Clinton at the National Urban League Conference

— July 31, 2015

I’m very pleased that many presidential candidates will be here today to address you. It is a signal that the work you’ve been doing – laboring in the vineyards for decades – is getting the political attention it deserves. But the real test of a candidate’s commitment is not whether we come to speak at your national conference, as important as that is. It’s whether we’re still around after the cameras are gone and the votes are counted. It’s whether our positions live up to our rhetoric.

And too often we see a mismatch between what some candidates say in venues like this, and what they actually do when they’re elected. I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a “right to rise” and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care. They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on. They can’t rise if their governor makes it harder for them to get a college education. And you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote.

Advertisements

Do the WSJ & the NY Times agree?

by Kate Marshall, NV State Treasurer & candidate for NV Secretary of State

vote23_thumb.jpgThis last weekend the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times both ran articles on the misguided efforts by conservatives to limit voter access.

The Face of Our ID problem, Wall Street Journal

Ohio Mistrusts Democracy, New York Times

Does this mean that Wall Street Journal & the New York Times both agree that voter ID does not work?  We cannot let Nevada become another failed experiment by the Koch Brothers who are looking out for their own political agenda instead of everyday Nevadans.

SIGN OUR PETITION TO PROTECT YOUR ACCESS TO THE BALLOT.

Cleaning Up Campaign Finance to Save the Environment

The assault on our democracy is a bigger problem than the temporary closure of national parks.

By Michael Brune

Michael Brune

America’s best idea is in trouble, and I don’t mean our national parks. Yes, our parks were closed, which was a crushing disappointment for millions of would-be visitors and an economic gut-punch for neighboring communities — to the tune of $76 million dollars a day.

But what’s really under attack is something even older than our national park system: our democracy.

Image courtesy of Oil Change International

How did we reach a point where one fraction of one party that controls one chamber of Congress would drive our government into the ground if it doesn’t get everything its members want? ‘This shutdown is like a firefighter standing on the hose to stop the rest of the company from putting out a blaze until he gets a million-dollar raise — all while the building burns.

We didn’t get here by accident. It’s the result of a systematic attack on basic democratic principles by a handful of people who have no interest in a functioning democracy. While there is no excuse, there is an explanation.

It starts with big money. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for a tidal wave of corrupting corporate money into our system. But where is the money coming from and where is it going?

Huge amounts are from polluter-backed groups, which spent more than $270 million on television ads in just two months of the 2012 election — and that explains why Congress has taken more than 300 votes attacking clean air and water. The same people who are poisoning our democracy are also determined to poison our environment. It’s no surprise that 80 percent of Americans agree that political money is preventing our most important challenges from being addressed.

At the same time, special interest groups are spending millions to keep anyone who disagrees with them away from the polls and out of office. No sooner did the Supreme Court gut a key part of the Voting Rights Act, that state houses with Republican majorities pushed through suppressive legislation to keep young people, seniors, students, and people of color away from the polls. It’s no coincidence that those are the same citizens who have voted against them.

These challenges have led the Sierra Club to team up with the NAACP, Communications Workers of America, and Greenpeace to form the Democracy Initiative. Our goal is to build a movement to halt the corrupting influence of corporate money in politics, prevent the manipulation and suppression of voters, and address other obstacles to significant reform.

Challenges to our democracy might get even worse. We’re fighting a frightening Supreme Court challenge to campaign finance limits that would allow individuals to write million dollar checks to buy influence, brought to the court by Shaun McCutcheon — a coal company CEO.

Only about 1,200 people came close to reaching the spending limits McCutcheon wants overturned — and a good number of them are oil, gas, and coal executives, from the sectors that directly contributed $40 million in 2012. Give them free rein to write whatever size of a check they want, and we’ll see that number skyrocket.

The faster that money pours in, the quicker the voices of ordinary Americans are drowned out. We can’t let that happen. And we won’t. They may have millions of dollars, but we have millions of people. And, thanks to efforts like the Democracy Initiative, we are organizing and coming together to make sure our voices are heard.

If we want to see more shutdowns and debt crises, then we should maintain the status quo. If we want more attacks on our air, water, and climate, then all we need to do is turn away in disgust at the political posturing. But if we want to restore a democracy that works for Americans and will preserve a healthy planet for future generations, it’s time to stand up and fight back.


Michael Brune is the executive director of the Sierra Club, the largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. SierraClub.org. Image courtesy of Oil Change International. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

The Modern Movement for Civil Rights

Congress must act to correct the Supreme Court’s many wrongs.

— by Julian Bond

Julian_Bond

The racial picture in America has improved remarkably in my lifetime, so much so that a black man has been elected and re-elected President of the United States — an unthinkable development just a few years ago.

But paradoxically, Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 convinced many that all racial barriers and restrictions had been vanquished and we had entered racial nirvana across the land.

This was just one of the many unfair burdens placed on Obama’s presidency. We knew that his victory didn’t herald a post-civil rights America or mean that race had been vanquished. It couldn’t eliminate structural inequity or racist attitudes.

The truth is that Jim Crow may be dead, but racism is alive and well. That’s the central fact of life for every non-white American, including the President of the United States. It eclipses income, position, and education. Race trumps them all.

Voting Rights Obstacles, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Voting Rights Obstacles, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Our first order of business now needs to be demanding that Congress reformulate the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court has just invalidated.

Like the Court’s affirmative action ruling the day before, the voting rights decision could have been worse.

But we can’t live with “it could have been worse,” especially when it comes to voting. We must insist on “it has to be the best.”

This ruling was devious and perverse.

It was devious because the Court’s majority used Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to effectively end Section 5, essentially voiding the federal government’s ability to guarantee minority access to the polls. At the same time, the ruling sidestepped the court’s historic deference to Congress and blamed lawmakers for not updating the formula.

It was perverse because these justices cited the fact that large numbers of blacks voted in 2012 as a reason to take away the law that allowed them to vote.

Today, we have much more to work with and we take heart that so much has changed. The changes that have come have everything to do with the work of the modern movement for civil rights.

There needs to be a constantly growing and always reviving activist movement across America if we are going to maintain and expand victories and our vision for the country.

We must not forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before and with thousands — the people who made the mighty movement what it was.

From Jamestown’s slave pens to Montgomery’s boycotted buses, these ordinary men and women labored in obscurity. From Montgomery forward they provided the foot soldiers of the freedom army. They shared, with King, “an abiding faith in America.”

They walked in dignity, rather than ride in shame. They faced bombs in Birmingham and mobs in Mississippi. They sat down at lunch counters so others could stand up. They marched and they organized.

King didn’t march from Selma to Montgomery by himself. He didn’t speak to an empty field at the March on Washington.

There were thousands marching with him, and before him, and thousands more who did the dirty work that preceded the triumphal march.

The successful strategies of the modern movement for civil rights were litigation, organization, mobilization, and coalition, all aimed at creating a national constituency for civil rights. Sometimes the simplest of deeds — sitting at a lunch counter, going to a new school, applying for a marriage license, casting a vote — can challenge the way we think and act.

Racial justice, economic equality, and world peace — these were the themes that occupied King’s life. They ought to occupy ours today.

We have a long and honorable tradition of social justice in this country. It still sends forth the message that when we act together we can overcome.

A first order of business might be gathering in Washington on August 24 to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington and to demand that Congress act to correct the Supreme Court’s many wrongs.


Julian Bond was Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors from February 1998 until February 2010 and is now Chairman Emeritus. He is a Distinguished Scholar in the School of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and a Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Virginia.  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org

Top Senate Republican Hints Voting Rights Act May Be Held Hostage In Exchange For Voter Suppression

— by Ian Millhiser on Jun 26, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Tuesday’s decision neutering a key prong of the Voting Rights Act leaves supporters of voting rights in a difficult position. If they do nothing, voter suppression laws can go into effect, and may not be struck down by the courts until after they have succeeded in disenfranchising many voters. Yet the Roberts Court’s decision to hollow out America’s voting rights protections also allows conservatives to exact concessions before the voting rights regime that five Republican justices killed can be restored.

Shortly after the decision, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, dropped a hint at just what those concessions could be — give the greenlight to a common GOP-backed voter suppression law, or the heart of the Voting Rights Act is dead forever. In an interview with CBS News, Grassley claimed he is “open to looking at ways to address the issues addressed in the court’s decision.” Yet he added that he believed the Justice Department was wrong to use the act to block “common sense measures such as voter identification laws.”

Voter ID laws are not common sense, and they are exactly the kind of device the Voting Rights Act was enacted to prevent. Although Republicans often claim these laws are needed to prevent voter fraud at the polls, such fraud is virtually non-existent. A study of Wisconsin voters found that only 0.00023 percent of votes are the product of in-person voter fraud, meaning that a person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls.

What voter ID laws do accomplish, however, is removing many low-income voters, students and people of color from the electorate — all of which are groups that tend to vote for Democrats. The entire purpose of the Voting Rights Act is to block laws that suppress voting among racial minorities, so the Justice Department correctly invoked the act to hold up voter ID laws.

Now, however, Grassley’s statement suggests that Republicans could demand that voter ID laws be given an exemption from the Voting Rights Act before the act can be reinstated. In essence, Republicans could block the most effective mechanism of stopping voter suppression laws unless the new voting rights law exempts the GOP’s favorite tactic for suppressing minority votes.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.