am sorry.

I have always tried to do what is right, but I am not perfect. I’m running for Congress to stand up against hatred and ignorance, and I expect to be held accountable when I fail to live up to my own principles.

————————————————————–

I believe him. That said, you don’t have to. There are people making the case that if he were truly apologetic, he would have released this apology at any point between 2017 and now, that if he were truly in favor of trans rights, he wouldn’t have waited until his campaign ad went viral and his voting record on the issue was called into question. I don’t disagree, however, he admitted that he didn’t really have a full grasp of the issue when he voted, and once he had a greater understanding, he worked to repeal the bill. That to me is more than just lip-service — that’s action to undue something you did.

So. I decided to post his ad again, but I took a beat. I’d already made the mistake of supporting a candidate (from afar) based on one campaign ad without really looking into his record or what he supports, so I did my due diligence and it’s not great.

NC-9 has been very dramatic these past few years. In 2016, a US District Court ruled the gerrymandering in North Carolina was so heavily and obviously prejudiced toward Republican candidates, the state had to redraw the lines. Before 2016, NC-9 looked like this.

Democrats still argue that the partisan lean toward Republicans continues to be out of sync with the actual population of the state so they’re looking to have the lines drawn even more equitably, but for now, this is NC-9.

Before the lines were redrawn, incumbent Robert Pittinger won that slivery snake of a district with 94% of the vote. He lost his primary bid in the election following the restructuring of his district and Reverend Mark Harris won the Republican nomination. His Democratic opponent, Dan McCready, is a successful businessman with a solar clean energy fund called Double Time Capital. Far from the forgone conclusion of the 94% win by Pittinger, the race between Harris and McCready went down to the wire (I wonder why…) and Harris came out on top with roughly 900 more votes than McCready.

However! (Drama!) The bi-partisan state election board declined to certify the results because campaign operatives for Harris committed fraud on multiple occasions (which included tricking elderly Black voters in rural areas into filling out absentee ballots for Harris). The election was voided and Dan Harris was not the Republican nominee the second time around. State Senator Dan Bishop won the Republican primary and went on to defeat McCready by two percentage points. In the last cycle, Bishop won re-election by a larger margin against Cynthia Wallace, the first Black chairperson of NC-9’s Democratic Party, in a lackluster race that didn’t garner much attention.

This backstory is necessary to understand why the Democratic Party should put its weight behind someone other than Charles Graham. Charles Graham is a Conservative. He’s absolutely the kind of person/politician who is aligned with the Democratic Party not because he agrees with most of the platform but because he disagrees with the other side, and that’s an important distinction. Because we have a two party system, we have a lot of people who belong to to the Democratic Party by default, not by choice. If you’re a politician who hates Donald Trump and supports funding for education, you’re not allowed a voice in the Republican Party. Even if you take issue with some of the Democratic platform, you’re still allowed a place in our Big Tent, and that’s who Charles Graham is.

…critics began pointing out Graham’s more conservative voting record in the General Assembly, including his support for some abortion restrictions, in favor of allowing firearms on school grounds, and opposing a statewide mask mandate — all votes largely in keeping with the prevailing sentiment in his conservative district, which has begun trending more Republican as rural voters sour on Democrats due to culture-war issues.

(cont. MetroWeekly)

Firearms on school grounds and abortion restrictions and no mask mandates are the positions of a Republican. We don’t need another “Democrat” of this kind in Congress, so reflect back on the recent history of NC-9. If this were the snakelike sliver of the past where 94% of the vote went to a Republican and we suddenly had a chance to flip the seat, it might make more sense to focus on a Conservative Democrat. In a district where one Republican had to cheat to win, and still only won by a few hundred votes, you don’t need to run a Conservative Democrat. In that same district where the the election was voided and the next Republican won by 2% partly because of his alignment with Donald Trump, you don’t need to run a Conservative Democrat.  In that same district where Donald Trump won the state for reelection and a Black woman still managed to grab 45% of the vote, you don’t need to run a Conservative Democrat. A clean energy businessman narrowly lost while Trump was in office and a Black woman grabbed a huge share while Trump was winning the electoral votes. You can run the same kind of candidates against that Trump-supporter again and win if you mobilize the people to vote.

Look at this way: People who voted for Republican Dan Bishop because they like Dan Bishop are going to vote for Dan Bishop again. They are not going to suddenly vote for a slightly more liberal version of Dan Bishop just because that version has a good backstory about fighting the KKK and taught special ed. Your goal is to grab the people who don’t like Dan Bishop, so why would you run Dan Bishop-lite? Run an actual alternative who can grab the people who didn’t vote for him while also catching the attention of the people who didn’t vote at all. Nobody who voted for Dan McCready a few years ago or Cynthia Wallace last year is suddenly itching to vote for a Democrat In Name Only. Charles Graham caught a couple of headlines with a good campaign ad, but that’s about as much attention as he deserves from national politics going forward. Save your donations for his primary opponents.

(Sidenote: I do believe Charles Graham evolved quickly on trans issues and his statement was genuine. I believe it because he has not apologized for his votes on abortion. He probably believes in his heart that women do not have the right to choose, so he has nothing to apologize for. If he were an opportunist, he would just apologize for that too and keep it moving.)

 

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Politics

Rolling Stone: Rudy Giuliani Whines About Fox News Ban to Steve Bannon

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Rudy Giuliani was reportedly “really hurt” that Fox News banned him from appearing on the network. He turned to Steve Bannon to elaborate on Friday, telling the former White House adviser that the ban is “outrageous.”

(cont.)

Fox News is perfectly fine with peddling lies and booking commentators who peddle lies, but they’re not okay with losing money. When Dominion Voting Systems filed suit against Giuliani *and* sued Fox News for $1.6 billion partly because Giuliani kept going on air to say Dominion was part of the rigged system to give Biden the election, Giuliani’s relationship with Fox News was suddenly in jeopardy.

You can lie all you want to destroy our democracy, but don’t you dare cost us any money.

 

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