Category: US

There’s a New Breed of Democrat Running for Congress

 

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Congressman Beto O’Rourke is running for 

US Senate in Texas without corporate PAC money. (Photo credit: Flickr) 

 

Many of the aspects of American politics we hate the most are in some way or another related to the influence of big money.  Whether it is the gun lobby, health insurance companies, big oil, big pharma, big banks, or perhaps most disturbingly, the weapons lobby, corporate interests sway politicians, even ones with the best of intentions away from representing the needs of the American people, and towards the needs of the rich and powerful.

We have seen time and time again that our elected representatives, both Democrat, and Republican, promise to do one thing and then proceed to turn around and do the exact opposite.  With their re-election chances hanging in their ability to raise funds, however, many politicians are left with little choice but to kowtow to moneyed interests and panhandle corporations and dark money groups for donations.

With politicians selling out their constituents left, right, and center, people are angry, really angry.  People are angry that they are getting charged exorbitant amounts for prescription drugs while Cory Booker, despite vowing to lower health care costs and stick up for working people, voted against allowing medications to be imported from Canada, likely because of contributions to his campaign coffers by PhRMA PAC, an organization representing pharmaceutical manufacturers.   People are angry that Republicans rake in millions from big banks and vote down the most watered down financial regulations.  People are angry that Mark Warner, a Democrat from Virginia took millions from big banks before working with Republicans to neuter Dodd-Frank regulations.

The Democratic Party prides itself as the party of the people, the party of the regular American, the party of the working class.  The modern Democratic Party, with neoliberals like Hillary Clinton, has unfortunately strayed from being that party all the time.

Despite many mainstream Democrats having strayed from being the party of the people, the movement to take back our politics, starting with the party is underway.  Brought back into the national spotlight during Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential bid, campaign finance issues have taken back their rightful place in the national conversation.  In 2018, an unprecedented number of candidates and elected officials are rejecting corporate PAC money.  While corporate PACs are not the only source of corrupt campaign funds, they represent a large portion of the money used by big business to affect politics.

Progressive Democrat Beto O’Rourke is running a highly competitive challenge to Republican Ted Cruz in deep red Texas while turning down any corporate PAC donations.  His surge in Texas has drawn national attention and is inspiring progressives in Texas and around the country.  In the Senate, several senators have joined Bernie Sanders in refusing corporate PAC contributions.  Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Maria Cantwell have all pledged to refuse corporate PAC money.  After facing intense pressure for his ties to big pharma, even Cory Booker has pledged to refuse corporate PAC donations to his campaign.  Whether these progressive senators stay true to their pledges and values remains to be seen.  Many of the no corporate PAC money senators are also suspected to be planning to run for President in 2020.

Although they are covered less than Senate races, elections for the House of Representatives are just as important and the movement to reject corrupt corporate PAC money is running strong in Democratic House candidates as well.  Young, progressive Democrats, often women of color such as Ayana Pressley in Massachusetts’ 7th district and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th district have won primaries against well established Democratic incumbents, running on progressive platforms which include the candidates’ refusal of corporate money.  Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez are running in strongly Democratic districts and their chances of winning their elections are very high, however, even candidates challenging Republicans in tough districts are refusing corporate PAC money.

In California, every single Democratic challenger running in a Republican-held Congressional district is turning down corporate PAC donations.  Many of these candidates are polling tied with or ahead of their Republican opponents, every one of which has coffers loaded with contributions from big oil, big pharma, insurance companies, the NRA, and every other major corporate interest.

Across the country, Democrats are running competitive campaigns without begging corporate executives for help.  In Pennsylvania’s 18th district, Conor Lamb proved to the nation that small-dollar donations from real people can power a winning campaign, even in an extremely challenging Republican district.  The truth is that corporate cash is more of a liability than an asset.  Most voters realize that an elected official who takes money from big business will always be in some way compromised.

If Democrats are successful in taking back the House, Senate, or both this November, it will not only enable Democrats to put the breaks on the President’s harmful agenda.  The surge of no corporate PAC money candidates will put new, progressive voices and votes in Congress, voices which are not censored by big donors’ wishes.  If candidates are successful without corporate money, that will persuade more like-minded candidates to refuse corporate PAC contributions.  If Democrats are successful without corporate PAC money, the hard work of wrestling power back into the hands of all the people can be boosted once again into its rightful place as the sole function of the Democratic Party.  Whether that happens remains to be seen.

 

Candidates running without corporate PAC money need help from concerned citizens to run their campaigns.

There are way too many great candidates who are refusing to be corrupted by corporate PAC money for me to list here.  I recommend checking out the Justice Democrats, a progressive group dedicated to getting money out of politics, to look for candidates who interest you.  If you can, volunteer for or donate to a campaign you support.  Most importantly, MAKE SURE YOU VOTE!  Our democracy depends on it.

Here are just a few of my favorite progressive, no corporate PAC money candidates who could really use some help:

Beto O’Rourke-Progressive Democrat running for Senate in Texas challenging Ted Cruz.

Great Democrats challenging Republicans for Congress in Calfornia:

TJ Cox (CA-21)-Cental Valley

Josh Harder (CA-10)-Central Valley

Katie Porter (CA-45)-Orange County

Katie Hill (CA-25)-Los Angeles County

Harley Rouda (CA-48)-Orange County

Mike Levin (CA-49)-San Diego County

Ammar Campa-Najjar (CA-50)- San Diego County/Riverside County

 

America is on the Cusp of Passing a Constitutional Amendment to Ensure Gender Equality

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Photo credit: Flickr

The fight over the replacement for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy may decide the future of women’s rights in America but a silent war for equality has been fought for over forty years and that fight may soon be won.  If we really want to protect women’s reproductive rights, if we really want to ensure equal pay for equal work, if we truly want to end gender discrimination, we simply cannot entrust the courts to continuously interpret the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment as applying to women.  While it may seem outrageous to pragmatic, logical minded people, constitutional fundamentalists including the late Supreme Court Justice and conservative hero, Antonin Scalia interpret the 14th Amendment as it was interpreted when it was written in the late 1800s, an interpretation which holds that women are not legally “persons” and thus not protected under the amendment.  While this radical opinion is not widely held, beliefs that the 14th Amendment does not fully prohibit sex discrimination are fairly widespread.  These opinions, when held by judges, can hamper reproductive freedom by allowing draconian restrictions on abortion and contraception.  In addition, the 14th Amendment alone does not fully prevent wage discrimination.  The rights of the LGBTQ community are also at risk when there is ambiguity on the legality of sex discrimination.

The only way to truly protect our society from sex-based discrimination is the passage of a constitutional amendment known as the Equal Rights Amendment or ERA.  The main section of the amendment reads as follows: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”  The ERA would make it nearly impossible for insurance providers to deny women access to contraception under the guise of religious beliefs.  Abortion rights would be significantly more protected under this amendment.  Discriminatory, anti-transgender “bathroom bills” would also likely be struck down as a result of the ERA if it is ratified.  Enforcement against discriminatory wage practices would likely be much stronger under the Equal Rights Amendment that it is now.

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A map of states which have and have not ratified the ERA.  Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

While to many, the ratification of a constitutional amendment in the current political climate may seem like a distant pipe dream, in the case of the ERA, that could not be further from the truth.  The most common path for the ratification of an amendment to the US Constitution is laid out in Article V of the document.  In this path, amendments must pass a resolution with a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress before being approved by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states.   Currently, this means a total of 38 states must have approved any amendment for full ratification. The ERA passed Congress in 1978 and was ratified by 35 states before the 1985 deadline set by Congress.  Since then, two more states have ratified the ERA.  That’s right, if one more state approves the Equal Rights Amendment, then it will become part of the Constitution (well sort of).  If another state ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment, many legal scholars claim that Congress could vote to extend the deadline for ratification, citing the 27th Amendment which was originally introduced in 1789 and finally ratified in 1992.  If Virginia or any other state ratified the ERA, there would likely be a fierce legal battle over the specifics of the ratification process.  The states yet to approve the ERA are listed below.  If you live in one of these states, call or write your state legislators and tell them to support the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.  Also, wherever you live, if you are eligible to vote, make sure you are registered to vote and be certain to vote up and down the ballot on November 6th.

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

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Demonstrators in Virginia pushing for the ratification of the ERA.  Photo Credit: equalrightsamendment.org

 

 

 

My Progressive Guide to the 2018 California Primanies

 

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The 2018 midterms will have a monumental impact on the future direction of America and the primaries are just as important as the general election.  The following is my guide for who to vote for in California. I also have my preferences for local candidates in Santa Clara County listed. My preferences are based on how progressive a candidate’s positions are, what they already have achieved, how their campaigns are financed, and whether I like those who have endorsed the candidate or proposition.  Elections that apply to the whole state are underlined.

The California primary is on Tuesday, June 5th!

Make sure you get out and vote for a better California!

 

Governor of California:

I support Gavin Newsom, the current Lieutenant Governor.  He has a proven progressive record on gun control and has progressive positions that break with the current governor.  He opposes fracking and supports medicare for all and free community college.

 

Lieutenant Governor:

Jeff Bleich has my support.  He is endorsed by numerous strong progressive individuals and groups including Sierra Club and Congressman Ro Khanna.

 

California Secretary Of State:

Alex Padilla has done a good job so far.  He has my support.

 

California State Controller:

Betty Yee has not messed up so far at her job.  I believe that she will do a good job in a second term.

 

Treasurer:

Vivek Viswanathan is running a clean campaign without corporate donations and has a progressive platform of increasing funding for education and healthcare.

 

Attorney General of California:

Xavier Becerra has done a great job suing the Trump Administration to keep California’s environment protected and to keep immigrants safe.  He will continue doing great in a second term.

 

Insurance Commissioner:

Ricardo Lara is the main supporter of medicare for all in the California State Senate.  Putting him in charge of medical will help us along on the path to universal coverage.

 

Member of State Board of Equalization for District 2:

Malia Cohen has a progressive platform for a fairer tax code.  She has my support.

 

United States Senator from California:

Kevin De Leon, the President Pro Tem of the California State Senate is much more progressive than the incumbent, Dianne Feinstein.  De Leon has supported criminal justice reform for his whole career, unlike Feinstein who only started supporting reforms to racist practices last year and who took until just a month ago to support marijuana legalization.  De Leon also supports medicare for all and tuition-free public college, two positions which Dianne Feinstein still opposes. Kevin De Leon has progressive credentials including sponsoring the bill which made California a sanctuary state.  California deserves a better senator than Feinstein and Kevin De Leon will be that senator.

 

Congress:

I support all Bay Area incumbents except for Nancy Pelosi in San Francisco.  

 

If you live in District 12, please vote for Stephen Jaffe, a strong progressive berniecrat who supports medicare for all and an end to money in politics.  Pelosi gives democrats everywhere a bad name and with all due respect to her, is not at all progressive enough for San Francisco.

 

State Assembly:

Marc Berman in District 24 has a strong progressive record.  I have spoken with him in person about several issues and he has my support.

 

Recall of Judge Aaron Persky:

Yes!

Judge Persky has proved himself to be unworthy of his role as a judge.  He has on multiple occasions allowed extremely lenient sentences for sex-offenders while he judges other crimes based on specific circumstances.  Persky handed down the infamously weak sentence in the Brock Turner case and also sentenced a man convicted of child pornography to only four days in jail.  Aaron Persky has shown that he is incapable of taking sex crimes seriously. The recall of Judge Persky will not affect the independence of the judiciary. Instead, it will only send a message to sex offenders that neither they nor their enablers will be tolerated.  The recall of Judge Aaron Persky is supported by several prominent law professors and by elected officials including Congressman Ro Khanna and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

 

Judge to succeed Persky if he is recalled:

Cindy Hendrickson is currently the Assistant District Attorney of Santa Clara County.  She has important experience and will be a good judge if elected.

 

Superintendent of Public Instruction:

Tony Thurmond has a progressive record on education in the state legislature.  He supports tuition-free community college and increasing funding for public schools.  Thurmond also supports banning for-profit charter schools and has a detailed plan for breaking the school to prison pipeline.

 

Ballot Measures:

 

68:

A measure to authorize bonds in order to fund projects relating to water conservation, parks, protected areas, and climate change ready infrastructure.

Yes

 

69:

Requires that state revenue from transportation (tolls, gas taxes) be used for transportation infrastructure.

Yes

 

70:

Requires a supermajority vote in the State Legislature in order to uses funds from cap and trade laws.

No

 

71:

Ballot measures will come into effect within five days of the Secretary of State certifies the results of the election.

Yes

 

72:

Tax exemptions for rain capture systems.

Yes

 

Regional Measure 3:

Increases bridge tolls by $3 over time in order to fund improvements to public transportation and reduce traffic congestion.

Yes

 

Democrats Need Your Help to Win

Rohin Ghosh

May 6, 2018

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An event last week at my local Democratic Volunteer Center

Republican house seats won’t flip themselves.  The only way for Democrats to actually win elections in contested districts this November is if concerned citizens actually do the hard work of convincing the electorate to get out and vote.  Candidates like TJ Cox in California’s 21st Congressional District and Andrew Janz in the 22nd and hundreds more across the nation are on tight budgets.  These candidates are showing that they won’t be corrupted by corporate influences by refusing to take donations from corporate PACs but that does make running an effective campaign just that much harder.  The Democrats’ lack of funding combined with Republicans being bankrolled by very wealthy donors means that our candidates need all the help they can get.  If we want to see Republicans like Devin Nunes and David Valadao ousted from their seats, we Democrats need to step to the plate and volunteer for progressive candidates in whatever capacity we can.  If you care about winning back the house, senate, and state legislatures and governorships, find your local Democratic party office and get involved by phonebanking, writing postcards to voters, or even traveling to the districts themselves.  Democratic victories in November are not foregone conclusions.  The disaster that is the Trump presidency was able to happen because not enough Democrats were able to put in the time and effort to ensure victory in elections.  Let us make sure that the 2018 midterms are not a repeat of 2016.

Progressive Democrats have a Real Shot at Winning in Texas this Year

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Congressman Beto O’Rourke is mounting a serious challenge to incumbent Senator Ted Cruz in Texas.

This is huge!

Congressman Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat challenging Ted Cruz for his Texas Senate seat is raising more money than Cruz, an incumbent who has name recognition everywhere and the Koch Brothers on his side.  O’Rourke’s campaign raised 6.7 million dollars so far this year with not a single dime from corporate PACs. Beto O’Rourke is using a new strategy to campaign and is visiting small towns and rural areas that are often overlooked by both Democrats and Republicans.  He has drawn large crowds to his events even in places where Democrats haven’t won in decades. Texas is one of the few states that are already majority minority. This means that the non-white population is larger than the white population. If everyone in Texas voted, Democrats would win every election but many young or immigrant Texans either can’t or don’t vote.  In this next election, if everyone in Texas finally makes their voice heard, we have a real chance of putting a true progressive in the Senate from Texas. Beating Ted Cruz will be a very very tough fight but Democrats have a real chance.  

 

Why it is Time for a New Senator to Represent California

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California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (photo credit: Flickr)

This year, California Senator, Dianne Feinstein is up for reelection.  While the senator is widely popular and has supported several progressive causes, It is my firm belief that she is not the right senator for California.  

During her tenure in the Senate, Feinstein has been a strong advocate for sensible gun reforms and has also helped uncover CIA torture and pass legislation prohibiting it from happening again.

On other issues, however, Feinstein’s record is much more moderate or even conservative.  Senator Feinstein was one of the chief architects of the Patriot Act and she repeatedly voted to continue allowing government surveillance without judge issued warrants, something which many Americans maintain to be a violation of their fourth amendment rights.  Feinstein also continues to support the prohibition of marijuana while still advocating for failed drug war policies.

On the issue of healthcare, Feinstein has stated that she not ready to support Medicare For All and right after making that statement, the senator was at a conference with lobbyists for pharmaceutical and health insurance companies.  Senator Feinstein receives only about three percent of her campaign finances from small donations of less than 500 dollars.

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Democrat Kevin De Leon is the President Pro-Tempore of the California State Senate and is challenging Senator Feinstein for her US Senate seat. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

While Feinstein boasts a mediocre record, her main Democratic challenger has had a strong progressive record as President Pro-Tempore of the California State Senate.  Kevin De Leon has successfully gotten the State Senate to pass a Medicare for all bill to guarantee healthcare to all Californians. De Leon also helped the Disclose Act, a bill to require political ads to fully disclose all funding, pass into law.  Kevin De Leon was also the leading force in turning California into a sanctuary state and is now suing the Trump administration for abuses of power by ICE. Unlike Feinstein, De Leon supports drug policies which emphasize treatment and decriminalization, not police and prisons.  In the state senate, De Leon voted to legalize, regulate, and tax recreational marijuana in California.

These are just a few of the many great progressive accomplishments of Kevin De Leon and he has a similar record on so many issues.  From fighting to eliminate student debt to reducing income inequality to enacting common sense gun laws to fighting sexual harassment in the capitol, De Leon has proved that he believes in progress and has the energy and courage to stand up for what’s right.   

So, when the primary elections roll around on June 5th, we Californians should ask ourselves, do we want a senator who occasionally fights for our values but is often compromised by corporate lobbyist money and has been in office since the early nineties, or do we want a senator who will bring a true California progressive vision of the future to Washington and stand up to the Republicans and the special interest lobbyists.

The RAISE Act, a Thinly Veiled Attempt to Make America Off Limits to Many Immigrants

 

Rohin Ghosh

August 7, 2017

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Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA)

the White House along with President Trump, speaking in support

of the RAISE Act.  (Photo Credit: Migration Policy Institute)

 

President Trump has endorsed a bill introduced by far right senators, Tom Cotton (R-AR) and David Perdue (R-GA) called the “Reforming American Immigration for Strong Employment Act” or RAISE Act.  This bill doesn’t target undocumented immigrants, instead, it seeks to drastically reduce legal immigration.  The bill would cap the number of people who receive green cards at 500,000, a fifty percent decrease from the current number.  The RAISE Act also proposes a change to the process that new immigrants go through to get a green card.  The bill would start using a points based immigration system.  This means that applicants for a green card would be awarded points based on job skills, proficiency in English, and other factors.   Candidates with the most points would be able to achieve residency status in the US. The RAISE Act would also place a cap of 50,000 on the number of refugees admitted to the US.  Another drastic measure which the RAISE Act will enact if it is passed is the halting of admissions of new immigrants based on family relationships in the US for siblings and adult children of Americans.

The RAISE Act would spell disaster for several sectors of the economy and would break with long-standing American policy.  The bill is a way for extreme Republican senators to appease xenophobic members of their base.   The RAISE Act would do little to benefit the economy but would devastate sectors that rely heavily on immigrant labor.  In addition, the new restrictions of refugees would make legal status harder to achieve for people who depend on it for their lives.  The Trump Administration’s anti-refugee policies have already resulted in thousands of people leaving the United States to seek safety in neighboring Canada. Proponents of the RAISE Act’s “merit based” admission system cite that this procedure is used in Canada and Australia, however, they fail to realize that both of these countries allow in more immigrants as a percentage of their populations.  Historically, most of the immigrants that have made up the backbone of the US have been poorer, lower skilled people.  The American population is aging quickly and new immigrants are crucial to replenishing the workforce as the Baby Boomer generation ages and retires.  Immigrants also start businesses at a higher rate than native-born citizens, according to the Small Business Administration.  Bureau of Labor statistics indicate that almost half of all private sector jobs are in small businesses and 64% of all new private sector jobs are in small business.  Far from taking American jobs, immigrants are constantly creating new wealth and employment opportunities for American citizens.   The new immigration system proposed by the RAISE Act would also likely change the ethnic makeup of immigrants coming to the US.  Because wealthier, English-speaking immigrants with higher education would be preferred, more Europeans would be granted legal status.  Most European countries are wealthier and have higher English speaking populations than countries in other regions of the world.  The RAISE Act would, therefore, cause much more of the immigrant population to be White.

Perhaps most ironically, President Trump’s grandfather, Frederick Trump was a low skilled immigrant from Germany.  People who seek to immigrate to the US in a fashion similar to him as well as the ancestors of other supporters of immigration restrictions would have likely not been able to enter under restrictive policies like the RAISE Act.  Additionally, President Trump’s wife, Melania Trump would have been affected by the lower number of green cards issued under the RAISE Act if she were to try to gain entry into the United States under similar laws.

Luckily, enough Republicans have declared opposition to the RAISE Act for the bill to fail.  Republicans can only afford to lose two votes in the Senate and several Republican senators have already expressed concerns about the basic premise of reducing legal immigration.  However, opponents of this disastrous legislation cannot be complacent.  There are definitely strong elements of the Republican caucus who support xenophobic cuts to immigration.  A lack of Republican legislative achievements so far also increases the likelihood that some moderate Republican representatives and senators will try to get the RAISE Act passed.

For Democrats, the best way to fight the RAISE Act is to harness grassroots opposition in states with high immigrant populations that also have Republican senators.  Senators Jeff Flake from Arizona and Dean Heller from Nevada both come from states with high immigrant populations and are running for reelection in 2018.  Other moderate Republican senators who depend on immigrant votes include John McCain (R-AZ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).  Large numbers of constituents contacting senators have helped convince senators to change their votes in the past.  Making sure that Senators from states with high immigrant populations know that a large portion of their constituents opposes xenophobic legislation like the RAISE Act can ultimately result in the defeat of this bill and other bills like it.   If you live in the following states, be sure to let your senator know that you do not approve of the RAISE Act:

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Immigrants being sworn in as new American citizens in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo credit: Murray.Seattle.gov)