SHOCKING: Republican Voter Suppression Efforts Suppress Democratic Votes

The NY Times:

Several recent polls and studies suggest that long waiting times in some places depressed turnout in 2012 and that lines were longest in cities, where Democrats outnumber Republicans. In a New York Times/CBS News poll taken shortly after Election Day, 18 percent of Democrats said they waited at least a half-hour to vote, compared with 11 percent of independents and 9 percent of Republicans.

Wait — it gets better:

A Massachusetts Institute of Technology analysis determined that blacks and Hispanics waited nearly twice as long in line to vote on average than whites. Florida had the nation’s longest lines, at 45 minutes, followed by the District of Columbia, Maryland, South Carolina and Virginia, according to Charles Stewart III, the political science professor who conducted the analysis.

A separate analysis, by an Ohio State University professor and The Orlando Sentinel, concluded that more than 200,000 voters in Florida “gave up in frustration” without voting.

“When I got there, the line was around the building,” said Jonathan Piccolo, 33, who said he had waited nearly eight hours to cast a ballot in Miami-Dade County the Monday before Election Day.

“It’s one of the most sacred rights you have,” Mr. Piccolo added. “They should make it as painless as possible.”

Features, not bugs, kids. Democracy is apparently a major impediment to Real America.

Update: A reminder from comments that voter suppression tactics are a burgeoning export market for Uncle Sam.

Looking Backward in the Year 2011

by matttbastard

Der Spiegel runs down W’s “tragic legacy” in the long, long, looooong decade of U.S. decline that followed 9/11:

America was trapped in Iraq for years, where a victory was a long time coming and was never a real one. It is currently trapped in Afghanistan, where victory no longer even seems possible. And it is trapped in an embrace with his its ally Pakistan, which it does not trust and yet cannot release.

These are costly defeats for America and the rest of the world. According to a conservative estimate of Brown University, there have been almost 140,000 civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. The massive retaliation cost more than $3 trillion (€2.2 trillion) — dollars that would have been better used in America’s schools or in the wallets of US citizens.

For a short time after the attacks, the country seemed united. Americans embraced each other. Even the cold city of New York suddenly seemed warm. But instead of cultivating public spirit, President Bush sought to find a pretext — any pretext — to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. This is his most tragic legacy, the fact that America can no longer even mourn its victims properly — because Americans have long been not just victims, but also perpetrators.

Hey, at least Chimpy managed to pull things together after 2006, making his “one of the more successful [presidencies] in U.S. history” [sic].

[Insert pregnant pause/needle scratch here.]

Ahem, yes, well, as they say, read the whole damn thing — and pray that abumuqawama only temporarily took leave of his senses (wait — he’s one of those CNAS Pollyanas who still think COIN  is somehow going to Underpants Gnome a NATO victory in Afghanistan; all hope = lost.)

(Image: smiteme, Flickr)

Bruyea, Veterans Affairs, and Canadian Democracy: Time to Go “Batsh!t Crazy”

by matttbastard

Tuesday’s  revelation that Sean Bruyea, a vocal critic of Veterans Affairs had his private medical records deliberately compromised by bureacrats in a brazen attempt to discredit his legitimate, extensive complaints about systemic deficiencies within the department has struck a nerve among Canadians across the nation. Rick Mercer’s tweet from yesterday morning succinctly sums up the outrage:

“Bat-shit crazy”? Canadians should be spitting mad — and appropriately chastened by the sobering realization that what happened to Bruyea could happen to any one of us. Add the steamrolling of civil liberties that occurred during the G20 summit in Toronto, and you have a Canadian government that, for all intents and purposes, is acting as if the citizenry represent a hostile entity, simply for the crime of expressing dissent.

In short, once again it seems all too apparent our elected representatives no longer believe that they should answer to the people.

In this specific instance, the naked disregard for personal privacy is unconscionable. The Privacy Commissioner should immediately investigate, and heads must roll, no matter how high up the food chain. But, in broader context, we see yet another example of the contemptuous culture of impunity among the political class that currently reigns supreme in Ottawa, perfectly encapsulated by the arbitrary way the PMO keeps the civil service under heel, and the disrespectful manner in which our Members of Parliament conduct themselves during Question Period.

Hard to defend the virtues of Canadian parliamentary democracy when our leaders act as if they are completely entitled to run roughshod over the people they deign to serve.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Prorogation, Disengagement and Cutting the Democratic Deficit in Canada

by matttbastard

With thousands of Canadians reportedly hitting the streets this past weekend to express their disapproval of Stephen Harper’s latest arrogant bird-flip to Parliamentary democracy, it seems apparrent that our political elites are out of touch with the people whose interests they profess to represent. A new report, to be released today, offers empirical evidence in support of the painfully obvious:

“…Canadians are jaundiced about the state of democracy here.”

Tonda MacCharles:

The report, to be released Wednesday by the Institute of Wellbeing, says Canada is experiencing “a huge democratic deficit, with trust in Canadian government and public institutions on a steep decline.”

“The disconnect between Canadians and those who govern on their behalf is deep, wide, and growing,” said the institute’s Lynne Slotek.

“At a time when people are demanding greater accountability and transparency, they see their government institutions becoming more remote and opaque.”

Yet despite this cavernous divide separating institutional political activity and ordinary citizens, Canadians haven’t given up on democratic engagement — they just have to participate via alternative avenues:

Slotek said in an interview the public’s obvious dissatisfaction with that decision “is an affirmation of what our report says – that people are interested in politics, they want to find ways to participate, and if they can’t, they’ll look at other activities such as signing petitions, Facebook or the Internet.”

The report says while voter turnout has declined from a high of 69.6 per cent in the 1993 federal election to the historic low of about 59 per cent in 2008, it does not mean Canadians are uninterested in politics. Hard data on “voter interest” in the 2008 election isn’t yet available, but the group looked at other indicators over 10 years, she said.

It says the volunteer rate for “formal political activities, such as participating in law, advocacy and political groups” has been low – around 2 per cent – over the years, but the volunteer rate for “informal ones, such as, protesting, signing petitions and boycotting, has been relatively high.” The report cites a 2002 study that found 54.6 per cent of Canadians said they participated in one political activity, either “traditional or non-traditional.”

Part of the intent behind Harper’s cynical prorogation scheme was to take advantage of a disorganized, feckless opposition and lay the groundwork for a post-Olympic spring election victory, perhaps even a majority government (or, at the very least, a Conservative Senate). But with poll numbers tanking and protests mounting, it would appear that Harper and his too-clever-by-half cronies in the PMO neglected to consider a very important constituency: the people of Canada, who, regardless of partisan affiliation, are finally fed up with having once again been taken for granted by an out-of-touch government that has reasserted its entitled sense of invincibility and naked contempt for accountability one too many times.

As one protester put it this past Saturday, Stephen Harper is “abusing the power that the people of Canada have bestowed upon him.”

It’s beyond time for the people to take that power back.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Sarah Palin, Fauxpulism, and Right-Wing Identity Politics

by matttbastard

(Image: Tacoma Urbanist, Flickr)

Sarah Palin is back — and, seemingly, everywhere, as she launches a book tour (and, perhaps, a run at the White House in 2012).

Max Blumenthal:

In a Republican Party hoping to rebound in 2010 on the strength of a newly energized and ideologically aroused conservative grassroots, Palin’s influence is now unparalleled. Through her Facebook page, she was the one who pushed the rumor of “death panels” into the national healthcare debate, prompting the White House to issue a series of defensive responses. Unfazed by its absurdity, she repeated the charge in her recent speech in Wisconsin. In a special congressional election in New York’s 23rd congressional district, Palin’s endorsement of Doug Hoffman, an unknown far-right third-party candidate, helped force a popular moderate Republican politician, Dede Scozzafava, from the race. In the end, Palin’s ideological purge in upstate New York led to an improbable Democratic victory, the first in that GOP-heavy district in more than 100 years.

Though the ideological purge may have backfired, Palin’s participation in it magnified her influence in the party. In a telling sign of this, Congressman Mark Kirk, a pro-choice Republican from the posh suburban North Shore of Chicago, running for the Senate in Illinois, issued an anxious call for Palin’s support while she campaigned for Hoffman. According to a Kirk campaign memo, the candidate was terrified that Palin would be asked about his candidacy during her scheduled appearance on the Chicago-based Oprah Winfrey Show later this month — the kick-off for her book tour — and would not react enthusiastically. With $2.3 million in campaign cash and no viable primary challengers, Kirk was still desperate to avoid Palin-backed attacks from his right flank, however hypothetical they might be.

“She’s gangbusters!” a leading conservative radio host exclaimed to me. “There is nobody in the Republican Party who can raise money like her or top her name recognition.”

In contemporary politics, money + brand recognition = power –period. For a Republican party scrambling to maintain its ever-shrinking base, that makes Sarah Palin its most influential personality. And with the Democratic Party and the White House being seen, rightly or wrongly, as the party of Goldman Sachs, an avowed fauxpulist like Palin (she’s ‘one of us!’) driving the tone and tenor of conservative politics in an age of economic instability is not something to airily discount.

Tim Egan:

Right now, a time when only 20 percent of Americans call themselves Republicans and Democrats are shrinking as well, the independents are disgusted with both parties. In large part, it’s because neither one seems to be on their side.

The early warning shots came on Nov. 3, against an ineffective former Wall Street executive, ousted New Jersey governor Jon Corzine, and the billionaire mayor who barely bought himself a third term, Michael Bloomberg of New York. Both felt the back hand of an electorate that feels as if the system is rigged against them.

A year ago, most people were open-minded about the ground-shaking changes that came with the economic collapse. Polls found a slim majority in favor of Wall street bailouts to save the economy. They would listen, watch, wait.

By this fall, the majority were not only against the bailouts, but in favor of curbing pay on Wall Street, and tightening government regulation of same.

The continuous drip of perceived unfairness continues. One day it’s news that Goldman Sachs seems to have stepped ahead of the line of those waiting to receive H1N1 vaccines, prompting questions about why investment bankers were getting doses rather than children or pregnant women. This week, Gallup found one in five parents saying they were unable to get swine flu vaccine for their children.

Another day brings a report that the top banks are raising credit card interest rates – some as high as 29 percent, which would shame a Mob extortionist — even against people who have always paid on time. This is the thanks we get?

If Congress steers through the Great Recession without responding to the thousand points of pain among average Americans, people will see them for what they are in bottom-line terms: an insulated club. Proof, just recently, came from a Center for Responsive Politics report that 237 members of Congress — 44 percent — are millionaires, compared to just 1 percent for the country as whole.

It’s difficult to take the clumsy rhetorical and symbolic excesses of the so-called Tea Party protest movement seriously. The ham-fisted polyester populism employed by some of the more exuberant adherants seems designed to drive a stake through the barely-beating heart of parody. But the (partly manufactured) rage that is driving teabaggers to target moderate Republicans like Dede Scozzafava or burn Speaker Pelosi in effigy isn’t simply fodder for mockery by progressive bloggers and #p2 snarkmeisters; it’s a bellwhether for a burgeoning class divide that threatens to leave the Congressional millionaire elite behind — and give a boost to any political movement that figures out how to tap that rage, regardless of where that movement lies on the ideological spectrum.

The fall of social democracy in Europe may provide clues as to how this could play out if progressives fail to heed the mood of the electorate. In a piece for Red Pepper published in June of 2008, Magnus Marsdal tried to explain how and why the populist right has been ascendant in Europe over the past decade, using the Norwegian Freedom Party (FrP) as an example:

Talking to people who voted for the Norwegian populist right offers useful insights for anyone trying to fight radical right-wing populism elsewhere in Europe, particularly when it comes to what I call ‘identity politics’.

How does the FrP make the worker-voter identify with a party that is positioned so far to the right? Hostility towards foreigners and mobilisation of ‘white’ or ‘Norwegian’ identity plays a big part. So does the male- orientated FrP’s anti- feminism, which mobilises identity among male voters.

The right-wing populists also play with a particular type of consumer identity that sets the population as consumer individuals against the state, the tax system and the elite. These are the obvious side of the FrP’s identity politics.

There are two other elements that are less apparent but even more important to consider, both in Norway and in other countries where right-wing populism is on the rise.

Worker identity
First, the FrP’s rhetoric offers its own worker-identity. This is not the worker as opposed to bosses and owners. It is the worker contrasted to the lazy and dole abusers ‘below’ and ‘posh’, cultured people ‘above’.

It is quite normal for people to imagine society as if it were split into three different sections, with themselves in the middle. Moral values determine who is worthy, and who is unworthy, both ‘up there’, ‘down below’ and among ‘proper working people’. The unworthy ‘up there’ include all those who represent the state, the Labour Party, the government and everybody else who ‘lies and steals money from common workers’, as Hans Erling Willersrud, the car worker who is the main character in The FrP Code, puts it.

Among people ‘down there’, the worthy are those who, through no fault of their own, have become ill, disabled or been made redundant. Everyone else is unworthy, including those who don’t do their jobs properly. For many workers worthiness equals skills – you are worth something because you have skills and you do something. This way of measuring worth and dignity is an alternative to measuring by income or education. On this essentially moral scale, the ‘honest worker’ comes out on the same level as, or above, the rich person or the leading politician.

The unworthy also include the dishonest: those who turn with the wind, pay lip service to all, who are not ‘solid wood’, as Norwegians say. The worst are probably those who suck up to ‘posh’ people and intellectuals one moment, only to denounce them among workers the next. Not being perceived as ‘solid wood’ has created quite a few problems for politicians, especially for the Labour Party, which needs to present itself favourably to different groups at the same time.

From my interviews with working-class FrP voters, I made a simple model to show how those ‘up there’ and ‘down there’ stand in relation to the ‘proper working people’. The elite ‘up there’ are divided into three different types:

  • the ‘know-it-alls’ linked to the education system and the state;
  • the greedy, found at the top of the economy; and
  • the politically powerful (often connected to the ‘know-it- alls’ and the greedy).

[...]

A second element to the FrP’s identity politics is that of aggrieved identity. ‘I’m just an ordinary worker, I have no fucking say,’ says Hans Erling Willersrud. He knows what it means to be at the boss’s beck and call and he’s had enough of the condescending attitude of Labour politicians who ‘can’t be bothered to listen to what [he’s] got to say’.He had some contact with the social security office when he was sick, and ‘has had it up to here with the system’. ‘They wouldn’t even believe he was in pain,’ says his mother Eli.

Hans Erling thinks politicians and bureaucrats are driving his country into the ground. He believes the social democratic elite has arranged things so the rich, the shrewd and the sleazy can take advantage of the system at the expense of the common man. He’s at the bottom of the pile at work. He’s at the bottom of the pile at the dole office. He’s at the bottom of the pile in the trade union (as an FrP voter) and in politics in general. He sees himself as a ‘political underdog’.

This doesn’t mean he is weak. On the contrary: being an underdog is not about lacking personal strengths, but finding that they don’t count for anything. More powerful people, regardless of their competence, are lording it over theunderdog, without recognising his skills or paying attention to what he actually knows, thinks or wants. It’s humiliating. He feels aggrieved.

And how does a political party like the FrP exploit the popular mood? It uses political language and images to touch a nerve with people who feel ignored, trampled on and overruled.

Carl Hagen’s most important ploy is to place himself in the role of the underdog. When he rages against the other parties wanting to keep a strong FrP out of government, he says, ‘Our voters will not be treated as second-rate.’ This simple sentence is perfect for connecting with people who on a daily basis, whether at work, at school or in the media, feel that they are treated like second-class citizens. Widening the focus, Hagen implies that what ordinary workers are in the workplace, the FrP is in the party political system. The voters can identify only too readily with what he is saying.

At the same time, Hagen – in the role of the affronted man who refuses to back down – offers the promise of vindication. For more than 30 years he has paid for the conceited sins of others, he tells them. But he turns the other cheek. Unlike the powerful and the arrogant, he is not driven by haughtiness or personal ambition. He is only fighting for what’s fair.

This underdog pose is brilliant because it can be applied to so many different voter groups. Above/below is a relationship that most people can recognise. Because he understands the underdog mentality, Hagen can connect with social-democratic workers as readily as with Christian fundamentalists who feel that their Christian cultural heritage is under threat.

Other subjects that mobilise the affronted population’s sense of themselves as the underdog include the FrP’s attacks on ‘politicians and bureaucrats’, its protest against schemes such as ‘the new opera being paid for by taxpayers’ and accusations that overpaid journalists are ‘persecuting the FrP’.

So where does Sarah Palin and her overwhelming ubiquity fit in all this? Like Barack Obama in 2008, Palin could prove to be a blank canvas on which citizens could project their desires en masse. Only instead of hope and change driving a national popular movement, hate and fear would be the engine of political change in 2012.

Of course, recent polls make the likelihood of a Palin run for the Presidency seem dim for the moment, as Joan Walsh notes.

But that doesn’t mean progressives should exhale:

The main reason not to fear a President Palin can be seen in recent polling among independents and moderates. In a the most current ABC News/Washington Post poll, Greg Sargent drilled down to find that: only 37 percent of independents and 30 percent of self-described moderates think she’s qualified for the presidency, and 58 percent of moderates view her unfavorably. Even more intriguing (but not surprising): Palin’s approval rating with men is higher than with women, 48 percent to 39 percent, and just a third of women believe she’d be qualified to be our first female president. (So much for Palin’s appeal to Hillary Clinton fans!)

So I think the Sarah Palin rehab tour is more about Sarah Palin Inc. than Sarah Palin 2012. She’ll rack up the speaking fees, raise some money for red-state, red-meat Republicans, further polarize the party and live the high life she thinks she deserves. Still, even as I dismiss Palin as a serious GOP threat, increasingly I believe that the faux-populism of the right is something to worry about. It may be fun to mock Sarah Palin, but Democrats shouldn’t laugh at many of the people who admire her – who see a folksy, new kind of self-made mom trying to fight the bad old Eastern elites.

Digby nails it:

I’m not saying that we should panic. These people are politically weak in their own right. But when I see the liberal gasbags on TV blithely dismissing this as if it”s impossible that Americans could ever fall for such lunacy, I feel a little frisson of alarm. I’ve read too many accounts of people who, 80 or so years ago, complacently made the same assumption. And the whole world found out that under the right circumstances even the most civilized nations can throw in with the crazies.

Bottom line: If the ugly momentum of right-wing identity politics carries into 2012, we could see the nastiest, most polarizing Presidential campaign since 1972, regardless of who gets the GOP nomination.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Iran: Dreams Underfoot

by matttbastard

(Image: sterno74, used under a Creative Commons licence)

Following the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, Tom Regan’s Terrorism and Security Briefing for the Christian Science Monitor became a must-read for anyone who wanted a daily general analysis of counterterrorism/counterinsurgency developments around the world. Unfortunately, Regan no longer compiles the briefing. But, late last week, he quietly emerged from an undisclosed location to pen this must-read take on the ongoing post-election turmoil in Iran.

Regan notes that the West may be projecting its own collective desire for transformative political reform in the region onto a murky, still-fluid situation that is not quite the widespread democratic uprising that the mainstream media and Western political establishment would have us believe:

…I strongly believe that what are seeing in Iran is something like a reality based TV show. It’s based on a real incident, but it’s still being shaped by the show’s writers and director (ie, the western media) to be the most interesting to a Western audience. We’re only seeing the bits of tape that conform to what the western media ([which] represent us) want the story to be. It’s real but it’s not reality.

First, this is most definitely NOT a national revolution. This is a protest largely based, as I said, in northern Tehran, the more affluent and prosperous area of the city where most of the universities are located as are (surprised) the hotels where most western journalists stay. As Time’s Joe Klein (who just got back from Tehran) noted in an interview on CNN yesterday, there is no protest at all in southern Tehran, the largest part of the city where the poor and less-educated live. This is Ahmadinejad ’s base. And there is almost no protest at all in rural areas. The regime is firmly in command in most of the country, and the more repressive elements like the Revolutionary Guard have yet to really make their presence felt.

You know, this beginning to sound like Beijing 20 years ago.

Now, there is always the chance that a revolt driven by a relatively small number of the country’s population will succeed in overthrowing the country’s regime. Especially in Iran, where one revolution has already done that. But that was a revolt approved by the large majority of the people against a hated despot. This is not the same situation. If there is hatred of Ahmedinejad it comes no where near close to the hatred felt for the Shah. It’s just not going to happen.

As they say, read the whole damn thing.

h/t Karoli via Twitter

Related: Patrick Martin provides a history lesson on Mir-Houssein Mousavi, a most unlikely champion for Western-style liberal democracy, while John Palfrey, Bruce Etling and Robert Faris of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society share an informative survey of the overall Iranian web presence (which–surprise–may not conform with what we’ve been voyeuristically observing via Twitter). Elsewhere, Dana Goldstein gives us these two must-read posts on the role Iranian feminists have played in the uprising (h/t Ann Friedman). Also see the one and only Antonia Zerbisias (taking a welcome respite from blogging about her thighs and pention [sic]) for more on how–and why–the women of Iran have taken the lead in demonstrations.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers

Green is the Colour of Freedom.

by matttbastard

Now this:

Mousavi supporters rally in Tehran

is a magnificent sight to start the day off with.

Freewheeling coverage of the ongoing Iranian election fall out @ Twitter.

Recommend this post at Progressive Bloggers