It Is Time to Redefine Terrorism and Legislate Firearms
October 3, 2017
And we mourn again today. We mourn the countless dead and wounded in Las Vegas, Nevada. Not at the hands of the destruction unleashed by forces of nature or the targeting by foreign militants, but the chilling and deliberate killing by one of us – a white man with guns. Why do we remain silent as we witness a slow-motion massacre unfolding before us? Ordinary people’s lives are in danger. From school shootings to crowd-carnage, we are becoming anesthetized to this very real danger in our midst. Firearm regulation, or the lack thereof, is now a serious public health and safety issue.
Twenty years of government-funded research has shown several effective ways to address the issue of gun violence. Among these efforts, which need political support and a bit of money, are:
There are about 300 million privately owned firearms in the US – that works out to about one gun for every American. The US has the highest gun ownership in the world, followed by Yemen. We are the most powerfully armed civilian population. Most Americans don’t own guns though. Most gun-owners own more than two firearms. Gun ownership is higher among whites than blacks; higher in the country than in the city; higher among older people. Due to the inaction of Congress, anyone on the terrorism watch list can buy a gun. Any felon, convict, or suspect can buy a gun as well.
So, yes, people’s lives are in danger, and we do need to make America safe again. But it’s not by fixating solely on our narrow definition of terrorism. Between 2001 and 2013, 3,030 people were killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil — a number that includes the terrible toll of September 11, 2001, according to University of Maryland data. But during that same time frame, records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 406,496 people were killed by gunfire.
And yet the power of the gun lobby is on the rise. Since 1980, 44 states have passed gun laws allowing concealed weapons. A federal ban in 1994 to possess, transfer, or manufacture semi-automatic assault weapons was allowed to expire in 2004. Twenty-four states have passed “Stand Your Ground” laws allowing citizens to use deadly force if they think they are in danger of being assaulted.
Adding another potential danger is the SHARE Act (Sportsman’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act) currently before Congress. Among other things, it would make it easier to buy silencers to disguise the sound of gunfire. The tragedy in Las Vegas likely would have been even worse if the shooter had used a silencer.
Forty percent of guns purchased in America are bought from private sellers at gun shows, or through classified ads – thus creating an unregulated marketplace. One in three Americans knows someone who has been shot. “We live in a society now that is Balkanized,” claims David Keene, past president of the NRA. “But that has nothing to do with guns.” Really, sir?
Former Chief Justice Warren Burger got it right. “The new interpretation of the Second Amendment was one of the greatest pieces of fraud on the American public by special-interest groups,” he said.
It is time to address this fraud, to right this wrong. It is time for our nation to wake up to the very real and present danger that lurks in our society and flourishes in plain sight.
Voter Suppression: The Dark Cloud Hovering over our Elections
September 19, 2017
September 26 is National Voter Registration Day. The strength of American democracy depends on the ability of citizens to exercise their fundamental right to vote. Instead of pursuing the myth of voter fraud and encouraging tougher restrictions on voting, the Trump administration should be intervening to stop voter suppression. And we should all be actively registering new voters in our districts to expand the electorate.
In the wake of the Charlottesville White Supremacist March and the ensuing melee, it is hard to deny that an ill wind is assuming hurricane proportions as it blows in prejudice and discrimination leading to disenfranchisement of the most vulnerable. The specter of voter fraud was often invoked in the segregation era as an excuse to crack down on the rights of blacks and other minorities, and so it is being widely invoked today.
In the 2008 election, racially coded appeals, including insinuations that Obama was not a natural-born citizen, and that infiltrators had stolen in over the Mexican border to ensure his victory at the ballot box, threatened the legitimacy of the electoral process. This rhetoric has again taken hold in the public’s imagination, nowhere more evident than in the 2016 election and the demonstrably false statements of the current president.
Over decades, states across the country have passed laws and instituted other procedures to make it harder for African Americans, Hispanic Americans, other minorities, the elderly, students, the poor, and people with disabilities to vote. These measures include restrictive photo ID laws, purging of voter rolls, limitations on early voting, felon disenfranchisement, disinformation about voting procedures (robocalls giving false information), inequality in Election Day resources, closure of DMV offices, voter caging, gerrymandering, Jim Crow laws, and long wait-times at polling stations.
Twenty states have passed new restrictive voting laws since 2010, and 14 states had such laws come into effect for the first time in 2016. On average, African American voters are required to wait in line for twice as long as white voters; Hispanic voters spend one and a half times as long. A Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies report estimated that “long lines deterred at least 730,000 Americans from voting in November 2012.”
The 2016 election was the first presidential election since the Shelby County v Holder decision in 2013, in which the U.S. Supreme Court effectively gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Although the results of that decision on the 2016 election are still being debated, studies have consistently shown that strict voter ID laws alone can reduce voter turnout enough to effect a close election, particularly with newly registered voters, young voters, and voters of color.
We have to consistently debunk the Trump Administration’s baseless claims of voter fraud. The President’s so-called “Commission on Election Integrity” should be called out for what it is: a waste of time and taxpayer dollars. There is no evidence that voter fraud occurs on any appreciable scale. This commission is a futile attempt to justify the President’s groundless claims that millions of people voted illegally. And it paves the way for future, even more widespread, voter suppression.
While voter registration is not a solution per se to the problems of widespread voter suppression, it is an essential part of our democratic process. To learn how to participate in National Voter Registration Day, go to https://nationalvoterregistrationday.org.
The Dreamer’s Nightmare
September 6, 2017
The dreamers just woke up from a nightmare. Kids who grew up knowing no other country but the U.S., kids who had bought into the American dream, kids who grew up to work in nearly every company in America, to serve in the military, and most recently put themselves in harm’s way to save victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, have just been thrown under the bus. They stand to lose their jobs, their right to call this country their own as mass deportations loom based upon information they volunteered to the government with the promise it would never be used against them or their families.
Donald J. Trump ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to fulfill a heartless election campaign pledge. Chief of Staff John Kelly’s “inelegant solution” tossed an “unpinned hand grenade at Capitol Hill Republicans,” according to one official. There is a definite pattern that Mr. Trump has established in recent months — postponing consequential decisions on contentious topics, leaving it to others to articulate a final position while trying to dodge the bullet himself.
This particular decision is both cruel and inhumane.
With Congress set to juggle many major tasks over the next month — including providing disaster funding for victims of Hurricane Harvey, raising the debt ceiling, passing a budget, and addressing the White House’s push for tax reform — it’s unclear how much political capital GOP leaders can expend on this issue. And the legislative branch has an abysmal track record of passing any consequential bill.
Mr. Trump has proved that he is soft on convictions. But his hard-line policy advisers, Stephen Miller, Attorney General Sessions, and his still-influential former chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, are not. They believe that a complete and immediate shutdown of the DACA program is essential to fulfill the president’s campaign pledges.
So, Mr. Trump, you build those walls; strip people of their rights; take away their hard-won entitlements; deprive them of healthcare; restore discriminatory practices; create anxiety, confusion, and anarchy — all in the service of white male supremacy and the sanctity of campaign promises. The state of the union is being rent asunder, the fabric of society is in tatters as you continue your assault on our most cherished democratic values.
Symbols of Oppression
August 17, 2017
Why are we protesting the events of August 12, 2017? Why does the fact that our country elected an overt white supremacist strike terror in our hearts – a man who spent years trying to prove that a non-white president had to prove his legitimacy by producing his birth certificate? What does it say about our future when the ruling elite tries desperately to tarnish the legacy of a dignified, qualified, brilliant statesman and president like Barack Obama? Why do we lament the rise of overt misogyny by the white men who are strengthening their hold on our country’s levers of power?
Why was it important for the Charlottesville City Council to vote to remove a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee from what was then called Robert E. Lee Park? This question has been obscured by the pace of events since August 11. The bigotry, hatred, intolerance and violence that was unleashed by this act can be traced to Civil War rhetoric and the empowerment of fringe extremist groups by the current Administration. Chants of “White Lives Matter” and the Nazi-sponsored phrase “blood and soil” rent the air when white nationalists marched through the UVA campus, provoking both fury and fear in those who thought the US had begun to leave the bloody and shameful legacy of slavery and discrimination behind.
August 12, 2017, will be remembered as a day of shame and ignominy forever in the annals of US history. The culmination of the day-long violence between marauding supremacists and marching protesters was the murder of Heather Heyer, who became a victim of a white terrorist as he drove his car into the protesting crowd. Once again a woman paid a price for her courage.
James Alex Fields Jr. of Maumee, Ohio, has been charged with murder. But there were far too many James’ in the crowd with murder in their hearts. The president’s denunciation of these hate-filled cowards was too little and came too late. He calls racism evil but condones it at every step. His tacit encouragement of white terrorists, even as he equates white supremacists with those who oppose them, shames us in the eyes of our country and the world. The United States of America stands for equality and liberty. It stands for justice, domestic tranquility and the general welfare of ALL citizens. Our elected leaders – and all Americans – need to speak with one voice to denounce not only the actions of white supremacists but also of this president. Only then can we begin to heal the still raw wounds of our past.
January 23, 2017
It is the day after the Women’s March on Washington (WMW). Two days after the Inauguration of an unpopular president whose words and actions and cabinet picks have galvanized a vast majority of the nation. Especially women. Not only in this country but across the world. The call to action by women came days after the election results. A retired woman in Hawaii floated the idea of a Million-Woman-March. And it went viral. Four enterprising young women took that idea and ran with it. With a less than two-month lead time, grass-roots community organizing resulted in a stunning success. Over 1.2 million women rallied and marched in our nation’s capital on January 21. Worldwide the number is closer to 5 million. These results have broken all previous records and will be entered in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Why was this March so successful? The answer is complex. The fear of a conservative takeover of the laws of this country is palpable and very real. Climate change and environmental issues are under attack. Women’s right to choose is threatened. As Dani Rodrick wrote in the New York Times: “The real danger Mr. Trump poses is the undermining of our politics — the norms that sustain our liberal democracies. His campaign was based on a divisive politics of identity. Ideals of equity, equal rights, diversity and inclusion were submerged under the weight of a rhetoric that raised racial and ethnic tensions and inflamed passions against imagined enemies — Mexican immigrants, Chinese exporters, Muslim refugees.”
Not only are we looking at the possibility of the dissolution of checks and balances, of regulations either being slackened or removed, ethics laws being defanged but we feel that rule of law is seriously threatened. Civil discourse has flown out of the window. The Affordable Care Act is in serious jeopardy, with a real danger of tens of millions of people losing healthcare benefits. And Mr. Trump is unlikely to be able to fulfill his promise to raise the living standards of his base. He may have to resort to an intensified form of the identity politics that he exploited so successfully during his presidential campaign, leading to a future where ethnic and racial cleavages grow wider.
And so what do we do now? The March is over. It is now time for action. Hundreds of progressive organizations are gearing up to face this challenge. The mantra: March Today, Lobby Tomorrow is resonating across the country. Advocacy, training and civic engagement are the new buzz-words. During the three days leading up to the March we provided workshops on climate change, human rights and Islamophobia, Middle East policy and criminal justice reform. We are now teaming up with different grass-roots organizations to effect policy change through Congress and the Administration. We have initiated a conversation with the organizers of the March to harness the enthusiasm and commitment of their legions of supporters to lobby Congress.
Before we come up with a comprehensive and specific plan in concert with other progressive partners, we all agree on one thing. Each one of us, you and me, need to CALL the following number each day: 202-224-3121. It connects to a Congressional office where you will instantly be redirected to the congressman’s office you want to reach. Who should you call and about what? Each day you can go to the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s website (fcnl.org). Look under “Act Online” to find out which congressional office to target on the issue of the day. The laws being debated, the issues you are passionate about, the congressman or senator you want to influence, all that information will be readily available.
This is a historic moment for action and activism. Let’s move together in concert. And make history again.
Women’s March on Washington
January 16, 2017
The Woman’s National Democratic Club (WNDC) continues its legacy of pressing for women’s and girls’ empowerment by participating actively in the Women’s March on Washington (WMW). We see this not so much as a protest but as a promise for future action.
WNDC has become the official Partner and Clubhouse for the WMW, and is offering four days of programs (January 18-21) that support our mutual goals (see: www.womensmarchevents.com). WNDC founding members marched to ensure the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, and so we shall march again to honor our mothers and to secure the future of our daughters.
We stand for peace, justice and equality. We promise to sustain the momentum created by this march into the next day and the long haul. We believe that successful movements are everyday acts of resistance.
November 11, 2016
This much-anticipated week is now ending. Americans went to the polls on Tuesday with the generally accepted conventional wisdom that it would be a close race with Hillary Clinton the likely winner. In Washington, Virginia, New York, Nevada, California, and Utah that prediction came true. The other states, including some key swing states, slowly started to show an alarming trend. By about 1.30 am on the 9th the results were shockingly clear. The Republican candidate, Donald Trump had an unmistakable lead.
We at the Woman’s National Democratic Club had been a major hub for Democratic campaign activities. In the last two months thousands of activists and well-wishers had been streaming in, all day and all night, to engage in GOTV activities. Judging by the enthusiasm and commitment of these volunteers and just the sheer numbers it was hard to imagine that Election Day results would not go for Clinton. Many members fanned out in key battleground states to knock on doors. Spirits were high and hope was alive.
So what happened on November 8? The ground shifted beneath the feet of not only committed Democrats but also the Republican campaign itself. Against all odds, Donald Trump won the presidency and his party retained control of the Senate. The Democrats picked up two more seats in the Senate ensuring a narrowly divided body. The House was never in serious play anyway. So now Republicans control Congress and the White House.
As Democrats emerge from this seismic shock and results become clear it is time to take stock. Voter turnout was only 53%. Of these 25.6% voted for Clinton and 25.5% voted for Trump. Clinton got 10 million less votes than Obama in 2008 and 6 million less than in 2012. In the Electoral College Trump got a clear victory.
Some commonly held truisms got debunked. The economically disenfranchised were not the only ones that elected Trump, the wealthy played their part. Think tax policy. Captains of industry were solidly in this camp. Another group that voted for Trump over Clinton were older Americans. 58% of the White vote went to Trump. Shockingly 53% of the White women’s vote went to him too. Cuban Americans voted for Trump. Thus, on the Democratic side the overall women’s vote (53% to 41%), the 68% Hispanic vote, the 88% Black vote and 68% of the Jewish vote turned out to be insufficient to ensure victory.
The Democratic Party will now try to figure out why they missed the signs. Why was the media misled? Why were the pollsters and pundits all wrong? And then figure out where to go from here.
The stunned members of the WNDC who had been waiting to pop champagne bottles before midnight on Tuesday are slowly coming back to life. The questions they are asking are many. How could a message of hate, misogyny and divisiveness win over one of clear-eyed competence and experience? What did we do wrong and what do we do now.
The answer lies in positive thinking and regrouping. There are many groups of women who are now feeling rudderless and dispirited. We need to invite them in and discuss clear strategies as we move forward. We need to see this as an opportunity. On Election night dozens of guests promised to join the club to help us in our efforts on behalf of Democratic women. We need to devise a clear plan to energize our base. Protests will not bring the desired results, activism will. We have an opportunity to become a hub for progressive forces by opening our doors to other groups. Some have already approached us. We can do with them what we achieved with the DNC and Hillary-related groups prior to the election. It is time to shake off our grief and move forward with determination. We are in a unique position to start a movement to ensure success for women and for Democrats in the years ahead. As we approach our 100th anniversary we want to be in the same powerful position as when we started on this journey with the Suffragists. We reiterate our commitment to globalism, multiculturalism and diversity. And we need to do all we can ensure success for the Democratic Party and democratic principles in the coming years.