The Ocoee Massacre: Why It Relates to 2020 America
July 8, 2020, 4:40 p.m.
Dylan Hellebrand, BWR Team
November 2, 1920 was the first American election in which women could vote, but there was a significant part of the population that was intimidated and even killed for voting in the South: African Americans. In the city of Ocoee, Florida, where I’ve lived my whole life, a little-known but tragic event occurred on Election Night in 1920.The Ocoee Massacre was sparked when crowds of white residents terrorized, injured, and killed over thirty African Americans who tried to carry out their right to cast a vote in the 1920 elections. It all started when African American voters had to prove if they were truly registered to vote. While attempting to demonstrate that they were qualified to cast a ballot, they were driven away and advised not to return. Fed up with having his rights threatened, one of the African Americans who was turned away, Mose Norman, came back to the polling station with a gun. He was chased out by the white voters who wanted to make a statement that no African Americans will vote in Ocoee. A group of white voters formed a mob to make sure that only whites voted and then went on to track down African Americans who had tried to vote. The mob was en route to Norman’s house when they learned that he was at his friend July Perry's house. While they were able to break into the home, Norman managed to escape, but they captured Perry and injured him before being arrested. After he was treated at a medical clinic for his injuries, Perry was taken by a crowd of white people from a vehicle and lynched, his body left swinging from a phone post. The crowd then took over Ocoee and drove out most of the African Americans who lived there, resulting in Ocoee being a majority-white city for decades thereafter. It’s hard to believe that one of the worst cases of voter suppression and racism happened in Ocoee. To further the pain, Ocoee holds “Founders Day” every year to celebrate the city, but what not a lot of people realize is that it is held on the anniversary of the Ocoee Massacre every year. There have been extensive petitions to change the date of the event, but all have been unsuccessful so far.After doing extensive research on this disgusting event, it made me realize how much I didn't know. I, a lifelong resident of Ocoee, never even learned about this event in school. It made me angry that the lives of innocent Americans were cut short just because of the color of their skin. Depressingly, while African Americans aren’t being lynched at the polls anymore, voter suppression based on race is still alive and well to this day. On June 23rd, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that made sure that the Ocoee Massacre will be incorporated into the school curriculum while studying African American history. While this is a great and remarkable thing to do, it comes many years late. Not only should this have happened decades ago, but this event needs to be recognized more in the light of racism and voter suppression that are still occurring. Voter rolls in Georgia were purged two years ago by their current Republican Governor Brian Kemp and there were reports of active voter suppression as recently as a few weeks ago in Atlanta and in Lexington, Kentucky by reducing the number of polling sites in various counties to just one which makes minorities have to wait in longer lines. Republicans have relied on gerrymandering for most of the last decade by restructuring district maps in ways where they get the majority of Republican constituents. A conservative group in Wisconsin, as recently as half a year ago, was trying to purge over 200,000 people from the voter rolls. If voters in Georgia and Ohio have not voted in a specific period of time, then they will get erased from the state’s registration rolls. President Trump has also railed against mail-in ballots by claiming without evidence that it will cause “rigged elections”. This election year coincidentally marks 100 years since the Ocoee Massacre, and there have recently been protests over the death of George Floyd, an innocent African American man who was murdered by a white police officer. We have a President who stokes the same flames of white supremacy and racism that killed July Perry, Mose Norman, and twenty-eight other innocent African Americans. Maybe if President Trump studied the Ocoee Massacre, he’d understand why racial equality is so important to African Americans. This is all too important that if we don’t let our voices be heard, then the future of our democracy and human decency will be too much at risk. This is all too important that if we don’t act now, we risk letting future generations suffer from the same inabilities and inequalities that caused these protests, and that caused the deaths of Mose Norman and July Perry. This is why we must elect Joe Biden the 46th President of the United States of America. He cares about those who are suffering and understands the overwhelming cry for help on racial justice and inequality. As President, he will call out the hateful rhetoric of white supremacists which is something our current President has not done and quite frankly welcomes. Joe Biden will be a leader for all Americans and will unite this country which is something that is so desperately needed. Let’s honor the lives of Mose Norman and July Perry and prove that the America we strive to live in is a just America and one that welcomes diversity because that is our strength and what makes us all unique. Let’s be better people for our children and show the world that we can be united together as one. We can’t afford to miss this opportunity because of everything that is at stake. We can make this happen, I know we can.
The Fight Against the Climate Crisis
July 7, 2020, 4:28 p.m.
Alexandra Jara, BWR Team
Five months after my birth, in September of 1998, Hurricane Georges crossed the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, making several landfalls and causing massive destruction along the way. At the time, President Clinton moved quickly to aid the American citizens in the battered Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. First Lady Hillary Clinton even visited the island of Puerto Rico, my homeland, less than a week after the storm.Almost exactly nineteen years later, in September of 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in the Caribbean, leaving a path of devastation in our most vulnerable communities. Thousands of people died, and even more were displaced from their homes, jobs and day-to-day lives. I have lost family members in the aftermath of the storm. Life on the island has not been the same since then.When President Donald Trump visited the island after the storm, he met with our then Governor Ricardo Roselló, came to my city to throw some rolls of paper towels into a crowd and said that we “were throwing [the federal budget] out of whack” and that we “hadn’t endured a real catastrophe like Katrina”. Even disregarding his blatant disrespect and obvious lack of care for the American citizens living in Puerto Rico, it has been clear that the President’s message on the effects of global warming on the climate is non-existent at best and actively dangerous at worst. Rising sea levels have displaced families from their coastal homes. Climbing temperatures have led to a rise in plague-transmitting pests, droughts and the occasional bushfires. Seismic activity is only increasing in both frequency and intensity. People pray every year that we aren’t hit by another severe hurricane while under lockdown during a massive dust cloud over the island. Living in Puerto Rico, you only grow more concerned about the present climate crisis and the culture of denial being bolstered by your President.At almost every opportunity, President Trump has scoffed at the idea of climate change being a real thing that causes lasting economic and environmental damage. The President has outright laughed at studies done by U.S. Government scientists about the lasting damage done by carbon dioxide emissions. (His cabinet members then referred to the studies as “alarmist”). He rolled back Obama-era plans and policies that would have led to a decrease of carbon emissions through clean power initiatives. In addition, he ordered the EPA to stop gathering data from oil and gas companies (who he regularly takes donations from). He even has consistently selected top officials in almost every agency overseeing energy, the environment and health who dispute the mainstream consensus on the urgency of climate action.Donald Trump is unequivocally a climate change denier. He will tell you so himself. And as someone who has seen the lasting effects of higher temperatures creating stronger storms in the Atlantic, from the loss of loved ones to friends and family fleeing the island, the President’s flippant ignorance on the issue isn’t something I could ever support. Despite not being able to vote in the General Election, I am 100% behind Vice President Joe Biden this November.The first climate-related bill ever introduced to the United States Senate was pioneered by none other than then Delaware Senator Joe Biden in 1986. The Global Climate Protection Act would have directed the President to establish a Task Force on the Global Climate to research, develop, and implement a coordinated national strategy on global climate. While it ended up dead on the Senate floor, it established the foundation for legislative action against the impending climate crisis that was to dominate the policy conversation in the United States in the following decades. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, we saw the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law, the introduction of the Clean Power Plan (which Trump did away with in 2019) and the inclusion of the U.S. into the Paris Climate Accord (the U.S. withdrew from the Agreement in 2017, under the current administration).While record matters a whole lot, so do the policies and plans put forward to fight actively against climate change in both the country and the world. Vice President Biden plans to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord, ensure that the U.S. achieves a 100% clean energy economy and reaches net-zero emissions no later than 2050 and enact measures to actively decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the air. Stepping up to join the global fight against climate change is a quality I expect from a leader like the Vice President.When it comes to the issues that matter to me the most, Vice President Biden understands the importance of meeting the moment with action. The effects that the climate has had on communities like mine has led to an increase in migration within the U.S. and across the globe. I have had friends who were not able to continue living in Puerto Rico due to Hurricane Maria’s destruction of what we once considered to be normal, everyday life. Our infrastructure is weak and has only become weaker by the storms and the earthquakes we have endured. The Vice President has multiple plans focusing on building a nation that is able to withstand the impact of climate change as we actively fight against it, whether it be rebuilding fragile electrical grids or allocating the necessary funds to make sure our homes are resilient enough to withstand the effects of the climate. Economic prosperity through infrastructural design and innovation is a big part of what the Vice President plans to do once in office.After the storm, everyone I talked to seemed to have a horror story to tell in relation to insurance and the allocation of funds by FEMA on the island. The Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Donald Trump dropped discussions of climate change from its strategic plan. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden plans to work with the insurance industry to identify ways to lower property insurance premiums for homeowners and communities who invest in resilience. He also has a plan to bring together the best innovators to help design common-sense zoning and building codes and help communities build and rebuild before and after natural disasters and other shocks and stresses, which would directly positively affect the lives of me and my loved ones after a natural disaster.While President Trump is busy dismissing Puerto Ricans and our struggles in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Vice President Biden seeks to engage with us as a community and help us as American citizens so that we can continue the fight against climate change in our island and in our country. From working with world leaders to establishing progressive projects and forces within the country, Vice President Joe Biden is more than ready to meet the moment and join the fight against the climate crisis looming over us.
COVID-19 and Our Obligation to Essential Workers
July 6, 2020, 4:01 p.m.
Biden War Room
Essential workers – like first responders, health care employees, and those in our grocery stores and restaurants – have been immersed in the danger of COVID-19. It might have taken a pandemic for many of us to learn how essential these folks really are, but they have always been the wall protecting our basic needs for food and shelter and safety. Donald Trump has put essential workers at unnecessary added risk.Trump ignored the virus and lied about it for as long as he could. February could have been a time of containment, but the administration failed to do anything to defeat COVID-19 and make us safe. This cost the lives of many who should have been tested, quarantined, and cared for.Our Strategic National Stockpile of pharmaceuticals and supplies, filled when Trump took office, was depleted when we needed it. Instead, Trump sent donated supplies to China instead of collecting them for domestic needs, and praised China’s leadership for containing a virus that was not contained in hopes of getting their help for his own reelection. Without a competent federal response, some of our healthcare workers were wearing trash bags and treating COVID-19 patients without wearing proper masks. Trump’s selfish actions cost American lives.Trump delayed invoking the Defense Production Act, which would have marshaled our resources towards producing lifesaving equipment in time to save more lives.Trump kept testing to a minimum at every opportunity because he didn’t want us to see how serious the virus was. As cases spiked in June, he decided to end federal support for coronavirus testing sites. Testing saves lives.The rise in cases and hospitalizations puts us all at risk, but especially those essential workers who keep our lives in order.Instead of working to eradicate COVID-19, Trump simultaneously blamed China (after his praise for their handling of the virus) and insisted that he’d stopped the virus by shutting down travel from China. (He didn’t shut down travel from China, and the virus that barreled through New York City originated in Europe.) He touted unproven and often dangerous “treatments” such as an off-label anti-malarial drug and bleach because he couldn’t face the optics of safe practices like shutdowns, social distancing, and masks. He couldn’t bear to be seen in a mask, and he encouraged his supporters, within and outside government, to flout local directives to wear the masks that protect themselves and others. He supported reckless efforts to override state guidelines on safely reopening.When the government’s COVID-19 response went predictably awry, Trump tried to blame anyone but himself, finally childishly asserting “I don’t take responsibility at all.”We need an adult in charge.In March, when cities were just beginning to shut down, Joe Biden called on the administration to get protective equipment to frontline workers most at risk of exposure, as well as getting them assistance with child care, and providing other emergency support. Further, he would have used the Defense Production Act to compel manufacturers to make needed equipment. Trump finally invoked the Act reluctantly, after most of the designated manufacturers were already on the job.Joe Biden’s plan would ramp up testing, which lowers the exponential growth of the disease and identifies hotspots to reduce future outbreaks. He would have expanded the number of hospital beds and deployed the National Guard to support the response, something that America’s governors eventually had to do without Trump’s support or interest. Joe Biden called for a surge in medical personnel to the places that needed the most help, using the Medical Reserve Corps and adapting FEMA training.Joe Biden viewed this national emergency from the standpoint of a Commander-in-Chief. He would have tasked a Supply Commander to take over the national supply chain for essential equipment, medications, and protective gear. He’d work with every governor to coordinate the production and delivery of critical equipment, including ventilators, masks, gowns, face shields, lab equipment, tests and testing components, and medicines. A national response allows the country to prioritize their support to communities with the highest needs.Biden called for an Emergency Temporary Standard to provide employers and frontline employees with specific, enforceable guidance to reduce the spread of the virus. The Obama-Biden administration had already created a permanent infectious disease standard, a set of infection control procedures to protect workers. The Trump administration shelved it, and Bloomberg reports that the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors is now at a 45-year low.Finally, Vice President Biden has called for premium pay for the frontline workers who put themselves at risk for the rest of us every day. In his March 12 address, he emphasized more protections for workers. These measures include emergency paid sick leave, and they include free testing and treatment. His plan brings back the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense. That directorate was created in the Obama-Biden administration to be responsible for pandemic preparedness. President Obama and Vice President Biden recognized that a pandemic was a threat to national security. Trump disbanded that team and had his surrogates dismiss the move as “streamlining”, while career biodefense professionals were alarmed that the move put the country at risk. We now have an answer as to which side was right.Trump pretended that he didn’t know about the pandemic that stopped the country in its tracks. He said, "We didn't know about it" until it "started coming out publicly." He blamed President Obama because he didn’t have tests. He acted as though someone else was to blame that he didn’t have any idea what to do. He was uninformed, or he was lying. In fact, there had been a game plan waiting for him when he took office. President Obama and Vice President Biden had commissioned a 69-page playbook to help leaders coordinate a US Government response. But Trump’s team tossed it out.Maybe they were confused when they saw that it was for leaders.
Opinion: It's time for the Andrew Jackson Statue to Go
July 4, 2020, 11:28 p.m.
Sidney B Miller, BWR Team
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Biden War Room The George Floyd demonstrations and the Black Lives Matter movement have shown how important it is for us to reevaluate our relationship with America’s history. 400 years of conditioning through schools and the workplace has forced us to believe certain narratives about our own police, and the government that gives them orders, that aren’t true. Groups like Campaign Zero (www.joincampaignzero.com) are helping to show how these forces have always sought to oppress and dominate minorities. This is a time where we’re rightfully digging into the history books and discovering for ourselves the sins of our ancestors and how they continue to leave a mark. Statues of English slave traders, Confederate traitors, and even Christopher Columbus have all been necessary casualties in our attempts to move on from the evils of our past. Tearing down moldy shrines to racists, tyrants, and war-mongers is progress. As a white man from Tennessee, I’ve been trying to think of ways that we can stop continuing to be the problem and start helping to address the issues that People of Color face without appropriating or taking away from THEIR moment. So, in addition to all of these other noble efforts by BLM activists and their allies to root out the relics of our evil past , I propose one more. Most people know that Andrew Jackson ordered, supervised, and is almost solely responsible for the Indian Removal Act that relocated over 60,000 Native Americans during the Trail of Tears. Tens of thousands of Choctaw and Cherokee died while being forced westward by government police. Thousands of non-native African-American slaves were also among them. Most of us were taught in schools that this was merely a dark moment during Jackson’s presidency. However, he also led the methodical extermination of the Seminoles during the annexation of Florida before he was ever in politics. The First Seminole War, as it would come to be called, only started because Jackson invaded the territory AGAINST Congressional order in order to kill more Native Americans and acquire land. Most unbiased historians agree that his legacy is mainly one of violence, racism, and corruption. Jackson’s supporters claim that he helped strengthen the central government and that his many military victories, like New Orleans, helped pave the way for America as a superpower.\n\n\t This is only partly true. While a military genius, Jackson as a politician was spiteful and power-hungry. Ushered in by a wave of populism, painting himself as a friend of the common man, he proceeded to reward all of his closest friends with high-up jobs in the government (spoils system) and intentionally bankrupted the National Bank. We know, but are not usually taught, that he threatened to deploy the U.S. military against his own people in South Carolina. Like most tyrants, he never tolerated disagreement and always responded with force. Most of my fellow Tennesseans have excused his actions by saying that he was to our country what Napoleon was to France. I think that he IS to our country what the stain of Hitler continues to be for Germany. There are two statues dedicated to America’s Hitler in Washington D.C. One is directly in front of the U.S. Capitol building where our laws are made, and the other is a few hundred feet in front of the White House in Lafayette Square. The actions of our current President during the last few weeks, a man who modeled his entire campaign on the “common man” populism of Jackson, comes as no surprise to anyone. Trump thinks of himself as the 21st Century Jackson, and I think I agree with him. So let’s poke the bear. It seems that every passing generation removed from a genocide becomes less and less culpable for it. We need to make up for these wrongs while we can, and it would be an easy thing to do. Let’s take the opportunity to stand up for the rights of the oppressed wherever we can. Let’s not wait any longer to stop honoring men like Jackson and start honoring people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, or the countless un-named Native Americans that also never had a chance. Let’s tear down the statue of Andrew Jackson outside of the U.S. Capitol building, throw it into the man-made pool out front, and further begin to heal.
Restoring the Health Of Our Nation: Why This Nurse Supports Joe Biden for President
June 30, 2020, 12:02 p.m.
Wes Osler, BSN, RN - BWR Team
Wes Osler is a Registered Nurse who lives and works in Rochester, MN. He is a graduate of The Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences in Cincinnati, OH. He currently serves as Secretary of the American Association for Men in Nursing, and is a former President of the National Student Nurses’ Association. Nursing has always been a part of my life. Growing up as the son of two nurses, I can remember the long hours away, the sad stories of the people they lost, and the “early Christmas” we’d have every year when they were scheduled to work the holidays. I also remember, to my childhood disappointment, their expert skills in distinguishing actual illness from my not wanting to go to school. Years later, I myself became a nurse. I chose this profession because of its ability to make an impact for the better. Nurses are on the front lines saving lives, we’re the ones who help people heal, the ones who are there as they learn to walk again. Ours is a labor of love, and one that bases itself on the work of our profession’s founder Florence Nightingale, on a devotion to human welfare. As a nurse, one of the things I’ve seen is the consequences a lack of access can have on my patients. We continue to have a national health system that treats disease instead of focusing on prevention. Someone without coverage does not realistically have the option to go to a family medicine provider and have a routine assessment done. Subsequently, a small lump develops into a malignant cancer, an unchecked blood sugar develops into progressive diabetes that can and does result in amputations. More than money, our healthcare system is people. That’s why it’s incumbent on all of us, especially nurses and others who work in healthcare, to ensure Joe Biden is elected President on November 3rd. Under the Biden plan, primary care visits will be covered under a public option for healthcare. Healthcare tax credits will be increased for lower-income families. And as President, Joe Biden would work to change the law so that the government can negotiate directly with drug manufacturers to lower drug prices. More than healthcare policy alone, Joe Biden’s platform will make significant changes for the betterment of health. By increasing the minimum wage to $15, granting families tax credits to affordable, quality childcare and investing in our unions, Americans will have greater spending power. The relationship between income and healthcare outcomes is already well-documented, and if incomes and access increase, people will live longer, healthier lives. As a Senator and as Vice President, Biden has been an ally of nurses. In the Senate, he introduced the Nursing Education Opportunities Act to address the national nursing shortage by expanding the nursing student loan program and establishing additional grants. And his support for 2 years of tuition-free community college for all Americans opens a pathway to nursing for traditional and nontraditional students to enter the profession. As President, Joe Biden will give more support and resources to school support networks, including the essential work done by school nurses across the country. But more than a healthy nation, we must strive to live in a healthy world, and Joe Biden’s climate plans will protect our quality of life by protecting our climate. Through subsidizing clean energy, stronger fuel standards and rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, a Biden presidency will work to see we live on a healthier planet. We already know what we’re up against. Under the current administration, protections for transgender Americans have been cut, giving license to any provider in any situation to deny healthcare access to someone because of who they are. It’s the same administration whose Department of Health and Human Services created an entire department in 2018 to protect healthcare workers who refuse to treat LGBTQ patients, who refuse to treat people with HIV/AIDS because of religious objections. This is the same administration that reinstated the global gag rule, to cut off humanitarian funding for any provider who so much as mentions abortion, a procedure that is often necessary to preserve life, and which must be protected here and abroad. A President who’s actively appointing judges to overturn Roe v. Wade, encouraging the illegalization of abortion nationwide. And we must never forget how Donald Trump tried again and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which ensures nobody can be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. From cutting healthcare access to overcrowding and underfunding detention camps to criminal levels, cruelty is often the point of Trump’s policies. Instead, on November 3rd, 2020, we must band together in choosing compassion. The choice is clear.
Working Towards Equality: 5 Years After Obergefell
June 26, 2020, 3:12 p.m.
Brian Weinberger, BWR Team
On June 26th, 2015, the Supreme Court decided the case Obergefell v. Hodges. This case was brought by petitioners in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, who were seeking to challenge their states’ bans on same-sex marriage. In a 5-4 ruling, the court declared that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. Chief Justice Kennedy wrote, in the majority opinion, that “this analysis compels the conclusion that same-sex couples may exercise the right to marry.” The Obergefell decision was an incredibly important step towards equality. It affirmed that same-sex couples have the right to marry, making it clear that LGBTQ+ people have rights under the 14th Amendment. However, contrary to the belief of many, perfect equality for LGBTQ+ people was not achieved with this decision. There were - and still are - many steps that had yet to be taken. Obergefell was significant not because it was the end of the road, but because it signified an acknowledgment that LGBTQ+ people were equal in the eyes of the law, and that we would be progressing further down the road towards being equal in the eyes of society. On June 26th, 2015, there was reason for optimism. Today - June 26th, 2020, five years to the day after the Obergefell ruling - there continues to be reason for optimism, but there is also reason for worry. That reason is the harmful policies of the Trump Administration.Every now and then, Donald Trump claims to be an ally of the LGBTQ+ community. But even the slightest investigation into his policies while in office reveals that these claims, like most of his claims, are empty and false. Trump has not been an ally to LGBTQ+ people - rather, he has been an ally to bigots, homophobes, and transphobes.Before the campaign even begun, Trump was displaying anti-gay policies, by naming Mike Pence, one of the most openly homophobic politicians in the country, as his running mate. As a congressman, Pence co-sponsored a Constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage nationwide, voted against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and voted against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. As governor of Indiana, Pence supported a bill that would add an amendment to Indiana’s constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Trump’s selection of Pence as vice-presidential nominee made it clear that his administration was not pro-LGBTQ+ rights. Trump himself was well aware of Pence’s homophobic tendencies - at an event in 2017, Trump joked that Pence wanted to “hang them all”, a comment with such callous indifference to his vice-president’s hatred for LGBTQ+ Americans that it would be a scandal in any other administration. Other presidents have been against LGBTQ+ equality, but none have ever joked about hanging gay Americans.But it’s not just disgusting “jokes” and looking the other way on homophobia from others. No, the Trump administration has pursued policies that actively harm LGBTQ+ Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services under Trump has proposed a change to the Affordable Care Act that would exclude protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and created a new office dedicated to defending physicians who refuse care, including to LGBTQ+ people. Trump’s Department of Justice ceased enforcing anti-discrimination laws that protected transgender and nonbinary employees from workplace discrimination. Trump’s Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a rule allowing homeless shelters to discriminate against transgender and nonbinary individuals. Trump’s administration has also rolled back or entirely eliminated many Obama-Biden policies that protected LGBTQ+ people, such as guidance instructing schools to treat transgender students consistently with their gender identity and policies to house transgender prisoners in prisons matching their gender identity. Within hours of Trump’s inauguration, pages with information about LGBTQ+ rights and resources were removed from the White House website and other government websites.Just a few weeks ago, another LGBTQ+ rights case was decided in the Supreme Court. Altitude Express v. Zarda was a case in which a gay skydiving instructor alleged being fired for his sexual orientation. This landmark case shows both how far we’ve come and how far we still must go. The positives first: In a 6-3 decision (authored by Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch!), the Court declared that firing someone because of sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This decision unequivocally stated that firing someone for being gay or transgender is illegal, and is already widely regarded as one of the most significant victories for civil rights in recent history. Now onto the negatives: the Trump Administration fought hard against this decision. They filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the petitioners, arguing that the firing of Zarda should be legal. A disappointing but expected stance from Trump, seeing as how the 2020 Republican platform (the exact same as the 2016 Republican platform) condemns the Obergefell decision as “lawless” and vows to choose judges who would overturn it.Can we, the American people, afford to give Donald Trump a second term? If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, or if you have friends or family in this community, or if you are simply a human being with compassion who doesn’t like seeing people discriminated against for who they are or who they love, think for a moment about what another term of Trump could do. In the last few years, Trump and Pence have moved to erase years of progress towards equality. From bans on serving in the military to restrictions on adoption, Trump seems determined to prevent LGBTQ+ people from doing anything. Contrast this with Joe Biden, who famously came out in support of same-sex marriage in 2012, before even President Obama did. Biden has a 7-pillar plan to advance LGBTQ+ equality by protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination, supporting LGBTQ+ youth, protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from violence and working to end the epidemic of violence against the transgender community (particularly transgender women of color), expanding access to high-quality health care for LGBTQ+ individuals, ensuring fair treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals in the criminal justice system, collecting data necessary to fully support the LGBTQ+ community, and advancing global LGBTQ+ rights and development. Read the details of this policy at https://joebiden.com/lgbtq-policy/. Today, as we commemorate the 5-year anniversary of the landmark Obergefell decision, we must realize that the 2020 election is a choice between polar opposites. On one hand, we have Donald Trump, whose official party platform states that “Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society.” On the other hand, we have Joe Biden, who said in 2012: “Who do you love? Who do you love? And will you be loyal to the person you love? And that’s what people are finding out is what all marriages, at their root, are about.” If you stand against homophobia, transphobia, and anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, the choice in November couldn’t be clearer.
United by Pride: A Policy Review
June 25, 2020, 6:40 p.m.
Biden War Room
51 years ago, Pride Month began as a protest against wrongful police actions against the LGBTQ+ community on the steps of the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Although significant gains have been made for the visibility and civil rights for the LGBTQ+ community, Pride Month remains a protest more than ever under the Trump Administration. President Trump continued to fight against critical health care access for the LGBTQ+ community, denied transgender people the right to serve our country, allowed adoption agencies to turn away caring same-sex couples, and has perpetuated the homelessness crisis in the LGBTQ+ community by allowing federal funding to go to shelters that refuse to help the community. It is clear that the work for the LGBTQ+ community does not stop at the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges and Altitude Express v. Zarda Supreme Court cases, which protect marriage equality and employment for LGBTQ+ people at the federal level. With Republicans still bent on rolling back some of the most significant civil rights gains for the LGBTQ+ community as provided by the Supreme Court, it is on Democrats to craft a policy response that addresses the needs of the community. We deserve and require a president who is willing to lead on policy that acknowledges the intersectional aspects of the LGBTQ+ experience. The Biden War Room will review some of what we feel are the most important policy proposals that Vice President Joe Biden has laid forth on his website (full text can be read here). Vice President Biden will help restore and bolster legislation and policies that address the needs of the LGBTQ+ community at every step of their lives. Our education system must do better by our LGBTQ+ students because so many of our valuable students are being left behind due to their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. LGBTQ+ students, and especially LGBTQ+ students of color, transgender students, and LGBTQ+ students with disabilities, are more likely than their non-LGBTQ+ peers to receive detentions, suspensions, and expulsions from school, often as a result of discrimination and harassment. The Biden Administration would not only investigate these discriminatory disciplinary practices, but address the root causes of this issue by passing the Safe Schools Improvement Act, which would require school districts to update their bullying and harassment policies. Additionally the Biden Administration would reinstate the Obama-Biden guidance to require that federally funded schools to prohibit harassment against LGBTQ+ students. It is also an unfortunate reality that LGBTQ+ discrimination affects our seniors in a unique way as well. SAGE, an organization that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ+ seniors, has thoroughly documented the issues facing over 3 million LGBTQ+ seniors in healthcare, housing, and employment. The Biden Administration would help pass the Ruth and Connie LBGT Elder Americans Act to ensure that all of our seniors are protected by the Older Americans Act of 1965. Vice President Biden will also work towards policies that speak to the realities that LGBTQ+ people face alongside other aspects of their identities. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies that speaks to multiple facets of inequity in the United States is the high rate of violence against Black transgender women. Alongside measures that would address LGBTQ+ homelessness and violence through legally protecting LGBTQ+ people in housing and employment, the Biden Administration would acknowledge and investigate anti-transgender violence through the LGBTQ Essential Data Act. This legislation would help illuminate the rate of violence against the LGBTQ+ community and help address the factors that lead to this violence through continued legislation. Another segment of the LGBTQ+ community that has been under attack are refugees and asylum-seekers, often people of color, who look to the United States as a place for legal and social freedom. The Trump Administration has prevented asylum seekers from entering the United States before their hearings and has turned down countless individuals from seeking refuge here if they are being targeted by anti-LGBTQ+ laws and violence in their countries of origin. The Biden Administration promises to allow migrants to live in dignity instead of detention, facilitating things like doctor visits, social services, and school enrollment for children, which is far less expensive and far more effective than criminalizing the act of seeking a better life and future for one’s self and family. However, legal protections for the LGBTQ+ community are only one part of the equation for Vice President Biden’s policy plan. Nobody can thrive without good health. As of June 12, 2020, the Trump Administration has quietly rolled back non-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ+ community under the Affordable Care Act as people in the United States and abroad suffer under COVID-19 and protest against systemic racism. We not only need to restore these protections, but take greater action for the health of the LGBTQ+ community. The Biden Administration will work to enact the Therapeutic Fraud Protection Act, which would ban scientifically fraudulent and harmful “conversion therapy” that aims to erase the LGBTQ+ community. Vice President Biden will also work towards ensuring that transgender and nonbinary people have coverage for gender confirming healthcare services and ensure that health care plans cover PrEP and PEP medication (and necessary follow-up lab services for these medications) so that lives will not only be saved, but be sustained as well. Biden will revoke Trump’s restrictions on Title X of the Public Health Service Act and restore funding to Planned Parenthood, so that vital services for reproductive healthcare, cancer prevention, HIV testing, and hormone therapies can resume for underserved communities. When multiple facets of the LGBTQ+ experience are addressed through policy, our government does its job in ensuring all of its citizens are able to fully enjoy what our country has to offer. No one should be denied the pursuit of happiness based on who they love or how they express themselves. Vice President Biden will ensure that the rights of the LGBTQ+ people of every background are protected and bolstered so we can all be equal participants in our democratic society. This work cannot be done under four more years of an administration hellbent on quietly removing protections for the LGBTQ+ community, so be sure to sign up for the LGBTQ+ for Biden Team to play your part in defeating President Trump this November.
Finding Myself and Finding an Ally in Joe Biden
June 23, 2020, 4:13 p.m.
Weston, BWR Team
In an ideal world, no one should have to live their life in a closet. Rather, people would be able to live happily and be themselves. Vice President Biden said it best - “Every human being should be treated with respect and dignity and be able to live without fear no matter who they are or who they love.”However, that simply is not the case for LGBTQ+ people in Trump’s America.First and foremost: I am a gay transgender man. It still seems hard to say, or in this case type, because I am basically revealing my longest and best kept secret. I’ve only started to accept this as a fact last year; it is not something I can change, and though it may seem troubling at times, it is a part of my identity. Growing up, I knew there was a difference between other children and myself. I’d always acted in a typical masculine manner, spent most of my time hanging around other boys, and, even from a young age, expected that I would be raised and treated like other boys. I would even insist on being called by a masculine version of my birth name. Being called my full birth name or forced to participate in stereotypically feminine activities made me extremely uncomfortable. I had no concept or idea as to what being transgender or experiencing gender dysphoria was at the time, but the thing I knew for sure is that I desperately wanted everyone to see me as a man.I began searching online for similar experiences when I was about 11 or 12. I was definitely at a low point; something felt wrong, and it caused me to feel alone. There wasn’t really anyone around me that I could talk to. Attending Catholic school and hearing lots of bigoted, anti-LGBTQ+ remarks only led me to hide and repress my feelings. When I found personal memoirs or articles from other transgender people, specifically transgender men, something clicked in my mind and things started to make sense. I understood how they felt, and their stories helped me to experience what I was feeling. Of course, I was still terrified upon discovering this because I had no idea what others would think or how it would affect everything else in my life. However, knowing that there were other people out there who knew what I was experiencing brought me comfort. One of the biggest moments during my years of middle school was the first time I got a men’s haircut. I was thirteen years old and it was toward the end of seventh grade. There was a lot of fighting with my parents, but I eventually was able to take this step by convincing them that shorter hair would be much easier to manage. Though I was still in the closet, there was one thing I knew for sure: this was the start of my transition. When I went into high school, I had a better understanding of who I was, but still had to hide it because I attended an all-girls school. Outside of my friend circle, my identity was kept secret. Throughout my four years, I was able to find other LGBTQ+ students; while I wasn’t exactly close with all of them, there was a subtle support network we had for each other. I’d met most of them during my junior and senior years since they were predominantly underclassmen. Generally speaking, however, being out to anyone at school was definitely the largest risk for me because, if it turned out that someone was not accepting, I could’ve been outed to the school and my family; more importantly, I most likely would have been expelled and/or sent to a religious counseling session. Since I’ve now graduated, I no longer have to fear that this will happen, but I still fear many things pertaining to my identity.It goes without saying that the Trump administration is a direct threat to the LGBTQ+ community. On the campaign trail in 2016, he painted a picture that he would be “a friend” to LGBTQ+ Americans, then chose Mike Pence as his vice president; when asked a question about LGBTQ+ rights, Trump joked not to ask Pence because “he wants to hang them all.” On election night 2016, it was reported that calls and texts to crisis support lines skyrocketed; most of the people contacting the hotlines identified as LGBTQ+. Two of the major concerns were the possibilities of losing access to healthcare and being unable to change legal documents. One of the Trump administration’s recent actions was rolling back Obama-era protections for transgender people seeking healthcare - a little over a year after stating that they would not be guaranteed healthcare protections under the Affordable Care Act. This is only one of the many cruel and horrific restrictions and rollbacks the Trump administration has set in stone. Within minutes of being inaugurated, any mention of the LGBTQ+ community was erased from government websites. The Trump administration has taken multiple steps in allowing “religious freedom” - so far as to even allow discrimination toward LGBTQ+ individuals. This administration has even refused to acknowledge Pride Month. One of the most notable rollbacks early in the Trump administration was banning transgender people from serving in the military. Trump has allowed adoption agencies to deny gay couples the ability to adopt based on “religious exemptions.” The administration has rolled back Title IX protections for LGBTQ+ students, and removed “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of terms to track bullying data in the Department of Education database, instead replacing it with “sex stereotyping” and eliminating anti-LGBTQ+ bullying tracking data. Trump’s team has also defined gender as a person’s biological sex many times, attempting to erase transgender people. Make no mistake - Donald Trump is not, and never has been, an ally to the LGBTQ+ community.My biggest concern, especially after the 2016 election, was which candidate had the best plan moving forward to protect the LGBTQ+ community. Initially, I was a huge supporter of Mayor Pete Buttigieg. It meant a lot to me to see a gay man running for president, and that’s initially what made him appealing to me. I did not have that connection with any of the other candidates. He was always my first choice. I’ll admit that I was definitely surprised when he dropped out of the race, but in time I understood it was what needed to be done. Without question, I immediately threw my support behind Joe Biden. While he may have not been my ideal candidate, I have always had a lot of respect for Biden. In my state, you’re taught that Joe Biden is a man to be respected because he always fought for the common man. His name is a household name here, and he’s even regarded as our third senator. It is important to me that the nominee shows strong support for the LGBTQ+ community, and I certainly was not let down. A lot of people like to drag his name through the mud because of not expressing support from the very beginning of his career. To that, I say one thing: Vice President Joe Biden has shown time and time again that he is not afraid to admit when he is wrong, and shows that he is willing to learn and change his views. He has shown that he is an ally of LGBTQ+ people. In 2012 on Meet The Press, Vice President Biden expressed his support for gay marriage. Hearing this from a government official, especially someone in his position of power, was unheard of. And, as the story goes, he not only almost got into trouble with President Obama, Biden later forced Obama’s hand in support of gay marriage. At a field office later that year, Biden stated that transgender equality is the civil rights issue of our time. The Obama-Biden administration was able to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Biden expressed overwhelming support for the ruling of Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. Biden’s LGBTQ+ policy is very lengthy, and covers a lot of ground in terms of the work needed to be done to ensure protections. A Biden administration would focus on reinstating the Obama-era protections rolled back by the Trump administration. Within his first 100 days, one of Biden’s top legislative priorities will be passing the Equality Act, ensuring equal rights under the law for LGBTQ+ Americans. His administration will also reverse the transgender military ban, allowing transgender service members to not only serve openly, but also receive medical treatment and be free of discrimination. Biden will also crack down on discrimination loopholes and fight for LGBTQ+ individuals turned away due to this. A Biden administration will ensure that transgender individuals have the ability to change their legal documents - such as IDs and passports - to affirm their gender identity by providing the gender marker options of “M,” “F,” or “X.” Biden will also ensure LGBTQ+ people are protected from violence by seeking to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in his first 100 days, and include sexual orientation and gender identity protections in the Family Violence Protection and Services Act. He will also guarantee that the ACA covers transgender individuals and does not allow them to be discriminated against, as well as expand mental health and suicide prevention services for the LGBTQ+ community. Most importantly, a Joe Biden presidency will enact the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, banning the horrific act of “conversion therapy.”Now, I understand the hesitation to support certain candidates. However, the choice is undeniably clear now. The LGBTQ+ community cannot take another four years of Trump. Make no mistake - Joe Biden is our ally.
Getting Up & Moving Forward
June 16, 2020, 6:23 p.m.
JonFromCA, BWR Team
As the child of Asian-American immigrants born two months after the 9/11 attacks, the 2020 election is the first in which I can cast a ballot of my own. Because of this, I decided to pay attention to what was happening in the primaries this year. I considered myself an independent, and am still currently registered as such, but I strongly disagreed with many of the actions of the incumbent Republican administration, both in the White House and in Congress, and so decided that I would most likely be voting for the Democratic nominee this year. Out of the record-breaking 29 candidates who ran for the nomination, I will admit that Vice President Biden was not on my initial radar of who to eventually vote for. For the majority of the primary, however, I remained undecided, watching the debates and learning more about each candidate while I decided who I liked more and who I liked less. Through this process, I came to the general decision that, based on my own political stances, I would most likely back a candidate from the moderate wing of the party, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and, yes, Vice President Biden. When Biden won the South Carolina primary in a landslide and Buttigieg and Klobuchar dropped out over the next two days, the choice became clear. I submitted my mail-in vote for Biden in the California primary on Super Tuesday, then watched as he pulled off one of the greatest comebacks in recent American political history. Over the next few months, as our country locked down due to COVID-19 and Biden emerged as the presumptive nominee, my support of Biden began to shift from not just support of his platform, but support of him as the type of person we need as our president. Like many Americans, the first thing I knew about Joe Biden was that he served as Vice President during Obama’s administration. As a result, he played a major role in many of the key achievements of his presidency, including the $831 billion stimulus package during the Great Recession preventing an even large economic collapse, and the passage of the Affordable Care Act, expanding healthcare coverage to 20 to 24 million more Americans. Biden also was a key advocate on LGBTQ+ rights, announcing his support of same sex marriage and helping lead a shift in nationwide attitudes on the issue that would culminate in the Obergefell v. Hodges decision three years later, as well as immigration. It would take pages upon pages of writing to list all of the other accomplishments Biden helped turn from proposal into policy during Obama’s presidency, but even those reflect only part of a long career fighting for the American people. Before serving as Vice President, Biden served as a Senator from Delaware for 36 years. In 1986, he blasted the Reagan administration’s support of South Africa’s apartheid government in a congressional hearing, helping to raise awareness of the widespread discrimination and outright violence nonwhites faced in the country. In 1994, President Clinton signed Biden’s Violence Against Women Act, providing justice for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, and other violent crimes. Biden also became an advocate for American intervention in the Balkans to stop the genocide of Bosnians and Kosovans that was taking place in the region. These are just a few of the many bills and amendments that Biden has spearheaded the passage of throughout his career, and what makes all of this even more remarkable is the personal challenges and tragedies he has had to go through during his life. Throughout his life, one thing has defined Vice President Biden’s story: his ability to persevere when knocked down or facing seemingly insurmountable challenges. As a child, he overcame his stutter by reciting poetry in front of a mirror in his home. As a candidate for Senate, he defeated a longtime Republican incumbent against whom no other Democrat had dared to run, then dealt with the loss of his wife and daughter just weeks after celebrating victory, taking the Amtrak home from Washington every night to care for his two sons who now found themselves without a mother. As a senator, he survived a brain aneurysm that was devastating enough to call in a priest to prepare to administer his last rites, then continued to serve in the Senate and get much of his legislation passed for two more decades. As one of his final acts as Vice President, he pushed for a bill to fund cancer research after his own son passed away in the spring of 2015. The fact that Biden is able to come back stronger than ever with a renewed purpose after hitting rock bottom so many times during his life is truly inspiring to me, and points to a quality I believe is necessary in any President: to never lose hope even when things seem bleak, and to let your challenges strengthen your character and resolve, not destroy them. Furthermore, Biden’s personal tragedies allow him to empathize with and comfort those in grief better than most people can and truly care for those suffering. Not only are these traits, as I have said earlier, necessary in any President at any time, they are especially needed now. With the COVID-19 pandemic claiming the lives of over 110,000 Americans and causing the largest economic disruption and job losses since the Great Depression, and nationwide anguish over the death of George Floyd, now more than ever are the qualities of perseverance and empathy needed in our leaders.Of course, healing after these events is only the beginning. Not only must we get back up after being knocked down, as Biden himself has done so many times in his life, but we must also keep moving forward into the future. Biden’s policies will do exactly that. As a young American, one of the issues I am most concerned about is climate change. Under Biden’s plan, the United States will achieve a 100% clean energy economy and net zero carbon emissions by the year 2050, lead the world in climate action, and create thousands of jobs through building the green infrastructure we need to make this plan a reality. As an Asian-American and child of immigrants, Biden’s plans on these issues are also important to me. As President, Biden has promised to reinstate the DACA program that he and President Obama first introduced and protect Dreamers, while providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. He will also reform our current immigration system to increase the number of legal immigrants we allow to come into the United States. Throughout our nation’s history, immigrants have been what makes America great, and under a Biden administration, they will continue to move here looking to improve their lives, working hard to benefit both themselves, their descendants, and our country as a whole, just as my own family did when they first came here. As a college student, and someone who is fortunate enough to work with people from all different works of life, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, I am glad that Biden has plans in these areas as well. Joe Biden’s plans for students include making four-year public colleges and universities tuition free for families making under $125,000 a year, making two-year community colleges free, increasing access to Pell grants for lower and middle class students, increasing funding for public universities and community colleges, and taking action on the gun violence epidemic that has plagued our country. Meanwhile, he plans to push for the passage of the Equality Act, ensuring legal protections for LGBTQ+ Americans under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, during his first 100 days in office, and use federal civil rights agencies to protect their rights. He will work to address the issues of mental health and homelessness among the community, especially LGBTQ+ youth, stand up for the rights of LGBTQ+ veterans, and ensure that transgender and non-binary Americans get the care and legal recognition they need. With his decades of work in fighting for the rights of every Americans, both in the Senate and as Vice President, his ability to rise above tragedy stronger than ever and empathize with others going through loss, and his vision to build a better future for our country, Joe Biden is uniquely prepared to meet the unique situation that the events of this year, and the challenges we as a country and as a planet face, have created for whoever wins in November. Not only will he lead the United States into a future with liberty and justice for all, but, thanks to his experience as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Vice President, he will restore America’s voice and influence abroad, a voice and influence that have been greatly damaged by the last four years, and help us lead the entire world into a future with liberty and justice for all. That is why I am voting for Joe Biden this fall, and why I hope that you will join me in electing a President who can realize our potential as a nation.
The Ugly Truth of Voter Suppression
June 15, 2020, 8:11 p.m.
Dylan Hellebrand, BWR Team
Voter suppression in the United States is not something new. Rather, it has been a tactic used to target minorities and people of a low socioeconomic status since the founding of the country. The first form of the Constitution gave the states the right to decide who has the ability to vote. Initially, just white men and liberated African American slaves who claimed property were permitted to cast a ballot. Eventually, states gradually started to drop the property prerequisite and gave the right to vote to all white men, and some African American men. All women were also denied the ability to vote. Some Jim Crow ballot laws included a highly difficult literacy test, which was essentially impossible for most former slaves (who had not received an education). Other states had a poll tax, which a lot of African Americans were incapable of paying. A few regions even held primaries for only white people, contrary to government law. Any attempts to violate the Jim Crow laws were regularly met with destructive retaliation. Women were granted the right to vote in 1920, but it took 45 more years to finally end the Jim Crow laws. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 explicitly prohibited any kind of assessment to qualify voters dependent on guidance, capability, or understanding of the English language. Disinformation is another famous strategy for suppressing votes in an election. During the 2016 presidential election, the Trump campaign not only put out their own advertisements of disinformation via web-based networking media sites, but also had the assistance of Russia, who were spreading their propaganda and pretending to be real Americans to influence votes while distributing false information. Other strategies used for voter suppression include various types of laws. A voter ID law in Indiana which requires voters to show a photo ID to curb voter fraud was upheld by the Supreme Court but is denied in states like South Carolina and Texas. Various state legislatures that are controlled by the Republican Party have passed laws prohibiting convicted criminals, even those who have already served their time, from ever casting a ballot again. There are many forms of voter suppression that are used to target a specific group of people including no early voting, intimidation, gerrymandering, re-locations of voting stations, and voter purging, which are only a few out of many. During the 2018 gubernatorial race in Georgia, the Republican candidate Brian Kemp, who was also the Secretary of State of Georgia at the time as well, was called on to step down to prevent any conflict of interest (since he, as the Secretary of State, had the power to oversee the election in which he was a candidate), which he refused to do. Abnormalities in voter enrollment happened the day before the election, with hundreds of thousands of individuals being wrongly declared by the state to be ineligible to cast a ballot, and a huge number of voter enrollments being deferred without sufficient warning time. These anomalies lopsidedly disenfranchised African American voters, leading to charges that Kemp was deliberately disenfranchising voters to improve his odds of winning the election. He adamantly denied these charges by accusing his opponent of trying to rig the election (without ever offering any sort of evidence). Even in the year 2018, voter suppression was alive and well. Almost every state requires voters to register before the election. In 2019, the House of Representatives voted to require states with a background marked by voter suppression to obtain government consent to change laws for elections, but this bill is being hindered by Senate Republicans and the White House. This continuing pattern of voter suppression should anger every citizen who believes that voting is a fundamental right. As the 2020 election nears, there are concerns among many across the country that President Trump will do whatever he can to win, even if that includes stealing the election. That is something I thought I’d never say about an American President, but Trump is the most dangerous President in my lifetime. Vice President Joe Biden believes that the United States must have automatic voter registration, and as President, he will ensure that voting will be easier for those who are targeted by voter suppression. Everybody who is eligible to vote should be able to vote without any hindrance. The very fabric of our democracy is endangered by voter suppression. As Vice President Biden says time and time again, this truly is the battle for the soul of this nation. What do you want to tell your grandchildren when they ask you what you did to help end voter suppression? Do you want to look back with regret on how you wish you could’ve done something to stop it? How can we truly have a representative democracy if groups of people can’t even vote based on what they look like or their background? I challenge you to do something about it. This coming election will truly be the most important election in your life and you have the power to stand up for what is morally right. You have the power to spur change and encourage others to do the right thing. We need to make our voices heard and prevent those in power from suppressing the voices of others. I encourage everyone to get involved to stop this ugly disease once and for all, as it should have been defeated hundreds of years ago. Whether it’s by passing petitions around or protesting for easier ways to vote, there has to be fundamental change from our leaders. Voter suppression should be something we read in the history books of having been an ugly form of intimidation that had been stopped, but it’s not. Those who want so dearly to cling to power will do whatever’s necessary to keep it. Not only should we end voter suppression, but we must hold our leaders accountable as well. In order to have free and fair elections in the United States, we have to put voter suppression to an end. For the sake of America’s democracy, we must.
Testimonial Tuesday: The Stepping Stone Philosophy
June 7, 2020, 9:53 p.m.
Tim Mellman, BWR Team
To put it simply, I see Vice President Joe Biden as the stepping stone candidate. You see, Biden was not my first choice during the primaries (that position went to Mayor Pete Buttigieg). Nor was he my second choice. At the time, Biden seemed to me to be a middle-of-the-pack compromise candidate, with nothing particularly good or bad about him. But as time went on, it became clear who our nominee would be. Biden’s sweeping victory in South Carolina was followed by a string of endorsements, which I call the Moderate Consolidation. Former candidates who shared many policies and values with Biden, notably Buttigieg, Senator Amy Klobuchar, and former Representative Beto O’Rourke, all endorsed Biden within the period of a few hours . The following Tuesday was the first hint of the power of unity, as Biden swept ten of the fifteen Super Tuesday states and territories . States like O’Rourke’s home state of Texas and Klobuchar’s home state of Minnesota were previously believed to be toss-ups at best, yet the endorsements pulled Biden over the top . Fast forward a little over a month, and America is in the midst of a pandemic. A sudden and simultaneous dual disaster of a health crisis and economic crisis has changed everyday life as we know it. However, in the middle of all of this, comes a second series of high-profile endorsements. Over the span of a week, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders endorse Biden, and are joined by former president Barack Obama . The former two were the most progressive Democratic candidates for president this past cycle, and Obama is lauded by Americans of all political affiliations. Thus, these endorsements marked the Liberal Consolidation, the unifying of the entirety of the Democratic Party behind Biden, seemingly a fully united front against President Trump. However, many conservative Never-Trumpers and centrist politicians often critical of the President currently remain on the fence. Luckily, if there is any person who could convince them to join the fight against Trump, it’s Joe Biden. Biden is seen by many as a moderate Democrat. His policies are closer to the center in comparison to many of his former competitors’. It is this perception of moderateness and willingness to compromise to the political center that could earn the support of conservative politicians such as former Republican Representative Justin Amash, vocal Trump critic, and former Ohio governor John Kasich, respected Senator Mitt Romney who voted for the removal of Trump from office in February, and other politicians who have publicly stated their difficulty deciding between Trump and Biden, such as Senator Lisa Murkowski . This potential Conservative Consolidation would all but ensure a Democratic victory in November, as the conservative politicians would be able to convince their constituents to support Joe Biden. However, it is important to note that Biden is more than a unifier: he is a stepping stone to a more progressive future. You may have noticed that I spoke of the “perception of moderateness” that could earn the support of conservatives. I phrased it this way purposefully, because one of Biden’s greatest strengths is his ability to mask progressive policies in moderate rhetoric. While his policies are admittedly less ambitious than those of his other previous competitors, come January 2021 he will be the most progressive president in recent history, advocating for new reforms previously seen as radical—supporting everything from a $15 minimum wage to Senator Warren’s bankruptcy plan would have seemed like all but political suicide just a decade or two ago. Biden also has a history of fighting for progressive reforms, notably for Black Americans. Biden was a co-sponsor of the Civil Rights Act of 1990 that aimed to protect Blacks from employment discrimination, and his current plan for Black America vows to tackle wealth disparities and expand access to high-quality education, among other things . Donald Trump, on the other hand, was quoted in 1991 as having said that he hated having Black accountants, and that “laziness is a trait in [Blacks]” . And as president, Trump has appeared to more vocally oppose a Black football player kneeling on the ground than a police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd. So, for those of you who, like me, are fed up with the regressive policies of President Trump and want a more progressive candidate, I encourage you to take comfort in the fact that electing Joe Biden as president will be a stepping stone toward a new progressive future, normalizing what may have otherwise been seen as radical rather than common sense, and laying the groundwork for a new era of progressivism.  – https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5e5c9942c5b6beedb4edbabc/amp – https://ballotpedia.org/Super_Tuesday_primaries,_2020 – https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/our-final-forecast-for-super-tuesday-shows-bidens-surge-and-lots-of-uncertainty/ – https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.politico.com/amp/news/2020/04/15/warren-endorses-biden-as-democrats-unite-for-the-fall-187627 – https://news.yahoo.com/amphtml/murkowski-praises-mattis-speaking-says-171051493.html – https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/20/opinion/joe-biden-progressive.html – https://joebiden.com/blackamerica/ – https://fortune.com/2016/06/07/donald-trump-racism-quotes/
Lift Every Voice
June 5, 2020, 4:21 p.m.
The Biden War Room
It has been 401 years since the first 20 or so African slaves first arrived in the current United States in Point Comfort, Virginia after being seized by British privateers from a Portuguese slave ship and while significant gains have been made for the civil rights of African Americans over the course of our country’s history, it is apparent more than ever that there is still work to be done before we can truly say we do right by African Americans. Within the past few months alone, a light has been shown on how our Black community is still deeply hurt by systemic inequities in the United States. The compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting African Americans and the murder of George Floyd and countless other African Americans at the hands of the police have ignited the desire for institutional change by Americans from all walks of life for the Black community. The hard work in front of us to create an equitable and just society for African Americans cannot be done under the Trump Administration, especially when they have consistently ignored how the Black community has been disproportionately affected by the social and economic difficulties the United States has faced in the past few months alone and dismisses the deep history behind the causes behind our systemic inequities. We simply cannot continue to live under an administration that continuously lies that they are doing the best for the Black community when the reality of their policies is far from the best we can do as Americans. The Biden War Room would like to highlight a few key policy proposals from Biden Plan for Black America (the full text of this plan can be read at https://joebiden.com/blackamerica/) that outlines how Vice President Joe Biden will begin to immediately address issues facing the Black community from Day 1 on January 20, 2021 for long-term, sustainable progress for African Americans. Perhaps the most immediate concern that Americans from all walks of life have expressed through 1st Amendment protected protests across the country for the Black community is the need for police reform and a fair system of justice. Under the Obama-Biden Administration, the Justice Department used authority from legislation spearheaded by Biden during his time in the Senate to address systemic police misconduct in communities such as Ferguson, Missouri after the police shooting of Michael Brown. However, under the Trump Administration’s Justice Department, the use of the tools provided in this legislation was significantly limited. The Biden Administration vows to restore and strengthen the power of legislation designed to give the Justice Department the authority to root out unconstitutional and unlawful policing through new legislation that would clarify that pattern-or-practice investigation authority can also be used to address systemic misconduct by local and state prosecutor’s offices to address the concerns of communities. The Biden Administration would also provide a $300 million investment towards the Community Oriented Policing Services program, which was a program that was never funded but would provide conditions, funding, and training for communities to have policing that reflects local racial diversity will scrutinize the types of equipment that the police are able to use at their disposal. Additionally, the Biden Administration would establish a panel to scrutinize what type of equipment that police departments are able to use at their disposal, an issue that has gained significant importance after the life-long injuries civilians and journalists have sustained at the hands of the police during the protests after the police murder of George Floyd. African Americans have also faced recent devastation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that African Americans faced worse health outcomes under the COVID-19 pandemic than other racial and ethnic groups in the United States. The CDC has stated that “The conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play contribute to their health. These conditions, over time, lead to different levels of health risks, needs, and outcomes among some people in certain racial and ethnic minority groups.” With 90% of African-American owned businesses shut out of financial relief programs designed for economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental pollution in African-American communities exacerbating COVID-19 symptoms, and greater numbers of African-Americans in our essential workforce, systemic change must be made for the Black community to address inequities created over the course of our difficult history for recovery and better long-term public health outcomes. For community economic recovery, the Biden Administration plans to reverse the cuts made to the Small Business Administration by the Trump Administration and expand access to lending services and federal contracts to underserved communities so that African-American small business owners have equitable access to capital like their White entrepreneurial counterparts. To address environmental public health factors, the Biden Administration will restore the strength of the Environmental Protection Agency by prosecuting corporate pollution ignored under the Trump Administration and will reduce matching funds required of local governments that do not have the tax base to repair critical water infrastructure ignored in predominantly African-American communities such as Flint, Michigan. Finally, to tackle challenges in health care access for Black communities, the Biden Administration plans to not only build upon the Affordable Care Act passed under the Obama-Biden Administration, but to create a public option for health care coverage and ensure that all medical costs related to COVID-19 are fully covered for every American, insured or uninsured. Of course, change in a representative democratic system will always be an ongoing project and the input of members of the Black community for tangible policy solutions is vital for the success of policies that reflect our ideals of an equitable society. Vice President Biden vows to not only listen to Black leaders and communities, but to appoint effective leaders that are representative of the people. His promise to appoint the first African-American woman to the Supreme Court will not be his only appointment that will help our government be more representative of our country’s demographics. Together, we can help create a more representative, equitable, and just society through democratic actions at every level of government by electing Vice President Biden on November 3, 2020 and defeat the current administration that chooses to ignore and dismiss issues that have faced the Black community for far too long.