The Struggle for the Soul of America: The Right To Vote

As I write this, civil rights leader Rep. John Lewis is being laid to rest in Atlanta, Georgia. Lewis fought his whole life for the African Americans’ right to vote. “In March 1965, a 25-year-old Lewis, then chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, led hundreds of protesters on a march…to draw attention to the need for voting rights for African Americans across the South.”[1] Fifty-five years later, that fight is still being waged.

The Selma to Montgomery march that Lewis led was instrumental in passing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court’s landmark Shelby County v. Holder decision gutted critical elements of the 1965 Act, thus allowing states to enact discriminatory voting laws.

Last December, the House passed a bill that would restore those vital sections of the law. And this week the House honored Lewis by renaming that bill the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.[2] But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has blocked the Senate from considering the bill.[3]

In May, the Democratic-led House passed a coronavirus relief act that included $3.6 billion to bolster 2020 election security during the pandemic. Once again, McConnell rejected the measure. He and his Republican colleagues don’t seem to care about securing Americans’ right to vote. Their latest relief proposal doesn’t include one penny to protect this November’s election, despite Trump’s predictions of massive election fraud.

Still, McConnell had the gall to stand before Lewis’s casket and proclaim, “History only bent toward what’s right because people like John paid the price.”[4] McConnell knows it’s right to restore voting rights and fund election security, but he’d rather protect his Senate Republican majority than the people’s right to vote.

There’s no question that the pandemic will make this year’s election more difficult. While a great number of people will want to avoid the polls and vote by mail, many states as well as the federal government have not taken any steps to accommodate them. Some states even greatly increased the problem in their primary elections by significantly reducing the number of polling places.

In McConnell’s home state of Kentucky, for example, officials reduced the number of polling places outrageously from 3,700 to fewer than 200.[5] With Republicans in charge in a plurality of states, their strategy seems to be to limit the number of actual voters, particularly African Americans, to increase their chances of winning.

So, what can we do? Since Republicans only play hardball, we need to convince Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats that they must play hardball as well. Call Speaker Pelosi and your Democratic Congresspeople ( 202-224-3121) and urge them to make the $3.6 billion for election protection in their relief bill non-negotiable. Tell them that the right to vote is sacred and they must force McConnell to bring the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to the floor for a vote. Tell them they owe it to the legacy of John Lewis.

The future of our democracy depends on all Americans being able to cast their ballots and every vote being counted.  We can’t afford to lose this fight. Pass this blog on to your friends and colleagues. Urge them to call as well.

Also, contact one of these organizations to learn how else you can help protect our elections and save our democracy:

Bruce Berlin

With editing by Margaret Lubalin

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://www.facingsouth.org/2020/07/john-lewiss-final-fight-restore-voting-rights-act

[2] https://www.aol.com/urgent-essential-john-lewiss-death-172520491.html

[3] https://thehill.com/homenews/house/509160-james-clyburn-to-propose-renaming-voting-rights-bill-after-john-lewis

[4] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/pelosi-mcconnell-praise-john-lewis-as-late-congressman-honored-at-capitol-2020-07-27

[5] https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2020/06/kentucky-slashes-polling-places-voting-rights-mcgrath-booker-lebron-james/

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Make America Safe for All

Cracks in the Trump firewall are finally appearing. Though rare for the military to publicly oppose a president, earlier this week Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s former Secretary of Defense, stated that he was “angry and appalled” at the White House’s use of military troops to disperse peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd.

Mattis was outraged that troops would be ordered “to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens – much less to provide a bizarre photo op (Trump holding a bible in front of St. John’s Church in DC) for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”[1]

Later that day, Retired Marine Gen. John Allen said President Trump’s threats to use the U.S. military on protesters “may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.” Allen believes our Constitution is under attack. He was particularly struck by Trump’s claim to be “an ally of peaceful protesters” as he removed those peaceful protesters to clear the street for his blatantly political maneuver.[2]

Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other military leaders, are also criticizing the president. Mullen wrote, Trump “laid bare his disdain for the rights of peaceful protest in this country, gave succor to the leaders of other countries who take comfort in our domestic strife, and risked further politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.”[3]

Even a few Senate Republicans are speaking out against the president’s actions. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse objected, “But there is a fundamental — a constitutional — right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the word of God as a political prop.”[4] And, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) explained, “I don’t think militarization is the answer to the anxiety and fear, the distrust … that we feel right now. It is not the response.”[5]

Other Republicans are standing up to Trump as well. The Lincoln Project(https://lincolnproject.us/), was organized by major Republican figures,including attorney George Conway, the husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, to defeat Trump and Trumpism in November. Republicans for the Rule of Law has a similar goal. (https://www.ruleoflawrepublicans.com/) Contact these organizations and learn how you can help.

While some Republican officials and military leaders are beginning to speak truth to power, only the people are taking action and protesting Trump, his authoritarian administration and racial injustice. Where is Congress?

Why haven’t Republican and Democratic lawmakers responded to the people’s cries for equal justice under the law? Where is the funding for greater police oversight and the victims of the government’s racial abuses? And, why hasn’t Congress withheld funding from the Trump administration until it works with Congress to protect all Americans?

We, the people need to demand Congress act. It’s past time for Congress to stand up for our First Amendment rights. To enact legislation to protect all Americans against police brutality and racial bias. Those legislators who are unwilling to support and protect the American people against the Trump administration’s bigoted and unjust measures must be voted out of office this November.

Call your representative and senators ((202) 224-3121) and demand they take action to deal with these issues. See https://fundersforjustice.org/organizations/ for organizations you can support that are working on police accountability and racial justice. Let’s work together to make America a safe place for all its people.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

(1] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/06/james-mattis-denounces-trump-protests-militarization/612640/

[2] https://www.yahoo.com/news/retired-marine-general-john-allen-trump-military-beginning-of-the-end-america-152143340.html

[3] https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2020/06/trump-commanders-esper-mullen-miller.html

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/02/us/trump-republicans-protesters.html

[5] https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/500726-trumps-vow-to-deploy-military-faces-gop-pushback

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Hate in America

While our country is deep in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, another long-term, deadly infection has raised its ugly head once again. The police killing of an unarmed, black man, George Floyd, is just the latest example of the pervasive American curse of Hate.

We can no longer call the recurring killing of unarmed black men the use of excessive police force. The truth is these are hate crimes. In 2014, the shooting and killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by police officer Darren Wilson shocked the nation. In 2015 alone, the police killed over 100 unarmed black people, the great majority of them male.[1] The risk of being killed by police if you are a black male is almost three times as great than if you are white.[2]

Still, hate in America is not limited to racial bigotry. Immigrants, gays and lesbians, Jews and others have continuously been subjected to hate crimes. Today it’s gotten to the point where one’s political affiliation can make you the target of hate. Recently, a man in a Cowboys for Trump video proclaimed that “The only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”[3] While the man goes on to say he really only meant killing the Democratic agenda, if that’s the truth, he could have just said that. Clearly, he was inciting hate.

Then, none other than our bigot-in-chief, Donald Trump, retweeted this video on his official Twitter account, stating, “Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!” While hate in America certainly preceded Trump, he has done a great deal to foment and condone hate and bigotry in our country. In fact, Trump appears to be creating a “hate movement” to further his re-election prospects.[4]

A few months ago, after a Sikh temple in California was sprayed with white supremacist and neo-Nazi graffiti, Trump targeted leading Democrats and the Sikh community. He retweeted a doctored image showing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer wearing a turban and hijab while standing in front of the Iranian flag.[5]

Why is there so much hate in America? And, more importantly, what can we do about it? Studies have shown that fear underlies hate. A certain segment of our population feels threatened by those who are different from them:

“The research has shown that many dominant group members, often white Christians in the countries studied, express fear of immigrants in their nations. In particular, respondents have voiced fear of immigrants changing their cultural, political, and economic way of life.”[6]

This same phenomenon occurs whether the difference is racial, sexual preference, religious or whatever:

“People who hate tend to think, feel and behave from an “in-group” versus an “out-group” mentality….The “ins” use the “outs” as scapegoats for the social, economic, and political woes of the community….The underlying insidious presence of contempt and disgust – a deep dislike for the other who is considered unworthy of respect.”[7]

According to Psychology Today, “The change in our behavior as a society can only be sustained if we challenge the underlying beliefs and assumptions that maintain this toxic behavior.”

As always, it is up to us, the people, to speak out. We must stand up for our American values of inclusiveness and compassion. Let Trump and his bigoted followers know that we will not tolerate their hatred.

Call the White House to register your objection to Trump’s hateful rhetoric at 202-456-1111, or email at https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/. See https://fundersforjustice.org/organizations/ for organizations you can support that are working on police accountability and racial justice.

Bruce Berlin, J.D.

A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at breakingbigmoneysgrip@gmail.com.

Subscribe to this blog at https://breakingbigmoneysgrip.com/my-blog-3/. Join the movement to revive our democracy. Together we can save the soul of America.

[1] https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/unarmed

 [2] https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/after-ferguson-black-men-and-boys-still-face-the-highest-risk-of-being-killed-by-police

[3] https://www.theroot.com/trump-shares-video-claiming-the-only-good-democrat-is-1843732030

[4] https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/07/18/trump-is-leading-hate-movement-world-is-watching/

[5] https://www.newsweek.com/donald-trump-sikh-center-california-nazi-graffiti-1482045

[6] https://theconversation.com/the-psychology-of-fear-and-hate-and-what-each-of-us-can-do-to-stop-it-113710

[7] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anxiety-fear-and-hate/201803/the-psychology-hate