Someday I’ll be living in a big ol’ city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Someday I’ll be big enough so you can’t hit me
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean
Why you gotta be so mean?
This morning while driving to school, my daughter and I listened to Taylor Swift’s song Mean as we drove to school. On the way home I was thinking about Mitt Romney and realized this could be a theme song for him. I can only hope that his campaign has reached the point of no return, his Macaca moment, jumping the shark, after videos surfaced that showed him disdaining, insulting and misunderstanding half of America, while speaking to wealthy private donors.
The videos are worth watching, and I encourage you to do so. Mother Jones magazine received and published the videos and they are still releasing more secret videos.
There is so much being written about the videos that I will keep my response relatively short, but I was struck by several points:
• In the videos, Romney finally seems relaxed and genuine, speaking off the cuff to a group of wealthy donors. He does not seem stiff, robotic and scripted. Unfortunately, the Real Romney comes across as devoid of compassion and understanding for at least half of the general public, and one has to imagine, maybe he only really understands and cares about fellow Republican 1%ers.
There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe they’re entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. But that’s – that’s an entitlement and the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.
I mean the president starts off with the 48, 49, 40 – he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax.
• Romney could have been speaking about the 47% of people who don’t pay in terms of the election, but he really didn’t frame it that way. He could have said he needed to focus on persuasion and turnout of the 5%-10% of swing voters who are undecided, but he didn’t frame it that way. He didn’t just say that he would never convince certain people to vote for him. Instead he said “My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” Wow, the only way to not be a hopeless loser is to be a rich Republican voter. Romney really and truly only seems to care about Republican 1%ers like himself. Memo to Mitt: the President is the President for everybody in the country.
• David Weigel on Slate.com reports that the 47% who receive government aid are not a complete overlap with the 47% who would vote for President Obama. Many of the people who rely on government programs are Republicans. Check out We Are the 47%: The Lousy Math Behind Romney’s Gaffe
• Romeny is aghast that 1 in 7 Americans receives food assistance, but he only seem to be concerned that the government is spending money, and not concerned at all about those actual families and the pain they must feel, not being able to earn enough money to feed their children adequately.
• Who are the people who don’t pay income taxes? Many of them are the working poor, and the elderly. These people pay many other taxes besides income tax. And if they don’t pay income tax it is because they have limited incomes. Senior citizens have paid into Social Security and Medicare for their whole lives, and now we are paying them back with benefits they paid for. It’s amazing that Romney uses income tax as a measure of one’s contribution to society, since we know that he pays very little (no?) “income tax” and instead pays a lower rate of tax classified as carried interest and capital gains. For excellent coverage on this issue listen to this morning’s piece from NPR’s Morning Edition.
• Mitt has no understanding of his own privilege. It’s one thing to be wealthy, successful and grateful. It’s offensive to be born on third base and think you hit a triple. Romney says he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth only to the extent that he was born in America. But being born poor in America is not so great, to put it mildly. We have seen that the American dream of working hard and getting ahead is more difficult to achieve than ever.
• Similarly, Romney proudly said he didn’t inherit his wealth, he earned it. But his parents paid for his boarding school, college, grad school, and his first house. That is the kind of privileged head start it takes to get ahead in America. Peggy Macintosh has written about the Invisible Backpack of White Privilege, the advantages that white people take for granted and don’t even see. It’s like being in a bicycle race with the wind at your back, while other people are cycling into a strong headwind. You don’t feel the wind when it’s at your back, but it is there helping you.
So there you have it, Real Romney laying his authentic thoughts on the line for his exclusive group of 150 donors. But we’ll see how that plays out with the other 314,402,531 Americans. It should be an absolute deal-breaker. For so many reasons, now beyond a doubt, Romeny is not fit to lead.
There were many memorable speeches at last week’s Democratic Convention: President Obama, President Clinton and First Lady Michelle Obama got a great deal of deserved attention. But hearing more than 12 hours of speeches, there were many other speakers who stood out–some of whom were “regular” people: Sister Simone Campbell of Nuns on the Bus, Zach Walls who spoke about marriage equality on behalf of his moms. And I could not neglect to mention former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who revved up the crowd with her Detroit auto industry inspired zingers. She had a sound bite for the ages when said that in Mitt Romney’s world, “the cars get the elevator and the workers get the shaft.” During the 6+-hour wait before the President spoke, Granholm really got the crowd revving.
One of my favorite testimonies was shown via video. Edith S. Childs from Greenwood, South Carolina, tells the story of how she got Barack Obama “Fired Up, Ready to Go.” She created a meme that fired up a movement.
It is an inspiring and charming story…watch it for yourself.
Last week’s Democratic Convention was an amazing experience. The people and energy in Charlotte were wonderful. Aside from the strange police-state security and some offensive protestors, my main impression after spending a week in community with a diverse group of Democrats was, “This is a country that I would like to live in.” Bringing together tens of thousands of people from around the country created a flash-mob instant community that made downtown Charlotte feel like a major metropolis. I wanted to share one action shot from the convention….here I am with my friend Elizabeth Cunningham getting settled in before the Emily’s List Town Hall meeting.
I have a few quick thoughts about the election, which ends in only 55 days! I say ENDS in 55 days instead of “takes place on November 6th” because early voting starts as soon as two weeks from tomorrow in the tossup state of Iowa.
• This is going to be a close election! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. President Obama’s supporters need to work even harder than they worked in 2008 to win him a second term.
• Women’s votes have never been more crucial. There is a huge gender gap and women favor President Obama. Every single vote is important. Even if everyone you know is voting one way–whether that means the same as you or different from you!–please get out and cast your ballot. In 2008 President Obama won the state of North Carolina by 14,000 votes, which my friend Diane Robertson calculated to represent 5 votes per precinct. We want a big enough margin of victory to make sure that we don’t get entangled in “hanging chads” and other ridiculous shenanigans that we saw in 2000, which ultimately gave Florida and the election to George W. Bush.
• Voter turnout is even more essential in light of unpatriotic voter suppression efforts going on in many states. The website www.GottaVote.org (created by the Obama campaign) can help people make sure they are registered and know how to vote.
Think about the people in your life who might face barriers to voting because they are first-time voters (college students for example), don’t have a government-issued photo ID which is newly required in some states, don’t have a car, or have moved recently. Can you help them make a plan to exercise their citizen’s right to vote? At the Democratic convention, I especially admired the speech given by Congressman John Lewis, civil rights pioneer, who made a powerful historic link to past civil right struggles and the current election. People struggled, suffered and died so that minorities and women have the right to vote. We can honor them best by exercising those rights.
• Vote early if you possibly can. I like the feeling of voting on Election Day, but I learned in 2008 that voting early is one of the best things you can do for your candidate. When you vote early, your vote is “in the bank” for your candidate. You know you’ve gotten it done–there’s no chance that a flat tire, sick child, or bad weather could derail your plans on Election Day. By voting early, you make the line just a little bit shorter on Election Day for someone else who is working on a tight schedule. You don’t want people to see a long line and leave in frustration. By voting early, you still have time to address and correct any issues that arise. And, when you vote early, you’ll cut down on all the phone calls you’d otherwise get to ask you to vote–that spares you extra phone calls and also saves money and time for organizations you support to reach out to help other voters.
Starting out with a shout-out to Taylor Ferrera’s “Legitimate Rape” song:
Republican Senate candidate Todd Aiken’s ignorant comments about “legitimate rape” and his claim that women who were raped would not get pregnant has received a great deal of well-deserved attention this week. The spotlight is now on women’s reproductive rights, and it’s important that we keep investigating and talking, beyond the issue of “rape exceptions.”
The Republican party wants you to know that they are officially a “100% pro life party,” (their words, not mine; listen to today’s Diane Rehm Show) and they are finalizing the platform for the GOP convention next week will that will further solidify that position.
Democrats are officially pro choice. What about people who are “in the middle”? What does that mean on this issue? Being “in the middle” is a difficult concept due to the totally asymmetric effects of a “pro-life” or “pro-choice” approach.
Pro-life activists want to impose their morality on everybody else. If they win enough seats in power, if you disagree with them, too bad, you have do to what they say. Yes, this is particularly ironic and problematic when a lot of old white men are very very concerned with your sexuality and use of contraception, and they want to deny your options for reproductive health and medical care.
On the other hand, if a lawmaker is pro-choice, and you disagree with them, you can still act on your own conscience and what is best to you. Nobody will compel you to use birth control or get an abortion–if you don’t believe in those practices you don’t have to use them or even endorse them. You just have to allow that other people have different thoughts, experiences and lives and therefore might make different choices than you.
It’s natural to feel a little bit “in the middle” or unsure about some of these issues. I find it almost impossible to discuss abortion in the abstract. It’s easy to say you would never need an abortion but the fact is that life is unpredictable and you never know what might happen. Conservative Senator Rick Santorum’s wife faced a tragic situation: in 1996 she was five months pregnant with a fetus that was not viable, and she had an infection that threatened her own life. She was able to have a lifesaving late-term medical procedure, care that could have been called into question under an anti-abortion regime. In a pro-choice legislative world, you have the freedom to make the best medical decision for yourself when faced with a worst-case scenario. Any girl or woman between the ages of about 12 and 50 could find herself in a situation with an unplanned or medically dangerous pregnancy. Women need the legal right to handle those important medical decisions privately, in consultation with their doctors.
In North Carolina, this year the state legislature passed laws making it harder to access abortion, through the ridiculously titled “Women’s Right to Know” act that introduced state-mandated language a doctor had to say, as well as mandatory ultrasounds. This is legislating medicine, which is just wrong. This law has resulted in some very cruel situations, in which a women with a much-wanted pregnancies that were not viable had to endure having ultrasound images placed in her line of sight and to have the doctor describe the images in detail.
A while ago I was talking to a friend and mentor of mine about how hard it can be to stand up and speak in favor of reproductive rights, and she reminded me that “nobody likes abortion.” You don’t have to “like” abortion to be pro-choice. Of course I would like to see a reduction in the number of abortions taking place, through education and widely available contraception. But the fact is that access to abortion is fundamental to women’s health and reproductive rights. “Rape exceptions” may appeal to a hypothetical middle ground, but they are not enough–and by the way, there is a sneaky change in the conversation happening right now. “Rape exceptions” are usually discussed in the context of Federal funding of abortion: under the Hyde Amendment, funding of abortions for low-income women is not allowed, except for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest or that threatened the woman’s life. But in this week’s discussion about abortion, as spurred by Todd Aiken, suddenly we’re talking about whether abortion should be ALLOWED at all in the case of rape or incest. This is a big change, a hard turn to the right.
The Republican platform of being “100% pro-life” requires an awful lot of certainty–more certainty than is reasonable, in my opinion. It takes a lot of hubris to be 100% certain to tell a woman what she must do with her body.
The GOP platform is still being developed but at this point it is likely to include a call for a constitutional amendment banning abortion, and a call for “personhood” status, with 14th Amendment constitutional rights applying to zygotes from the moment of conception. If the ideas in the platform were enacted, they would likely outlaw some forms of birth control, including emergency contraception.
Think that Todd Aiken is on the fringes? Not at all.
ThinkProgress reported on the work that Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan and Todd Aiken have done together in Congress, trying to advance a Personhood bill:
Rep. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin (R-MO) and GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan both cosponsored the bill that introduced America to the despicable term “forcible rape.” As it turns out, this may only be the second most sweeping attack on reproductive freedom that both men partnered on. Ryan and Akin also cosponsored a federal personhood bill, the Sanctity of Human Life Act of 2009, which declares that a fertilized egg is entitled to the exact same legal rights as a human being:
This is what the Republicans want to make the law of the land, and when they talk about letting states decide the details, even when some latitude is possible, Conservatives are busy trying to enact restrictions in state laws as well.
Women need to get out the vote in droves this November. Think about your own best interests, and that of your sisters, daughters, friends and mothers. The Republicans are pushing a truly extreme agenda that seeks to control and punish women.
You have an important choice in the voting booth. Are you willing to have our government dictate to a married woman that she can’t use birth control? Tell a sexual assault survivor that she has to carry and give birth to her rapist’s baby? Deny emergency contraception to a teenager who wants to prevent a pregnancy? I hope not. I urge you to vote Democratic to protect women’s rights.
The Diane Rehm Show has an excellent hour today with a diverse panel discussing the Republican Party Platform. If you listen to that you’ll hear just how stark the choice being offered by the two parties really is.
Additional reporting & commentary:
Rape exceptions aren’t legitimate by Irin Carmon on Salon.com. Todd Akin’s right about this much: Rape exceptions are wrong. You either believe in bodily autonomy, or you don’t
Rape Exceptions Don’t Work by Amanda Marcotte on Slate.com
Obama On Todd Akin: ‘Rape Is Rape’ by Sam Stein on HuffingtonPost.com
Paul Ryan Cosponsored All the Most Extreme Anti-Abortion Bills by Kate Sheppard on Motherjones.com
Do U.S. Abortion Restrictions Violate Human Rights? by Anu Kumar — puts women’s reproductive health into a human rights perspective, on HuffingtonPost.com
Yesterday I experienced an absolute roller coaster of emotions here in North Carolina. In the morning, I was grieving on Facebook with many friends who were devastated that our state passed a Constitutional Amendment (“Amendment One”) to ban gay marriage and domestic partnerships. It was a blow for equal rights, civil rights, in our beloved state which we had hoped would reject this measure.
Then, as we were still coming to grips with the election result, by 3 pm President Obama had announced his support for marriage rights for gay couples! This is a huge advance and I want to thank President Obama for reaching this point of public support. It made all the difference in the world to hear this on the sad day that North Carolina wrote discrimination into our State Constitution.
What does this mean for progressive causes? We should pick up this success and RUN WITH IT all the way to November, building coalitions and working together. I am disappointed that so many progressives are downplaying the significance of President Obama’s announcement, saying that it took too long, didn’t go far enough, or was done for political reasons. We need to shake that off and embrace what has happened. The President of the United States has said he supports marriage rights for gay people. That is a historic milestone. And by the way, from where I sit in North Carolina, a swing state, it took a lot of courage, leadership and vision for the President to make this announcement on the day that the state voted against marriage and partnership rights.
Democrats and Progressives need to get organized and disciplined between now and November. We are up against a very well organized Republican opposition with tons of money. (Actually the Republicans are in a world of hurt, with their coalition ripping at the seams, and a weak candidate in Mitt Romney but they are still very powerful and funded with unlimited secret money this time around.)
Thoughts on what Progressives need to do now:
We will win our causes by addition, not subtraction. We need to build our coalitions. Gay people need civil rights. In North Carolina, even with yesterday’s defeat, advocacy organizations could celebrate the amount of new supporters they had brought together. For example, Equality NC grew from 26,000 supporters to 100,000 supporters since last November. And, the LGBT community saw that their straight allies were willing to make equality a major issue in their political lives, with donations, letters to the editor, yard signs, phone banking, and voting. We had a huge voter turnout. 831,788 North Carolinians voted against Amendment One. How can we mobilize those 831,788 people between now and November?
Who else needs to have their rights protected? Women, whose reproductive rights and health care are under attack. People of color, whose voting rights are under attack in NC. The environment–all the people whose clean water and air would be threatened if fracking came to NC (hint, that is all of us, and particularly farmers and rural citizens, many of whom strongly oppose fracking). Students, who face crippling student loans as well as large cuts to educational funding from birth through college.
How can civil rights groups, economic justice groups, reproductive rights advocates, and environmentalists come together in a disciplined way and work our butts off to have greater wins in November? There are excellent groups doing this work and I will give a shout-out to Blueprint NC, which is a leader in our state.
We need to keep focused on finding Progressive allies wherever they are and not allowing ourselves to be divided. One trend I saw in the conversation on Facebook yesterday was people from the urban Triangle area where I live saying, “I’ll never set foot in the counties where they voted for Amendment One.” That is a huge mistake. We can’t write off those voters. We need to engage them–those areas won’t necessarily be a stronghold of liberal views, but how can we make a case about the economic recovery, health care, clean air and water, and other issues that we share? We need to bring more people into the fold, and come November, each and every vote will count.
Finally, this is probably a good subject for another post but I will touch on it here, I have thought a lot about the asymmetry of Tolerance versus Intolerance. It is harder to organize Tolerance because it naturally comes with a worldview that understands shades of gray and differences of opinion. A tolerant person might be personally turned off by abortion or gay marriage but would still vote in favor of other people’s rights to conduct their lives differently. The intolerance of the Right is naturally more organized because they see the world in black and white. It infuriates me that someone like Rick Santorum somehow thinks his own morality is offended if I use birth control. Intolerance is terrible social policy–and it feels threatened to the core by Tolerance itself–but it makes for a disciplined political approach if a coalition can be sustained.
So for those of us who are tolerant, Progressive, Independent, or Democrats, it’s time to seriously come together. Don’t let the Republicans divide us and for heaven’s sake don’t divide us ourselves!!!! Give President Obama credit and thanks for his support for marriage equality. See the seeds of political progress when they are in front of our eyes, and water, nurture, tend it it and GROW a movement.
Onward to November.