CNY PROGRESSIVE ACTION NEWSLETTER
MAY 19, 2016
NEWSLETTER OF THE CENTRAL NEW YORK CITIZENS IN ACTION, INC. (ESTABLISHED IN 1997)
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GET INVOLVED – CITIZEN ACTION MEETING ON MONDAY
DEMAND DEMOCRACY NOW
JOIN US TO SPREAD THE WORD
ABOUT REVERSING INEQUALITY
CLEAN ENERGY STANDARD HEARING ON MAY 25
OPPOSE PREDATORY LENDING IN NEW YORK STATE
TELL CONGRESS TO OPPOSE THE TPP
PROGRESSIVES TO GATHER IN ALBANY IN JULY
JOIN US IN THE FIGHT TO SAVE THE PLANET!!
THE LEAST OF 20 EVILS
GET INVOLVED – CITIZEN ACTION MEETING ON MONDAY
We are inviting local progressives to become a part of the Central New York Citizens in Action which has been leading the fight for social justice in the Utica/Rome area for over 25 years. Central New York Citizens in Action is hosting a meeting between 6 – 8 p.m. on Monday, May 23 to make plans for progressive activism in our area. The meeting will be held at the Utica Public Library, 303 Genesee Street, Downtown Utica, Music Room, second floor. The library is across the street from Munson –Williams Proctor Institute and parking is available in the rear.
The meeting will provide an overview of the Citizen Action movement and how you can get involved. We will be discussing the upcoming Inequality Summit, Justice Works Conference, bomb trains, campaign finance reform, and how we will continue the political revolution in Central NY and the Mohawk Valley!! Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP. For more information, please call 725-0974 firstname.lastname@example.org.
DEMAND DEMOCRACY NOW
The Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc. will be part of a state-wide campaign with Citizen Action of New York to demand democratic elections. We want to see the following:
- Publicly funded elections
- Comprehensive campaign finance reform
- Automatic and easier voter registration
- Expanding the right to vote
- Making it easier to vote
- Real ethics reform
We will be holding events during the next few weeks. We need your input and participation. Please contact us to help.
JOIN US TO SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT REVERSING INEQUALITY
In conjunction with Citizen Action of New York, we will be holding a Central New York Reversing Runaway Inequality workshop in which participants will learn about how Wall Street has rigged the economy in every way imaginable, impacting all the issues that we work on. We will also provide local data on the extent of poverty and inequality in our region. Most importantly, we will offer solutions to promote economic and political democracy and create opportunity for all of us. We need your help in organizing these events and volunteers to become community educators on inequality. The educators will facilitate workshops for schools, campuses, unions, houses of worship, and community organizations.
CLEAN ENERGY STANDARD HEARING ON MAY 25
Wednesday, May 25 Carman Community Room, Liverpool Public Library, 310 Tulip Street, Liverpool, NY 13088
- Afternoon Info Session p.m., Public Hearing 3 – 5 pm
- Evening Info Session p.m., Public Hearing 7 – p.m.
The Clean Energy Standard (CES) is a proposal currently under consideration by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC). Remember Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) from 2015? Well, the Clean Energy Standard is the next step toward a NY energy plan, and it has some good points but also some serious drawbacks and omissions. The CES would support new renewable energy (tier 1) and existing renewable energy (tier 2) but would also have ratepayers subsidize NY’s aging, unprofitable nuclear plants (tier 3). The proposal, as currently written, would require utility companies to buy increasing amounts of electricity from renewable AND nuclear sources.
Despite the fact that nuclear power is not clean or renewable, the proposed policy will also provide massive subsidies to unprofitable upstate nuclear reactors. Subsidizing the nuclear reactors will probably cost NYers between $3.5 and $4.6 billion through 2030, in effect throwing away this money instead of investing it in renewable energy, efficiency, and storage.
The PSC will accept comments on the Clean Energy Standard proposal through June 6. A decision on the nuclear tier of the CES will be made by the end of June 2016. Your voice is needed to make sure that the PSC adopts a plan for NY that is actually clean and actually takes us toward a low-carbon, renewable, and efficient energy economy. Bailing out old and expensive nuclear plants should not be the responsibility of taxpayers – tell the NYS Public Service Commission to put our money to work on becoming energy efficient and creating jobs in renewables.
There is no hearing scheduled in Utica. We are trying to get a carpool of folks from Utica to attend the Liverpool hearing. Please contact us if you are interested in attending.
OPPOSE PREDATORY LENDING IN NEW YORK STATE
The Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc. opposes a bill which was recently introduced n the New York State Legislature called the “Community Financial Services Access and Modernization Act”
(A.9634/S.6985). This bill would permit New York check cashers to make loans. The bill would allow check cashers, which have no experience as lenders, to make loans to New Yorkers and small businesses in New York, without ensuring the safety and soundness of those loans. By allowing an unprecedented and unwarranted expansion of check cashers’ authority, the bill would pave the way for high-cost, predatory loans that New York has long successfully fought to keep out of our state. We opposes allowing New York check cashers to make loans, whether to small businesses or to individual borrowers.
The Legislature should reject A.9634/S.6985 and instead affirmatively strengthen and promote Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other responsible lenders that are in the business of meeting community and small business credit needs in a safe, non-discriminatory manner. For example, in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, CDFIs made more than 20,000 loans to small businesses in New York – responsibly meeting the need of small businesses unable to obtain loans from mainstream financial institutions.
Please contact your members of the NYS Assembly and State Senate and urges them to oppose this legislation, and preserve the integrity of our state’s lending and usury laws.
TELL CONGRESS TO OPPOSE THE TPP
Despite a tidal wave of public opposition, the architects of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continue to push the pact hard in the hopes of seeing it passed this year. Today, administration officials are trying to spin a new U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) study about the TPP as supportive of the agreement. We need your help correcting the record with Members of Congress.
Please contact your Congress members now — in the wake of the harmful claims about the new ITC report — and urge them to publicly oppose the TPP.
For years, the TPP was negotiated in the shadows. The public and press were barred from knowing what negotiators were proposing in Americans’ names, while literally hundreds of corporate lobbyists — representing firms like Walmart, Chevron and Cargill — were given special “cleared advisor” status that granted them privileged access to the texts and to negotiators. If they weren’t writing the TPP provisions themselves, they were at least looking over negotiators’ shoulders, saying, “No, no, no. Don’t do that. Try this instead.”
When the negotiations concluded late last year and changes became all-but-impossible, we finally got to see the results of this corrupt process. Among other very serious problems, the TPP text would make it easier for big corporations to offshore American jobs and push down wages due to the trading partners in the agreement, investor protections that promote offshoring, weak rules of origin, absent currency safeguards and inadequate labor and environmental standards.
Earlier this year, thousands of Americans submitted testimony to the ITC asking that its then-forthcoming study of the TPP avoid unrealistic assumptions in its economic modeling, such as full employment, neutral trade balances and static income inequality; that assess how anticipated export gains under the TPP could be wiped out by currency manipulation; that it take into account how weak rules of origin in the TPP could affect U.S. jobs and wages; and that it investigate how increased fossil fuel exports could increase energy costs for U.S. producers and consumers.
Rather than fully embracing them, the ITC’s recent TPP study only made the slightest of nods to these commonsense suggestions. Nonetheless, buried beneath the rosy headlines, the study actually found that in the TPP’s first fifteen years:
- The United States’ global trade deficit would increase by $21.7 billion;
- That we’d see a worsened balance of trade in 16 out of the 25 specific product areas it chose to feature, including everything from auto parts to corn to financial services;
- That there would be a decline in output for U.S. manufacturing, natural resources and energy of $10.8 billion; and
- That even the U.S. balance in trade services would worsen by $2.2 billion.
TAKE ACTION NOW: Please urge your Congress members to oppose the TPP in the face of misinformation about the ITC’s new study.
What the TPP boosters are promoting about the ITC study is its projection that the pact would increase U.S. economic growth. What they fail to mention is that the ITC study finds that this growth would be a paltry 0.15% by the year 2032. In other words, the United States would be as wealthy on February 15, 2032 without the TPP as it would be on January 1, 2032 with it.
That the ITC is projecting such minuscule benefits from the TPP is telling, given its long track record of grossly overestimating the benefits and underestimating the costs of trade agreements.
Going all the way back to the 1990s, the ITC predicted that NAFTA would improve the U.S. trade surplus with Mexico and boost U.S. employment. Instead under NAFTA, the United States’ $2.6 billion surplus in traded goods with Mexico has reversed course into a $106 billion deficit, and the Labor Department certified approximately 845,000 American jobs as lost under the deal. The ITC similarly overestimated the benefits of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China in the early 2000s.
Much more recently, the ITC predicted that the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement would cut the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with South Korea in half. Instead under the Korea deal, U.S. exports decreased by 9 percent, imports from Korea increased by 19 percent and our goods trade deficit with South Korea has approximately doubled.
With the ITC warning us the costs to the TPP are real and the benefits minimal, it’s time for policymakers to reject this misguided pact and move on.
Don’t let Congress take misleading spin about the ITC study at face value. Please write your Congress members now, correcting the record about the TPP and urging them to vote against it.
PROGRESSIVES TO GATHER IN ALBANY IN JULY
The Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc. is urging local members to attend the Justice Works Conference this July. We’re trying something a little different this year. On the weekend of July 23 & 24, 2016, we’ll be hosting three great events:
Justice Works 2016: the conference you know and love, with nationally-renowned speakers, issue and skills workshops, and networking with some of the best activists and leaders from across New York. Justice Works 2016 will begin at 11:00 am on Saturday, July 23 and close after out breakfast speaker on Sunday, July 24.
Citizen Action of New York Leadership Summit: Dues-paying members of Citizen Action of New York are invited to stay for our first statewide Leadership Summit. We’ll have discussions about the role of Citizen Action in this movement moment, strategize on issue and election campaigns, and also vote for At-Large seats on our statewide Board of Directors. The Citizen Action Leadership Summit will begin at 10 am on Sunday, July 24 and close at 4:00 pm.
New York Training Day: Hosted by the New York Civic Engagement Table, participants will get a full day’s worth of key skills trainings. We’ll have workshops on community organizing skills and we’ll also offer a Reversing Runaway Inequality workshop in which participants will learn about how Wall Street has rigged the economy in every way imaginable, impacting all the issues that we work on.
We fight for justice. We know it works. We fight for justice for our children, at our workplaces, and in our communities. When we win justice, we see it in the faces we love and the lives that have had an opportunity to succeed. But as our world seems ever more violent, jobless, sick, polluted and disenfranchised, we know we must continue the fight. Because Justice Works, we work for it, every day.
On July 23 and 24, 2016, hundreds of New Yorkers who fight for justice will join together. Regardless of the issues you work on, or how you work on them: if you’re an organizer, a volunteer, a door knocker, a blogger, a policy wonk, or all of these things – Justice Works is the conference for you. Too often in our movement for justice, we feel like we are all alone, all working on different issues, all going in different directions. But the fact is, we are all in this together, fighting for a society where we all do better, where government and the economy work for every person, not just the rich, and where justice is something shared by everyone, regardless of the color of our skin, our sexual orientation, our religious beliefs, where we live or how much money we make.
Justice Works will be a conference that brings together a cross section of progressive politics and activism in New York State, at a time when our united power, coordination and understanding is essential to beat back the powers of greed and individualism that are succeeding at dismantling our social structures and further tearing down our communities. Together we’ll train, share, network, teach and learn how each of our fights, our campaigns, our efforts, make up the gears that move New York toward justice. Come to be inspired. Join us July 23 & 24 in Albany! For more information, please call 725-0974 or email@example.com. We are organizing vans to transport residents from our area to attend the conference.
JOIN US IN THE FIGHT TO SAVE THE PLANET!!
We are in the midst of the largest civil disobedience campaign in environmental movement history: Break Free; and it is occurring at a time when we are at the tipping point for climate as well as many other environmental catastrophes like dying oceans and a great extinction. The growth of protest coincides with public opinion reaching a tipping point, with 64% of people in the United States, a record number, saying they were worried about climate change and 65% blaming it on human actions.
The Central NY Citizens in Action needs your help in organizing local protests to demand climate justice. We are planning events to coincide with national events.
The escalation of the movement is also coming as the impacts of climate change become more evident. Perhaps the most dramatic impact in recent weeks has been the massive fire in Alberta, Canada — the heart of North American tar sands — where 90 thousand people had to be evacuated, leaving their homes and property behind. It is one of many climate-induced fires. While the media tried to avoid connecting the fire to climate, it was impossible to avoid the obvious. The irony of the tar sands center being destroyed by a fire made worse by climate chaos was to stark not to see.
Mass Resistance to Carbon Infrastructure and Extraction Has Been Ongoing
There has been a mass civil resistance movement related to climate and the environment for quite some time. People are blockading pipelines and oil trains, protesting gas export terminals and fracking, urging an end to more carbon infrastructure and pushing government to “keep it in the ground.” This movement is having an impact from convincing institutions to divest from oil and gas, to pushing more investment and development of renewable energy and slowing or stopping carbon infrastructure. As Break Free, a continuation of that escalation in resistance, shows, the climate struggle is vibrant and global and is gaining momentum.
This coming Monday, a week long Rubber Stamp Rebellion will begin in Washington, DC. The protests will be focused on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and their commissioners who have been rubber-stamping carbon infrastructure projects without considering how they are destroying communities (communicide) or their impact on climate change. Beyond Extreme Energy, which is organizing the event, will not only be going to FERC but also to the homes of FERC commissioners to hold them personally accountable. Twenty-one front line communities will be holding their own events and activists will also be targeting corporations involved in oil and gas in DC.
Last week, the Chair of FERC, Norman Bay was interrupted when he was giving a speech in Albany, NY and was forced to flee from the stage. He was speaking to the Independent Power Producers of New York. The reason FERC rubber stamps all carbon infrastructure projects is because this federal agency is completely funded by the industry. Permits and licensing fees pay the salaries of the commissioners and all the costs of the agency. It is a recipe for corruption-based conflict of interests and leads to FERC working with the industry and against the interests of communities and people. FERC is an agency that either needs to undergo a complete transformation so that it works toward a clean energy economy or it needs to be closed down.
What FERC and the industry do not understand is that people are fighting for their communities, really for their lives. People know they suffer from illness because of the pollution from oil and gas. In Philadelphia a Right to Breathe protest opposing a Navy Yard being turned into an import and export terminal for oil was held last week. One protester talked about how she has been having breathing problems for years because of the pollution that already exists. Protesters pointed out that there would be more jobs for the local economy if they built clean sustainable energy instead.
Protests on the front lines by communities impacted by carbon infrastructure are becoming too big to ignore. They are growing more consistent in recent years with almost every pipeline, compressor station, export terminal or extreme extraction like fracking or tar sands being protested.” A 2015 survey of pipeline companies found that protests are the most significant barrier to pipeline construction. The movement realizes that all of these projects are connected and that a victory in one part of the country energizes other communities. And, activists realize the the claim that gas was a bridge to a clean energy future is a lie, methane gas is a serious polluter and fracking damages water and air; further gas is a competitor to a clean energy future. Investing in carbon infrastructure means it will be used for a generation and that investment should go to creating energy from sun, wind and water instead.
Pipeline and other gas infrastructure corporations are resorting to new approaches to stop communities from standing up for their rights. In Charlotte, NC this week the Utilities Commission, which like most energy ‘regulators’ is controlled by the industry, demanded a $10 million bond for possible damages from NC WARN, a community and environmental group, if they are going to continue to challenge the permit for a gas infrastructure project. This blocking of their ability to protest and participate in decision making is likely to be challenged in court. Also, this week a professor who bought two parcels at an oil & gas auction was removed from her job at the University of Utah.
In another example, the anti-environmentalist front group America Rising Squared announced plans to target climate activists with trackers and video cameras. This intimidation tactic was announced just before the Break Free campaign of resistance began. Bill McKibben, rather than being intimidated, said he was “flattered” by their attention and how they showed “the lengths they will go to avoid talking about the greatest issue of our time, their ongoing wreckage of the planet’s climate, and in the process so many of its people.”
New Ways To See The Climate Crisis Justify Greater Protest
Lawsuits brought by youth have been arguing that the future they are inheriting includes a destroyed environment. A series of state, federal, and international cases brought against governments and the oil and gas industry have been supported by Our Children’s Trust claiming there is a “public trust” in the future of the planet that is being threatened by climate change and seeking to protect future generations. A public trust is a doctrine that claims the government has an affirmative duty to protect natural resources that are shared by everybody.
An Oregon court denied the motions of the federal government and allowed the case to proceed, framing the issue:
“Plaintiffs are suing the United States … because the government has known for decades that carbon dioxide (C02) pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change and has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Moreover, plaintiffs allege that the government and its agencies have taken action or failed to take action that has resulted in increased carbon pollution through fossil fuel extraction, production, consumption, transportation, and exportation. Plaintiffs allege the current actions and omissions of defendants make it extremely difficult for plaintiffs to protect their vital natural systems and a livable world. Plaintiffs assert the actions and omissions of defendants that increased C02 emissions ‘shock the conscience,’ and are infringing the plaintiffs’ right to life and liberty in violation of their substantive due process rights.”
n May a Washington state superior court ruled that the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology must put in place an emissions reduction rule by the end of 2016 and make recommendations to the state legislature on science-based greenhouse gas reductions in the 2017 legislative session. Judge Hollis Hill said the climate crisis “is an urgent situation…these kids can’t wait.” He concluded the state has a “mandatory duty” to “preserve, protect, and enhance the air quality for the current and future generations,” and found the state’s current standards to fail that standard . . .”
At the same time ExxonMobil is being sued for not taking any action even though they were aware of the threat their product posed to climate change and the future of the planet. ExxonMobil is accused of attempting to subvert the science on climate by funding outside groups that sought to undermine climate science, even as its in-house scientists were outlining the potential consequences. Investigations are ongoing by the federal government, New York, California and other states and are reminiscent of the cases brought against the tobacco companies for trying to undermine science on cigarettes causing cancer. This week ExxonMobil resisted a demand for records from the attorney general of Virgin Islands for 40 years of records on climate in a case where they are investigating whether the company violated anti-racketeering laws.
While courts are beginning to recognize the climate crisis, the governments of the world are doing so as well. Last month was the ceremonial signing of the Paris agreement, which is recognized by experts as inadequate to face the climate crisis. The absurdity of inadequate leadership is seen when government’s recognize a collective responsibility to keep total warming somewhere below 1.5 degrees Celsius, but in February we were at 2 degrees Celsius. Governments are demanding too little, too late.
All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that our job is to turn the climate crisis into a political crisis that forces the corruption of the oil and gas industry into the open and shames governments for their failure to act on an urgent situation that threatens life on the planet as we know it. The failure of the political and economic systems to respond as quickly and strongly as needed puts the responsibility on people to resist oil and gas exploration, carbon infrastructure and continued reliance on dirty energy that is destroying the planet. The reality we face justifies resistance and disobedience to do all we can to slow or stop the use of carbon energy, heighten debate on the reality of the climate crisis and bring climate justice to the forefront of political thought.
This month Grant Township Supervisors in Pennsylvania, a state racked by a fracking-corrupted government, passed a first-in-the-nation law that legalizes direct action to stop frack wastewater injection wells within the Township. According to the law if a court does not uphold the people’s right to stop corporate activities threatening the well-being of the community, the ordinance codifies that, “any natural person may then enforce the rights and prohibitions of the charter through direct action.” Further, the ordinance states that any nonviolent direct action to enforce their Charter is protected, “prohibit[ing] any private or public actor from bringing criminal charges or filing any civil or other criminal action against those participating in nonviolent direct action.”
Escalation Is Justified, We Can Win
The deep corruption in the current economy and in government requires people to act. The choice is between moving as rapidly as possible to 100% renewables or facing climate chaos. Making the transition to clean energy needs to be about transformative change on many fronts — how people relate to the planet, how we use energy more efficiently and create lifestyles more consistent with the realities of the environment and limitations of the planet as well as about our voracious economy based on ever growing capitalist thinking.
This week, the world passed the 400 parts per million of CO2 threshold, which means that we need to start planning to go beyond carbon neutral to carbon negative within the next few decades. That requires facing up to the destructive approaches that have developed in agriculture such as monocultures and factory farming. Research shows that regenerative agriculture not only sequesters carbon, removing it from the atmosphere, but also makes food healthier, reduces air and water pollution caused by mass agri-business and moves us to a regenerative economy which can help save the environment.
Progress is being made on all these fronts. Global investment in coal and gas-fired power generation plants fell to less than half that of renewable energy generation last year, a record year for clean energy. It was also the first time that renewable energy made up a majority of all the new electricity generation capacity under construction around the world. China alone accounted for 36% of the global total. In the US, although investment was up by a fifth to $44bn, it was still less than half of China’s. Europe bucked these trends and actually went backward, decreasing investment in clean energy by a fifth. Globally, solar had a 12% increase and wind had a 4% increase.
Solar continues to make market breakthroughs in the United States, setting a record in the last quarter of 2015 and solar and wind were the largest source of new energy for the last two years. Domestically, the market is projected to grow 25% to 50% this year and global projections are at 30%. And, we may be on the verge of a major new breakthrough in solar technology that will move us from inefficient and expensive silicon to perovskite, a light-sensitive crystal that has the potential to be more efficient, inexpensive, and versatile than all other existing solar solutions. This is one of many technological breakthroughs helping to drive the transformation more quickly. As Peter Diamandis writes: “In the next 20 years, between 50 percent to 100 percent of the world’s energy production could come from solar.”
Also this week a study by the Stockholm Environment Institute found that we could cut carbon emissions by 100M tons by 2030 by phasing out leases on federal lands for fossil fuels. This means ceasing to issue new leases for fossil fuel extraction on federal lands and waters, and avoiding renewals of existing leases for resources that are not yet producing. This is how the federal government can act consistently with the goals of the Paris Treaty and make keeping it in the ground a reality.
This week, after a five-year struggle that engaged hundreds of thousands of people, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a landmark decision to deny federal permits for the biggest proposed coal export terminal in North America. This decision also recognized the rights of Indigenous peoples and honored treaty obligations.
There is a growing climate movement that is having an impact. It is stopping pipelines, compressor stations, export terminals and stopping the leasing of federal lands for more extreme extraction of dirty energy. We are transforming the economy to clean energy with rapid expansion of wind and solar. People are challenging the voracious, capitalist economy the puts profits before people and planet. We are winning and we will win even bigger victories if we keep building the movement, mobilizing people and refusing to compromise on the essential issue of climate justice. It is time to break free of fossil fuels.
Please join us to f ight for climate justice in Upstate New York. We need to hear from you!
Credit: Popular Resistance News Letter
The Least of 20 Evils
By Rick Cooley
The American political system these days is doing a terrible job of representing the interests of the majority of people living under it. The way in which districting of Congressional seats, the restriction of the voting rights of certain groups of people, the way in which ballot slots are allocated and the means by which political campaigns are waged and financed have all combined to de facto dilute the voices of or downright disenfranchise millions of Americans, while simultaneously augmenting the political clout of a much smaller number of people on the basis of wealth, income, gender, race and other arbitrary criteria. The ideal concept of “one person one vote” has become farther from realization with the passage of each successive election for decades.
The Republican Party, which has for the majority of its existence been viewed by most as the party of the wealthy business and corporate interests, no longer even seeks to hide that fact, continuing to preach the virtues of policies that have proven for decades to result in increasing income and wealth inequality favoring those already in positions of wealth and power while decimating the middle class and entrenching increasing numbers of people in an endless cycle of poverty with little room for true economic upward mobility. Decreasing investment in public education, health care, housing and other social safety net programs have helped to increase societal stratification instead of leveling the playing field by equalizing opportunities for advancement for everyone.
Political developments, such as the opening up the floodgates for campaign finance for increasingly large donations by wealthy individuals, corporations and other groups, along with the perceived need to court donations by such groups in order to not face being dramatically outspent by their opponents has resulted in a major decrease in responsiveness of many members of both parties to the needs and aspirations of their constituents less able to help them get elected and retain their elected status. The Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has gone a long way toward unraveling the campaign spending/fundraising legislation which had been legislated over the course of many years to try to make political campaigning more dependent on policy issues and less dependent on the ability to overwhelm people with campaign advertising noise. The more recent devastation of key elements of the Voting Rights Act has further suppressed voting by members of groups protected by that law.
Gerrymandering of safe districts, which allows the party in power when redistricting occurs to make it more difficult for the opposing party to regain a majority in Congress and/or state legislatures, makes it possible for one political party to maintain its majority status in the elected bodies despite garnering far fewer overall votes than the “minority” party. Changing voting legislation to make it selectively more difficult for certain groups of people to vote, restrictions placed causing voting to take more time for some people than others and even the way in which votes are made and counted all open up increased chances for election results to differ significantly from the overall will of the people directly affected by the outcome. Thus, election fraud of various kinds has become more prevalent while more attention is being paid to alleviating a perceived problem of voter fraud that doesn’t actually exist.
The current contest for the 2016 Presidential election makes a good case in point for how far our system is straying from the democratic ideals this country has professed (note I purposely did not say practiced) for centuries now. A bazillion people announced their candidacy for the GOP nomination (ok, maybe in was closer to 20). Five announced on the Democratic side. All of these received at least a little bit of national media attention and some free airtime in televised debates. Ever see a debate nationally televised that included zero participants of either party? They must exist, because those are not the only two entrants on the presidential ballots of most states.
Many candidates from other parties have better developed policy platforms than most if not all of those running for the Democratic or Republican parties. Some even seek to represent the interests of more people than the major parties’ candidates do. They simply don’t have the resources to force themselves on the general public by buying up airtime, and the two parties do everything in their power to shut them out of any nationally televised debates. The exception to the rule being those billionaires vain enough to buy their way into the race. This is certainly not the case in most parliamentary systems, where multiple parties participate and govern much more successfully than our system has been doing of late.
When all else fails, the candidates whose names ultimately occupy the Democratic and Republican lines on the November ballot resort to cajoling those of us who want neither to hold the office, or greatly prefer someone else we think would do a better job with the time honored tradition of voting for the lesser of two evils. Apparently, this time around, we were expected to vote for the least of 20-something evils. None of these people can claim the support of a majority of voters. Almost all have higher negative than positive ratings in popular opinion polls. That’s not even a goal most of them aspire to. Someone will win. Usually it ends up being the person who gets a majority of ballots cast in the election, but not always. Most of those voting against the “winner” who didn’t vote for the person who came in second will be excoriated publicly as having blown the election.
If we end up with an inappropriate winner this election, it will not be for the first time. I doubt anybody would disagree on that score. Part of the problem resides in how the candidates are chosen. When some of the largest states shutout up to a third of their residents from even voting in a primary, the chances of selecting a true representative of the majority opinion in those states is greatly curtailed. If parties wish to choose their candidates that way, that’s fine. Just don’t make it so gosh-darned hard for other candidates to get on the general election ballot and participate in public debates that it becomes almost impossible for someone other than one of those two candidates to win.
The two current parties in our two-party system each represents an ever shrinking portion of the population. Third party and independent candidates and voters get short-shrift from the system on purpose – the two parties don’t want to share power, and neither seems to want to do the right thing by representing the greater good for all instead of the easier path of serving the interests of the powerful few over those of the many. There are some who do that to various degrees of success. Bernie Sanders is an aberration, having never served in elective office after running as a party nominee. Others have chosen to use his campaign finance model, but none has garnered enough support to win the big prize yet.
If we want to establish a government that is truly democratic, we need to do more to level the field and make the contest more one of ideas and less one of money. The media needs to be made to act as more of an impartial third party conveying valuable information so that the general public can make informed decisions, not as a capitalistic money-making venture only interested in maximizing their own monetary profits. Having a process that leaves us with Trump, Cruz and Kasich on one side and Clinton opposed only by someone who never even officially belonged to the party before in Sanders – with the only outside contenders being people with single-digit name recognition – does not bode well for selecting a new President even capable of representing the majority of their own party, let alone of the nation as a whole.
For the record, my state (PA) primary is this coming Tuesday. When I voted in Vermont primaries, I’d show up, be asked which party ballot I wanted and vote. I could only vote in one. Here, to vote at all, I had to change my registration from independent to either Democrat or Republican. Only a very small percentage of people ever bother to do that. This primary will undoubtedly do a fairly good job of selecting candidates who went to the trouble of appearing on the ballot and preferred by declared members of the parties involved. It will not do a very good job of selecting candidates preferred by the people of Pennsylvania. Different states may do a better or worse job at that than mine, but what kind of mandate can a President have with the votes of a small minority of eligible voters, many of whom are voting only to avert what they see as a disaster if the other person wins?
Open up primaries, open up debates, open up ballots, reduce voter suppression and obstacles to voting. Get candidates who are more representative of the people whose votes they seek and less representative of those interested in maintaining an unfair and unjust status quo. End least of 20 evils voting and elect people to office who will do the jobs to which they are elected.
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Please send your check to:
Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc., P.O. Box 411, Utica, NY 13503-0411. Because we are an advocacy group, donations are not tax deductible.
Thank you for your support.
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CNY PROGRESSIVE ACTION is published by Central New York Citizens in Action, Inc., P.O. Box 411, Utica, NY 13503-0411 Our Office is located at 500 Plant Street in Utica, NY at Cornerstone Community Church./315-725-0974315-725-0974 email@example.com https://cnycitizenaction.wordpress.com