It Started Early

I first heard of Joe Biden in 2005, as an eighth grader. My civics teacher, Mrs. Collins, assigned us all to pick a law from a list and do a project on it. I was one of the first to get to pick, and the name stood out immediately; the Violence Against Women Act.I was 13 years old and I had been raised in a household and a family that valued women, and I had always been told to treat women with respect. It was shocking to me that not everyone believed in those values, and it made me furious, but it gave me great respect for the politician who introduced it, a senator from Delaware named Joe Biden.I probably bit off a bit more than I could chew, as it was such a large and comprehensive bill, but it stuck with me, so when the 2008 election cycle came around, I heard a name I remembered. I was now 17, and just started wading into the world of politics. I was inspired by a group of candidates vying for the Democratic nomination for President. The possibility of the first Black president, the first female president or the man who I silently admired for four years. As the process played out and Senator Barack Obama won the nomination and selected Senator Biden as his running mate, I made my first endorsement.Watching the duo in action and looking more into their pasts, I learned even more about the Vice President that endeared him to me. As a Muslim, I was in awe watching the video of him on the floor of the Senate, passionately calling on his colleagues to support Bosnia's Muslim population against a genocide, then doing the same to aid Muslims in Kosovo. I was so excited at the prospect of Vice President Biden running again for the Presidency in 2016 to continue the work of the Obama-Biden administration.Then tragedy struck. Vice President Biden's son, Beau, passed away and it brought with it new awareness of Biden's previous heartbreak. I learned how he had lost his wife and baby daughter decades earlier before being sworn in as a senator, and I wondered how anyone could go through so much pain and still carry on.Watching his media appearances and addresses in the following years, one thing became crystal clear to me; Joe Biden is an absolute empath. When he says “I understand your pain,” you know he truly does. When he is asked about the trauma he's experienced, he pivots to others who have gone through similar trials with less support and he lauds them for carrying on. He does not dwell in self-pity, but he uses it as motivation to fight for others.On April 25, 2019 Joe Biden announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for President. As a 27-year-old now fully immersed in politics, I had my candidate. As more and more people entered the race, I was extremely impressed with the brilliant, diverse field and I believed that no matter who won, we would be infinitely better off than we were with Donald Trump. Still, Joe Biden was my pick.During the campaign and in the primary debates, the way he brought up the plight of Uyghur Muslims in China evoked memories of his words on the floor of the Senate, speaking up against a different genocide of Muslims. Hearing him talk about the need for affordable childcare reminded me of the struggles he faced as a working single parent to two young boys. His advocacy for public transit recalled how he would ride Amtrak for four hours each day to be there for his sons while serving in office as a single father.After winning the nomination during a period of public health, economic and racial turmoil, Biden did not waste any time in addressing the issues, even when the President stayed silent and downplayed concerns. He laid out plans to combat each crisis, focused on helping people. He united a party, and even brought in disaffected Republicans in a time of increased political polarization, with a message of progress and empathy.Now 29 years old, I know that in these days of separation, we need a uniter. In these times of crisis, we need a proven leader. With a heartless current administration, we need an empath.We need Joe Biden.

Honor, rolled

“What private griefs they have, alas, I know not, that made them do it. They are wise and honorable, and will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.”In what is probably the first documented campaign speech of all time, Marc Anthony’s eulogy for Julius Caesar, as imagined by William Shakespeare, first describes Caesar’s assassins as “honorable” with insincere respect, and later growls the same word with outright contempt.This represents high-quality snark, written centuries ago. The quote above, for example, means, “Maybe they have their own reasons for being douches. I don’t get it. Let’s find out. Because they’re ...wise… and ...honorable.” Here Shakespeare’s quill pen drips with sarcasm.A student of the musical Hamilton might notice that the honor-defined culture in which our country's founders lived often resulted in dangerous and idiotic duels. Their notion of honorable behavior was nothing like our more modern view of justice that entrusts our legal system to handle disputes, flawed as it is. Furthermore, we will never condone those who owned slaves while they thought themselves moral.While we critically examine the morality of our country's founders today, there is one thing that has become apparent as we live with the Constitution in the 21st century — the men who wrote our guiding principles assumed that the people that we entrusted to lead our country had a sense of honor and that the framework supporting our government would not allow someone without a sense of honor to disrupt it.What do you do when a country founded on honor is chaired by someone who has no conception of honor and isn’t ashamed of that at all?It isn’t that we didn’t know. During the primaries for the 2016 election, we watched Donald Trump belittle his debate opponents with schoolyard nicknames and nasty tweets. His opponents folded one by one, as if it were orchestrated in a badly-written play. The allegations against Ted Cruz (and his non-political wife) were slanderous and personal. Unexpectedly, many of the victims of these attacks are now among his defenders.During the presidential campaign, Trump belittled the physically disabled, retweeted anti-Semitic memes promoted by far-right accounts, trashed a Gold Star family, and owned up to a vile interview about delightedly assaulting women, never apologizing or changing his indefensible behavior. He criticized the judge overseeing a case involving Trump’s fraudulent university, asserting that the judge’s judicial independence would be compromised because of his Mexican-American heritage. Trump’s fans cheered his “honesty” as they laughed off his many lies. And yet somehow Donald Trump eked out a victory.It has felt like the Trump Administration has lasted forever, but many still remember the on-air analysis constantly predicting a “pivot” in Trump’s behavior. His handlers were thwarted every time they thought they’d contained his basic instincts. This was finally so laughable that now there’s a meme whenever Trump does something like, well, tell people to vote first by mail and later to commit fraud by voting in person. You’ll see the tittering on Twitter, “This is the day Trump finally became President.” We all know that he will never become president.In office, Trump retained his lifelong appetites, and now he has power that he never had before. He can break the law, and then he can fire the enforcers. Inspectors General, judges (replaced by those considered unqualified by law groups and only appointed for their loyalty to Trump), and entire offices like the Federal Election Commission are neutered. He's banned disfavored journalists from White House briefings. All of these members of the loyal opposition were once left in place, perhaps without love, but with respect, by former presidents.Richard Nixon was the only U.S. president in history ever to resign, and he did so because his conduct resulted in three articles of impeachment approved by the House Judiciary Committee. The worst day of Nixon’s behavior was called the Saturday Night Massacre. He wanted his Attorney General to fire the Special Prosecutor investigating Watergate. The sitting Attorney General wouldn’t do it and resigned. His replacement wouldn’t do it and resigned. The third Attorney General relented, a move that was remembered when his later nomination to the US Supreme Court was rejected. Nixon was finally implicated in the Watergate scandal, and he resigned. In the end, maybe he knew that his needs were subservient to honor. (He also knew that the Senate would remove him from office, with only 15 potential supporters.) That particular Senate only had 56 Democrats, but even the members of Nixon’s party understood the meaning of honor.Trump has dishonored the office from the moment he was elected. There are three driving forces, likely related, that have guided nearly all of his actions. One is Russia. Another is acquiring money for himself or for his associates that can provide him with more money. Last, he loathes anything that might reveal his associations with Russia or his appropriation of money he isn’t supposed to have. That’s it.Let’s decode Trump’s “governance”: Russia: Whether the Trump campaign cooperated with Russian intelligence is still vigorously debated, but there is no doubt that the Russians tried, and are still trying, to destroy our democracy, and that their efforts are embraced by Trump and his close associates. Why did we learn from the Kremlin, not our own press, that Russians were entertained — alone with Trump and their own entourage — in the Oval Office? Why has our press, constantly unraveling Trump’s cover stories about Russia, earned the Stalinist moniker “enemy of the people” as a constant refrain on the Trump Twitter feed? Why can’t Trump stand up to Russia on anything, even the poisoning of a political opponent? Russia knows a lot about Trump, and they know that the press is only your enemy when you have something very big that you don’t want anyone to know. To channel Carrie Bradshaw — “I couldn't help but wonder, with everything damaging we already know about Trump and Russia, what is still so terrible that Trump has to go to such lengths to hide it?”Money: Trump proclaimed that he wouldn’t take his salary as president, but we the people have funded his family’s lavish travels (they do not actually work for the White House) and of course, Trump’s golf (at his own resorts), which alone has cost us about $141,000,000. He routinely tries to broker federal “deals” in such a way that he or those close to him will benefit financially. Or he’ll launder federal money into his re-election campaign or launder money from his campaign coffers into his personal account. Trump placed unqualified donors and supporters into Cabinet and executive positions in departments such as Education, Housing and Urban Development, and the United States Postal Service. It’s common in normal times for political allies to become ambassadors to low-risk countries, but not for positions with operational responsibilities. On the fringes of the corruption, there’s a law that prevents those around the president from campaigning at official events because it redirects taxpayer funds for personal gain. Violations of this law were once enforced, but they pale in the pile of more serious and more obvious crimes. Enforcement: The biggest lie of all, of course, is that Russia’s interference in the 2016 election is a “hoax.” Cascading from that, there are dozens of actions that make no sense for an innocent man to take. Firing Inspectors General who are investigating paths that might lead to Trump’s misbehavior. Hiding and fighting financial disclosures that are routinely revealed by all other presidential candidates. Preventing career executive branch employees from testifying to Congress. Hiding or seizing the translator’s notes from private meetings with Vladimir Putin. If Trump has done nothing wrong, he certainly has consumed a lot of energy trying to frame himself.Then there are the overt desecrations of democracy itself, with Trump trying to undermine our confidence in whether our votes will count, inserting delays into the voting process itself, threatening not to concede a loss, and asserting, always without any evidence, that the election will be “rigged”. These can’t be explained directly by Trump’s appetites for money, attention, or the approval of Russia. Maybe he knows that the office is the only barrier between himself and accountability for crimes that are still redacted or sealed. Maybe he just thinks that trashing our democracy is the surest path to reelection victory in the face of polls that even Russian disinformation might not overcome. If that’s the explanation, it’s truly shameless, and Trump has demonstrated time after time that he is incapable of shame. But it gets worse indeed.In mid-2016, we watched candidate Trump dishonor our war dead with his defensive and selfish reaction to the Democratic convention speech given by Khizr and Ghazala Khan. The speech was directed at Trump’s constant, unconstitutional attempts to ban Muslims from entering the country. Coming from a Gold Star family, the speech was powerful, and Trump reacted with his now-familiar disdain for those who gave their lives to our country. Like all Trump horrors, this dominated a few news cycles and moved on. We’d already forgotten his quip that John McCain hadn’t really been a war hero, because, “I like people who weren’t captured.”In a September 2020 article in The Atlantic, by editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg, Trump is quoted as calling our active and fallen soldiers “suckers” and “losers”. It’s shocking, and tragic, and completely expected. We knew who he was in 2015 when he first ran; we knew in 2016 after his treatment of patriots like the Khan family, and enough people put that aside and cast their ballots for him anyway.Our heroes in the military fight for us, are imprisoned for us, and die for us. They fight for our right to make vile statements about them, even if those statements are lies, even if those statements are declared from a podium. Even if those statements are coming from their Commander-in-Chief.A recurring feature of Trump’s 2016 rallies, cheered by his audience, was a poem about a tenderhearted woman who saved a snake from freezing, appropriating a song (in rich irony) from a civil rights activist. In Trump’s version, the woman is America and the snake is a Muslim refugee. In the end, the snake bit the woman who cared for him.“Oh, shut up, silly woman!’ said the reptile with a grin. ‘You knew damn well I was a snake before you took me in.”Yes, we did. We knew Trump was a snake, and we took him in anyway. Let’s get back to honoring our Constitution, our fellow Americans, and those who fight for our right to be whoever we are, whatever that is, even those of us who say vile things.If you have asked for a mail-in ballot, your Election Day is the day it arrives. If you plan to vote early in-person, make sure you’re equipped with the right identification. Make sure you sign in all the right places. Get it right. If you can, track your ballot and make sure that it’s counted. Honor those who gave everything to protect your freedoms. Vote for Joe Biden and bring honor back to our leadership.

The True Perils of the Presidency

For the last 231 years, the United States of America has grown from the original 13 colonies to 50 states. We have seen 58 presidential elections in which the American people chose the person they want to represent the third most populated country in the world. We have seen many ideologies and many hardships that make each election important, but we have never had a President be so erratic that American democracy was threatened until Donald Trump took the oath of office.    When America was founded, it was founded on the crucial idea of democracy. It was established on the idea that we the people get to elect our leader. The United States was ruled by Great Britain and under a monarchy, and the Americans fought their way to create a country where the voices of the citizens were welcomed. Donald Trump has repeatedly stated that he wants to serve for 12 years or even more. When George Washington was nearing the end of his second term as President, he chose not to serve another term in order to ensure America’s continued status as a democracy. He wanted to set a precedent of not staying in office for life as the United States was no longer under the rule of a king. When Abraham Lincoln was President, he oversaw a war that tore the United States into two. John F. Kennedy helped save the country from nuclear annihilation and both Presidents were assassinated while in office. Yet, Donald Trump states that out of all the Presidents, he has been treated the most “unfairly.” Not only is that statement incredulous, but it is disrespectful to the lives that Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy sacrificed for this nation.    Presidents lead by example and are expected to tell the American people the truth. Franklin Roosevelt held “Fireside Chats” informing the American people of what they needed to know during his presidency and especially during World War II. Barack Obama declared H1N1 a national emergency by listening to our health officials. As of July 13, 2020, the Washington Post reported that Donald Trump has told 12 lies per day since the start of his presidency. Meanwhile, Joe Biden has promised to tell the American people the truth. While we are in the midst of a national pandemic, Donald Trump has repeatedly gone against the words of our scientists and health officials for his own political gain. Joe Biden has called for a national mandate on masks that would make the rate of COVID-19 infections lower, as a call for patriotism.    President Ronald Reagan reinforced our military and subsidized innovative work on our weapons system. He even saw America’s future as a “shining city on a hill” and always promoted the idea that this country’s best days are yet to come. John F. Kennedy inspired millions of Americans to dream the impossible dream and wanted to put a man on the moon to prove that if we stick together, we can do anything we set our minds to. Barack Obama challenged the American people to hope and to change the course of this country during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Joe Biden has vowed to “restore the soul of this nation” and return America to a place where we can be civil to one another again. While those leaders focused on the future of America, Donald Trump has tried to take America backward by continuing to stoke the flames of white supremacy, equating white supremacists to protesters and to “very fine people.”    Those who have occupied the office of President of the United States for the last 231 years have led by example. Dwight Eisenhower propelled the creation of NASA, which created America’s most innovative space program. Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which fundamentally made progress on race relations at the time. Barack Obama helped ensure that millions of Americans across the country were able to get the health insurance that they needed. While there are some instances of those who put party before country, the vast majority put their country before their own interests. Joe Biden has worked with every President from Richard Nixon to Barack Obama and has the experience needed to face the tough challenges America faces. While Joe Biden was co-authoring the Violence Against Women Act, Donald Trump was telling his friends to “be rougher” with their wives if they didn’t get their way. While Joe Biden secured three key Republican votes to get the Recovery Act passed which would help save the economy from the brink, Donald Trump was named in a claim over a failed construction venture. Those who invested said that Trump distorted his role in the finance portion of a new resort, expressing after the project's downfall that he didn't take any part in it's financial collapse. Joe Biden and his family moved from Pennsylvania to Delaware when he was young due to his dad having to find another job to support the family. Donald Trump claims that Joe Biden abandoned Pennsylvania. While Donald Trump is acting as a reality TV star, Joe Biden is always putting Americans and the middle class first. President Trump and Vice President Biden are polar opposites, but only one of them truly cares about restoring the backbone and the soul of this nation. I strongly urge you to vote for Joe Biden on November 3rd. Be a patriot and save this great American experimentation called democracy.“When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits — despotic in his ordinary demeanour — known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty — when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity — to join in the cry of danger to liberty — to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion — to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day — It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”~ Alexander Hamilton to George WashingtonSources:Crockett, Emily. “Donald Trump in 1994: I Tell My Friends to ‘Be Rougher’ with Their Wives.” Vox, Vox, 2 June 2016, www.vox.com/2016/6/2/11833912/donald-trump-1994-women-buildings-misogyny.Harrington, Joe. “Donald Trump Says Joe Biden 'Abandoned Scranton.' Here's Why He Left the Pa. City as a Child.” York Daily Record, York Daily Record, 20 Aug. 2020, www.ydr.com/story/news/2020/08/20/donald-trump-joe-biden-scranton-election-2020/5621608002/.Kessler, Glenn, et al. “Analysis | President Trump Has Made More than 20,000 False or Misleading Claims.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 13 July 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/07/13/president-trump-has-made-more-than-20000-false-or-misleading-claims/.Neuman, Johanna. “Joe Biden: the Train behind the Specter Defection.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 29 Apr. 2009, latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2009/04/biden-specter.html.

How Much of America Have We Lost to Covid-19? So Many Lives, and Much More

Among the many uncertainties that this pandemic has created, it seems like every day, one state or another admits that the number of deaths from COVID-19 is higher than the daily reporting we see. Some states have been less than forthcoming reporting the deaths, and blame can be shared across the aisle. Many of the states have risen to the challenge of correcting these oversights, which is better late than never. But death piled upon death illuminates the horrors of COVID-19 and its management; the virus has now killed more Americans than any war except the Civil War and World War II.Normally, in times of crisis, Americans come together. Somehow, the various tragedies of 2020 have had the opposite effect. Instead of coming together to address this national crisis, Americans are deeply divided, with one side cheered on by their President and the other side left to fend for themselves without federal support.It should be common knowledge by now that Donald Trump’s policies derive from his appetites at the moment. He craves attention and approval, and he needs to be reelected so that he can continue the former and validate the latter. When the virus was on the horizon, Trump insisted that it was unimportant and that it would go away “like a miracle.” When no miracle arrived and deaths began to mount, he touted his own meritless solutions. He blamed state governors for failing to solve the national emergency. Of his own role, “I don’t take responsibility at all”.The added incentive for him to sit back and do nothing to help in the beginning while Americans died was that the victims were typically Democrats. In the most charitable interpretation of that decision, Trump believes that his presidency only applies to his own supporters.What is the evidence of Trump metaphorically muttering “La la la la” with his fingers in his ears? He’s a reality show host, where everything is staged and the term “reality” is a brazen lie. He has one overarching goal: to win reelection. So he stage-manages everything to pretend that there is no virus, and if there is one, it’s easily avoidable, or treatable, or not lethal, or not his fault. And his followers line up like baby ducks imprinting on the first thing they see waddling along.Our disagreements span the spectrum from the lifesaving to the ridiculous. And generally, the lifesaving perspective is held by Democrats, experts, and scientists. Trump invariably touts solutions that attempt to foster an image of strength or decisiveness, but are often worse than doing nothing at all. First, it was the masks. Trump wouldn’t wear a mask, partly for psychological and cosmetic reasons, and partly because the sight of a mask on himself or others on his stage would verify that there’s a gigantic problem on his watch. Democrats and Republicans have differed significantly on whether to wear masks, although the divide is shrinking as the virus creeps towards Republican strongholds.Other countries with mask mandates (and other protocols like testing and tracing) have come out the other side of this virus, still acting vigilant while without a vaccine. Those living in Asia and Europe are in schools, in theaters, and bringing their economies back. US governors who monitored overseas successes instead of Trump’s nightly COVID-19 rallies are opening their states with caution. States that instead listened to Trump are still in near hibernation or experiencing infection spikes after six months. This is as crazy as having a political spat over whether to look straight at an eclipse. Oh wait.When the virus became too deadly to ignore, vaccines were still far in the future. Trump had to pretend that an experimental treatment would defang the killer that was keeping sensible people in their houses. That treatment was hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that had some success in hospitals when used off-label. It also had some severe outcomes where it hurt far more than it helped. After months, it’s still used only sporadically.That didn’t stop Trump. He promoted it as a preventive treatment with no justification, and his followers bought out supplies that left lupus patients without lifesaving care. A man died and his wife was hospitalized after following Trump’s invented advice that a chemical like this would prevent the disease in the first place. Does Donald Trump at least take responsibility for that?A new line of attack involved corrupting or eliminating all of the nonpartisan experts who might have been able to help steer policy and demonstrate leadership to a fearful populace. Dr. Anthony Fauci’s 78% approval rating rankled Trump against his own 44% approval against the coronavirus, and the expert quietly disappeared from the nightly rally-briefings.Other experts were removed or silenced when they continued to inform Americans about safety protocols that hunkered down instead of opening up. They were replaced by conspiracy theorists whose main qualification was making telegenic appearances on right-wing opinion outlets. But Democrats have learned to follow the expertise and ignore Trump’s parade of alchemists, and the information divide widens. It’s impossible to contain or treat this virus by ignoring it. Viruses don’t slither away when their feelings are hurt. The lies told about it will result in the deaths of those naive or corrupted enough to believe them. On August 30, a month after his death from COVID-19, the Twitter account of former presidential candidate and Trump supporter Herman Cain stated, “It looks like the virus is not as deadly as the mainstream media first made it out to be.” After their own deaths, the followers still believe.Since the outset, Donald Trump has been fixated on opening up the economy, no matter the stakes. Money is his brand, and he knows that he's ruined the US economic engine he inherited, so he’d like a do-over. He wanted the economy to be fully opened by Easter, something that sounds almost quaint now. He lobbied for a grand opening for summer holidays, which were discreetly ignored by all. Then he insisted that schools open for in-person fall classes, especially colleges. Many who tried closed back up again within a COVID-19-laced week.And most recently, Trump retweeted a conspiracy theory that only about 6% of the deaths were really due to COVID-19, because the victims must have died from other physical conditions (like obesity, diabetes or heart disease) or were elderly. Even the CDC, who published the data that were twisted into this hypothesis, disputes this. If a sumo wrestler is hit by a train, nobody thinks the cause of death is obesity just because he’s a bigger target. The messaging is everything to Donald Trump. Politico reported that Health and Human Services has put out a $250 million bid to communications firms for messaging that would “defeat despair and inspire hope” about coronavirus. The result of Trump’s interference in the work of that once-nonpartisan agency is that “nearly a fifth of adults would refuse a coronavirus vaccine if one were available, in some cases over fears that any approval would be motivated by politics rather than science. Just 14 percent of voters would be more likely to take a vaccine recommended by Trump.” Wouldn’t that money be better spent on PPE and testing and tracing? Trump’s staunchest followers continue to believe. When asked about the soaring death toll, Trump said, “It is what it is,” as if he were a mere bystander—and maybe he is.A CBS News/YouGov survey determined that 57% of registered Republicans viewed the 170,000 deaths at the time as “acceptable.” The other 43% of Republicans viewed this carnage as unacceptable, a shockingly low number as compared to 69% of Independents and 90% of Democrats.After learning of this survey, author Stephen King lamented, “What happened to you, America?” Imagine that; the consequences of Donald Trump’s absent leadership have spooked Stephen King. And that’s the guy who wrote Pet Sematary and The Shining.In contrast, Joe Biden has stated categorically, “As president, the first step I will take will be to get control of the virus that's ruined so many lives. Because I understand something this president doesn't. We will never get our economy back on track until we deal with this virus.”He couldn’t be clearer: “I promise you this: A Biden-Harris Administration will always listen to scientists.”Here are the components of the Biden-Harris seven-point plan to address COVID-19 and get it out of our lives:Fix Trump’s testing-and-tracing fiasco to ensure all Americans have access to regular, reliable, and free testing.Fix personal protective equipment (PPE) problems for good.Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based national guidance for how communities should navigate the pandemic — and the resources for schools, small businesses, and families to make it through.Plan for the effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines because discovering isn’t enough if they get distributed like Trump’s testing and PPE fiascos.Protect Older Americans and Others at High Risk.Rebuild and expand the defenses that Trump has dismantled to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.Implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: step up in a time of crisis.You can find the details of his plans on the campaign website.We haven’t only lost American lives to this virus. As anyone who misses the joys of summer can attest, we have also lost American life, at least in 2020.Beyond all that, part of what makes us America — our unity, our meritocracy, our trust in science — has been corrupted. Joe Biden will have to be the vaccine for that, too.

A Housing Crisis, Exacerbated

Let’s set the stage. Coronavirus is everywhere. You’ve been quarantined in your house, with your family. You feel safe. It’s boring and unending, but your home is a sanctuary.What if you were locked out of your home and had nowhere to go and no money to pay for it? On July 24, the federal moratorium that was protecting many renters from eviction ended without a replacement plan. This provision in the CARES Act prevented landlords from filing eviction notices, or charging penalties for nonpayment of rent, or giving renters a 30-day notice to vacate. For those months, renters who had lost their jobs had the small assurance that they would not lose their homes as well. For homeowners, most financially-stressed mortgage holders saw a six-month forbearance window, with the possibility for more if needed.To make matters worse for the unemployed, the weekly $600 unemployment benefit that kept many afloat expired on July 31. While legislators negotiate a follow up bill, working-class people try to imagine what life will be like without a room of their own. Some states and cities provide help, but American families depend on federal assistance and the enforcement of laws preventing eviction.According to Census Bureau data in July, nearly 12 million adults live in households that missed their last rent payment, and 23 million have little or no confidence in their ability to make the next one. And this survey took place before the financial assistance ended.Without a steady income and without eviction protections, American families face the unthinkable: losing a place to live and being unable to demonstrate an income to rent or buy somewhere else.If only the pandemic were the only housing crisis facing America. Sadly, housing insecurity was already a crisis and it’s been compounded by Trump Administration actions.Even in early 2019, despite the lowest unemployment rate in decades and solid economic growth, millions of middle-class Americans were just one missed paycheck away from poverty and could not cope with a sudden disruption to income. Note that this wasn’t a problem just for the poor, and this was a problem in a better economic climate than today’s and the unchanged downturn we expect for the immediate future.In mid-2019, a survey from NORC at the University of Chicago found that 51% of Americans would need to dip into savings if they missed a single paycheck. Savings have been battered for months for the Americans who are now losing housing protections that have helped them survive the last few months. In the same survey, 65 percent of Hispanic households and 67 percent of households earning less than $30,000 annually would be unable to pay for necessities if they missed more than one paycheck.The American Bar Association (ABA) expressed its concerns about fair housing policy in late 2019, stating that “HUD has been eliminating, delaying, or revising its fair housing regulations in ways that are at odds with the intent of the Fair Housing Act, and in conflict with longstanding federal housing policy”. Most of the Trump Administration changes result in reductions to programs that help minorities.The ABA cites unfavorable changes to the Small Area Fair Market Rent Rule that enables low-income families to move to areas with better job opportunities, the suspension of a recent Fair Housing rule against racial bias, and gutting the Disparate Impact Rule, which “would allow financial institutions, insurance companies, and housing providers to adopt policies and practices or engage in covert discriminatory practices”.The head of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon with no experience in housing policy. So now the pandemic is here. The $2.2 trillion CARES Act was the largest economic stimulus package in US history and helped millions of Americans stave off disaster in the months after the US economy succumbed to the coronavirus. But right now, the Senate has not yet formulated a strategy for keeping Americans in their homes, and the help from the CARES Act is over. The House has passed a bill, and is awaiting negotiations with the Senate and the White House; neither the Senate nor the White House put forward any plans in time for a seamless transition to a new stimulus.The Economic Policy Institute issued a report that explores how Black Americans are most hurt by the pandemic, because of health, wealth, and yes, housing inequality. As of April, less than half of the adult Black population was employed. White families hold five times as much in liquid assets as Black families, and median income for white households is 70% higher than for Black households.In 2015, the Obama-Biden Administration set up the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule (AFFH) as part of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. The 2015 rules required cities and towns that receive funding from HUD to document patterns of racial bias, to publicly report the results, and to set and track goals to reduce segregation.This is the rule that HUD suspended in early 2018 without much fanfare. In 2020, in an effort to improve his polling among white suburban voters, Donald Trump announced that he had rescinded the AFFH rule, via a shamelessly racist tweet. He’s the first openly pro-segregation politician in decades.In contrast, Joe Biden has fought for housing equality since his first year in government as a County Councilman. He sought to end “redlining”, the practice of excluding communities, usually minority communities, from business services such as banking, or promoting discriminatory practices that offer the services at a higher price than the cost to surrounding communities.Vice President Biden believes that housing is a right, not a privilege. He envisions an investment of $640 billion over 10 years. The goal of this investment is so that every American has access to housing that is affordable, stable, safe and healthy, accessible, energy efficient and resilient, and located near good schools and with a reasonable commute to jobs. It’s the life most of us take for granted and couldn’t stand to be without. Don’t we want that for our neighbors?As Joe Biden said in a July 29 interview, “Look, this is a crisis. We have an enormous opportunity to build back better and to finally tear down the barriers that have kept far too many people from fully participating.”Redlining is still a problem in poor communities, and Joe Biden addresses many of these inequities with proposals such as creating a Homeowner and Renter Bill of Rights, including protections against mortgage brokers leading borrowers into above-market loans, protections against precipitous foreclosures, and additional rights to seek financial redress, to receive timely notifications about the status of loan modifications, and to appeal modification denials.He will create infrastructure to help tenants facing eviction to find legal assistance, and work with localities to find alternatives that can reduce the number of evictions. He will address discriminatory practices affecting people of color and low-income families, and hold financial institutions accountable for discriminatory practices. He’ll expand the Community Reinvestment Act and reinstate the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule that was rescinded by Donald Trump.Biden’s plans include creating a new refundable, advanceable tax credit of up to $15,000 to help families buy their first home, ensuring that no one has to pay more than 30% of their income for rental housing, introducing tax credits and housing benefits, and creating a public credit reporting agency to improve credit reporting and address racial disparities.He’ll work to invest in constructing affordable, energy-efficient housing, and expand existing programs that provide housing to communities in need. Through tax incentives, funding and regulatory initiatives, the Biden Plan will improve access to affordable housing. In coordination with the Biden infrastructure plan, urban and rural communities will benefit from transportation and other investments, and special attention will be paid to the unmet needs of our valued military families.Plans are in place to protect the most vulnerable of us from homelessness, especially for groups such as veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, those with disabilities, the elderly, the formerly incarcerated, and victims of sexual violence.According to a study made using a Columbia University model, Biden’s plan “could cut child poverty by a third, narrow racial opportunity gaps, and potentially drive progress on the broader middle-class affordability crisis in the largest coastal cities as well.”There’s a lot to do, and Joe Biden has a plan to get it done. This pandemic has put housing insecurity front and center and made us all realize how terrifying it must be to experience it. We need laws, not Congressional stalemates. Let’s help our neighbors by electing Joe Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot. As Joe Biden reminds us, housing is a right, not a privilege.Here are some resources if you need help:The Consumer Financial Protection BureauFor renters: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/renter-protections/For mortgage holders: https://www.consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus/mortgage-and-housing-assistance/mortgage-relief/Legal help FAQ on eviction and rent protections:https://legalfaq.org/

Plan ahead. Vote early. Get it right.

It’s two months to the election and maybe you’re impatient. Or a little bit frustrated and bored. Or a little bit worried, with USPS under attack and the constant drone of Trump’s Twitter lies about voting and his obvious attempts to suppress Biden votes. Early voting hasn’t started. Ballots haven’t been mailed out. You’d like to do something, if only to take your mind off all the chaos.It’s critical to remember that Trump can only cheat his way into office if it's close. This time, we need an avalanche. So far the polls are much too close, even the ones that favor a Biden-Harris win. USPS is predicting mail delays. Some states will continue their egregious polling station closures in typically Democratic neighborhoods. If things stay the same as they are right now, it looks like a long night or week at best, and at worst, a very long four years to come. It doesn’t have to be. We can fix all of this with turnout. Turnout of solid, validated Biden votes.The difference between a great Election Night and any other outcome is you. Yes, you.If you vote, and vote early, and your vote follows all the rules, you can help make November 3 the end of the mess we’re living. Your vote might be the deciding vote in your district or your state. And when you’re finished with all the voting with weeks to go, you can leverage your power by helping others, and we can bury the Trump trainwreck in Biden ballots. Furthermore, your help in getting others to vote Biden-Harris could mean we don’t even have to wait until November 4 to learn that we've kicked this nightmare to the curb. To make this happen, you need a plan. And then you need to do the things you planned. And you need to do them right. Daunting? No. Voting in-person and voting by mail aren’t any harder than ordering fast food at a counter or ordering online.There’s a lot of help available to you, full of registration dates and places, mail-in voting requirements, and early voting opportunities, and they’re detailed on many, many websites, including NBCNews, Axios, 538, and even us.What you should do now.Let's not use deadlines as a starting point. Deadlines start with “dead” for a reason. Deadlines represent the time that you risk missing this election completely. We’re better off never to think about last chances and focus instead on as early as possible. Now is not the time for a photo finish.You can find start dates on many social media sites, or on websites as identified above, and there are even other voting guides on websites that normally aren’t very political. That demonstrates how important this election is. You’ll get great guidance from your local newspaper’s website. But unless you’re checking with the local government directly and frequently, these websites won't all get every iota right in every county and every state.Wherever you get your information, pay no attention to end dates. What if a nationwide site has a typo that sets the deadline just one day too late in your jurisdiction? Maybe the deadline is "midnight on the 1st".  Does that mean the end of the day on the 1st? Or does it mean 12:01AM on the 1st is too late? Maybe the deadline changes because it’s a Sunday, or because bad weather is coming. State governments add or subtract voting opportunities without a lot of fanfare.The way to beat the deadlines is to vote as early as you possibly can, any way you find convenient. Deadlines should be meaningless to you. Instead, do the following now.Make sure you’re registeredIf you’ve never voted before, or if you haven’t voted in a while, or if you live somewhere new since the last time you voted, you need to register. If you voted recently, check on your registration. You’ll probably find a link to check on your registration or register for the first time on the website of your county or the Secretary of State website in your state. Check that the address in your voter registration matches your current ID. If it doesn’t, you might be turned away at the polls. We have to get everything right.If you’re not registered and you’ve missed the registration deadline, your state might still have Election Day registration. You might have to vote in person on Election Day, but that’s better than not voting at all this year. Consult the local election websites and call your local elections office to see if you have additional options.Ask for a mail-in ballot if you don’t want to vote in personMost states will let you ask for a paper ballot. If you live in one of them and you’d prefer to vote from home, you can apply for mail-in voting right away, even before the ballots are printed. You’ll receive your ballot in most states well before Election Day. (Some states are resolving issues, worried that ballots won’t come in time). You might be able to pick up a ballot at your local election office. Call your local Election Supervisor or consult your state’s Secretary of State website, which you can find on our voting guide.Bear in mind this advice from the USPS: “If you plan to vote by mail, plan ahead.” This is the Postal Service telling you. They get it.Make sure your vote will count.Vote in-person with lots of time to spare.Many states are providing early voting polling stations. They’re especially helpful during this pandemic because all that extra time spreads out the voters for shorter lines and lots of social distancing. Early early voting might be less crowded than last-minute early voting, and if the early-early line is daunting and you can’t stay, you have time to come back again. States are making sure that voting in-person will be very safe, assuming that you and your neighbors follow their guidelines. Make sure that your ID is current and in your hand. Mask up.You don’t have to vote in every contest on the ballot, although it’s best if you do. Your vote for President will count even if you don’t vote for every office. Your vote for the races you choose will still count if you leave some places empty. But if you can, you should vote for everything on the ballot, assuming that you know anything about your choices.And this year, it’s especially important to vote Democratic for your US congressional representative (who is definitely on your ballot this year) and any US Senator who’s running in your state. While you’re at it, vote for Democrats for state positions. They’re the ones who decide, among other things, how easy it will be for you to vote in the future.Read local ballot initiatives with a critical eye. Google them at home before filling out your ballot. Their titles are often artfully worded. A proposal called "Keep Our Students Safe Now" might very well call for AR-15s to be issued to all schoolchildren. Maybe that isn’t what you’re looking for. Read up.Vote by mail with lots of time to spare.Let’s say you’re voting by mail and that you’ve already requested a mail-in ballot. For you, election day is the day you get your ballot.Whenever you get your ballot, that very moment is a fine time to fill it out and send it in. In fact, there aren’t a lot of reasons to sit on it; it’s the paper version of early voting. In most places, you can send it back via USPS (assuming you have at least 3 weeks to go before Election Day.) If you’re worried about mail delays, there are other options. Some places let you drop off the ballot at any polling station where early voting is taking place. You don’t have to wait in line if there is one. Some places have ballot boxes specifically designed to take your vote. Other places let you drop off the ballot at your county’s election office.If you’ve filled out your ballot but you haven’t mailed it yet and you can’t figure out how to get it delivered in time, you can still vote in person. Just make sure you destroy your unused ballot after you’ve voted so that it doesn’t find its way into the system.If it’s getting close to Election Day and you haven’t received your ballot, you can go vote in person at your early voting location. As long as your paper ballot is never sent in, your in-person vote will count. You know not to fill out the paper version after you’ve already voted, right? If you ever want to vote again, please don’t vote twice.If you mess up your paper ballot, you can get another one from your election authority. Or you can vote in person. Just make sure you don’t let too much time go by. Even with early voting, lines are likely to be long on Election Day.Time out for a horror story.Do you worry that we haven’t done enough to address climate change, for example? Should we have done something 20 years ago? 2000 Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore would have been your guy. But three things happened in Florida that year in the bluest of areas, Broward and Palm Beach counties:In-person voting machines in Broward didn’t punch voter choices through the cardboard ballot hard enough, leaving “hanging chads”, many of which were rejected in the recount. They have new machines now. That doesn’t make Al Gore feel better, though.Palm Beach County created a confusing “butterfly ballot”, which caused hundreds of lifelong Democratic Jews to vote for Pat Buchanan, a white supremacist, instead of their intended candidate, Al Gore. Even Buchanan said “When I took one look at that ballot on Election Night... it's very easy for me to see how someone could have voted for me in the belief they voted for Al Gore.”Third-party entry Ralph Nader drew nearly 100,000 Florida votes.Al Gore lost Florida by 537 votes statewide, 9 votes for every 100,000 cast in the state and that tipped the electoral college.Things go wrong in every election. Some of those problems are institutional. Others are our own fault. Don’t be part of a horror story.Make sure your ballot isn’t rejected.This year, there will be a lot of mailed ballots, especially from first-time voters and first-time absentee voters. Surges in mail-in voting tend to have lots of rejected ballots. Most rejections are from voters who didn’t sign properly or didn’t sign at all. Another reason is that the ballot missed the deadline. It’s always important, but especially important this time, that your ballot follows the rules. Let’s deconstruct the mail-in voting package you get. The ballot is the piece of paper that you fill in with your votes, and it has no information about who you are. Your completed ballot keeps your votes private. Whether you voted is tracked; how you voted is your secret.The page that contains your votes might go into a sleeve or inner envelope, and that inside protection goes into an outer envelope that has information identifying you. You need to seal that envelope after your ballot has been safely tucked into the sleeve and the sleeve is inside the envelope. There’s a place to sign and date the outside envelope with your name printed on it.Put your ballot into the privacy sleeve, put the sleeve into the return envelope, sign and date the envelope (look carefully for any other places on that envelope in case there are other requirements.) Then seal the outer envelope.The outside envelope might contain a bar code that identifies you, and the election office does a check of your signature to make sure that the right person has filled out the ballot. Once they’re happy it’s you, they pull out the sleeve covering your completed ballot and drop it in a bin with the other ballots from your area. This is how mail-in voting is very safe, not only for you, but for democracy. Nobody can see your votes. Nobody can vote instead of you.But it means that your signature must match the one that is on file, and that signature is often the one on your driver’s license or the one from your voter registration, where you might have signed on a pad, not with a pen. You can check which signature your state checks here. Look at the name on the ballot and sign accordingly. Now isn’t the time to try out a new signature persona. This is as serious as a courtroom. No snark.After you’ve votedYou’d think that after your ballot is submitted, you’re done, but you aren’t. If you voted by mail, you can track your ballot in many states to make sure that it was accepted. If it was rejected, you might have time to get another one, or you might be able to vote in-person. You’ll be demoralized, but you get a second chance, which you should use. With time to go until voting day and your own vote behind you, you can now help other people to vote. Call your friends and family and beg them or help them to vote safely. Check your mother’s or grandmother’s registration and ballot tracking. Sure, your grandmother follows you around on Facebook, but chances are she can’t navigate a Secretary of State website.Drive elderly voters to the polls (with masks on all of you) at early voting or on Election Day. Volunteer to be a poll worker for early voting or for Election Day. Volunteer for the Biden campaign.Or go on the Swing Left or the Vote Save America website now and leverage your impact by helping to swing other districts from red to blue this year. They give you opportunities to reach out to others to get out the votes in the districts we need the most.Every vote counts, but only if it's counted. Trying and failing has the same result as staying home, and staying home is not an option. Not this year. Help yourself. And then help others. Help Joe Biden get the landslide we need by making a voting plan and then making it work.

Extinguish the gaslight: Be a smart information consumer

Donald Trump is in a bit of a pickle. He’s running for reelection. Unlike in 2016, he is no longer the new face in Washington. He’s now forced to run on the basis of his performance. Among many obstacles for him to overcome is that more than 180,000 people have died so far because of his many failures.One of those failures is Trump’s inability to admit he did something wrong and then change course. If he decides that the virus will go away like a miracle and it doesn’t, he just postpones the miracle’s arrival date and repeats the lie. If he decides that a malaria drug is a cure and it isn’t, he’ll disparage anyone who disputes what he says, even peer-reviewed scientific studies or his own spokesperson. This character flaw is one of the main reasons that the Trump Administration’s COVID-19 response has been such a fiasco.At the same time, the economy has fallen off of a cliff. For a guy whose brand has been about money and success, the truth of Donald Trump is now out there for all of us to see. He bankrupted his companies and now he's bankrupting us. Whatever success he’s had is because of salesmanship, not sustainability. (Those who did their homework before 2016 knew that the Trump brand was a con, even then.)So Donald Trump now has a track record as President, and it’s awful. Now there’s no chance he can make campaign ads adorned with smiling constituents and shiny jobs numbers. Even his ardent supporters always seem to be growling about something. He needs something else to talk about until November. And like many of us, he can’t seem to find anything serious not to like about Joe Biden.The one thing that seems to work well for Trump is lying. It might be that his lies work best because they are relentless and unceasing, so one lie can’t be debunked in time for the next lie to come tumbling down. It might be that his lies work because he never, ever admits that he lied. He’s probably still telling anyone who will listen about his record-breaking inauguration crowds.Little lies like crowd size are relatively benign, but things are getting dangerous. Let’s talk about gaslighting.The term gaslighting came into being because of a 1938 British play (that was eventually adapted to movies). An abusive husband manipulates his wife by changing their environment (such as dimming and raising the gas lights) and insisting that she should not believe what she sees with her own eyes. Turns out, gaslighting is used by sociopaths and narcissists for their own gain. And this technique was honed in Soviet Russia as dezinformatsiya, from the English word disinformation.“Russian disinformation teams used social media to recruit Americans across the political spectrum to help push their themes online and also to participate in real-world political rallies and other events, Mueller found.”That’s the analysis by the Washington Post to describe the Russian interference in the 2016 election as uncovered in the Mueller investigation. Maybe you were targeted in that election. Maybe your vote in the 2016 primary or general election was influenced by something in your social media news feed. Maybe you don’t think you saw anything odd. The Russians are good at this.Fool me once, shame on you, as they say. But we’re all being tested again. The gasbag-in-chief is trying to gaslight us all.“Absentee ballots are good. Mail-in ballots are bad.” There's no difference between mail-in and absentee ballots.“We should delay the election.” We can’t, by law, and we shouldn’t, because there's no need to do so.“The Postal Service can’t handle so many ballots.” Yes it can, and that’s why they have always been able to deliver all of our Christmas cards and packages, mailpieces that aren’t even limited to one per voter the way ballots are. Yes, one per voter. If you manage to vote twice, your second ballot is thrown out, and someone might come knocking at your door.“I might not accept the results.” Sorry, Mr. Trump, but nobody will ask you to certify the outcome. If you lose, you leave. Those Secret Service guys that now surround you work for us, not you. In the moment that spans a Joe Biden inauguration, you go from the guy they’ll take a bullet for to the guy who threatens the guy they’ll take a bullet for. Don’t test them. They’re armed.Some of us are disenchanted with the state of our news choices. This is the first time in human history that we each curate our very own news sources. Those providers are motivated by business metrics, and truth is desirable, but malleable. We ourselves aren’t blameless. We listen to the politicians who tell us what we want to hear, and we can’t stand the grating voices of those who present us with opposing views of varying veracity.We pick our favorite cable channel; we follow sources on Facebook or Twitter; we join groups on Reddit or 4Chan. There are credible posts and less credible propaganda on all of these platforms and yes, the Biden War Room posts on most of them. And beyond our individual constructions of news sources, our subscribed channels and the platforms themselves curate the facts we see.When you watch television, you can usually tell when you’re watching a commercial or a product placement that’s paying for your show. To avoid the commercials, you can stream for a monthly fee. In contrast, when you’re using free social media, the reason you don’t pay is that you’re the product. Every click, every article you open, every exit to a website, all of that is sent to someone who thinks that this knowledge about you is useful. Most of the time, that only results in ads that match your needs. No harm done.Used against us, these sales techniques are called “active measures”. They trigger emotional responses in us rather than cool rationality.  If we don’t know how to distinguish between reporting and spin, we’re gaslighting ourselves.In the end, we might get frustrated and conclude that we can’t trust anyone to tell the truth. We might think that this makes us analytical and discerning. It doesn’t. It makes us into trophies for the professional gaslighters.Here’s the trick to disinformation and gaslighting. Those who trade in disinformation aren’t trying to persuade you to join their side. They just want you not to trust anyone. “Never trust the mainstream media”, says the news channel that claims to have the largest audience in the news media.Ronald Reagan translated a rhyming Russian proverb as “trust, but verify.” At the time, he was describing our vigilance in overseeing a nuclear nonproliferation treaty we had with Russia (Donald Trump withdrew us from this treaty in 2019).But this advice should apply to ourselves, too. Don’t fall for lies, not theirs, and not your own. Vet your sources of information. Evaluate carefully the line between journalism and opinion. Everyone but you benefits if you’re oblivious to being manipulated.It’s time to assume that everything Donald Trump says is for his own benefit, not ours, and there are already hundreds of thousands of examples to mourn. But in the face of a potential loss, Trump and his surrogates will say anything that might keep you from voting for Joe Biden. Trump doesn’t need your vote; he just needs you to give up. Just like last time. Don’t fall for it. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Too Close Isn't Comfort

Whether it’s a pandemic or an election, too close isn’t comfortImagine that it’s Election Night, and we’re selecting a president. State by state, the polls close. Then we all wait for the winners of congressional districts and statewide races to be called, including the battle for the presidency. News organizations release their exit polls, where pollsters offer summaries based on voter surveys at polling stations. They don’t draw conclusions about winners. We learn who voted and why they voted the way they did, but not how they voted. And then we wait.Waiting sucksWe’ve been waiting since March for the pandemic to be behind us. We’re waiting for a tomorrow that’s different from today and yesterday. Too many of us are waiting for the economy to help us go back to jobs that we’ve lost, fun that we’ve missed, and grandmothers we hug.Maybe you’re watching the polls right now. Polls before about September include registered voters instead of likely voters, so these polls include nonvoters. Nonvoters are generally less white, less educated, poorer, younger, and more likely to be women. Nonvoters have historically favored Democrats. This means that any Biden/Harris lead in today’s polling includes a lot of unreliable voters. Early leads aren’t permanent. Don’t get overconfident.Right now, many polls show a close race or have a wide margin of error. Many of the polls show national preferences. For a presidential election, the only thing to watch is the voter preference in each individual state. For most states, the winner in each state gets all the electoral votes. National presidential polls don’t matter. Stop watching them.Within a state, a single poll is just a snapshot. A single-digit lead in a state is not a compelling predictor. Many factors influence whether a vote gets cast at all, even for likely voters. What’s the weather on Election Day? Is early voting or vote-by-mail available? How many polling stations are there, and where are they? Other than the weather, these questions are decided by politicians who have an interest in the election’s outcome. Take nothing for granted.The only math that matters is electoralIn the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton received 48.2% of the votes, to Donald Trump’s 46.1%. Electoral math put Donald Trump into the White House against the wishes of the majority of American voters. Based on Trump’s current approval ratings, he is still there against the wishes of most of us.Razor-thin margins in a few swing states often result in close electoral college totals. In 2016, Trump won Michigan (0.2%), Pennsylvania (0.7%), and Wisconsin (0.8%) by a total of less than 80,000 votes. That’s not a lot in a 140,000,000 vote contest. Often, close results like this precipitate court battles and bad inter-party relationships.For example, in 2000, George W. Bush finally won Florida by 537 votes after a long court battle. That’s a difference of 0.009%, or 9 votes for every 100,000 cast in Florida. Passions were high during the recount. The Supreme Court decision favoring George Bush didn’t decide the election; our commitment to democracy did. Al Gore conceded, and it was over.On the other hand, in 1984, Ronald Reagan sailed into his second term with less than 60% of the popular vote, but he carried 49 of the 50 states. This gave him 525 electoral votes to Walter Mondale’s paltry 13, because of electoral mathematics. Two out of five Americans voted against him, but nobody doubted that Reagan won fair and square.Peak > ekeDisruption from the pandemic will certainly change the usefulness of exit polls that rely on counting in-person voting on November 3. Phone surveys of early voters can help, but it isn’t the same. Close elections, especially those with lots of paper ballots, take a long time to estimate and an even longer time to count.Yet, in 2018, even with significant early and mail-in voting, some congressional elections were called as soon as polls closed. That’s because the winning margins were overwhelming. Early wins are fun on Election Night, but big winning margins are great for more reasons than that.For one thing, when winning margins are large in a presidential race, the winning party often gets a boost in that state’s Senate and House and local races as well. Those winners might be called early, too. Drink!“Elections have consequences”, President Obama has said. That’s true for all wins. All wins have consequences. But big wins have mandates.What’s a mandate? Technically, it means that an election gives the winner the legal authority to conduct governmental business. But after a resounding victory, it means that the winners can be confident that they can implement the policies that elected them.Run on improving health care or changing the tax structure or addressing the climate crisis, and then win big? Politicians in the losing party might disagree on how to accomplish those goals, but they understand that the majority of Americans have spoken in support of them. The losing party can’t be obstinate; they have to negotiate. Laws will get passed. That’s why you vote, isn’t it?Here’s another, and unprecedented, reason that the 2020 election needs to be a big win for Joe Biden, and a win in many states. The following is an important sentence about our democracy,  from the National Archives:It is a tribute to our forefathers that a successful election leads, time and again, to a peaceful transition of power to the successor. Al Gore conceded in 2000 to heal our country. Hillary Clinton conceded early in the 2016 race, even with tiny losing margins in states that had polled in her favor. Regrettably, Joe Biden is running against a petulant narcissist who hasn’t yet decided whether to accept a loss if it should happen. The US Constitution? Peaceful transfer of authority? Pish. Here’s an exchange Donald Trump had with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday on July 19, 2020:WALLACE: But can you ... give a direct answer you will accept the election?TRUMP: I have to see. Look, you – I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t last time either.What would encourage a crybaby like this to slither away without a fight? Losing big. It isn’t enough to beat Donald Trump. We’ll need to win a resounding victory and get an overwhelming mandate. We’ll need to win many more states than the 270 electoral votes that are minimally required to put Joe Biden into the White House.Luckily for America, Donald Trump is probably too lazy to fight the results if he has to do it in multiple states. He’d be laughed out of the courtroom for recounts in some states if Joe Biden wins by a large enough percentage of votes.Maybe you’re thinking about making a statement by staying home or voting third-party. Your vote against Donald Trump won’t matter unless your vote goes to Joe Biden. Don’t throw away your shot.We can all control how long we’ll have to wait on Election Night 2020. We make it happen by voting, and making sure our friends and family vote, and winning lots of states and their motherlode of electoral votes.After the polls close on any election night, noted forecaster David Wasserman (@Redistrict) looks at the percent of counted ballots in every district and who is ahead so far. He’s the House Editor for the Cook Political Report. Wasserman’s knowledge and experience help him predict what the yet-uncounted ballots are likely to show. He famously tweets “I’ve seen enough” moments before he calls a race.Haven’t you seen enough by now, too? Vote for Biden/Harris and let’s have a resounding victory and an overwhelming mandate.

Getting in Good Trouble

On July 17th, while the nation mourned the late Congressman John Lewis, one of his better known quotes kept racing through my head:"Get in good trouble.  Necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America."The Soul of America.  A term we're all too familiar with a year and a half into a grueling campaign cycle.  Vice President Biden's slogan has reached from corner to corner of our nation and left a sharp contrast to the racist, divisive, intolerant policy and words that flow from the White House.Joe Biden has always brought a certain calmness to intense situations.  We need that now.  150,000 Americans have died from a virus that never had to spread to the extent it has in our country.  We are in the midst of another Civil Rights Movement (or perhaps the first one has just never ended) and people across all spectrums of race, gender, creed, and nationality are taking up the mantle to ensure a future where Black Americans have an equitable opportunity at life that people like me are so privileged to enjoy.  It cannot be stated enough that while this movement is by definition “good trouble”, while protesting and causing civil unrest and discourse is a tried and true way to raise awareness to the fight we are carrying, hand in hand with our Black brothers and sisters, this awareness must reach an apex.  That apex happens by crossing the threshold of your polling place, or dropping your ballot in the mailbox on November 3rd (and hopefully long before then, if you are voting by mail). Joe Biden is uniquely built for this moment.  He will work across the political spectrum to bring true, institutionalized change to our country.  From healthcare to affordable education to social justice, a Biden administration will provide people who have been disenfranchised by society an opportunity to finally catch up to the privileged.  A chance to have a job to be proud of, a wage that you can not just get by on, but have the opportunity to put some money back, or take that vacation.  A good union wage. When I put my support behind this campaign, I knew we were going to see the worst come out of Donald Trump.  After all, Joe Biden is the man he feared running against in 2016.  But Joe, along with his faithful team of staffers, volunteers, and everyday people who help spread a positive message of redeeming the Soul of our Nation for us, and all of our families are ready to face this challenge.  We were made for it - this is a moment we've been waiting on since January 20th, 2017.John had another quote that I want to leave you with, for when the fight gets tough; campaigns are grueling mentally and physically."You are a light.  You are the light.  Never let anyone - any person or force - dampen, dim or diminish your light ... Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge.  Release all bitterness.  Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won."For John, for our families, and for the very Soul of our Nation, we must continue to fight, to speak out, and to vote.

The Biden Promise: Restoring Women's Rights and Continuing the Fight for Equality

On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the first bill of his presidency into law. It was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and it extended the statute of limitations for filing a gender pay discrimination lawsuit.It wasn’t a gigantic bill, but it was the first one President Obama signed into law after the inauguration. With all there was to do, in the middle of an economic meltdown, the Obama-Biden Administration was signaling that fairness would be a highlight of their tenure, and it was.In fact, Lilly Ledbetter herself, endorsing Vice President Biden on Equal Pay Day in March 2020, said, “I know Joe Biden. He understands what it’s like to be a single parent. And, he will fight for equal pay and working women, just as he always has."Many of Donald Trump’s statements about women are too odious to repeat, especially those against women in power and women of color. His Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh and subsequent vocal support during the confirmation hearings struck a blow to the women who watched the televised testimony. Trump called the sexual assault charges a “hoax.” He described “terrible pain and suffering,” but he was talking about the perpetrator, not the victim. Trump policies mirror his speech:He revoked a 2014 order that had required paycheck transparency and had banned forced arbitration “cover-up” clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination claims.He disbanded the White House Council on Women and Girls, which had ensured that federal agencies take women’s needs into account when drafting their policies.He cut international funding for women’s rights and reproductive health and ordered the removal of women’s health information from government websites.The administration finalized two rules to allow employers and universities to opt out of providing contraceptive coverage and argued to the Supreme Court on the side opposing women’s rights. The Court ruled against women.He changed Obama-era Title IX guidelines protecting victims of campus sexual assaults. New procedural burdens deter victims from coming forward, which reduces the number of investigations but not the assaults themselves.In his enthusiasm to erode women’s abortion rights, he restricted Title X funding to family planning facilities. He continues to prioritize judges who vow to undo Roe v. Wade.The policies are callously self-serving. Trump is quite the fan of sexual assault, with a confession captured in the Access Hollywood tapes of the 2016 campaign. Dozens of credible sexual assault allegations have already been reported or filed against him.In a transaction diverted through a shell corporation, a large payment found its way to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign. Its purpose was to hide their affair, a coupling that occurred when Trump’s son was only months old. Trump was fiercely pro-choice when romancing women, and he reversed his purported views when his new objects of affection were evangelical conservatives. He conveniently stopped mentioning his self-described “personal Vietnam” of trying to avoid syphilis as deftly as he had avoided the draft.What has Trump’s record been for the women he isn’t assaulting or paying off? Of the judges he’s nominated, only 25% have been women (under President Obama, it was 42%.) According to a Washington Post fact check, the Trump Administration nominated women for Senate confirmation at a rate of anywhere from 22-27%. Compare these numbers to 37% in the Bill Clinton administration, 26% of George W. Bush nominees, and 43% of Barack Obama’s appointments by the start of his second term.How about the Cabinet? Two women are in the Trump Cabinet, one heading the Department of Education and the other the Department of Transportation. The Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is a political activist and donor with no experience as an educator. The Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, is married to the Senate Majority Leader. Perhaps Trump is trying to find the plug to drain the swamp by wading around in it.In sharp contrast, Joe Biden has looked out for women throughout his Senate career, cosponsoring the Violence Against Women Act in 1990 that finally made it into law in 1994. The Violence Against Women Act created a national hotline, funded shelters and crisis centers, and trained law enforcement to address the consequences of violence. To put this timeframe into perspective, 1994 was the year America Online (AOL) first connected to the World Wide Web, and Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president. Joe Biden protected women from violence before it was fashionable.Soon after entering office in 2009, Vice President Biden appointed the first White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. This position was created to advise the President and Vice President about issues involving domestic violence and sexual assault and to promote collaboration across federal agencies. In 2014, the President and Vice President launched an initiative called 1is2many to help reduce dating violence and sexual assault among students, teens, and young adults.The Affordable Care Act might be nicknamed Obamacare, but it’s unlikely we’d have it at all without Joe Biden’s dedication to its passage through Congress. Failures in health care disproportionately affect women, who are most likely the household caregivers and who often hold jobs with employers that don’t provide health insurance. Obamacare also expands access to birth control and enables parents to cover children under 26 years of age.Biden committed early in his candidacy to name a female VP and a Black female Supreme Court pick. Fifty-three percent of his current campaign staff overall and 58% of senior campaign staff are female. This is not just a campaign promise; it’s a campaign that has already delivered.As President, Joe Biden would continue to champion those issues that matter so much to women, from bolstering affordable quality health care, to raising the minimum wage, to addressing online harassment and abuse, and investing in families, which hold the future. In the end, Joe Biden is focused on the safety and security of us all.In health care, he would expand the Affordable Care Act and initiate a public option like Medicare to improve access. He’d see to it that insurance covers contraception and he’d restore funding to Planned Parenthood. He’d work to codify Roe v. Wade and work to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which disproportionately affects low-income women, women of color, younger women, and immigrants.To address economic inequities, he’d increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour, allow caregivers to contribute to retirement accounts while their work isn’t recognized by monetary wages, and cut income-based payments of student debt. All of these initiatives improve current conditions that disproportionately hurt women.In safety, he’d reauthorize and fund the Violence Against Women Act, protect Americans against gender-based violence and act to support its survivors, end the rape kit backlog, and get guns away from the most dangerous owners.Women are often the ones responsible for providing the sanctuary of home for their families, but they can’t provide safety outside their own walls. The Biden Plan would refocus critical efforts addressing climate change, providing access to clean air and water, and ensuring that Americans have paid time to take care of a newborn, elderly parent, or sick loved one.Joe Biden promises to continue the fight to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, to enshrine equality into the Constitution.Vice President Biden is a practicing Catholic and is personally opposed to abortion. But Joe Biden understands that his responsibility as a public servant is to the Constitution and to us, and that leads him to be pro-choice, a position from which he has not wavered.On Independence Day 2020, Vice President Biden sent this message to the American people:“Our nation was founded on a simple idea: We're all created equal. We've never lived up to it — but we've never stopped trying.”That’s Joe Biden in a nutshell. He will never stop trying. Neither should we.

Mailing It In: Debunking Absentee Ballot Bunk

Let’s talk about masks first. Are you old enough to remember when Donald Trump and a wall of Republicans constantly politicized the idea of wearing a mask? It wasn’t long ago. Their lie that masks shouldn't matter was as barefaced as their noses.Wearing a mask is something we can all do to promote our own safety and the safety of others. The overwhelming majority of Americans know this. But Donald Trump doesn’t like to wear masks or see other people wearing masks. Maybe it’s because the mask is a mirror, reflecting his failures in confronting the coronavirus.Question:    What do masks have to do with voting?Answer:    The mail-in ballot is shaping up to be the new mask.Like a mask, the paper ballot will keep you safer and protect other people as well. Remember the long lines and unnecessary risk voters faced during the primaries? Safety dictates that voters who qualify should take advantage of mail-in paper ballots.Trump doesn’t want us to think about mail-in ballots. Just the fact that we need them is more evidence of Trump's incompetence against the coronavirus, and reminds us all of its large cost paid in American lives. This fiasco is why we will still be hiding from COVID-19 nearly a year after it arrived here.Trump’s fear of the paper ballot is also a testament to his egomania. It’s part of his continuous efforts to disenfranchise or suppress voters that don’t like him. So he tweets about “rigged” elections and voter fraud.Most likely, reality celebrity Trump is staging a November temper tantrum if he loses, to spite our well-tested democratic process. Reportedly, his own handlers are horrified that this tour de force performance will discourage only his own followers who routinely vote by mail. The rest of us either know he’s lying or we’ve stopped listening to him at all.Every analysis of mail-in ballots finds that the amount of error is infinitesimal. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, found about 1300 instances of proven fraud in elections in the past 20 years, in a review of 250,000,000 mailed ballots. Absentee balloting is in every state, at least for some voters. Ballots that arrive by mail are scrutinized to make sure the signature matches the one on file, and then they are compared to local identifiers like drivers’ licenses. They’re not hackable, and they can easily be recounted.Contrary to Trump's misinformation, voting by mail doesn't even help Democrats win. A Stanford University study in 2020 found that vote-by-mail doesn’t help either party in vote share or turnout, though it does increase overall turnout slightly. The one thing that will help Democrats win is the large number of people who don't like Trump. If they vote. Please vote.Don’t be confused by the terms “mail-in” and “absentee”. The absentee ballot did come about because some voters couldn’t be in town to place their ballots in person. Military personnel, for example, have voted by mail since the Civil War. There are some jurisdictions that make a distinction between “absentee” and other forms of mail-in ballots when voters apply for them, but the setup of ballots and the methods to process them are exactly the same. Making a false distinction based on terminology enables Trump to confuse an issue that has been settled for more than a century.Trump himself voted by mail in 2018 and 2020, “explaining” that it’s too hard for him to get to Florida to vote. He'd prefer you forget that he has visited his own Florida properties more than 100 times since becoming President. He has two golf courses there.Vice President Pence and his wife voted by mail using the address of the Governor’s mansion in Indiana, where they haven’t lived since 2016. Aides Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Kayleigh McEnany have voted by mail or at least tried and failed. It’s not a surprise that Jared Kushner promised to make his vote happen but couldn’t get it done. Ivanka’s 2017 ballot arrived too late. Many other Trump advisors support his falsehoods about voting with their silent approval, but not their behavior. Nearly a dozen in his inner circle are known to vote absentee. Voting by mail is easy, safe, and convenient.Here’s proof that states are satisfied with the safety of paper ballots: nearly all states make it possible and simple. Some states send ballots to all registered voters. Only a handful of states currently require a reason to vote absentee beyond a fear of the coronavirus. That might change in the months ahead as hotspots arise across the country. For the primaries, nearly a dozen states relaxed their requirements for a reason to use a paper ballot.States are gearing up to process more paper ballots, and they will gain other benefits if you vote from home. For example, poll workers tend to be older and more susceptible to the virus. Keeping polling stations emptier keeps elderly workers safe and protects the voters who decide they still want to vote in person. When you vote from home, you're protecting somebody's grandmother.Voting-by-mail is like buying from an online retailer. Once you have your ballot, weeks before Election Day, you could even look up the candidates and find out their policies, something you can’t really do when you’re already in a voting booth and there’s a long line behind you. That's a little like reading the product description.The newspaper you read — which might also be in paper form — probably provides endorsements, including why they’ve made the choices they did. They won't give star-based reviews like Amazon does, but you'll learn a lot about what's important to people in your community. When you're ready to commit, you can fill the ballot out at your leisure, like putting it in your cart. You’ll feel better about your vote for, say, local councilman, if you make your choice based on the candidate’s record and not just their ad’s theme song or the photo of their dog. It's probably not their real dog anyway.What can you do?First, check to make sure that you’re registered to vote. You can check on that online. If not, get registered. There are deadlines in most places.Check your own state to see what choices are available for mail-in ballots. In some states, this issue is still being worked out. Keep on it until you are sure you can vote by mail.If you know your state provides mail-in voting, sign up for a paper ballot. Many states don’t need a reason.If your state doesn’t permit you to vote on paper or if it requires more reasons than you can provide, keep watching. Some of them will change their minds.Don't wait too long to submit your ballot. Assume it will take a slow route through snail mail. If it arrives a minute late, it doesn't get counted. The US Postal Service is recommending that you send in the ballot at least 15 days before Election Day. That's October 19 this year.This is all as easy to do as signing up for a new streaming service. Go to IWillVote.com and sort through the requirements for your own state. And then be a patriot in the age of coronavirus. Vote from the comfort of your couch.

Moving Forward on Women's Rights

Since the Supreme Court rulings of Roe v. Wade in 1973 and Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992, state and territory legislatures have become a laboratory for legislation that would effectively overturn these key rulings that gave people the right to access vital reproductive healthcare.One can look no further than our own homes. In Texas during the 86th Legislative Session in 2019, State Representative Tony Tinderholt presented a failed bill that would have criminalized abortion and applied the death penalty to both people receiving and performing the procedure. A Republican state representative that halted the vote of this bill received death threats. In Puerto Rico, Senator Nayda Venegas crafted a bill that would have effectively made people under the age of 21 minors when it came to seeking reproductive healthcare. The University of Puerto Rico Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology argued that this bill that claimed “that a young, 21 year old woman is incapable of making an informed decision or that thousands of women in Puerto Rico are subjected to abortions by practitioners or nurses without any formal gynecological/obstetric training” was erroneous.The passing of these bills in the first place is indicative of an unfortunate trend in politics to ignore history in regards to women’s rights and reproductive justice, especially for minority women in this country. What many don’t know is the first large-scale human trial of the birth control pill was carried out in Puerto Rico in the 1950s. Activists against the trials argued that they largely contributed to the systematic inferiorization of women through colonial, racial and gendered structures. In 1977 in Texas, Rosie Jimenez died after not being able to obtain a legal abortion through Medicaid. She was close to becoming a special education teacher and already had a 5 year old daughter. An argument against women making their own informed decisions in regards to their own health contributes to a culture of infantilization of women and the degradation of women’s rights in America. Women today still face adversity in regards to healthcare and reproductive justice, especially when looking at the heightened maternal mortality rates of Black women in this country.To say that the current administration has only made it more difficult for women to receive proper healthcare in America is an understatement. Within his first 100 days in office, President Donald Trump’s administration gutted funding for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which provides family planning and reproductive services to more than 150 countries globally. Human rights activists quickly denounced the decision, stating that “eliminating U.S. funds threatens the health and rights of millions of girls and women around the world, particularly those in crisis situations.” Claiming a pro-life stance, the current administration has also vehemently spoken out against Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the majority of their funding goes towards providing services outside of abortion.The incompetence and ignorance doesn’t stop there. The White House has asked different governmental agencies to change its verbiage and information relating to women’s health. The President asked the CDC to omit forbidden words such as fetus, evidence-based, transgender, and diversity from the agency’s website. The State Department also stripped its annual human rights report from featuring any mentions of reproductive or sexual rights. What’s more, other governmental agencies and websites followed in suit by removing similar mentions on their own page, like the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) removing mentions of contraception, abortion, and sex education from its documents.This behavior is directly contrasted by Vice President Joe Biden, the President’s Democratic challenger. The Vice President worked under the Obama administration expanding healthcare to millions of Americans, including women who needed better and more affordable access to contraceptives. Besides expanding healthcare even more, Vice President Biden has pledged to lowering prescription costs, working to codify Roe v. Wade, supporting the repeal of the Hyde Amendment, reducing the high maternal mortality rate (which disproportionately affects women of color) and restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood, both through Medicaid and Title X.Despite the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, women still have difficulty receiving equal pay for equal work, even in women-dominated professions such as education and nursing. Combined with the fact that women hold two-thirds of all student debt in America, women face greater challenges building wealth than their male counterparts in their professions. Biden plans to cut income-based payments for student loans in half, to 5% of discretionary income. He would also freeze interest on student loans for individuals making less than $25,000 per year and make sure public servants actually benefit from public service loan forgiveness (which would greatly benefit women working in education).Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is currently refusing to allow a vote on the House-passed Violence Against Women Act of 2019, which would renew and bolster legislation that Biden spearheaded in 1994. As a result, key programs funded to combat gender-based violence, especially for immigrant and Native American communities, have not received crucial funding. Houston Police Chief Art Avecedo lambasted Republican senators holding up the reauthorization of VAWA after an officer was shot after responding to a domestic violence incident, stating:"I don't want to hear about how much they support law enforcement. I don't want to hear about how much they care about lives and the sanctity of lives yet, we all know in law enforcement that one of the biggest reasons that the Senate and Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn and Ted Cruz and others are not getting into a room and having a conference committee with the House and getting the Violence Against Women's Act [passed] is because the NRA doesn't like the fact that we want to take firearms out of the hands of boyfriends that abuse their girlfriends. And who killed our sergeant? A boyfriend abusing his girlfriend. So you're either here for women and children and our daughters and our sisters and our aunts, or you're here for the [National Rifle Association]."Not only would Biden ensure that VAWA is reinstated, he would enact universal background checks and push for prohibiting all individuals convicted of assault, battery, or stalking from purchasing or possessing firearms. Additionally, with the rise of online extremist groups such as incels that advocate for committing mass acts of violence against women, Biden would create a task force on online harassment and abuse to focus on the connection between mass shootings, online harassment, extremism, and violence against women.The case for women voting out Trump is so much more than the retweetable soundbites of his sexist comments. Real damage has been done for every American woman's healthcare, safety, and livelihood. Especially with several members of the Supreme Court reaching retirement age, it is imperative that we do not allow Trump to make another lifetime Supreme Court appointment. Another Trump Supreme Court appointment could roll back women’s rights to a pre-Roe v. Wade state where women would struggle to even make basic healthcare decisions for themselves. The 2020 Presidential Election is one of the most important elections that women will ever vote in for that reason alone. A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for maintaining our current rights as women and furthering gender equity in the United States.