Commentary, News, Trump Administration

Two North Carolina residents launch GoFundMe campaign to “buy” Senator Burr’s vote

Given what we know thus far, this seems as if it’s worth a try….

Durham, N.C., February 3, 2017: When North Carolina residents Eunice Chang and Lekha Shupeck realized the only way to get Senator Richard Burr’s attention was to buy it, they launched a GoFundMe campaign to do exactly that: www.gofundme.com/buy-senator-richard-burrs-vote.

Betsy DeVos gave $43,200 to Senator Richard Burr’s reelection campaign, and is getting Burr’s vote for a Cabinet seat in return. Meanwhile, as many North Carolina citizens know first-hand, Burr consistently fails to answer constituent concerns.

He refuses to hold town hall meetings because they “don’t work for him.” It’s near impossible to get in touch with staffers in his offices: phones are “busy,” voicemail boxes are full, and emails and letters are largely ignored. Burr’s office has called his own constituents, trying desperately to get their senator’s attention, “out-of-state[rs]” and “lack[ing] civility and decorum” simply for voicing their opposition to his policy decisions. In the case of the phone campaign against DeVos’ nomination, Burr himself stated that the opposition was a “strategy hatched a long time ago” rather than a genuine outpouring of concern from North Carolina citizens.

Clearly, that $43,200 means that DeVos gets Senator Burr’s attention and vote, while the citizens of North Carolina get dismissed and ignored by the person who is supposed to represent their interests. So if money is the only thing Senator Burr listens to, we want to put our money to work!

Since we believe that what DeVos did by donating to Burr’s campaign was tantamount to bribery and unethical, we won’t be trying to buy his vote directly. Instead, our fundraiser donates directly to Public School Forum of North Carolina, an organization that does important work advocating for better public education in our state’s schools.

The Public Forum’s policy work will be essential in the coming years to help protect public education in North Carolina from DeVos and the regressive efforts of the NC state legislature, whose policies have ensured that North Carolina is 47th in the nation for teacher pay and 45th in overall public school funding according to the NEA.

We hope that by donating to efforts to protect NC public education from an unqualified opponent of public education like Betsy DeVos, we can send a strong message to Senator Burr: if money is the only message you understand, we’re speaking your language now.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Why progressives must play hardball and not cave on the Gorsuch nomination

It’s not surprising that a lot of good and progressive people are inclined to cave in on the nomination of Donald Trump’s nomination of a hard right-wing judge named Neil Gorsuch to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Especially for non-lawyers, Gorsuch can look and sound smart and respectable and, especially compared to the buffoon of a president who nominated him, even impressive. Add to this the fact that so many progressives don’t really enjoy fighting with the Right and it’s understandable that folks are looking for excuses to duck this battle.

You’ve heard some of the excuses. There’s “Let’s save our energy for the next fight” and “Kennedy will calm him down” and “Justices tend to get more moderate as they age.” And then there’s the tried and true “We have to be better than the Republicans and not sink to their level.”

Well, here’s how all of those sentiments really and practically translate: “We don’t care enough about our country and its future to fight for what’s right.”

The simple truth is that Neil Gorsuch and the people behind him represent everything that’s wrong with modern America. They (and he) are a threat to freedom, to progress, to diversity and equality and, ultimately when it comes to protection of the natural environment, the long-term survival of life on the planet as we know it.

Gorsuch may be a nice and handsome guy who loves his family and likes to ski, but, in the end, that doesn’t count for squat. The hard reality is that on vital matter after vital matter over the next several decades, a Justice Gorsuch will simply be another friend and ally to the dreadful Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. Rather than helping to move our country forward, he will take it dramatically backwards.

Now add to this the utterly outrageous fact that Gorsuch is being allowed to glide into a seat that was out and out stolen from President Obama. This is just wrong and something that can’t be allowed to take place without a knock-down, drag-out fight — even if it’s an uphill battle.

As the excellent Eugene Robinson notes in the conclusion to a column in this morning’s Washington Post: Read more

Commentary

National voting rights expert: Cooper and Stein should take steps to accept 4th circuit ruling

One of the nation’s preeminent voting rights experts, Prof. Rick Hasen of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, authored an article on Slate this morning in which he calls on Governor Roy Cooper and Attorney General Josh Stein to take a very specific and concrete step to improve voting rights throughout the nation. He urges them to help remove the chance that a conservative Supreme Court would have to screw up the law by ruling the wrong way on the case challenging North Carolina’s racially discriminatory map. Here’s Hasen:

“Roy Cooper, the new Democratic governor of North Carolina, and the state’s new Attorney General Josh Stein should withdraw a petition for writ of certiorari pending at the Supreme Court to review the 4th Circuit’s decision striking down North Carolina’s strict voting law.”

Now here’s the explanation: Read more

Commentary

The opportunity to repeal HB2 is now fully available

Members of the North Carolina Senate could easily vote to repeal HB2, the state’s infamous, all-purpose LGBT discrimination bill, today if they had the slightest inclination to do so. The bill that would take such action was introduced yesterday. Here’s the full and simple text of Senate Bill 25:

A BILL TO BE ENTITLED

AN ACT REPEALING S.L. 2016-99 AND S.L. 2016-3.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. S.L. 2016-99 and S.L. 2016-3 are repealed.

SECTION 2. This act is effective when it becomes law. Any local ordinance, resolution, regulation, or policy enacted prior to March 23, 2016, is not abated or affected by S.L.  2016-3, and the local ordinance, resolution, regulation, or policy that would be valid but for the enactment of S.L. 2016-3 remains valid.

The bill is sponsored by Democratic Senators Jeff Jackson, Angela Bryant, Floyd McKissick, Valerie Foushee, Gladys Robinson and Joyce Waddell. Not surprisingly, it faces an uphill battle. This is from a story on WRAL.com:

Senate Democrats on Wednesday filed a “clean bill” to repeal House Bill 2, the controversial measure dealing with LGBT rights and the use of bathrooms by transgender individuals.

“This should be a top priority, and it really shouldn’t be a lot of work,” Sen.Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, said. “It’s obvious we need to repeal HB2. If we do, it’ll be the biggest economic development deal of the year.”

…Although Jackson did his best to exude optimism after filing the bill, in reality, it faces an uphill battle in the General Assembly. A December effort to repeal the measure ultimately collapsed amid accusations and counter accusations, and top Republican leaders say that any repeal effort this year would likely involve a compromise of some sort.

The “compromise,” of course involves opponents of this outrageous law agreeing to let it remain in effect for several more months so that local governments may not pass anti-discrimination ordinances. In other words, conservative leaders won’t go along with repealing the law because…they won’t go along with repealing the law. While they wouldn’t mind getting some good publicity and getting the national heat off their shoulders, they like the discriminatory law and what it does and have no intention of doing away with its noxious effects anytime soon.

Let’s hope North Carolinians and all Americans keep up the pressure. The bottom line, however, is that there are no more excuses on HB2. It could be repealed today if Republicans would only agree to allow a vote.

Commentary, Trump Administration

Doormats no more: Responding to the “Democrats should play by the rules” argument on Gorsuch nomination

Image of a doormat

Image: Amazon.com

Some good and well-meaning people are arguing this morning that Democrats should once again, as they almost always do, compromise and play the role of responsible grown-ups with respect to Donald Trump’s nomination of right-wing judge, Neil Gorsuch.

The honorable editorial writers at the Charlotte Observer make such a case this morning. They argue that even though Republicans wrongfully stole the nomination, Democrats should acquiesce and do what the GOP refused to do for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland: judge him on his merits.

While doing so would provide plenty of good reasons to reject Gorsuch, here is another vote this morning for playing hardball on the nomination. Here’s why:

Times have changed in American politics. Maybe at some point, the genie can be coaxed back into the bottle, but right now, Trumpism and its enablers in the the “conservative” movement represent a brand of lawless, iron-fisted, ends-justify-the-means politics that is so base and dangerous that it must be resisted with every tool at our disposal.

As columnist David Leonhardt rightfully observes in this morning’s New York Times:

“It’s important to remember just how radical — and, yes, unprecedented — the Senate’s approach to the previous Supreme Court nominee was.

Republican leaders announced last March that they would not consider any nominee. They did so even though Barack Obama still had 10 months left in his term and even though other justices (including Anthony Kennedy) had been confirmed in a president’s final year.

The refusal was a raw power grab. Coupled with Republican hints that no Hillary Clinton nominee would be confirmed either, it was a fundamental changing of the rules: Only a party that controlled both the White House and the Senate would now be able to assume it could fill a Supreme Court vacancy….

…Democrats should not weigh this nomination the same way that they’ve weighed previous ones. This one is different. The presumption should be that Gorsuch does not deserve confirmation, because the process that led to his nomination was illegitimate….

…the Democratic Party should begin planning its long-term strategy for the court, and that strategy needs to revolve around last year’s events. One option, for example, would be a plan first to deprive a Republican president of one nominee in coming years and second to offer a truce with Republicans.

I understand that all of these options sound aggressive and partisan, and it makes me deeply uncomfortable to make such an argument. But Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by a new one. The only thing worse than the system that the Republicans have created is a system in which one political party volunteers to be bullied.”

The bottom line: Democrats should be willing to play by the traditional rules of engagement in Washington when the Trumpists commit — really commit — to do likewise. Until then, they should use every tool at their disposal to resist the ongoing assault on our democracy. Fighting the Gorsuch nomination is an excellent place to start.