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: The Election Is About Us!

While anti-Trump sentiment is strong and growing, that by itself may not be enough to defeat the president in November. The Democrats could lose again unless Biden gives Americans a good reason to go to the polls and VOTE FOR him. And, there are more than a few good reasons.

Biden’s job is to convince the American people that voting for him is a vote for thwarting authoritarian government and overhauling American democracy.  That if you support his campaign and vote for him, you will be voting not only for decency, fairness and strong, knowledge-based leadership, but also a government that cares about, serves and respects all people.

A Biden administration will enforce equal justice under the law. It will support affordable healthcare for all, economic fairness and reforming policing practices. Plus, so much more regarding what concerns most Americans.

Our job is to protect the election process and get out the vote. We need to do whatever we can to ensure everyone who wants to vote can, and that all votes are counted. We also need to produce a massive voter turnout that leaves no doubt who will be America’s next president. And, it’s time we all got to work.

In last week’s post I noted that the election is about saving our “tattered democracy” and “our rights as citizens.” In fact, the election is about us. How much do we Americans really value our democracy? And, how hard are we willing to work from now until election day to protect our country from authoritarian rule?

If you agree, let’s get to work. We all need to get involved now before it’s too late.

Here are just a few of the many organizations already engaged in saving our democracy and voters’ rights issues. Reach out to one or more of them. If we all volunteered some of our time and made a donation, we could make a huge difference.

  • Vote Save America (https://votesaveamerica.com/) provides information about where you can volunteer, donate, and get involved where you are needed most.
  • Voter Protection Corps (https://www.voter-protection.org/) works to ensure that all eligible voters can register, vote and have their votes counted.
  • Arizona Advocacy Network (https://www.azadvocacy.org/) is fighting against voter suppression tactics and advocating to modernize outdated election rules that keep citizens from voting. It supports meaningful voting rights, ballot access, and political decisions driven by voters instead of money. Arizona is an important swing state.
  • Fair Fight (https://fairfight.com) promotes fair elections in Georgia – a battleground state – and around the country, encourages voter participation in elections, and educates voters about elections and their voting rights.

Encourage your friends, neighbors and others to help out as well. Pass this blog post onto them.

Bruce Berlin

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.

 

 

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: RepresentUs Comes to New Mexico

On Tuesday, July 7, New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (NMMOP) became RepresentUS New Mexico, a state chapter of the national organization RepresentUs. Over 70 people attended the virtual launch. Sen. Tom Udall, Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver and Mayor Alan Webber all spoke adding their support to this momentous occasion.

RepresentUs is a national, non-partisan, nonprofit organization that “bring(s) together conservatives, progressives, and everyone in between to pass powerful anti-corruption laws that stop political bribery, end secret money, and fix our broken elections.” (See www.represent.us.)

We believe this shift is a natural fit since our newly revised mission and goals closely align with those of RepresentUs. It marks the beginning of a new era in our efforts to revive democracy that NMMOP has been championing since its inception four years ago. By taking on the mantle of RepresentUs New Mexico, we are placing the fight against political corruption front and center.

RepresentUs New Mexico will continue NMMOP’s work with American Promise to promote a constitutional amendment limiting the influence of money in politics. Additionally, joining RepresentUs will sharpen our focus on rooting out the political corruption that Big Money perpetuates as well as give us greater resources to accomplish this goal.

Clearly, this is a huge undertaking. But RepresentUs has a plan that is already working to end political corruption. It has drafted a model anti-corruption act that has been adopted in a number of states. Here’s a brief informative video that explains how it functions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTP4uvIFu5c#action=share.

RepresentUs New Mexico’s mission is to promote ethical government that adheres to the Constitution, respects the rule of law and serves the public good. Our goals are to:

  1. Enact a campaign finance amendment to the U.S. Constitution that establishes the government‘s authority to impose reasonable limits on campaign contributions and expenditures, and to require full disclosure and transparency.
  2. Enact Lobbying reform at the federal, state and local levels so that all of us are fairly represented, and the “revolving door” between government and wealthy organizations or individuals is closed.
  3. Eliminate the rigging (gerrymandering) of congressional and state representative districts so that every citizen is fairly and equally represented.
  4. Protect and enhance the right and ability to vote and ensure that every citizen’s vote counts equally.
  5. Enact anti-corruption, ethics and conflict-of-interest laws.
  6. Establish public financing for all federal, state and local elections.

For RepresentUs New Mexico to succeed, we need you. We must build a large and strong team of volunteers, supporters and directors to achieve our goals. If you are interested in joining our team and helping us lead the way to real political reform, please go to our website, nmmop.org, (which we are using until we finish building a new one for RepresentUs New Mexico). Please let us know you want to help by clicking on the “contact us” button at the top of the home page.

Imagine what we can accomplish together: a fairer, more just New Mexico and the revival of democracy in our country.

Bruce Berlin

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.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Going Within

My small neighborhood community in Mineral Hill outside of Las Vegas, NM, recently decided “going within” one day a week would be a valuable endeavor in these trying times when we are constantly being bombarded by outside stimuli. After one day of “going within,” I knew we were on to something.

On Wednesday I spent the day “going within.” No phones, no computers, no TVs, no interaction with anyone except for essential communication with my partner. In the morning I took stock of where I am right now. I wrote in my journal that “I’m feeling pretty good about my life.” That includes my relationships with my partner, my daughter and good friends; my health, my new home, my community, and even this blog. As I wrote, I realized how grateful I am for all that is going well in my little world.

During my afternoon of introspection, I recognized how clever it was of mother nature to require humanity to take a time out. I noted in my journal that “this is an incredible opportunity for me, everyone who has stopped the routine he or she normally follows, and the country as a whole, to go within.”

The next day a good friend called. I learned that a mutual friend of ours had suddenly become seriously ill and was taken to the hospital. Apparently, he was near death.

It was a true wake-up call. How quickly our lives can change. I was reminded how important it is to live each day to its fullest.

This led me to ask: How are we doing as a society? Why have we gotten so divided? Why can’t we live together? Why are people so driven to get as much as they can for themselves with no or little concern for how the less fortunate among us who are hurting, hungry, some homeless, are getting by or not?

It’s time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our country. How can we inspire our country to live up to its honored values and highest potential for all Americans? We are in the midst of a spiritual crisis, as well as a health crisis and an economic crisis. Our country is at a moral crossroads: Will we take the highway to a better life for all, or the low road where it’s each one out for one’s self? This is the question we will answer in the fall election. But we can’t wait. Now is the time we must pave the way for a brighter, more equitable society.

By going within during this slowdown period, we have the opportunity to re-evaluate our nation’s priorities. Since we don’t have the national leadership to provide support and guidance in these troubled times, it’s up to us to find our way together.

We have many ways to get involved. Unite America (https://www.uniteamerica.org/) is working to make voting secure and accessible during COVID-19. When We All Vote (https://www.whenweallvote.org/) is focused on expanding vote-by-mail, early voting and online voter registration. Here in New Mexico, we can work on issues to revive our democracy with New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics (https://nmmop.org), Retake Our Democracy (https://retakeourdemocracy.org/), Common Cause New Mexico (https://www.commoncause.org/new-mexico/), or a number of other non-profit organizations.

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.

The Struggle for the Soul of America: Many Republicans Oppose Trump, Too

In last week’s blog I wrote that “nothing less than the survival of American democracy is at stake” in this year’s election. I noted that Prof. Peter Dreier of Occidental College believes the election is “about democracy vs. fascism.”

One reader retorted that my blog gave her a good laugh. Another thought Dreier’s remarks were just liberal bluster. Though most of you didn’t respond, I’m sure many agreed with Dreier’s dire warning.

Whether one is conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, it’s hard to understand how one cannot take what’s happening in our country seriously.  Armed militia recently marched on the Michigan statehouse protesting the governor’s coronavirus-related restrictions.[1] Pres. Trump not only rejects Congress’s power of oversight,[2]  but he also refuses to use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to save American lives.[3] And, just yesterday Trump fired another independent executive branch watchdog who found fault with his administration.[4]

Trump has absolutely failed to protect Americans against the coronavirus. Many health professionals fighting the virus still do not have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need. While Trump praises healthcare workers, his failure to fully employ the DPA has resulted in “shortages across the country…so severe that a number of hospitals are trying to come up with ways to innovate using the same PPE more than once — a practice that was unheard of in the United States prior to the coronavirus crisis.”[5] Still, it’s mind-boggling that this pandemic which has affected 100,000s of Americans, and killing 1000s of people daily, has become a political football.[6]

Yet, Democrats are not the only ones fed up with Trump. Conservative attorney George Conway, husband of Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway, and Rick Wilson, former Republican consultant, are leading a group of Republicans called the Lincoln Project which aims to make Trump a one-term president.

The Lincoln Project as well as many other conservatives firmly believe Trump is a danger to the nation.[7] In fact, nearly a quarter of Republicans think that the party should nominate someone other than Trump as their 2020 presidential nominee.[8] In addition, “highly respected and renowned conservative political columnists like Jennifer Rubin, George Will, Kathleen Parker, Jonah Goldberg and others have long been writing about his incompetence, egotism, ignorance of foreign policy, dishonesty, cruelty and overall lack of integrity. Even the very conservative Wall Street Journal is publishing editorials and columns against his incompetence and lies.”[9]

Regardless of this Republican rebellion, Trump still has a strong following. Fortunately for the country, they are in the minority. But that is not enough reason to believe Trump will lose in November.

Trump is a very clever salesman, an unrelenting con artist. He still has powerful people like Mitch McConnell and wealthy donors like Sheldon Adelson supporting him. And, most Republicans will do just about anything to win.

So, it is up to us, the American people, to save our country from the ruin that a second Trump term will surely bring. We must do everything we can to get everyone registered to vote and then follow through by voting, demand the right to mail-in voting and do whatever else we can to ensure an overwhelming defeat of a president who doesn’t care about the American people or our country, but only cares about himself.

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.yahoo.com/news/michigan-militia-puts-armed-protest-043435517.html

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/27/us/trump-signing-statement-coronavirus.html

[3] https://doyle.house.gov/media/press-releases/congressman-doyle-demands-president-trump-use-defense-production-act-save

[4] https://www.yahoo.com/news/pompeo-fires-state-dept-watchdog-024122794.html

[5] https://truthout.org/articles/trump-says-doctors-and-nurses-running-into-death-is-beautiful-thing-to-see/?eType=EmailBlastContent&eId=104d96e5-c966-4ea1-9126-6d44080cd4b2

[6] https://thehill.com/homenews/coronavirus-report/497529-governors-warn-covid-relief-is-becoming-a-political-football

[7] https://www.c-span.org/video/?471995-5/washington-journal-rick-wilson-discusses-campaign-2020

[8] https://www.yahoo.com/news/nearly-quarter-likely-republican-voters-173919559.html

[9] https://www.wiscnews.com/baraboonewsrepublic/opinion/columnists/nash-column-trumps-finally-worn-out-welcome-with-many-in-gop/article_6dc396e4-5c95-540a-8aa7-7d033c2e945c.html

 

The Struggle for the Soul of America: All Hands On Deck

Most Americans are well aware of how critical this year’s election is. Nothing less than the survival of American democracy is at stake.

“(T)his election isn’t just about Biden vs. Trump. This is about democracy vs. fascism,” according to Peter Dreier, distinguished professor of politics at Occidental College. Prof. Dreier asserts that if Trump wins a second term, “he will double down on his fascist instincts and foment increasingly overt white supremacist violence, xenophobia, nativism, and anti-Semitism… We will see an unprecedented level of human suffering.” Dreier also believes Trump will:

  • seek to dismantle unions and workers’ rights,
  • slash the already-torn safety net,
  • eviscerate voting rights and civil liberties,
  • hand over more public funds and government services (such as prisons, the post office, health care, national parks, and schools) to big corporations, and
  • try to starve cities and states by denying federal funding for key services.[i]

The American people must take Prof. Dreier’s warning very seriously. When Trump signed the two-trillion-dollar coronavirus-relief package in late March, he rejected Congress’s oversight provision, declaring, “I’ll be the oversight.” A few days later, he fired the special inspector general who was to monitor spending, reporting to Congress anything that seemed amiss. Not long after that Trump proclaimed, “When somebody’s the President of the United States, the authority is total. It’s total.”[ii]

There is less than six months until the election. Americans are overwhelmed by the Coronavirus pandemic and the impact of a crashing economy. For most of us the November election is not our primary concern right now. Many are feeling hopeless about the state of the country as well as powerless to change it. Whatever our preoccupations and feelings may be, we cannot afford to ignore the urgency of this moment. Nor can we allow our disappointment that our preferred candidate is not heading the Democratic Party’s ticket dissuade us from working on this election.

We must act now to save our country from being destroyed by Trump’s “fascist instincts” in a second term.

The most important thing all of us can do from now till November is taking action to ensure that the election is conducted fairly. That includes:

  • developing a massive voter registration drive
  • establishing the universal right to vote-by-mail in every state and territory
  • supporting a concerted effort to expand early voting
  • protecting the U.S. Postal Service from being defunded or privatized to safeguard vote-by-mail
  • creating a public education campaign alerting the public to the great danger of a second Trump term is required as well

Now is the time to act before it’s too late. We all must get involved in one way or another. Join a voters’ rights group, for example:

The Voting Rights Alliance at https://www.votingrightsalliance.org/ ;

The Election Protection coalition at https://866ourvote.org/.

Together we can, and will, save our democracy. 

Bruce Berlin

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.

[i] https://www.commondreams.org/views/2020/05/05/not-normal-election

[ii] https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/studying-fascist-propaganda-by-day-watching-trumps-coronavirus-updates-by-night