Category Archives: Electoral politics

Benicia’s Stephen Golub: The Long Walk Home

A Promised Land – Politics. Policy. America as a Developing Country, by Stephen Golub, December 16, 2020

Our Long Walk Home

We started this week.

Rounding the Corner

Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 song, “Long Walk Home,” offered a stark metaphor for George W. Bush’s America. The protagonist returns to a hometown peopled by friends who, having abandoned their ideals, have become strangers to him.

Since 2016, that feeling has rung true for many of us, arguably to an even greater extent.

But the song is also resolute and hopeful about the long walk back to enduring ideals, a better town and a better country. Its most memorable lines are:

You know that flag flying over the courthouse means certain things are set in stone

Who we are, what we’ll do and what we won’t

That positive message came to mind this week, as the nation stepped back from a president who would do anything he could get away with and as we took key steps toward installing a successor who values the public interest and public health.

More specifically, the Electoral College officially affirmed Joe Biden as President-elect. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans finally recognized Biden’s win, albeit shamefully belatedly.

Moreover, a New York nurse received the first shot in the national coronavirus inoculation campaign. The FDA cleared a second vaccine for imminent approval.

To use a phrase that Donald Trump misused so often, so dishonestly and so ridiculously, we’re finally rounding the corner.

A Rough Road

We still face an awfully long, awfully rough road ahead. In addition to the good news, the week also saw the United States top 300,000 official Covid fatalities (with the true Covid toll, measured in excess deaths, standing at over 350,00).

The worst is yet to come this deadly winter. Total lives lost here could reach half a million or more. Debates and egregious inequities regarding vaccine distribution will roil our country and the world.

We also could see Trump at his worst in his final weeks in office. Both before and after he sails off into his post-presidency sewer, he’ll do his best to poison our democracy. His supporters will try to make a fiasco out of Congress’s normally pro forma tallying of electoral votes on January 6. And if there is one lesson we’ve learned about Trump, there’s no low to which he won’t go, including lows we might not even imagine.

Finally, it’s clear that our problems transcend Trump. Even if he disappears from the scene, he’ll leave behind a Republican Party whose de facto denigration of democracy is only rivaled by its refusal to address climate change and the myriad other problems plaguing the country. What’s worse, a big chunk of the public supports such stands.

Back to Bruce

Which brings us back to Bruce and to some sense of hope. His assertion, “that flag flying over the courthouse means certain things are set in stone,” takes on retrospective resonance. The judiciary, including many Trump appointees, consistently rejected the president’s preposterous attempts to overturn the election. That flag still flies.

Springsteen’s insistence that there are certain things we won’t do originally applied to the Bush administration’s violations of our values, with torture topping the list. The administration shattered standards set in stone (even as it upheld some others, such as the president preaching tolerance toward Muslims in the aftermath of 9/11). It did so at the price of what the flag represents, of ideals we needed to restore.

Trump has committed so many transgressions that it’s hard to know where to begin listing what he’s done that previous American presidents would not do. Costing hundreds of thousands of lives through pandemic denialism and lies? Ripping hundreds of migrant children from their parents, perhaps permanently? Spewing and spreading hate at every opportunity? Seeking to destroy our democracy?

We’ve Been Here Before

But let’s recall the good news: This week saw us set out on the long walk to undo Trump’s legacy, to restore some normalcy and decency to our governance, to launch policies that will help millions of Americans and – after months of incompetence, indifference and disinformation – to conquer Covid.

We’ve trekked on such paths many times before in our history, never completing the journey but often achieving  significant success. Springsteen wrote “Long Road Home” two years before Barack Obama’s election most recently took us back onto a positive course.

Obama’s presidency was far from perfect. However, he led the country out of a very dark phase, rescued it from an economic abyss, enacted health care reforms that helped many millions and otherwise showed us what our better angels can accomplish. The fact that Trump succeeded Obama does not negate such progress.

Begin Again

A “Long Road Home” also says this:

Here everybody has a neighbor, everybody has a friend

Everybody has a reason to begin again

My father said, “Son, we’re lucky in this town, it’s a beautiful place to be born…

We can begin again by grasping how lucky we still are, compared to so many other countries on their own obstruction-strewn roads.

I know that “lucky” is that last word we might want to use, in view of both the last four years and our many troubling long-term trends. I by no means suggest that we should be happy with our situation.

Nonetheless, America’s relative levels of wealth, education, resources, security and institutional independence and competence place us in a better state than numerous less fortunate nations. We should remain aware that reformers and ordinary citizens in those places have prevailed over their own, even more desperate plights or are now striving to do so.

Consider South Africa, for instance. Nelson Mandela aptly named his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom partly because of the decades of sustained struggle he and his anti-apartheid movement undertook. Like his fellow non-white citizens, he endured potentially spirit-crushing racist indignities and abuses for much of his life. He then spent 27 years in prison.

Yet, to paraphrase a line from Trump ally McConnell, Mandela persisted.

And he prevailed, leading the defeat of apartheid and ascending to his country’s presidency in 1994.

And consider Cambodia. As I write this, an old friend and other leaders of the country’s pro-democracy opposition party plan to fly back there from abroad early next month, to face trial and quite possibly jail on trumped-up charges.

Why? In order to shine an international light on the repressive thugocracy ruling the country. And to continue, potentially at great cost, their own long walks to freedom.

We can ignore such other nations’ struggles that should inspire us. We can view the wreckage Trump has wrought as impossible to overcome. We can surrender to the obstacles that he, McConnell and so many others throw in our path. We can understandably wonder what kind of populace accords him so many votes.

Or we can accept that the fight for freedom is never-ending, that the long walk home is grueling and that, while we can never get all the way there, we have reason to begin again.

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If you’re up for a beautiful rendition of “Long Walk Home,” here it is:

If you’re in the mood for something comical about Trump’s rounding-the-corner claims, here you go:

Encouraging study – women more involved in 2020 political process

[Editor: I got this in an email from Susannah Delano of Close the Gap California.  Too much BAD news these days – here’s one to get our hopes up.  Fascinating charts – especially Key Takeaway #1. – R.S.]

Stepping Up and Standing Out: Women’s Political Participation in 2020

Read the memo here, the blog post here, and the press release here

Women of all ages and political affiliations — particularly millennials and women of color—have become more politically engaged since 2016, a trend that is likely to continue in the 2020 cycle. Our new research gives further insights into what motivates women and how they plan to participate this year.

Key Takeaways:

1. The 2016 election marked a new era of women’s involvement in political issues and campaigns and they show no sign of stopping in the 2020 cycle.

  • Only 16% of all surveyed women voters said they have become less politically involved in the last few years, with more than half (55%) saying their involvement has stayed the same, and almost one third (29%) reporting increased involvement.
    • The survey shows that Democratic women have been especially motivated to actively participate in the political process, with 35% saying that they have gotten more involved in politics in the last few years, compared to 27% of Republican women and 23% of women who consider themselves Independent.
    • Increased participation is notable among two key voting blocs: 41% of millennial women (18-34 years old) and 36% of women of color say that they have gotten more involved recently.
  • Looking ahead to the 2020 election, the trend of increased involvement is likely to continue, with 31% of women saying they will become more involved and only 9% saying they will be less engaged.
    • Among Democratic women, 39% say they will be more involved this year along with 40% of millennial woman and 40% of women of color.

2. Women are engaging in a range of activities, but are particularly focused on encouraging friends or family to vote or get involved in a campaign or issue.

  • 42% of respondents said that they have encouraged friends or family members to vote or become involved in a campaign or issue—compared to just 35% of men.
  • Millennial women are leading the charge and taking to the streets— nearly one-fourth of them (23%) reported that they have attended a march, rally, or protest since 2016.
  • On every key political action, women of color report being more politically engaged than white women—they volunteer their time, donate to candidates, attend marches, sign petitions, and encourage their friends to get involved at higher rates.

3. Despite increased involvement in political issues, women voters identified time (i.e. being too busy working and/or taking care of family) as the biggest barrier to getting politically involved.

  • The survey asked voters to choose their top reason for not getting involved among a list of several potential barriers: 22% of women said they were too busy working or taking care of their families as the top reason they didn’t get involved compared to 12% of men who identified work or family obligations as their main barrier.

4. Confidence in their own political knowledge is also a barrier unique to women.

  • Despite comparable news consumption, women are 3 times more likely to choose “I don’t know enough about political issues to get involved” as their top reason for not getting involved in politics (15% of women vs. 5% of men).

5. Women, on either side of the political aisle, are primarily motivated by the aspirations they hold for the country.

  • We tested several reasons for why voters have gotten involved in politics in the past few years, and the top two are I want to make my country a better place and I want to make sure our country moves forward not backward.

6. Women are inspired by other women’s political involvement, especially when it comes to supporting women running for office.

  • Women are more likely to volunteer or donate to female candidates, especially Democratic and millennial women, as well as women of color.


The survey was conducted nationwide among 800 likely 2020 presidential voters (including 600 women and 200 men) during December 5-12, 2019.Full data report available here.

My thoughts on possible District Voting in Benicia

By Roger Straw, January 17, 2020
Roger Straw, The Benicia Independent

On Tuesday January 21, Benicia’s City Council will consider a proposal to change our electoral process from At-Large voting for Council candidates to four newly-defined small geographical districts.  Benicia citizens need to pay attention to this – it may sound ok, but consider…

I think our ability to join forces against the massive and mean-spirited outside corporate influences we saw in our 2018 election would be immeasurably weakened by adoption of district voting.

In 2018, a PAC funded by Valero Services and organized labor spent over $200,000 to smear and defeat Council candidate Kari Birdseye.  (See below for background.)  A similar campaign was waged against candidate Elizabeth Patterson in 2007.

A Council campaign funded and run in a small Benicia district would not be capable of standing up to limitless corporate PAC money.  And Benicia is way too small to be divided into four districts capable of finding and supporting multiple competitive candidates across the political spectrum.

In many cities, district voting makes sense as a measure to strengthen and empower concentrated minority groups.  Note that I am decidedly in FAVOR of empowering minority voting strength, especially when it comes to racial and ethnic minorities.  Most of us would agree.  But Benicia’s racial and ethnic mix is not concentrated in any linear district – so district voting would do absolutely nothing to advance minority voting strength.

What about other sub-groups in geographically defined parts of Benicia?

Our Southampton hills 1) is already represented by Mr. Largaespada, 2) could have elected Kari Birdseye as a Southampton neighbor if she hadn’t been targeted and smeared, and 3) had Mark Hughes as a resident Council member for years.  I’m guessing Southampton probably had a few more Council members going back before my time.

A case CAN probably be made that Benicia’s East Side has been underrepresented over the years – but district voting would create more problems than it would fix for Eastsiders.  IMPORTANT: How could an underfunded campaign in a smaller population on the East side possibly put up a fight against Valero and organized labor?!

CORRECTION: A kind reader has pointed out that current Council member Tom Campbell lives on Benicia’s East side.  Campbell and former Council member Jan Cox-Golovich live in a section of town north of Military and just EAST of an imaginary First Street dividing line.

MY CONCLUSION: District voting would only give outside big money greater strength to stack our City Council.


Your voice is important!


BACKGROUND ON BENICIA’S 2018 CORPORATE SMEAR CAMPAIGN

    • My background article on Jan 6, 2020 with quote from SF Chronicle, stating over $200,000 was spent by the Valero PAC.  My comment: “Kari ran for City Council in 2018 in a field of 4, competing for 2 seats on Council.  Only she didn’t just run against her opponents.  She ran against a $200,000-plus smear campaign orchestrated by Benicia Valero Refinery and its friends in organized labor.  The three major candidates’ campaigns spent less than $30,000 each, while Valero saturated our phone lines, mailboxes, newspapers and social media with misinformation and ugly photos.”
    • My post-election call on Nov 12 2018 for Council action to reform campaign spending – including comparison of the $200,000 with candidate spending of under $30,000 each.
    • My Oct 28 2018 article just before the Nov election which reported a smear campaign total of $155,000 as of that time. My  comment in that article: “News broke in late September that a major worldwide corporate power had bullied its way into our local democratic process.  Valero Services Inc., based in Texas but with 115 subsidiaries in Delaware, Michigan, Canada and several wealthy Caribbean nations, decided it wanted to buy a seat on the Benicia City Council. Their first strategy was to spend an unknown amount of money to employ two national firms, EMC Research and Research America, to conduct a nasty telephone “push poll,” blatantly mischaracterizing and demeaning one candidate for Council and painting rosy pictures of two others.  When our City Attorney challenged the polling firms, Valero Refinery executive Don Wilson admitted that Valero paid for the poll, but neither he nor the polling firms would comply with our demands for more information.”
    • Weekly and daily reporting of details as the smear campaign unfolded: beniciaindependent.com/?s=birdseye

Gun control links – renewed call to VOTE THEM OUT!

By Roger Straw
[Originally published in the spring of 2018 following the Parkland, FL mass shooting, republished here in November 2018 following mass shootings in Pittsburgh, PA and Thousand Oaks, CA.  – R.S.]

School shootings and other mass murders will never stop until we elect new leaders who are willing to stand up to the NRA.  Below you will find links to organizations dedicated to ending gun violence.  Many are focusing on electing new leaders who stand for change.  Please click on at least one today – sign a petition, make a contribution, join or start a new group.  Renew your commitment to resist!

National

Everytown For Gun Safety (everytown.org/throwthemout/)

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Guns Down America (gunsdownamerica.org/)


States United to Prevent Gun Violence (ceasefireusa.org/)

States United to Prevent Gun Violence


Indivisible (indivisible.org)


The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus (keepgunsoffcampus.org/)


Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (lawcenter.giffords.org/take-action/)


Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (csgv.org/)


California & Benicia

Bay Area Student Activists (bayareastudentactivists.org/)

Bay Area Student Activists


Benicia March For Our Lives (facebook.com/groups/529647794085732/)


 

North Bay|#NEVERAGAIN (twitter.com/nbayNEVERAGAIN)

North Bay|#NEVERAGAIN


northbayneveragain (instagram.com/northbayneveragain/)


Women Against Gun Violence (wagv.org/)


Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, California Chapters (bradycampaign.org/)

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence logo