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It’s Not the Economy, Stupid

Despite Bill Clinton’s famous catchphrase that he rode to two terms in the White House, and despite its echo in the 2016 campaign when Trump voters were described as acting out of “economic anxiety”, politics in the United States in my lifetime comes down, first and foremost, to racism. Yes, in Trump’s case and for most Republicans in office, there is a hefty dose of misogyny mixed in, but the animus against those who are not old, rich, white males unites their hatred.

Russia affected the 2016 contest. Clearly. But one of their primary tools was to stoke racial animus. Another huge impact on the actual outcome of the election was the outright suppression of minority votes by Republicans. It now appears that they may well have tipped the Wisconsin vote through suppression. And all those millions of votes for Trump, in the end, amount to nothing more than a huge endorsement of his outright racism. In the end, they came out on top with a little help from Republican policies expressly developed to prevent minorities from voting.

Trump is America’s racism unmasked and he would not be President if there weren’t a huge racist component to American culture today. The primary home for that racism is the Republican party.

The last few days have shown Trump revealing both his deep-seated racism and his cynical understanding that virtually his only support now is rooted in America’s racism. He tried his best to make his response to NFL protests be about the flag and patriotism. But that is most definitely NOT what Colin Kaepernick was protesting when he started this movement in August of 2016:

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has willingly immersed himself into controversy by refusing to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African Americans and minorities in the United States.

His latest refusal to stand for the anthem — he has done this in at least one other preseason game — came before the 49ers’ preseason loss to Green Bay at Levi’s Stadium on Friday night.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media in an exclusive interview after the game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Making matters even worse, NFL teams and even billionaire NFL owners–the very parties responsible for Kaepernick still not being on a roster despite abysmal quarterback play on several teams–came out with what some folks saw as admirable statements and actions in response to Trump calling for owners to “fire the sons of bitches” who kneel during the national anthem. The best response to that development came from Shannon Sharpe. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch the entire statement, it is a thing of beauty and something that every American needs to hear:

So what are we to do?

First, those of us who carry the advantage of being old, white males who are at least comfortable if not rich must speak up every time there is an instance of racial injustice. Especially at the local level, when the police treat minorities without respect, make it known that this will not stand. Support larger groups that are working to promote racial justice.

But perhaps it is also worth taking look at our own lives. What aspects of our own lives help to perpetuate racial injustice? Even simple actions can accumulate. The next time you reconcile a credit card statement, take a look at your choices. Do you only eat at faceless chain restaurants? When was the last time you had a meal at a locally owned restaurant with a minority owner? Those are likely some of the best eating establishments in your town if you take the time to look around and try some new cuisines.

How about schools? Do you send your kids to private schools, most of which have been established to get around integration? Worse yet, do you send them to charter schools, which are set up expressly to take money away from public schools?

How about your place of worship? Is it integrated? Does it have any activities or programs aimed at racial justice?

One small action that I’ve decided to take is that I won’t watch another down of NFL football until Colin Kaepernick has been signed by a team.

Trump is the poster child for American racism, but we could all benefit from spending a little time thinking about our own roles both in how he came to be President and what we can do to make sure his sort never gets there again.

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

Changing Voters to New Precincts With Poor Notification: New Vote Suppression Tactic in Florida?

This is the mailer in which my new voter ID card arrived. Nowhere does it point out that I have been changed from one precinct to another so that I vote at a new site.

Today is primary day in Florida. It is being held on the earliest date in the past 40 years since Florida is hosting the Republican National Convention later this month. While there has been much attention paid to Rick Scott’s infamous voter purge that has prompted legal action from the Justice Department, today I encountered a much more insidious situation that could lead to many more people not voting in November.

I have resided at my current address since 2004 and have voted at a wonderful little country church whose building dates back to 1886 (there is music on autoplay at this link). But when my wife and I stopped by to vote on our way to lunch today, we got quite a surprise. The poll workers could not find either one of us on the voter list. After we joked a bit about being included in the purge because of my left wing blogging, the clerk picked up the phone to speak with the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections office to seek an answer for us. While she was still on the phone seeking information, another voter who came in after us also found that he was not listed on the voter roll.

It turns out that we have been switched to another polling place that is only a few blocks away from where we have voted for the past eight years. In order to drive from our house to our new polling place, we must drive past the old one. The election workers insisted that voters who were moved from one precinct to another were informed, but neither my wife nor I could recall seeing any such notification.

We dutifully went to the new polling place and voted. When I got back from lunch, I went through the spots in our house where mail might have accumulated and found the “notification” that had been sent. From the photo above, it is very easy to see how these notifications (there was one for each of the three registered voters in our household) had been set aside for holding since on first glance it looks only like a standard form for ordering an absentee ballot. Our travel plans did not call for us to be away today, so these forms had been set aside in case our plans changed.

Opening my mailer today, I found that the “Voter Information Card” referenced on the outside of the mailer was actually a new version of what I call my voter registration card. Nowhere on this mailer, either on the outside or inside, does it mention for voters to look carefully to determine whether their precincts have changed. My wife and I inexplicably have been moved from precinct 18 to precinct 58 and the only way to know that is to look at the small entry on the Voter Information Card.

Because I have a car and I don’t work on a time clock, I was able to work my way through this mix-up with only a few minutes lost and minor aggravation. Well, I also did stop to fill out a satisfaction survey to let the Supervisor of Elections know that I felt they handled this transition very poorly. It also helped that I did this during the low-turnout primary rather than November’s general election.

How many people will be disenfranchised in Florida this November because their precincts have changed? How will people who rely on bus transportation to their polling places deal with such a change? Will they have time to go to a new site if they are working on Election Day? The early voting period was shortened from two weeks to eight days this year in another move by Florida Republicans to make it harder for working people to vote and is another factor in today’s expected low turnout.

Oh, and just in case you clicked on the link to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, their link for “Information on Polling Place Changes” is not about people moving from one precinct to another. It is about changes to the voting sites themselves.

Update: Oh my. Look what I missed in the local paper while I was on vacation last week. The article bears the headline “Redrawn precincts could create confusion, groups say” and reads in part:

Leaders of the local NAACP and other organizations said Wednesday that new voting precincts could lead to confusion on election day and urged residents to learn their new polling place or to cast ballots early. Read more

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.