Too Close Isn't Comfort
Aug. 12, 2020, 2:10 p.m.
Biden War Room
Whether it’s a pandemic or an election, too close isn’t comfortImagine that it’s Election Night, and we’re selecting a president. State by state, the polls close. Then we all wait for the winners of congressional districts and statewide races to be called, including the battle for the presidency. News organizations release their exit polls, where pollsters offer summaries based on voter surveys at polling stations. They don’t draw conclusions about winners. We learn who voted and why they voted the way they did, but not how they voted. And then we wait.Waiting sucksWe’ve been waiting since March for the pandemic to be behind us. We’re waiting for a tomorrow that’s different from today and yesterday. Too many of us are waiting for the economy to help us go back to jobs that we’ve lost, fun that we’ve missed, and grandmothers we hug.Maybe you’re watching the polls right now. Polls before about September include registered voters instead of likely voters, so these polls include nonvoters. Nonvoters are generally less white, less educated, poorer, younger, and more likely to be women. Nonvoters have historically favored Democrats. This means that any Biden/Harris lead in today’s polling includes a lot of unreliable voters. Early leads aren’t permanent. Don’t get overconfident.Right now, many polls show a close race or have a wide margin of error. Many of the polls show national preferences. For a presidential election, the only thing to watch is the voter preference in each individual state. For most states, the winner in each state gets all the electoral votes. National presidential polls don’t matter. Stop watching them.Within a state, a single poll is just a snapshot. A single-digit lead in a state is not a compelling predictor. Many factors influence whether a vote gets cast at all, even for likely voters. What’s the weather on Election Day? Is early voting or vote-by-mail available? How many polling stations are there, and where are they? Other than the weather, these questions are decided by politicians who have an interest in the election’s outcome. Take nothing for granted.The only math that matters is electoralIn the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton received 48.2% of the votes, to Donald Trump’s 46.1%. Electoral math put Donald Trump into the White House against the wishes of the majority of American voters. Based on Trump’s current approval ratings, he is still there against the wishes of most of us.Razor-thin margins in a few swing states often result in close electoral college totals. In 2016, Trump won Michigan (0.2%), Pennsylvania (0.7%), and Wisconsin (0.8%) by a total of less than 80,000 votes. That’s not a lot in a 140,000,000 vote contest. Often, close results like this precipitate court battles and bad inter-party relationships.For example, in 2000, George W. Bush finally won Florida by 537 votes after a long court battle. That’s a difference of 0.009%, or 9 votes for every 100,000 cast in Florida. Passions were high during the recount. The Supreme Court decision favoring George Bush didn’t decide the election; our commitment to democracy did. Al Gore conceded, and it was over.On the other hand, in 1984, Ronald Reagan sailed into his second term with less than 60% of the popular vote, but he carried 49 of the 50 states. This gave him 525 electoral votes to Walter Mondale’s paltry 13, because of electoral mathematics. Two out of five Americans voted against him, but nobody doubted that Reagan won fair and square.Peak > ekeDisruption from the pandemic will certainly change the usefulness of exit polls that rely on counting in-person voting on November 3. Phone surveys of early voters can help, but it isn’t the same. Close elections, especially those with lots of paper ballots, take a long time to estimate and an even longer time to count.Yet, in 2018, even with significant early and mail-in voting, some congressional elections were called as soon as polls closed. That’s because the winning margins were overwhelming. Early wins are fun on Election Night, but big winning margins are great for more reasons than that.For one thing, when winning margins are large in a presidential race, the winning party often gets a boost in that state’s Senate and House and local races as well. Those winners might be called early, too. Drink!“Elections have consequences”, President Obama has said. That’s true for all wins. All wins have consequences. But big wins have mandates.What’s a mandate? Technically, it means that an election gives the winner the legal authority to conduct governmental business. But after a resounding victory, it means that the winners can be confident that they can implement the policies that elected them.Run on improving health care or changing the tax structure or addressing the climate crisis, and then win big? Politicians in the losing party might disagree on how to accomplish those goals, but they understand that the majority of Americans have spoken in support of them. The losing party can’t be obstinate; they have to negotiate. Laws will get passed. That’s why you vote, isn’t it?Here’s another, and unprecedented, reason that the 2020 election needs to be a big win for Joe Biden, and a win in many states. The following is an important sentence about our democracy, from the National Archives:It is a tribute to our forefathers that a successful election leads, time and again, to a peaceful transition of power to the successor. Al Gore conceded in 2000 to heal our country. Hillary Clinton conceded early in the 2016 race, even with tiny losing margins in states that had polled in her favor. Regrettably, Joe Biden is running against a petulant narcissist who hasn’t yet decided whether to accept a loss if it should happen. The US Constitution? Peaceful transfer of authority? Pish. Here’s an exchange Donald Trump had with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday on July 19, 2020:WALLACE: But can you ... give a direct answer you will accept the election?TRUMP: I have to see. Look, you – I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.What would encourage a crybaby like this to slither away without a fight? Losing big. It isn’t enough to beat Donald Trump. We’ll need to win a resounding victory and get an overwhelming mandate. We’ll need to win many more states than the 270 electoral votes that are minimally required to put Joe Biden into the White House.Luckily for America, Donald Trump is probably too lazy to fight the results if he has to do it in multiple states. He’d be laughed out of the courtroom for recounts in some states if Joe Biden wins by a large enough percentage of votes.Maybe you’re thinking about making a statement by staying home or voting third-party. Your vote against Donald Trump won’t matter unless your vote goes to Joe Biden. Don’t throw away your shot.We can all control how long we’ll have to wait on Election Night 2020. We make it happen by voting, and making sure our friends and family vote, and winning lots of states and their motherlode of electoral votes.After the polls close on any election night, noted forecaster David Wasserman (@Redistrict) looks at the percent of counted ballots in every district and who is ahead so far. He’s the House Editor for the Cook Political Report. Wasserman’s knowledge and experience help him predict what the yet-uncounted ballots are likely to show. He famously tweets “I’ve seen enough” moments before he calls a race.Haven’t you seen enough by now, too? Vote for Biden/Harris and let’s have a resounding victory and an overwhelming mandate.
Getting in Good Trouble
Aug. 4, 2020, 3:33 p.m.
Biden War Room
On July 17th, while the nation mourned the late Congressman John Lewis, one of his better known quotes kept racing through my head:"Get in good trouble. Necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America."The Soul of America. A term we're all too familiar with a year and a half into a grueling campaign cycle. Vice President Biden's slogan has reached from corner to corner of our nation and left a sharp contrast to the racist, divisive, intolerant policy and words that flow from the White House.Joe Biden has always brought a certain calmness to intense situations. We need that now. 150,000 Americans have died from a virus that never had to spread to the extent it has in our country. We are in the midst of another Civil Rights Movement (or perhaps the first one has just never ended) and people across all spectrums of race, gender, creed, and nationality are taking up the mantle to ensure a future where Black Americans have an equitable opportunity at life that people like me are so privileged to enjoy. It cannot be stated enough that while this movement is by definition “good trouble”, while protesting and causing civil unrest and discourse is a tried and true way to raise awareness to the fight we are carrying, hand in hand with our Black brothers and sisters, this awareness must reach an apex. That apex happens by crossing the threshold of your polling place, or dropping your ballot in the mailbox on November 3rd (and hopefully long before then, if you are voting by mail). Joe Biden is uniquely built for this moment. He will work across the political spectrum to bring true, institutionalized change to our country. From healthcare to affordable education to social justice, a Biden administration will provide people who have been disenfranchised by society an opportunity to finally catch up to the privileged. A chance to have a job to be proud of, a wage that you can not just get by on, but have the opportunity to put some money back, or take that vacation. A good union wage. When I put my support behind this campaign, I knew we were going to see the worst come out of Donald Trump. After all, Joe Biden is the man he feared running against in 2016. But Joe, along with his faithful team of staffers, volunteers, and everyday people who help spread a positive message of redeeming the Soul of our Nation for us, and all of our families are ready to face this challenge. We were made for it - this is a moment we've been waiting on since January 20th, 2017.John had another quote that I want to leave you with, for when the fight gets tough; campaigns are grueling mentally and physically."You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone - any person or force - dampen, dim or diminish your light ... Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won."For John, for our families, and for the very Soul of our Nation, we must continue to fight, to speak out, and to vote.
The Biden Promise: Restoring Women's Rights and Continuing the Fight for Equality
Aug. 3, 2020, 2:47 p.m.
Biden War Room
On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the first bill of his presidency into law. It was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and it extended the statute of limitations for filing a gender pay discrimination lawsuit.It wasn’t a gigantic bill, but it was the first one President Obama signed into law after the inauguration. With all there was to do, in the middle of an economic meltdown, the Obama-Biden Administration was signaling that fairness would be a highlight of their tenure, and it was.In fact, Lilly Ledbetter herself, endorsing Vice President Biden on Equal Pay Day in March 2020, said, “I know Joe Biden. He understands what it’s like to be a single parent. And, he will fight for equal pay and working women, just as he always has."Many of Donald Trump’s statements about women are too odious to repeat, especially those against women in power and women of color. His Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and subsequent vocal support during the confirmation hearings struck a blow to the women who watched the televised testimony. Trump called the sexual assault charges a “hoax.” He described “terrible pain and suffering,” but he was talking about the perpetrator, not the victim. Trump policies mirror his speech:He revoked a 2014 order that had required paycheck transparency and had banned forced arbitration “cover-up” clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination claims.He disbanded the White House Council on Women and Girls, which had ensured that federal agencies take women’s needs into account when drafting their policies.He cut international funding for women’s rights and reproductive health and ordered the removal of women’s health information from government websites.The administration finalized two rules to allow employers and universities to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage and argued to the Supreme Court on the side opposing women’s rights. The Court ruled against women.He changed Obama-era Title IX guidelines protecting victims of campus sexual assaults. New procedural burdens deter victims from coming forward, which reduces the number of investigations but not the assaults themselves.In his enthusiasm to erode women’s abortion rights, he restricted Title X funding to family planning facilities. He continues to prioritize judges who vow to undo Roe v. Wade.The policies are callously self-serving. Trump is quite the fan of sexual assault, with a confession captured in the Access Hollywood tapes of the 2016 campaign. Dozens of credible sexual assault allegations have already been reported or filed against him.In a transaction diverted through a shell corporation, a large payment found its way to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign. Its purpose was to hide their affair, a coupling that occurred when Trump’s son was only months old. Trump was fiercely pro-choice when romancing women, and he reversed his purported views when his new objects of affection were evangelical conservatives. He conveniently stopped mentioning his self-described “personal Vietnam” of trying to avoid syphilis as deftly as he had avoided the draft.What has Trump’s record been for the women he isn’t assaulting or paying off? Of the judges he’s nominated, only 25% have been women (under President Obama, it was 42%.) According to a Washington Post fact check, the Trump Administration nominated women for Senate confirmation at a rate of anywhere from 22-27%. Compare these numbers to 37% in the Bill Clinton administration, 26% of George W. Bush nominees, and 43% of Barack Obama’s appointments by the start of his second term.How about the Cabinet? Two women are in the Trump Cabinet, one heading the Department of Education and the other the Department of Transportation. The Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a political activist and donor with no experience as an educator. The Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, is married to the Senate Majority Leader. Perhaps Trump is trying to find the plug to drain the swamp by wading around in it.In sharp contrast, Joe Biden has looked out for women throughout his Senate career, cosponsoring the Violence Against Women Act in 1990 that finally made it into law in 1994. The Violence Against Women Act created a national hotline, funded shelters and crisis centers, and trained law enforcement to address the consequences of violence. To put this timeframe into perspective, 1994 was the year America Online (AOL) first connected to the World Wide Web, and Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president. Joe Biden protected women from violence before it was fashionable.Soon after entering office in 2009, Vice President Biden appointed the first White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. This position was created to advise the President and Vice President about issues involving domestic violence and sexual assault and to promote collaboration across federal agencies. In 2014, the President and Vice President launched an initiative called 1is2many to help reduce dating violence and sexual assault among students, teens, and young adults.The Affordable Care Act might be nicknamed Obamacare, but it’s unlikely we’d have it at all without Joe Biden’s dedication to its passage through Congress. Failures in health care disproportionately affect women, who are most likely the household caregivers and who often hold jobs with employers that don’t provide health insurance. Obamacare also expands access to birth control and enables parents to cover children under 26 years of age.Biden committed early in his candidacy to name a female VP and a Black female Supreme Court pick. Fifty-three percent of his current campaign staff overall and 58% of senior campaign staff are female. This is not just a campaign promise; it’s a campaign that has already delivered.As President, Joe Biden would continue to champion those issues that matter so much to women, from bolstering affordable quality health care, to raising the minimum wage, to addressing online harassment and abuse, and investing in families, which hold the future. In the end, Joe Biden is focused on the safety and security of us all.In health care, he would expand the Affordable Care Act and initiate a public option like Medicare to improve access. He’d see to it that insurance covers contraception and he’d restore funding to Planned Parenthood. He’d work to codify Roe v. Wade and work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which disproportionately affects low-income women, women of color, younger women, and immigrants.To address economic inequities, he’d increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour, allow caregivers to contribute to retirement accounts while their work isn’t recognized by monetary wages, and cut income-based payments of student debt. All of these initiatives improve current conditions that disproportionately hurt women.In safety, he’d reauthorize and fund the Violence Against Women Act, protect Americans against gender-based violence and act to support its survivors, end the rape kit backlog, and get guns away from the most dangerous owners.Women are often the ones responsible for providing the sanctuary of home for their families, but they can’t provide safety outside their own walls. The Biden Plan would refocus critical efforts addressing climate change, providing access to clean air and water, and ensuring that Americans have paid time to take care of a newborn, elderly parent, or sick loved one.Joe Biden promises to continue the fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, to enshrine equality into the Constitution.Vice President Biden is a practicing Catholic and is personally opposed to abortion. But Joe Biden understands that his responsibility as a public servant is to the Constitution and to us, and that leads him to be pro-choice, a position from which he has not wavered.On Independence Day 2020, Vice President Biden sent this message to the American people:“Our nation was founded on a simple idea: We're all created equal. We've never lived up to it — but we've never stopped trying.”That’s Joe Biden in a nutshell. He will never stop trying. Neither should we.
Mailing It In: Debunking Absentee Ballot Bunk
July 29, 2020, 3:54 p.m.
Biden War Room
Let’s talk about masks first. Are you old enough to remember when Donald Trump and a wall of Republicans constantly politicized the idea of wearing a mask? It wasn’t long ago. Their lie that masks shouldn't matter was as barefaced as their noses.Wearing a mask is something we can all do to promote our own safety and the safety of others. The overwhelming majority of Americans know this. But Donald Trump doesn’t like to wear masks or see other people wearing masks. Maybe it’s because the mask is a mirror, reflecting his failures in confronting the coronavirus.Question: What do masks have to do with voting?Answer: The mail-in ballot is shaping up to be the new mask.Like a mask, the paper ballot will keep you safer and protect other people as well. Remember the long lines and unnecessary risk voters faced during the primaries? Safety dictates that voters who qualify should take advantage of mail-in paper ballots.Trump doesn’t want us to think about mail-in ballots. Just the fact that we need them is more evidence of Trump's incompetence against the coronavirus, and reminds us all of its large cost paid in American lives. This fiasco is why we will still be hiding from COVID-19 nearly a year after it arrived here.Trump’s fear of the paper ballot is also a testament to his egomania. It’s part of his continuous efforts to disenfranchise or suppress voters that don’t like him. So he tweets about “rigged” elections and voter fraud.Most likely, reality celebrity Trump is staging a November temper tantrum if he loses, to spite our well-tested democratic process. Reportedly, his own handlers are horrified that this tour de force performance will discourage only his own followers who routinely vote by mail. The rest of us either know he’s lying or we’ve stopped listening to him at all.Every analysis of mail-in ballots finds that the amount of error is infinitesimal. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found about 1300 instances of proven fraud in elections in the past 20 years, in a review of 250,000,000 mailed ballots. Absentee balloting is in every state, at least for some voters. Ballots that arrive by mail are scrutinized to make sure the signature matches the one on file, and then they are compared to local identifiers like drivers’ licenses. They’re not hackable, and they can easily be recounted.Contrary to Trump's misinformation, voting by mail doesn't even help Democrats win. A Stanford University study in 2020 found that vote-by-mail doesn’t help either party in vote share or turnout, though it does increase overall turnout slightly. The one thing that will help Democrats win is the large number of people who don't like Trump. If they vote. Please vote.Don’t be confused by the terms “mail-in” and “absentee”. The absentee ballot did come about because some voters couldn’t be in town to place their ballots in person. Military personnel, for example, have voted by mail since the Civil War. There are some jurisdictions that make a distinction between “absentee” and other forms of mail-in ballots when voters apply for them, but the setup of ballots and the methods to process them are exactly the same. Making a false distinction based on terminology enables Trump to confuse an issue that has been settled for more than a century.Trump himself voted by mail in 2018 and 2020, “explaining” that it’s too hard for him to get to Florida to vote. He'd prefer you forget that he has visited his own Florida properties more than 100 times since becoming President. He has two golf courses there.Vice President Pence and his wife voted by mail using the address of the Governor’s mansion in Indiana, where they haven’t lived since 2016. Aides Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Kayleigh McEnany have voted by mail or at least tried and failed. It’s not a surprise that Jared Kushner promised to make his vote happen but couldn’t get it done. Ivanka’s 2017 ballot arrived too late. Many other Trump advisors support his falsehoods about voting with their silent approval, but not their behavior. Nearly a dozen in his inner circle are known to vote absentee. Voting by mail is easy, safe, and convenient.Here’s proof that states are satisfied with the safety of paper ballots: nearly all states make it possible and simple. Some states send ballots to all registered voters. Only a handful of states currently require a reason to vote absentee beyond a fear of the coronavirus. That might change in the months ahead as hotspots arise across the country. For the primaries, nearly a dozen states relaxed their requirements for a reason to use a paper ballot.States are gearing up to process more paper ballots, and they will gain other benefits if you vote from home. For example, poll workers tend to be older and more susceptible to the virus. Keeping polling stations emptier keeps elderly workers safe and protects the voters who decide they still want to vote in person. When you vote from home, you're protecting somebody's grandmother.Voting-by-mail is like buying from an online retailer. Once you have your ballot, weeks before Election Day, you could even look up the candidates and find out their policies, something you can’t really do when you’re already in a voting booth and there’s a long line behind you. That's a little like reading the product description.The newspaper you read — which might also be in paper form — probably provides endorsements, including why they’ve made the choices they did. They won't give star-based reviews like Amazon does, but you'll learn a lot about what's important to people in your community. When you're ready to commit, you can fill the ballot out at your leisure, like putting it in your cart. You’ll feel better about your vote for, say, local councilman, if you make your choice based on the candidate’s record and not just their ad’s theme song or the photo of their dog. It's probably not their real dog anyway.What can you do?First, check to make sure that you’re registered to vote. You can check on that online. If not, get registered. There are deadlines in most places.Check your own state to see what choices are available for mail-in ballots. In some states, this issue is still being worked out. Keep on it until you are sure you can vote by mail.If you know your state provides mail-in voting, sign up for a paper ballot. Many states don’t need a reason.If your state doesn’t permit you to vote on paper or if it requires more reasons than you can provide, keep watching. Some of them will change their minds.Don't wait too long to submit your ballot. Assume it will take a slow route through snail mail. If it arrives a minute late, it doesn't get counted. The US Postal Service is recommending that you send in the ballot at least 15 days before Election Day. That's October 19 this year.This is all as easy to do as signing up for a new streaming service. Go to IWillVote.com and sort through the requirements for your own state. And then be a patriot in the age of coronavirus. Vote from the comfort of your couch.
Moving Forward on Women's Rights
July 28, 2020, 8:28 p.m.
Alexandra and Gabriella, BWR Team
Since the Supreme Court rulings of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, state and territory legislatures have become a laboratory for legislation that would effectively overturn these key rulings that gave people the right to access vital reproductive healthcare.One can look no further than our own homes. In Texas during the 86th Legislative Session in 2019, State Representative Tony Tinderholt presented a failed bill that would have criminalized abortion and applied the death penalty to both people receiving and performing the procedure. A Republican state representative that halted the vote of this bill received death threats. In Puerto Rico, Senator Nayda Venegas crafted a bill that would have effectively made people under the age of 21 minors when it came to seeking reproductive healthcare. The University of Puerto Rico Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology argued that this bill that claimed “that a young, 21 year old woman is incapable of making an informed decision or that thousands of women in Puerto Rico are subjected to abortions by practitioners or nurses without any formal gynecological/obstetric training” was erroneous.The passing of these bills in the first place is indicative of an unfortunate trend in politics to ignore history in regards to women’s rights and reproductive justice, especially for minority women in this country. What many don’t know is the first large-scale human trial of the birth control pill was carried out in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. Activists against the trials argued that they largely contributed to the systematic inferiorization of women through colonial, racial and gendered structures. In 1977 in Texas, Rosie Jimenez died after not being able to obtain a legal abortion through Medicaid. She was close to becoming a special education teacher and already had a 5 year old daughter. An argument against women making their own informed decisions in regards to their own health contributes to a culture of infantilization of women and the degradation of women’s rights in America. Women today still face adversity in regards to healthcare and reproductive justice, especially when looking at the heightened maternal mortality rates of Black women in this country.To say that the current administration has only made it more difficult for women to receive proper healthcare in America is an understatement. Within his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump’s administration gutted funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides family planning and reproductive services to more than 150 countries globally. Human rights activists quickly denounced the decision, stating that “eliminating U.S. funds threatens the health and rights of millions of girls and women around the world, particularly those in crisis situations.” Claiming a pro-life stance, the current administration has also vehemently spoken out against Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the majority of their funding goes towards providing services outside of abortion.The incompetence and ignorance doesn’t stop there. The White House has asked different governmental agencies to change its verbiage and information relating to women’s health. The President asked the CDC to omit forbidden words such as fetus, evidence-based, transgender, and diversity from the agency’s website. The State Department also stripped its annual human rights report from featuring any mentions of reproductive or sexual rights. What’s more, other governmental agencies and websites followed in suit by removing similar mentions on their own page, like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) removing mentions of contraception, abortion, and sex education from its documents.This behavior is directly contrasted by Vice President Joe Biden, the President’s Democratic challenger. The Vice President worked under the Obama administration expanding healthcare to millions of Americans, including women who needed better and more affordable access to contraceptives. Besides expanding healthcare even more, Vice President Biden has pledged to lowering prescription costs, working to codify Roe v. Wade, supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, reducing the high maternal mortality rate (which disproportionately affects women of color) and restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, both through Medicaid and Title X.Despite the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women still have difficulty receiving equal pay for equal work, even in women-dominated professions such as education and nursing. Combined with the fact that women hold two-thirds of all student debt in America, women face greater challenges building wealth than their male counterparts in their professions. Biden plans to cut income-based payments for student loans in half, to 5% of discretionary income. He would also freeze interest on student loans for individuals making less than $25,000 per year and make sure public servants actually benefit from public service loan forgiveness (which would greatly benefit women working in education).Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is currently refusing to allow a vote on the House-passed Violence Against Women Act of 2019, which would renew and bolster legislation that Biden spearheaded in 1994. As a result, key programs funded to combat gender-based violence, especially for immigrant and Native American communities, have not received crucial funding. Houston Police Chief Art Avecedo lambasted Republican senators holding up the reauthorization of VAWA after an officer was shot after responding to a domestic violence incident, stating:"I don't want to hear about how much they support law enforcement. I don't want to hear about how much they care about lives and the sanctity of lives yet, we all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and others are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House and getting the Violence Against Women's Act [passed] is because the NRA doesn't like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends. And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend. So you're either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you're here for the [National Rifle Association]."Not only would Biden ensure that VAWA is reinstated, he would enact universal background checks and push for prohibiting all individuals convicted of assault, battery, or stalking from purchasing or possessing firearms. Additionally, with the rise of online extremist groups such as incels that advocate for committing mass acts of violence against women, Biden would create a task force on online harassment and abuse to focus on the connection between mass shootings, online harassment, extremism, and violence against women.The case for women voting out Trump is so much more than the retweetable soundbites of his sexist comments. Real damage has been done for every American woman's healthcare, safety, and livelihood. Especially with several members of the Supreme Court reaching retirement age, it is imperative that we do not allow Trump to make another lifetime Supreme Court appointment. Another Trump Supreme Court appointment could roll back women’s rights to a pre-Roe v. Wade state where women would struggle to even make basic healthcare decisions for themselves. The 2020 Presidential Election is one of the most important elections that women will ever vote in for that reason alone. A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for maintaining our current rights as women and furthering gender equity in the United States.
Up and Down the Ballot
July 22, 2020, 10:27 p.m.
Biden War Room
Are you thinking that Joe Biden will probably win the Presidency? It’s a comforting thought, if a bit premature. But even if we could be sure that we will see President Biden in January — and there are no guarantees — this wouldn’t mean that your vote doesn’t matter. For all the attention we give to presidential elections, and they’re important, the success of down-ballot candidates makes it either possible or impossible for the President to govern.You must vote! It really matters, whether your party is now in power or not.The US SenateRepublicans are often commended for their ability to use the Supreme Court to drive turnout in presidential elections. The Senate confirms Supreme Court nominees. For example, the 2016 Senate election gave us Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. Supreme Court confirmations are a partnership between a President and the Senate. With or without the White House, a Democratic majority in the Senate wouldn’t have confirmed Brett Kavanaugh. With a Democrat in the White House, he wouldn’t even have been nominated.Maybe you oppose the death penalty. On July 14, 2020, a middle-of-the-night decision allowed the Trump Administration to execute federal prison inmate Daniel Lewis Lee — the first federal execution in 17 years. The decision to execute Lee was 5-4 along ideological lines, over the objections of the victims’ relatives. The next President can’t undo this execution, only the next one after this one. Daniel Lewis Lee would like a word.The Senate ratifies treaties. The Paris Agreement is so named because President Obama couldn’t get the Senate to make it into a real treaty. His ability to unilaterally enter this agreement was mirrored by Donald Trump’s recent unilateral withdrawal from our commitment. Had there been a treaty, the Senate would need to codify our departure. This Senate might have complied. If you support the Paris Agreement, you probably would like to see a new Senate in place in 2021.Bills don’t become laws until the Senate passes them. Hundreds of bills have been passed by the House, but Senate Majority Leader McConnell will not introduce them. If you are worried about human rights, civil rights or voter rights, replacing the Republicans in today’s Senate is a place to start. The House and Senate have to pass the same exact bill or it doesn’t become law. And any House bill needs to appeal to enough Senators to overcome the filibuster. The way for Democrats to accomplish that is to have a large majority of Senators and a moderate bill.Suppose a president believes that he is above the law. The House of Representatives can initiate an impeachment investigation and send an impeachment referral to the Senate. Today’s Senate voted in agreement with Donald Trump, not the House. This is the importance of voting in Senate races, because the Senate can remove a lawless president. Except for this Senate.The US House of RepresentativesThe House of Representatives has the authority to initiate spending bills and impeach federal officials. The House also might provide the deciding vote in the case of an electoral college tie.This means that if you’d like to see investments in infrastructure, or funding to combat coronavirus, or a strategy to address climate change, you need a House that shares those goals. The House also launches and conducts investigations, and provides oversight over federal agencies.If you have Obamacare health coverage, the only reason that you still have it is that the Democrats won the House in 2018. This is why Donald Trump had to take health care to court, because he couldn’t overturn it using the proper channel of legislation.Think about what the last two years might have been like if Congress had kept its Republican majority. For example, committees would have continued to have Republican chairs like Trey Gowdy and Devin Nunes. Much of what we know about the wrongdoing within this administration is only because the House is now led by Democrats.Statewide and local contestsState legislatures control congressional boundaries, and once the census is complete, they will redraw boundaries in about 75% of the country. This redrawing affects all elections for the next ten years. For example, 2010 Republican turnout resulted in the current congressional districts, artfully drawn to favor Republicans going forward (Democrats would also redraw boundaries to favor their own candidates.). After the 2010 election, Democrats lost more than 1000 seats in state legislatures. Down-ballot elections matter.Governors decide whether to participate in Medicaid expansion and other programs for the poor. States can’t use deficits to accomplish their goals, so spending needs to be prioritized. Every dollar spent on one priority is a dollar less for another. Policies — such as those affecting women’s health, immigration, and environmental initiatives (even without a federal policy) — are set in local jurisdictions. Governors have been deciding, for better or for worse, when to open states up from COVID-19 lockdowns and when to compel children to go to school. Get to know the priorities of the candidates for statewide offices and vote as though lives depend on you. Right now they do.State legislatures make decisions about increasing or suppressing voter rights, expanding or contracting voter registrations, and adding or restricting early voting sites and hours. Whether you will be able to vote later depends on how you vote this November.Republicans are skilled at investing in the long term. They raise money for elections up and down the ballot. Down-ballot races enable the winners of the contests to set the rules for future elections. It’s an investment worth making.Democrats have a lot of young voters, and lots of diversity. That’s great for the party and great for the future, but these groups simply don’t vote as regularly as those who are older and whiter. Republicans historically have outpaced Democrats in voter turnout. This gives them a sustained advantage, especially for the long term.Let’s say that the candidate you like for President is well ahead, according to polls. Maybe you live in a state that always votes for Democrats. You might think this means that you don’t need to vote. You might think this means that you can leave the rest of the ballot blank. You couldn’t be more wrong.It isn’t enough to vote for a President and ignore voting for the fundamental structure that would enable Joe Biden to do the job you hired him to do. Learn about Congressional and local candidates, and vote in every race. Do it for Joe.
Dreams & Dedication: How the Stoneman Douglas School Shooting Demonstrates The Need For Gun Safety in America
July 21, 2020, 2:32 a.m.
Fred Guttenberg, Author: Find The Helpers
I am voting for Joe Biden to be our next President on November 3rd. If like me, you care about public safety, decency, civility, and genuine concern for all Americans, you have no choice but to join me. I will be voting because I want to deliver a better, safer, and more just world for my children Jesse and Jaime. I want Jesse, who will soon be 20, to raise children in a country where we are working to reduce gun violence. I want Jesse to be able to send his children to school in a country where he won’t have to worry about gun violence. For Jaime, that is already too late. On February 14th 2018, I sent Jesse and Jaime to school in Parkland, Fl. Just after 2pm, Jesse called me to say that there was a shooting in his school and that it was still happening. Thankfully, he was already running from the school to safety. As he was running, he was hearing the bullets fly. The gunshots that he was hearing were from the AR-15 that would ultimately kill his sister, Jaime.Jaime had a favorite saying when she was alive, and it was “Dreams and dedication are a powerful combination.” For Jaime and for our nation’s children, I have a dream of reducing gun violence and I am dedicating my life to making sure that it happens. One person who has also dedicated himself to ensuring that we do everything possible to reduce gun violence is our next president, Joe Biden. A President Biden will understand the pain of loss unlike any president before him. The empathy and compassion for others that he will have will motivate him every day to do more to ensure families across America do not come to know this pain of loss the way that both he and I do.Shortly after Jaime’s murder, Joe Biden called me. He talked to me about getting through grief. We spoke about mission and purpose. We also spoke about his prior legislative fights with the NRA and passing the assault weapons ban. Joe Biden has taken on the NRA before and he has won. Perhaps that is why the NRA is now endorsing the current occupant of the White House. The NRA is afraid of Joe Biden. They should be. Simply put, Joe Biden has done this before and now more than ever, he is committed to doing this again. For our children, our next president plans to solve the issue of rampant gun violence. During his presidency, we will reduce the gun violence death rate in America. Joe Biden, our next president, has a plan to do this and he has promised that it will be an immediate priority. Here are some components of his very comprehensive plan:He will start by ensuring the background checks bill which is supported by over 90% of all Americans gets passed. Close loopholes such as the boyfriend loophole, the hate crime loophole, the Charleston loophole and fugitive from justice loophole.Reinstate the Obama era policy to keep guns out of the hands of those unable to manage their affairs for mental health reasons, a policy that was reversed by this current White House occupant.He will get weapons of war off our streets by banning the manufacture and sale of assault weapons and high capacity magazines. He will also regulate the possession of existing assault weapons under the National Firearms Act. Buy back existing assault weapons already in our communities.He will work to repeal Protection of Lawful Commerce In Arms Act or PLCCA which currently prevents gun manufacturers from being held accountable. Reduce the stockpiling of weapons.End the online sales of firearms and ammunition.Incentivize states to pass “Extreme Risk” laws which are saving lives already in states across America.Give states incentives to set up gun licensing programs.Unlike this current administration, which has refused to acknowledge the role of guns in the mass shooting that killed my daughter and 16 others, Joe Biden understands this. He understands that reducing gun violence is no longer something that we as a Nation can ignore. He has a plan that will lead to a reduction in the gun violence death rate. He has a plan that will lead to fewer children being killed at school and a plan that will ensure that fewer children are not left without a parent because of gun violence. A Joe Biden presidency means that we finally get to solve the issue of gun violence. If he does not win, the consequences of having done nothing and having a Supreme Court tilt further to the right only ensures that we will not be able to solve this problem for generations. Your loved ones will be in danger. That is a risk I am not willing to take. Please join me in voting for Joe Biden on November 3rd. · · ·We want to thank Fred Guttenberg for guest writing for this week's Biden War Room Testimonial Tuesday. Be sure to check out and pre-order his new book, "Find the Helpers".
Joe Biden: The Leader America Yearns For
July 17, 2020, 7:08 p.m.
Dylan Hellebrand, BWR Team
For me, I already had my mind made up on who I wanted to vote for when they announced their candidacy on April 25, 2019. That person was Joe Biden. To me, Joe Biden represents a lot of characteristics that we want and need in a President. We need a leader, someone who is a decent human being, someone who understands the severity of the presidency and the problems that lie ahead.As a young person, I was taught about the importance of the role of government in America, that having power means you can change lives for the better. To progress your agenda is to simply improve the lives of those struggling. That’s what I was taught and when Barack Obama was elected the first African American president in this nation’s history, it stoked my passion for politics. As someone who grew up in a liberal household, it gave me a decent idea of what he stood for, when I was a nine-year-old who didn’t understand much about policies or the deep meaning of politics. When I was a kid, I was an introvert and loved to learn more about different things whether it was about different shows, movies, or even sports. I was nicknamed “the researcher” by my parents because of how much I would research things that interested me and stoked my wanting to learn more. I remember watching the inauguration of President Obama in class and watching my teacher’s eyes with excitement and learning how much progress that this country made with him being sworn in. That’s when I started to learn more about him and his administration and who helped him with his agenda. I stumbled across the name of his Vice President, Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr.I researched him and his career extensively and thought how much of a great choice he was for President Obama. Reading how long he served as a Senator and all of the accomplishments he had in his political career gave me hope. From co-authoring the Violence Against Women Act and working across the aisle with both sides of the political spectrum, his record inspired me to uphold the same ideals and decency that he has. As a key person who helped President Obama turn the economy around and save the auto industry from the brink of death, it gave me another reason to look up to him. When the Affordable Care Act was passed, he was the one that got Republican votes to push it over the top which pushed my affinity towards him as someone who clearly knows how to get the job done.I also learned about his life before politics and the struggles he has had to go through. With his father having to move his family struggling to get another job, he had to learn the early struggles of life and how much you had to sacrifice in order for your children to thrive. When his wife and daughter died tragically right after he was first elected as a United States Senator, he never gave up and his love for his family proved that. He was a single dad for a few years, raising his two sons who were also badly injured in the wreck that killed their mother and sister. While never forgetting his wife and daughter, he was able to start a family with Jill Jacobs and had a daughter together. When his son Beau died of brain cancer in 2015, it returned him to the same feeling of loss and hopelessness. He never thought he’d have to go through that same feeling again, yet was able to pick up his head and continue doing what he said Beau wanted him to do, and that was to “stay in the public arena”.In 2015, Joe Biden thought that he would never run for office again but little did he know what would transpire the next year. No one thought Donald Trump would win the Presidency. No one thought a man with little to no decency and vile with his rhetoric would hold the office of the most powerful job in the world. From wanting to ban Muslims from this country and colluding with Russia to undermine our democracy to spouting hateful rhetoric and being surrounded by those who are unqualified, President Trump has proven time and again how unfit he is to serve as Commander-in-Chief. Horrified and disturbed at these actions, Joe Biden knew he had to do what was not in his best interest, but in the best interest of the American people and that was to run for President. While we are in the middle of a global pandemic that President Trump has failed at containing while simultaneously defending white supremacy, Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee. He hopes to “restore the soul of this nation” which resonates with many people across the country who are looking for a leader to act. We are lacking the kind of leadership that stared down our enemies and dictators who were trying to undermine America and worked for the American people’s best interests. As someone who grew up in a working middle class family, Joe Biden understands the need to have a leader who relates to those who are simply trying to get by. He understands how important the future of our country is and how much it is at stake. He understands that we can question the judgement of those in office, but not their motives. He understands how to work with both sides of the aisle and knows how to respect one another. He knows the importance of being kind and decent towards one another. The choice has never been more clear in this election. We truly are, as Joe Biden says, in the “battle for the soul of this nation”. Let’s elect someone who has our best interests at heart. For the sake of our children and of our democracy, we must elect Joe Biden the 46th President of the United States.
Walk with Me Through Sarajevo Streets
July 16, 2020, 6:01 p.m.
Nader Hussein, BWR Press Secretary
Content Warning/Trigger Warning: Rape, genocideThis week marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most heinous acts of aggression the world has ever seen, the Srebrenica massacre. In July of 1995, the Bosnian-Serb army and paramilitary units from Serbia carried out a genocide that left over 8,000 dead as part of a larger campaign of genocide against Bosnia’s Muslim population.The Serb campaign was able to be carried out with minimal resistance because the world was abiding by a United Nations embargo of weapons to the new nation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a decision then U.N. Secretary-General said in 2005 would “haunt our history forever.”Thankfully, the Bosniaks were not left to go it alone forever. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led an effort to lift the embargo and provide military aid; a group that included Bob Dole (R-KS), Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and Joe Biden (D-DE).While one side of the Senate preferred a stance of neutrality and inaction, Joe Biden took to the Senate floor to make the moral and humanitarian case for U.S. intervention.“If this does not represent our interests and our values, then nothing that has happened since the end of World War II represents our values.”Then Senator Biden visited the war-torn country in 1993, and even met Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević, telling him “I think you’re a damn war criminal, and you should be tried as one.” When he returned, he described in brutal detail the horrific abuses that he witnessed and was told about.“Walk with me through Sarajevo streets,” Biden told the Senate “I came back and pointed out that this was raw, unadulterated genocide. That the Serbs had set up rape camps. A policy explicitly designed to take Muslim women into camps, rape them, have them carry the children to term, in order to intimidate and pollute the Muslim people in Bosnia.”Biden not only told the tragic story, but he took action to help bring about the end of the genocide. He introduced an amendment to lift the embargo on Bosnia, provide $50 million in military aid and provide air cover to carry out the assistance.“The Bosnians know where they want to be. They want to be free,” he pressed. “They will fight for themselves. All they have ever asked is 'lift the embargo.'”Biden began his efforts to support Bosnia early on in the conflict, criticizing the administration of George H.W. Bush for their inaction, and maintained his pressure on the Clinton administration, until the U.S. finally came to the support of the Bosnian people. His honorable stance was praised by Elvir Klempic who, with his family, were among the lucky few to escape from Srebrenica.“When the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina felt as if no one was paying attention, that the world had forgotten and turned its back on us, we can be sure there was at least one person who cared and fought for us. That person’s name is Joseph R. Biden. Today he is running to be the President of the United States of America.” he wrote. “We need to support him.”Read on Medium
Sheer Vanity: One Educator’s Response to the Trump Administration’s Push to Return to the Classroom This Fall
July 14, 2020, 5:40 p.m.
Gabriella, BWR Team
It was March 6th, 2020 and every student at the middle school I was placed at that day was brimming with energy for the upcoming Spring Break. Although I tried my best to get a room full of young teens to review the dramatic structure of Romeo and Juliet, there was far more enthusiasm for the idea of a break from the everyday routine of middle school. Nevertheless, I was happy in spite of the pushback from students that day. While I did not major in education, I quickly realized after graduating from college with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy that what I had studied was a playbook for pedagogy. I was given the tools on how to learn throughout my studies through countless hours of close readings and working through logic problems. After much reflection, I knew it was my responsibility to pass these tools down to others, so I became a substitute teacher in preparation for graduate studies in English as a Second Language education.Although attempting to motivate students to think about how to place different scenes of Romeo and Juliet on their dramatic structure charts the day before Spring Break was an exciting challenge, I was admittedly focused on my own Spring Break plans. I was planning on seeing Emma with a friend. I was going to see a St. Patrick’s Day parade. I was going to celebrate my sister’s 22nd birthday. The break was going to be exciting.At the time, there were only 5 cases of COVID-19 in the entire state of Texas. However, the only unfortunate side effect of the pandemic I had seen so far was outright racism towards Asian members of my community. I did not expect to see cases rise too much, but I still cautioned students to stay safe and wash their hands frequently before the final bell rang.That was the last time I saw those students. As of today, it is now estimated that there have been 264,313 cases of COVID-19 in Texas. My mother was one of those cases. I am scheduled to return to work in person on August 17th, which is only 22 days from now. The week after, I start graduate school online.It makes me sick to my stomach to know that President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have threatened to cut off funding to schools if they do not fully reopen under these conditions. While it has been pointed out that the president cannot unilaterally cut funding for education approved by Congress, the threat of key funding for students and teachers being cut out of President Trump’s sheer vanity is present. I still plan on being a substitute teacher until I work full time for graduate school credit at a later semester and I have trouble wrapping my head around how I could float from campus to campus in a way that protects myself and others under Trump and DeVos’ ideal COVID-19 school year. I’m deeply scared.To bring the scale of this threat into perspective, we have to examine the Fiscal Year 2021 budget request from the Department of Education. Our education system is largely funded by state and local taxes, only 7% of elementary and secondary education was federally funded in 2019-2020. However, that 7% accounted for $60 billion for education across the entire country and the programs that these dollars go to are vital to schools. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) provides federal funding to schools with at least 40% of their student population qualifying as low income according to the Census in Title I, Part A. This program serves approximately 25 million students in nearly 60% of all public schools. Our local elected officials on school boards and superintendents are the primary decision makers in determining school reopenings. If President Trump and Secretary DeVos were to selectively cut federal funding to school districts that choose not to become fully operational come August, our country’s poorest students would be left with less resources based on how funding has been allocated in our national budget for elementary and secondary education. Additionally, this budget would slash education funding by consolidating many key programs into a block grant. Programs like Title I, Title II, English language acquisition, rural education, homeless education, and Native Alaskan and Hawaiian education are effectively eliminated and replaced by block grants to states using the Title I formula. Programs not assimilated into the block grant funds (like Indian Education, Training and Advisory Services, and Supplemental Education Grants) would be frozen at their current levels. President Trump’s attacks on public education through Secretary DeVos do not end on those recent threats. This administration has been repeatedly threatening a student’s right to an education as protected under the 14th Amendment due to Plyler v. Doe as a result of Secretary DeVos’ desire to advance faith-based private education at the expense of public education. While it is permissible to teach about religion in public schools (which I have during a 6th Grade geography lesson), as a public school employee it is not my place to say what another student believes nor disbelieves is right or wrong unless a student is targeting another student based on those beliefs. Faith-based private schools do not operate like this. They will not and do not protect every student’s right to an education because they have the ability to be punitive towards faculty, staff, and students over beliefs, sexuality, gender, and disability status. If public education is put at risk, the 1st and 14th Amendment rights of students to personal expression and education are in jeopardy as well.In a conversation with Secretary DeVos on SiriusXM radio, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Catholic archbishop of New York, suggested that the secretary was trying to “utilize this particular crisis to ensure that justice is finally done to our kids and the parents who choose to send them to faith-based schools,” and she did not hesitate to say “Yes, absolutely.” Right from the start, the Trump transition team had to clarify to Mother Jones that “Mrs. DeVos believes in the legal doctrine of the separation of church and state.” when conducting investigative journalism on her qualifications to become Secretary of Education. Additionally, Betsy DeVos stated in a 2001 interview for The Gathering, a group focused on advancing Christian faith through philanthropy, that “There are not enough philanthropic dollars in America to fund what is currently the need in education…Our desire is to confront the culture in ways that will continue to advance God’s kingdom.” The Trump Administration is simply capitalizing on the COVID-19 pandemic to satisfy the desires of their core base of Evangelical voters and big ticket donors like Secretary DeVos. This base does not care if President Trump fails to say the Apostle’s Creed at a former president’s funeral or if he says “two Corinthians” instead of “Second Corinthians”, he is a mere vehicle for their policies. All he has to do is show off the right surrogates at First Baptist Church in Dallas (in violation of the Johnson Amendment to the U.S. Tax Code banning 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing or opposing candidates for office), appoint wealthy donors to the right positions, and he has a loyal following to fuel his ego. It may be the case that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, especially if the rich willingly put the education of low-income students at risk in God’s name during a crisis.While it is the case that the beginning of the 2020-2021 academic year is far before the opportunity to vote President Trump out of office and the state of education remains uncertain due to COVID-19, we have to remember that there is a chance to start rebuilding upward. Vice President Joe Biden has plans outlined to triple funding for Title I so that educators are offered competitive salaries, three- and four-year olds have access to pre-school, and districts provide access to rigorous coursework to all campuses. He has also outlined plans to recruit more educators of color and fix the notoriously hard-to-apply-to Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Considering that over half of the students I work with in my district share my Hispanic ethnicity, but under 20% of my colleagues do, we need pathways for more recent graduates like me to be incentivized to enter into education because I’ve seen with my own eyes how students respond when you are seen as a community role model. Biden also plans on expanding the community school model to over 300,000 additional students, working with families, students, teachers and community organizations to identify families’ unmet needs and then develop a plan to leverage community resources to address these needs directly on campuses. This would give so many more families access to programs like after-school care, health and social services, and adult education courses. With all that must be done to truly create an educational environment that serves all students, I cannot believe that this work can be done under a privatization model like Secretary DeVos would like to see enacted.I may be frightened by the coming weeks, but at least there is a fighting chance to take back what has been lost from public education under the Trump Administration and to build up what has never been there in the first place. Please vote this November 3rd. Your educators, students, and families are counting on you.Update: As of July 16th, the Local Health Authority of the City of Dallas and Dallas County, Dr. Phillip Huang, has ordered all public and private schools in the county to operate remotely until September 8th. Thanks to the leadership of both Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dr. Huang, I have been afforded more time to think about my plans for employment and to start the first few weeks of graduate school with my mind more at ease. While there has been fantastic local leadership in Texas from both Clay Jenkins and Lina Hidalgo in some of our more populous areas, it is no secret that both Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick have failed in terms of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic at the state level. No amount of now legal to-go margaritas and daiquiris can take away the fact that Abbott and Patrick have politicized their response to this public health crisis at every turn and fueling the unnecessary cultural divide over a virus that affects our whole community. It is only because of leadership at the local level that educators, students, and families in my county have the assurance of health and wellbeing at the moment.I urge every voter reading this update to not only vote for Biden, but to look into every candidate for elected office on their ballot in November. Not all policy that affects your life is conducted at the federal level. It is most often the case that state, county, municipal, and school district policies affect your life in a more visible way. We cannot turn states blue until they turn blue at the most fundamental level.
The Ocoee Massacre: Why It Relates to 2020 America
July 8, 2020, 4:40 p.m.
Dylan Hellebrand, BWR Team
November 2, 1920 was the first American election in which women could vote, but there was a significant part of the population that was intimidated and even killed for voting in the South: African Americans. In the city of Ocoee, Florida, where I’ve lived my whole life, a little-known but tragic event occurred on Election Night in 1920.The Ocoee Massacre was sparked when crowds of white residents terrorized, injured, and killed over thirty African Americans who tried to carry out their right to cast a vote in the 1920 elections. It all started when African American voters had to prove if they were truly registered to vote. While attempting to demonstrate that they were qualified to cast a ballot, they were driven away and advised not to return. Fed up with having his rights threatened, one of the African Americans who was turned away, Mose Norman, came back to the polling station with a gun. He was chased out by the white voters who wanted to make a statement that no African Americans will vote in Ocoee. A group of white voters formed a mob to make sure that only whites voted and then went on to track down African Americans who had tried to vote. The mob was en route to Norman’s house when they learned that he was at his friend July Perry's house. While they were able to break into the home, Norman managed to escape, but they captured Perry and injured him before being arrested. After he was treated at a medical clinic for his injuries, Perry was taken by a crowd of white people from a vehicle and lynched, his body left swinging from a phone post. The crowd then took over Ocoee and drove out most of the African Americans who lived there, resulting in Ocoee being a majority-white city for decades thereafter. It’s hard to believe that one of the worst cases of voter suppression and racism happened in Ocoee. To further the pain, Ocoee holds “Founders Day” every year to celebrate the city, but what not a lot of people realize is that it is held on the anniversary of the Ocoee Massacre every year. There have been extensive petitions to change the date of the event, but all have been unsuccessful so far.After doing extensive research on this disgusting event, it made me realize how much I didn't know. I, a lifelong resident of Ocoee, never even learned about this event in school. It made me angry that the lives of innocent Americans were cut short just because of the color of their skin. Depressingly, while African Americans aren’t being lynched at the polls anymore, voter suppression based on race is still alive and well to this day. On June 23rd, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that made sure that the Ocoee Massacre will be incorporated into the school curriculum while studying African American history. While this is a great and remarkable thing to do, it comes many years late. Not only should this have happened decades ago, but this event needs to be recognized more in the light of racism and voter suppression that are still occurring. Voter rolls in Georgia were purged two years ago by their current Republican Governor Brian Kemp and there were reports of active voter suppression as recently as a few weeks ago in Atlanta and in Lexington, Kentucky by reducing the number of polling sites in various counties to just one which makes minorities have to wait in longer lines. Republicans have relied on gerrymandering for most of the last decade by restructuring district maps in ways where they get the majority of Republican constituents. A conservative group in Wisconsin, as recently as half a year ago, was trying to purge over 200,000 people from the voter rolls. If voters in Georgia and Ohio have not voted in a specific period of time, then they will get erased from the state’s registration rolls. President Trump has also railed against mail-in ballots by claiming without evidence that it will cause “rigged elections”. This election year coincidentally marks 100 years since the Ocoee Massacre, and there have recently been protests over the death of George Floyd, an innocent African American man who was murdered by a white police officer. We have a President who stokes the same flames of white supremacy and racism that killed July Perry, Mose Norman, and twenty-eight other innocent African Americans. Maybe if President Trump studied the Ocoee Massacre, he’d understand why racial equality is so important to African Americans. This is all too important that if we don’t let our voices be heard, then the future of our democracy and human decency will be too much at risk. This is all too important that if we don’t act now, we risk letting future generations suffer from the same inabilities and inequalities that caused these protests, and that caused the deaths of Mose Norman and July Perry. This is why we must elect Joe Biden the 46th President of the United States of America. He cares about those who are suffering and understands the overwhelming cry for help on racial justice and inequality. As President, he will call out the hateful rhetoric of white supremacists which is something our current President has not done and quite frankly welcomes. Joe Biden will be a leader for all Americans and will unite this country which is something that is so desperately needed. Let’s honor the lives of Mose Norman and July Perry and prove that the America we strive to live in is a just America and one that welcomes diversity because that is our strength and what makes us all unique. Let’s be better people for our children and show the world that we can be united together as one. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity because of everything that is at stake. We can make this happen, I know we can.
The Fight Against the Climate Crisis
July 7, 2020, 4:28 p.m.
Alexandra Jara, BWR Team
Five months after my birth, in September of 1998, Hurricane Georges crossed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, making several landfalls and causing massive destruction along the way. At the time, President Clinton moved quickly to aid the American citizens in the battered Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. First Lady Hillary Clinton even visited the island of Puerto Rico, my homeland, less than a week after the storm.Almost exactly nineteen years later, in September of 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean, leaving a path of devastation in our most vulnerable communities. Thousands of people died, and even more were displaced from their homes, jobs and day-to-day lives. I have lost family members in the aftermath of the storm. Life on the island has not been the same since then.When President Donald Trump visited the island after the storm, he met with our then Governor Ricardo Roselló, came to my city to throw some rolls of paper towels into a crowd and said that we “were throwing [the federal budget] out of whack” and that we “hadn’t endured a real catastrophe like Katrina”. Even disregarding his blatant disrespect and obvious lack of care for the American citizens living in Puerto Rico, it has been clear that the President’s message on the effects of global warming on the climate is non-existent at best and actively dangerous at worst. Rising sea levels have displaced families from their coastal homes. Climbing temperatures have led to a rise in plague-transmitting pests, droughts and the occasional bushfires. Seismic activity is only increasing in both frequency and intensity. People pray every year that we aren’t hit by another severe hurricane while under lockdown during a massive dust cloud over the island. Living in Puerto Rico, you only grow more concerned about the present climate crisis and the culture of denial being bolstered by your President.At almost every opportunity, President Trump has scoffed at the idea of climate change being a real thing that causes lasting economic and environmental damage. The President has outright laughed at studies done by U.S. Government scientists about the lasting damage done by carbon dioxide emissions. (His cabinet members then referred to the studies as “alarmist”). He rolled back Obama-era plans and policies that would have led to a decrease of carbon emissions through clean power initiatives. In addition, he ordered the EPA to stop gathering data from oil and gas companies (who he regularly takes donations from). He even has consistently selected top officials in almost every agency overseeing energy, the environment and health who dispute the mainstream consensus on the urgency of climate action.Donald Trump is unequivocally a climate change denier. He will tell you so himself. And as someone who has seen the lasting effects of higher temperatures creating stronger storms in the Atlantic, from the loss of loved ones to friends and family fleeing the island, the President’s flippant ignorance on the issue isn’t something I could ever support. Despite not being able to vote in the General Election, I am 100% behind Vice President Joe Biden this November.The first climate-related bill ever introduced to the United States Senate was pioneered by none other than then Delaware Senator Joe Biden in 1986. The Global Climate Protection Act would have directed the President to establish a Task Force on the Global Climate to research, develop, and implement a coordinated national strategy on global climate. While it ended up dead on the Senate floor, it established the foundation for legislative action against the impending climate crisis that was to dominate the policy conversation in the United States in the following decades. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, we saw the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law, the introduction of the Clean Power Plan (which Trump did away with in 2019) and the inclusion of the U.S. into the Paris Climate Accord (the U.S. withdrew from the Agreement in 2017, under the current administration).While record matters a whole lot, so do the policies and plans put forward to fight actively against climate change in both the country and the world. Vice President Biden plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, ensure that the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050 and enact measures to actively decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the air. Stepping up to join the global fight against climate change is a quality I expect from a leader like the Vice President.When it comes to the issues that matter to me the most, Vice President Biden understands the importance of meeting the moment with action. The effects that the climate has had on communities like mine has led to an increase in migration within the U.S. and across the globe. I have had friends who were not able to continue living in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria’s destruction of what we once considered to be normal, everyday life. Our infrastructure is weak and has only become weaker by the storms and the earthquakes we have endured. The Vice President has multiple plans focusing on building a nation that is able to withstand the impact of climate change as we actively fight against it, whether it be rebuilding fragile electrical grids or allocating the necessary funds to make sure our homes are resilient enough to withstand the effects of the climate. Economic prosperity through infrastructural design and innovation is a big part of what the Vice President plans to do once in office.After the storm, everyone I talked to seemed to have a horror story to tell in relation to insurance and the allocation of funds by FEMA on the island. The Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Donald Trump dropped discussions of climate change from its strategic plan. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden plans to work with the insurance industry to identify ways to lower property insurance premiums for homeowners and communities who invest in resilience. He also has a plan to bring together the best innovators to help design common-sense zoning and building codes and help communities build and rebuild before and after natural disasters and other shocks and stresses, which would directly positively affect the lives of me and my loved ones after a natural disaster.While President Trump is busy dismissing Puerto Ricans and our struggles in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Vice President Biden seeks to engage with us as a community and help us as American citizens so that we can continue the fight against climate change in our island and in our country. From working with world leaders to establishing progressive projects and forces within the country, Vice President Joe Biden is more than ready to meet the moment and join the fight against the climate crisis looming over us.