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Thursday, September 27, 2012

To quote the GOP, "Oh sh*t!"

Strategic Allied Consulting, a right-wing voter registration and get out the vote (GOTV) firm run by veteran GOP consultant Nathan Sproul, has been fired the Republican National Committee, (RNC) the Republican Party of Florida, the Republican Party of North Carolina, and the Republican Party of Virginia, upon news that Palm Beach County, Florida’s Supervisor of Elections initially identifying 106 out of 304 voter registration forms as potentially fraudulent. The forms were flagged for what appeared to be phony signatures, and the use of bogus home addresses that matched the street names and numbers corresponding to a gas station, a medical building and a Land Rover dealership. According to Federal Election Committee records, the Republican Party of Florida has paid Sproul’s firm $1.3 thus far this year, and the RNC has paid the group approximately $3 million for work in Nevada, North Carolina, Colorado, and Virginia.

GOP officials and the attorney for Sproul’s firm have issued the following statements:

“We have zero tolerance for any threat to the integrity of elections. When we were informed of an alleged incident we immediately cut all ties to the company,” said RNC Communications Director, Sean Spicer.

“We immediately informed the RNC that we were terminating the contract with the voter-registration vendor we haired at their request because there is no place for voter-registration fraud in Florida,” said Republican Party of Florida Executive Director, Mike Grissom.

“Strategic has a zero tolerance policy for breaking the law… We were able to trace all questionable cards to one individual and immediately terminated our working relationship with the individual in question. Strategic… will continue to cooperate with the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections to ensure that this issue is resolved,” said Strategic Allied Consulting attorney, Fred Petti.

Taking no chances, Sproul’s firm has pulled down its website. Any attempt to visit the online home of Strategic Allied Consulting will be met by a splash page containing the statement quoted above that clicks through to a recurring “not found” error message.

The Electoral College map projected by Real Clear Politics, reflecting national poll averages and accompanying trends, now shows President Obama with a projected 265 electoral votes. The path to the presidency requires 270 electoral votes. Assuming the accuracy of Real Clear Politics’ model, seven swing states are the most hotly contested, and critical: Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Virginia. It is unclear what cutting ties with Sproul’s firm will mean to the Romney operation. But if Strategic Allied Consulting is found to be guilty of voter registration fraud in Florida, it opens the door to challenges to the work they’ve done in other battlegrounds, namely, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, and Virginia.

This is not the first time smoke has been smelled around Sproul’s firm.

As reported by The Nation, “Sproul… is infamous for accusations that his firms have committed fraud by tampering with Democratic voter registration forms and suppressing votes… Brad Friedman has put up a history of Sproul’s companies, and their work for Republican interests. They range from antics like gathering signatures to put Nader on the ballot and being banned from Walmart for partisan voting drives to more serious offenses, like allegedly destroying Democratic registration forms in several states while on the payroll of the RNC…

In 2004, a voter registration worker in Nevada hired by Sproul’s firm told reporters that he had witnessed his surpervisors chucking registration forms signed by Democrats. ‘They were thrown away in the trash,’ he claimed. Sproul’s canvassers in Oregon confessed to doing the same thing, and other reports emerged across several swing states. In Minnesota, workers said they were actually fired for bringing in registration forms signed by Democrats. CBS News obtained faxes showing that Sproul’s firm had even impersonated the left-leaning America Votes! to organize voter registration drives at libraries…

Sam Stein reported that in 2004, Senators Patrick Leahy and Ted Kennedy had demanded an investigation in light of the many reports of Sproul’s firm destroying registration forms. But the Department of Justice sat on its hands. ‘Sproul & Associates clearly merited a full investigation by the Justice Department; and yet the DoJ did nothing,’ said New York University law professor Mark Miller at the Cannon hearing…

As Congress and ethics experts loudly called for investigations into Sproul’s voter suppression, the Bush administration literally welcomed Sproul and his wife into the White House for a Christmas party in 2006—while almost only prosecuting groups associated with registering low-income and poor Americans to vote.”

Ongoing battles over the impact of hyper-partisan state redistricting maps, new curtailments on third party voter registration, early voting limits, fewer vote by mail opportunities, and requirements to present state issued photo identification cards before being allowed to vote reflect the cynicism of white Americans about the role Americans of color will play in the electorate.

Lest we forget, the majority of Republicans do not believe that President Obama actually won the election in 2008. And 55% of Republicans believe that Barack Obama is not a US born citizen and therefore not qualified to be President.

These facts notwithstanding, when Republican legislators introduced 180 restrictive bills in 41 states, beginning in 2011 they did so in the name of "stopping election fraud."

Based on the current allegations of illegal and unethical practices against Strategic Allied Consulting, and Sproul's history of shenanigans, the real questions are:

What do all of these legislators, beginning with, House Republican Leader Mike Turzai, have to say about these charges?

Where do the chief beneficiaries of this fraud and abuse, GOP-nominee, Mitt Romney, and sidekick, Paul Ryan, stand?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mitt Romney, the 47% & what is & isn't a cakewalk:


I know you want to talk about Mitt Romney’s weekend release of his 2011 tax returns, but bear with me:

Way back in 1971, Philosopher and Ivy League professor John Rawls, published an opus on political philosophy and ethics, called, A Theory of Justice. Rawls makes a compelling case for a social contract in which fairness reigns supreme. In order to get there, he asks readers to imagine a space free from any prejudicial interplays or external influences, called the original position, in which all human beings exist behind a veil of ignorance, and are therefore unaware of their own socioeconomic class, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual identity, ability, etc. Rawls proves that in a ceteris paribus world, free from war, famine, political unrest, historic disagreements, and so forth, human beings who are unaware of the advantages or disadvantages that might befall them by being light or dark skinned, male or female, straight or gay, citizens or immigrants, and anything else about themselves that might confer or remove privilege, would choose to create a society in which everything is as fair as possible. Without exception, everyone is afforded equality of opportunity. And if inequity arises, it can only be allowed to continue if it proves to be of benefit to society as a whole. If things become too unequal, and members of the society are harmed because they don’t earn enough money, or they are denied the education, healthcare, resources and pathways to achieve social mobility, or other forms of success, government must intervene in order to correct whatever is preventing fairness.

Rawls’ society in which what is good and just, is what is fair, sounds awesome, right?

The problem is that we don’t live in a world of ceteris paribus, at least not in the sense that we as Americans can create a nation whose wellbeing is wholly dependent on what we do within the borders of the United States. We can drill for oil in an attempt to lower gasoline prices, for instance, but both the left-leaning Center for American Progress, and the right-leaning Cato Institute, agree that what we pay at the pump has much more to do with rising demand in the developing world and the latest rounds of unrest in the Middle East—a zone that arguably hasn’t known stability since the days of the Ottoman Empire. We can double-down on either Keynesian or Supply-side economics, writ large, in an attempt to accelerate the pace of growth in our economy, but if Europe walks away from the Euro as a common currency, for example, it will mean dampened exports and corporate profits, weakened employment/consumer/investor confidence, shrink our gross domestic product, cause the national unemployment rate to rise to 9% or more, and produce a double-dip recession—although the US economy is lackluster, it is has grown and produced private sector jobs, and so technically the recession that began under George W. Bush ended during Barack Obama first term as President. And these examples don’t even take into account what could happen if we were to suddenly find ourselves grappling with a series of increasingly costly natural disasters. The steps we can take to prevent harm are under our locus of control, yet there is no way to fully inoculate ourselves from the impact that something outside of our locus of control might have on us. This does not mean that we are helpless, weak beings, who occupy space in a chaotic, uncontrollable world. But it does mean that some elements of our wellbeing and success are related to factors beyond our locus of control.

When Mitt Romney asserts that 47% of Americans are, “dependent upon government… believe they are victims… believe they are entitled (emphasis Romney’s) to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it… people who pay no income tax,” and concludes, “my job is not to worry about those people [because] I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives,” he is saying two things: One, the world is a perfectly fair place for everyone. Two, there are people in the United States that are not dependent on government. Both of these assertions are not only demonstrably untrue; they are laughably false.

Let’s ignore the fact that Romney’s 47% statistic ignores the burden of other federal taxes, principally payroll taxes which are levied on the first $110,100 of wage income for social security, and all wage income for Medicare. In fact, 80% of all American taxpayers pay more in payroll taxes than federal income taxes as a percentage of income. What this means is that a large share of all households paying no income tax are working households with substantial payroll tax bills. In addition, as many as 15 million households, or individuals, owe no income tax because they took a hit as a result of the global financial crisis, and either saw their earnings fall below taxable levels, or saw their incomes disappear all together, along with their jobs. It seems practically impossible to label workers, and those whose earnings are stunted by a climate of high unemployment, as anything but the antithesis of people who avoid personal responsibility. But I digress.

Let’s also ignore the fact that half the households in Romney’s 47% of Americans statistic, pay no income tax because the standard deduction puts them below the taxable threshold, that three-quarters of the remaining 38 million households consist of either elderly retirees, or families that receive that receive the earned income tax credit to offset the cost of the social security tax on wages, because they are both members of the active workforce, and the chief providers of care to dependent children. And the remaining piece consists of students carrying the financial burden of their own education, and active duty military personnel who are not required to pay income taxes on what they earn during tours of duty in combat zones. One of the great ironies is that the top 1% of filers rake in 23.9% ($258 billion) in reduced taxes thanks to the deductions and inclusions for which they qualify. So while Romney criticizes the 47% for their sense of entitlement and dependence upon government, it is Romney himself, and his fellow elite earners that take the greatest share of the public sector (taxpayer) supported spoils. But let’s ignore this irony as well.

Finally, let’s ignore the fact that according to the (right-leaning) Cato Institute, even before injecting hundreds of billions of public sector (taxpayer) dollars into private sector as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) signed into law by George W. Bush, nearly $100 billion in federal tax dollars went to corporate welfare in the form of direct subsidies annually, while fewer than $60 billion total were expended toward to Temporary Aid to Needy Families, (TANF) food stamps, housing subsidies, and the rest of it. Never mind that this one of those Inception moments where you realize that since Romney’s father, George, was on welfare after retuning to the US from Mexico, (a fact corroborated by Romney’s mother, Lenore) he belongs to the victim-playing, entitled, personal responsibility averse, government dependent 47%, but Romney took more than $10 million of public sector (taxpayer) bankrolled bailout money, therefore taking much more in corporate welfare than his father received in social welfare. Add in an additional layer: Based on what we currently know, Romney has paid zero percent income tax on wages—the 13 percent he claims to have paid on all of those tax returns he won’t let us see comes from income on capital gains—despite the fact that the marginal tax rate is 35% for top earners. This means he depends on the government to help him avoid over $4 million in taxes every single year; the feels entitled to pay a little more than $3 million, instead of the $7.5 million he owes. If we try to wrap our minds around these paradoxes and juxtapositions, our brains will explode. Let’s ignore them.

Let’s focus on the fact that Mitt Romney writes off more women than men, and more people of color than whites when he makes his standard of concern an annual salary or statement of earnings that places one squarely in the middle class—which Romney defines as up to $250,000 per year—or in the elite of American socioeconomic life. Let’s focus on the fact that he writes off more red states than swing states or blue states with his 47% statistic. And let’s focus on the fact that he passes damning judgment on those who are not affluent. In essence telling them: Because you shirk personal responsibility, claim victimhood, feel entitled to healthcare, food, shelter, and so forth, without having to work for these, you are a welfare-state slave. If you hadn’t chosen to be so feckless and lazy, you could’ve been rich and free, like me.

I’m sure you remember Hilary Rosen’s statement on Anderson Cooper’s 360 show on CNN, “[Ann Romney] has actually never worked a day in her life. She’s never really dealt with the kinds of economic issues that a majority of the women in this country are facing… [Mitt Romney] seems so old-fashioned when it comes to women… He just doesn’t see us as equal.” The Romney campaign focused on the “never worked a day in her life” part of the quote and accused the Obama campaign of hating stay-at-home moms. The Obama distanced itself from Rosen, and reminded voters that Romney was in cahoots with the GOP Congress and state legislatures responsible for waging the War on Women. And cable news, print publications, and the media, writ large, went guano-crazy over the whole thing. They loved it; couldn’t get enough of it.

I raise this because a few things came out of that media firestorm: First, everyone made an admission that child rearing is no cakewalk, and because moms do much more than dads in the aggregate, they deserve recognition for bearing a disproportionate burden. Second, although surrogates for the Romney campaign never ceded the point, the preponderance of pundits and journalists concluded that if Rosen indeed intended to make the case that it is harder to raise children as a single parent, in a low income household, as a person of color, as an immigrant, and/or in another circumstance that might confer or remove privilege, the empirical data is on her side. There are statistically significant differences between the opportunities and outcomes women with children enjoy when compared across differences in socioeconomic class, race, legal status, level of education, and so forth. Sexism, patriarchy, racism, kyriarchy, and a slew of other isms and archys are quantifiable and qualifiable.

In 1973, the Supreme Court affirmed a woman’s right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy to term. And although it has since restricted this right, it remains mostly true, in this country, women are able to choose whether or not to become mothers. But an individual woman does not choose every aspect of the world into which her child is born. She certainly does not choose the fact that as a mother she, and not the child’s father will be legally expected to provide every financial, emotional, educational, and medical need. There is no universal law defining what children are entitled to from their biological fathers, or the male caregivers in their lives. If one parent has full or even partial custody of a child, and she (or sometimes he) needs the other parent to provide time, money, or anything else toward that child’s maintenance and support, the parent in need must win a court case in order to make that happen. It’s not something that just occurs organically.

But if you’re a single mom and your kid violates a curfew law, and when detained is found to be holding a controlled substance, the default is for you to be legally liable for both. The child’s father will not be named in the case, much less charged. If you’re not only a single mom, but also homeless, and you enroll your child using the address of a babysitter, so that your offspring can attend the best school possible, you’ll be charged with felony larceny for stealing $16K worth of “free” educational services, and sentenced to 12 years in jail. The child’s father will not be named in the case, much less charged. There has been a demonstrable rise in the number of single female-headed households in the US, and over the last two decades, the demographic breakdown for the fastest growing group these households belong to is: White women, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree. 40% of all female-headed households live in poverty. Women are poorer than men regardless of racial/ethnic group, and Latinas, Native American, and black women are the poorest of all.

I offer these examples and statistics to prove that while any individual—in this case, a single mom—certainly is an agent who can choose to empower herself, and choose to improve her circumstances, and her child’s circumstances, yet as a matter of incontrovertible fact, there are always going to be things outside of her control. As a case in point, she has almost zero influence over the fact that as a single mom, she is many times more likely to belong to the 47% of Americans who do not pay income taxes, written off by Mitt Romney, because his wealth, racial identity, and gender privilege lead him to presume she does not comprehend the “dignity of work.” She did not choose to create a society in which both men and women are both equally capable of being parents, but do not have an equal responsibility for both unpaid work as homemakers and caregivers, much less economic support. She did not write public policies that presently do not facilitate equally shared parenting, without penalty to employment, advancement, benefits, and so forth. Single women currently incur all of the consequences when their sexual behavior results in pregnancy. Single men do not. Until such a time that a universal mechanism exists for establishing paternity and legally requiring fathers to contribute their time and money toward the clothing, feeding, housing, care, education, and development of their children, all of these charges will legally remain, almost exclusively, the terrain of moms. By seeking to improve not only her wellbeing, not only the wellbeing of her child, but also the wellbeing of others, a single mom can help transform the US into the nation it should be. Yet she did not make the country as it is. She did not choose the current—much less the historic—inequalities, ambiguities, and uncertainties that lead to the overpopulation of women and people of color in poverty.

She did not choose any of what makes her a likely member of Romney’s discarded 47%.


When Mitt Romney jokes that if his father had been a Mexican immigrant, he’d have, “a better shot of winning this [election],” because “it would help to be Latino,” he both commits the error John Rawls made when relying on the veil of ignorance, and original position, in his A Theory of Justice. And advances the absurd, unsubstantiated notion that his identity as a white, non-Hispanic man, disadvantages him in a country where 43 of 44 Presidents have been white, non-Hispanic men.

Rawls incorrectly assumes that if you strip away socioeconomic class, gender, race, religion, culture, sexual identity, formal education, life experience, legal status, family structure, etc. that there is enough left to constitute a full human being. In other words, he’s making the preposterous claim that identity is the sum of malleable, interchangeable, and superficial traits. But blackface did not actually transform Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll into African American men named Amos and Andy in the 1950s, and a fake accent, hoop earrings, hand gestures, and a handsy boyfriend did not convince anyone that Cecily Strong, from Oak Park, IL, was Mimi Morales, from the concrete jungle, where dreams are made, on last week’s Fall 2012 season premiere of Saturday Night Live. As Elise Rodenbeck recently wrote in Pocho, “Consumerism… [seeks to] process culture, strip it of all that gunk we don’t need (like knowledge and power)… [so that] culture itself has no value outside the bounds of consumption. [If] culture is no different than a box of cereal… why would I want that? Why would I want something that has no monetary value when I could just pass as white and be at the top of the pecking order?... [But, if] culture is not something to be consumed. [Then] it is in our hearts and blood… our minds… more powerful than any trinket, more powerful than capitalism itself.” In other words, Latinidad can’t be veil of ignorance’d away, or worn by Romney like a garment.

Mitt Romney wrongly asserts that he could be the exact same person he is today, after having grown up as a member of the Latino community—specifically as a member of the US-born, Mexican American community from a mixed-status, immigrant household. He also wrongly assumes that this mythical Latino version of himself would find it easier to win a presidential election without changing his policy stances, platform rhetoric, campaign tactics, and/or candidate strategy. Politic365 superstars Adriana Maestas, Dr. Jason Johnson, and Jeneba Ghatt have already addressed the second point, so please allow me to simply share one thought related to the first.

Richard Wright once wrote that black and white Americans are engaged in a war over the nature of reality. Noting that African Americans having looked and brooded upon the harsh lot of black people, and having “compared it with the hopes and struggles of minority peoples everywhere… [until] the cold hard facts have begun to tell them something… [have concluded, that people of color] feel the meaning of history… as though they, in one lifetime, had lived it themselves throughout all the long centuries.”

Latinos are not a monolithic population. We are a US census group carved together out of dozens of countries and dependencies, who share overlapping histories rooted in Latin America and the Caribbean, as it exists today, and as it has existed over the course of the last 520 years. Some of us have always belonged to territories now forming part of this country. Others of us arrived as servants, refugees, workers, students, or to be reunited with our families. We don’t share a common primary language. We don’t even belong to the same racial group. Nevertheless, the vast majority of us come from communities comprised of persons who have brown or black skin because we are the descendents of Amerindians, Africans, or both. Whether or not we choose acknowledge our connections to present day mestizo and indigenous populations, or the peoples of the Diaspora connected to the Transatlantic Slave Trade, to be Latino in the US, means we experience (seemingly endless) moments in which our American identity—our Americanness—is questioned socially, legally, and politically.

At the London Olympics, Leonel “Leo” Manzano won a silver medal in the men’s 1,500-meter final, running the fastest time ever by a US athlete. He celebrated his US record, and medal won for the US, by carrying both an American flag and a Mexican one. The CNN op-ed page read as follows, “[It was] misguided and ill-mannered… As the world looked on, he [Manzano] held up both the U.S. flag and the Mexican flag. Not a good look. And not a good idea… The image didn’t warm my heart. It upset my stomach.” 27,919 people recommended this article. The most popular of the 10,995 comments posted below it read, “What this guy did is wrong… He should apologize or leave USA.”

A US athlete, wearing an American uniform and waving an American flag, after setting a US record, and winning an Olympic medal, is told to apologize, or leave the USA:

Does anyone, anywhere, believe this would have happened if he were not Latino?

Former White House Coordinator of Security Planning for the National Security Council, as well as Harvard and Columbia University professor Samuel P. Huntington, published a text in 2004, whose sole purpose was to paint Latinos as a threat to America’s national identity. Without apology or hesitation he argues that Latino immigrants are not as culturally American as those who came before.

He reaches this egregious and erroneous conclusion, ignoring data from the Pew Center, affirmed by the Economist, and aligned with studies by Nielsen, that immigrants from Latin America, and their children, learn and use English as their primary language, at rates that rival any previous wave of immigrants from anywhere in the world. Ignoring the fact that Latino students have been punished for attempting to maintain their bilingualism since generations and generations before the Civil Rights Movement, and that this attack continues today, decades and decades later. Ignoring the fact that the Supreme Court case declaring the denial of educational opportunities to Latino students, attending under-resourced, segregated schools, a violation of the US Constitution, Mendez v. Westminster, predates Brown v. Board of Education, and was used as the chief precedent in that landmark ruling. Ignoring the fact that the Schott Foundation for Public Education has called the preponderance of college-and-career denying, educational achievement gaps, and persistence of dramatically different graduation rates for whites and Latinos, as well as African Americans, the product of “willful neglect” on the part of federal, state, and local policymakers.

Ignoring the fact that Latinos have fought in every US military conflict since the American Revolutionary War. Ignoring the fact that Latinos founded the city of St. Augustine, hundreds of years before Florida became a state in 1845, and set roots in the West (from Oklahoma to California) long before the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo made this land part of the US. Ignoring the fact that all Puerto Ricans, nearly one of ten Latinos, have been US citizens since the 1917 Jones Act.

The fact that nearly two-thirds of all Latinos are native-born US citizens, and more than one-quarter of foreign-born Latinos are naturalized US citizens should count for something. But since 1 in 3 Americans believe that more than half of all Latinos are undocumented immigrants. The only logical conclusion is, not only have Latinos not been accepted as equals by those who believe “American” is synonymous with “white,” we’ve been targeted for even greater marginalization.

During the Great Depression, half a million Americans were forcibly “Repatriated” to Mexico. They were rounded-up by authorities and forced to comply with a law designed specifically to target their families, regardless of their citizenship status, regardless of their place of birth, their use of the English language, their level of education, etc. because they had brown skin and Hispanic surnames. Although it took 50 years, Japanese Americans received an apology from President Clinton for the Internment, Franklin Roosevelt ordered. It’s been 73 years, but no apology has been issued to Mexican Americans.

History repeats itself. Latinos are not just like the Irish or Italians. We fought institutionalized marginalization before, during, and after, those Europeans reached Elis Island.

We’re fighting it now.

In August 2010, the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice opened an inquiry into charges of racism and abuse of power in the State of Arizona, orchestrated by Maricopa County Sheriff's Department. They refused to cooperate with the investigation. In December 2011, the Justice Department released its finding that the Sheriff’s Department repeatedly arrested Latinos illegally, regardless of whether they were US citizens, legal residents, or undocumented immigrants, abused them in the county jails, and failed to investigate hundreds of cases of sexual assault against adults and minors. The Justice Department report found that the Sheriff’s Department carried out a blatant pattern of discrimination against Latinos, and held a “systematic disregard” for the Constitution. The Justice Department’s racial profiling expert found the Sheriff’s Department to be the most egregious case of profiling ever seen in the US.

The institutionalized racial profiling of Latinos has been embraced at every level; upheld by the highest court in the land. Because of the Supreme Court’s decision not to overturn the entirety of Arizona SB 1070, “papers please” policies will remain Constitutional until their implementation unduly harms and burdens enough American citizens from communities of color to justify their modification. Every single time a law enforcement officer encounters someone he or she deems worthy of questioning, that officer will be entrusted to make a determination on that individual’s American identity. Between April 2010, the time SB 1070 was signed into law, and the June 2012 Arizona v. US decision, the American Civil Liberties Union said their Arizona hotline had already taken over 3,500 calls alleging violations of the rights guaranteed to citizens and US residents by the Constitution. This, in spite of the fact that the ninth circuit, federal court of appeals, upheld an injunction preventing the full implementation of the law until the Supreme Court had reached its verdict.

Welcome to the one Nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for All, where 96 year-old, former Arizona Governor, Mexican American, Raul Hector Castro, has already been detained three times.

Mitt Romney—self-admittedly, made happy by becoming rich and famous—asserts life would be even more of a cakewalk for him if only he were Latino. Apparently being the son of a man born into a white, Mormon-American community living in Mexico, has provided him with sufficient justification to don the same brownface for his appearance on Univision that Jimmy Fallon employed in his Late Night sketch, mocking Julian Castro’s DNC speech. If granted Latinidad by a genie, leprechaun, or a wishing-well, however, Romney would find himself dealing with challenges to the legitimacy of his US-born citizenship, as well as relentless investigations regarding the legal status of all of the members of his family. Just ask Republican National Convention speaker, New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez, if she’d rather answer questions about her undocumented grandparents, or entertain requests that she disclose more than just one complete tax form for 2010, along with an unfinished estimate of 2011, in the final months before Election Day.

Not one, white, non-Hispanic public figure, has ever faced citizenship-related scrutiny.

But believe it or not, having a pack of hateful individuals accuse you of not being an American while you’re a candidate for the Presidency—despite the fact that you’ve already served in an elected office that requires you to represents the interests of all of the Americans residing in one of fifty states, while concurrently keeping a promise to preserve, preserve, defend and uphold the US Constitution—isn’t the worst thing imaginable (especially after earning an undergraduate degree from an Ivy League college, and an advanced degree from an Ivy League law school, like both President Obama and GOP-candidate Romney).

Mitt Romney asserts life would be more of a cakewalk for him if he were Latino, while concurrently (and paradoxically) believing, “If the Hispanic voting bloc becomes as committed to the Democrats as the African American voting bloc has in the past, why, we’re in trouble as a party and, I think, as a nation.” To quote the Mamiverse Team, “It’s one thing to say that the Republican Party will struggle without the Hispanic vote. But [this]… suggests that Mr. Romney is nationalistic and maybe, just maybe, a little racist… Is he worried about Hispanics taking over and white males… becoming a minority [that will be treated exactly the same way the white majority has treated Latinos and African Americans]?”

Being Latino would make him significantly more likely to belong to his 47% statistic. And since Romney has already written off the vast majority of Latinos as those who are, “dependent upon government… believe they are victims… believe they are entitled (emphasis Romney’s) to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you name it… people who pay no income tax… [who] should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

He asserts life would be more of a cakewalk for him if he were Latino, but has expressed zero concern for the findings of the Associated Press-Univision poll, revealing that 81% of Latinos believe all Latinos in the US, not just undocumented immigrants, face significant discrimination. He doesn’t know or doesn’t care that this belief is corroborated and substantiated by National Institute of Justice, Southern Poverty Law Center, and FBI data, demonstrating disproportionate growth in anti-Latino hate crimes and hate groups.

These metrics will never be made tangible for him. But they are painfully real for us.

Juan Varela was shot in his front yard, in front of his mother and brother, by a man yelling, “Go back to Mexico or die!” The Varelas have been US citizens for five generations. Even if they had been immigrants, this would have been an unforgivable, violent hate crime. But the fact that this family’s five generations in the US mean far less than their skin color and surname, is an indictment on what it means to be Latino in 21st Century, post-SB 1070 America.

Shawna Forde and two suspected accomplices woke up Brisenia Flores’ family and told them they were law enforcement officers. When her father questioned the intruders, they stormed into the house and shot him. They shot her mother. And then they shot her, twice, at point-blank range. Brisenia was murdered by Minuteman border vigilantes, despite the fact that she was a US-citizen, despite the fact that she was 9-years-old.

Mitt Romney asserts life would be more of a cakewalk for him if he were Latino. But since the percentage of Latino GOP and Democratic Party presidential nominees remains zero, our chances of burying a 9-year-old family member, murdered by a xenophobic, white supremacist, remain far greater than the chances of any of us being elected President.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Women & Latinos in 2012: Final Words


Way back in June, on the 12th day to be precise, Joshua Baca, the National Coalitions Director at Mitt Romney for President sent an email blast to supporters reading as follows:

“While we finally reached the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination, we still have a lot of work ahead of us.

The general election means our campaign needs to be more active and involved in every community all over the country. By filling out the short survey below, we will make sure to keep you updated on the latest news and developments in your community.

Please select your gender:

Which of the following groups do you associate yourself with (select multiple answers if more than one applies)?
Hispanic Outreach
Social Conservatives
Small Business Owners
Young Professionals
Nurses, Doctors, and Healthcare workers”

At the time, I chuckled over the decision to blatantly call attention to “Hispanic Outreach,” noting the dissimilarity of this descriptive with counterparts such as “Sportsmen,” “Small Business Owners,” “Nurses, Doctors, and Healthcare Workers.” But after watching the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL, and the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, NC, it dawns on me that Mr. Baca’s email actually hit the nail squarely on the head.

In this election, Democrats and Republicans alike care deeply about the answers to these two questions: Are you a woman? Are you Latino?

It’s not that they don’t care if you’re African American, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern American, an American member of the LGBTQ community, etc., it just that they aren’t willing to spend as much time and money to reach you.

How do I know, you ask?

On the first day of the RNC, television and online viewers heard from eleven women and Latino speakers in primetime: Utah Congressional candidate Mia Love, actress Janine Turner, Washington State Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, New Hampshire US Senator Kelly Ayote, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, Delaware Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate Sher Valenzuela, Texas US Senatorial candidate Ted Cruz, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, First Lady of Puerto Rico Lucé Vela Fortuño, and First Lady hopeful Ann Romney.

And that was just day one. That doesn’t even count…

the remarks given by Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño, New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Olympic gold medalist Kim Rhode, former Massachusetts Secretary of Workforce Development Jane Edmonds, former Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, and Florida US Senator Marco Rubio, on

…nights two and three.

On the first day of the DNC, television and online viewers heard from thirteen women and Latino speakers in primetime: Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, former Colorado Republican Maria Ciano, National Abortion Rights Action League President Nancy Keenan, Illinois Congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, Arizona mother (of a daughter with preexisting conditions, uninsurable pre-Affordable Health Care Act, and requiring health treatments beyond the lifetime cap elimination ObamaCare achieved) Stacey Lihn, California Congressman Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, President Obama’s half sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 Lilly Ledbetter, Texas Congressional Candidate Joaquin Castro, San Antonio, Texas Mayor Julián Castro, mother of four armed services members Elaine Brye, and First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.

And that was just day one. That doesn’t even count…

the remarks given by Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau, US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Maryland US Senator Barbara Mikulski, Miami Dade College students Johanny Adames and Angie Flores, Planned Parenthood patient Elizabeth Ann “Libby” Bruce, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Executive Director of the Roman Catholic Social Justice Organization Network Sister Simone Campbell, U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, undocumented American, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals candidate, and DREAM Act activist, Benita Veliz, Spanish-language media icon (a.k.a. the Latina Oprah) Cristina Saralegui, women’s rights activist Sandra Fluke, UAW Local 1112 member and Auto Industry Rescue beneficiary Karen Eusanio, former employee at a plant in Miami controlled by Bain Capital Cindy Hewitt, Massachusetts US Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren, 2012 DNC Chair, and Los Angeles, California Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, actresses Kerry Washington, Scarlett Johansson, and Eva Longoria, daughter of President John Kennedy, and author Caroline Kennedy, former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, and Second Lady of the United States Dr. Jill Biden, on

…nights two and three.

As I said, in this election, the Romney campaign, and President Obama’s reelection team have their eyes squarely set on women and Latinos.

Ann Romney’s RNC address, not Mitt Romney’s nomination acceptance speech, is more widely credited with the Romney-Ryan ticket’s seven-point gain in favorability among women voters in the week following the GOP convention. The DNC caused the numbers to shift again, but the Republican Party PR machine cut President Obama’s overall lead among women voters to six percentage points during the days between the conventions. The spin Romney surrogates have put on these numbers is the blanket assertion that what women really care about is the economy. But there’s a more intricate story behind these numbers that is rarely discussed despite the number of pundits who pontificate about polls, or talking heads trading hackneyed political horserace predictions.

Romney-Ryan is the first GOP ticket to really zoom in with laser-like focus on unmarried women. Historically, Republicans have not worried terribly about their deficits with single moms, and single women without children, because even in their worst years, the GOP has managed to perform well when it comes to married households. McCain-Palin pulled in 47% of married female voters with children, and 53% of married female voters without children in 2008, while Bush-Cheney pulled in 57% of all female married voters in 2004.

But there has been a demonstrable rise in the number of single female-headed households in the US. Over the last two decades, the demographic breakdown for the fastest growing group these households belong to is, white women, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree. These are the women, the moms, the heads of household—the female swing voters—most likely to consider themselves independents, and whose allegiances are so evenly divided between the GOP and the Democratic Party, that any shift toward/away from President Obama or Mitt Romney, could tip the scale, and decide this closely contested election.

Obama-Biden currently leads Romney-Ryan with unmarried women, 57% to 32%, the President’s reelection team is determined to maintain this margin, and Mitt Romney, as well as the countless hyper-funded, anti-Obama Super PACs, are determined to reduce it.

As Irin Carmon writes in Salon, “We all know why the Democratic National Convention this week has included a robust and explicit defense of reproductive rights… It’s the same reason why the Republican National Convention last week plopped onstage all the women it could find… The question is, will reproductive rights actually make the difference with women voters? ... Polling on reproductive rights is notoriously tricky and depends on how you frame the question, and this election has been an opportunity for Democrats to reframe it… And with a little assist from Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, more Americans have had an opportunity to hear which party officially wants abortion to be legal under no circumstances. In any case, Democrats don’t have to speak to all women; they have to energize a base amid stated fears of an enthusiasm gap, and they have to get single women who stayed home in 2010—and who had voted for Barack Obama over John McCain 70 percent to 29 percent…

Democrats have embraced the opportunity to do something they haven’t done on a national level in a while: reframe the debate… Republican overreach has given Democrats an opening to argue that reproductive rights are about more than just abortion… and that abortion restrictions are about a profound contempt for women’s decision-making and autonomy… This has been enabled by the convergence of clueless conservative men, from Rush Limbaugh [who called Sandra Fluke a ‘slut’ and a ‘prostitute’ because she testified before Congress in support of mandated insurance coverage of contraceptives] to [Missouri US Senate candidate] Todd Akin [who said women couldn’t get pregnant from ‘legitimate rape’]… Whether the Obama administration was setting a trap for Republicans in the primary debate by unveiling its women’s health provisions, including mandated coverage for contraception, or throwing a bone the way of pro-choice groups after the bitter Plan B capitulation, the timing was brilliant. Activists had a case to make for Obama to women who already care about this stuff but might have been losing enthusiasm for the president, throwing the attempted defunding, both public and private, of Planned Parenthood into the mix, and Republicans were plausibly coming for your birth control…

Obama has never much wanted to talk about abortion… but there he was in April, criticizing abortion restrictions that don’t do that badly in public opinion polls when they’re framed as ‘informed consent.’ ‘Now we’ve got governors and legislatures across the river in Virginia, up the road in Pennsylvania, all across the country saying that women can’t be trusted to make your own decisions,’ he said at a Women’s Leadership Conference. ‘They’re pushing and passing bills forcing women to get ultrasounds, even if they don’t want one. If you don’t like it, the governor of Pennsylvania said you can ‘close your eyes.’ It’s a quote. It’s appalling. It’s offensive. It’s out of touch. And when it comes to what’s going on out there, you’re not going to close your eyes. Women across America aren’t closing their eyes’… [President Obama was] seizing the moral high ground… connecting abortion rights to a broader issue of women’s freedom and not just of women’s privacy—it was unmistakable, and it was unflinching. This is a strategy that can backfire, of course… But, needless to say, winning will trump ideological purity… The question is, will reshaping the debate work?”

Romney campaign surrogate, former California US Senate candidate, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina, has been making the rounds in the big name media circuit, stating that President Obama and the Democratic Party “treat women as a special interest group,” as “single-issue voters,” instead of acknowledging that “women care about every issue.” Such an argument would likely prove immensely effective in making inroads with the single white female heads-of-households, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree, both the Democratic Party and GOP are working hardest to covet. But unfortunately, any compelling argument made by a Republican woman in the public sphere, is ultimately undermined by the blecch-inducing utterances of a Republican man.

I’m looking at you, Jase Bolton from Michigan, Todd Gilbert from Virginia, Tom Corbett from Pennsylvania, Cliff Stearns from Florida, Todd Akin from Missouri, Paul Ryan from Wisconsin… Etc. Etc. Etc.


Please allow me to once again state the obvious:

In this election, Democrats and Republicans alike care deeply about the answers to these two questions: Are you a woman? Are you Latino?

It’s not that they don’t care if you’re African American, Asian American, Native American, Middle Eastern American, an American member of the LGBTQ community, etc., it just that they aren’t willing to spend as much time and money to reach you.

While the pole positioning for women has come to rely upon the applied understanding of the demographics of subpopulations—zooming in with laser-like focus on single white female heads-of-households, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree—the battle for Latinos is much more cut and dry.

The Romney campaign has made only one consistent argument to Latino voters (and has relied almost exclusively on Spanish language media to make it): If everything sucks for everyone, everywhere in the US, everything sucks way worse for Latinos because President Obama “didn’t do what he said he was going to do.” In July, this argument took the form of an ad stressing that the national unemployment rate was 10.3% for Latinos, compared to 8.3% for all Americans. And now it’s taken the form of a 30-second spot featuring refrains such as, “Obama has no idea what we’re going through,” “Promises and promises and nothing,” and “Are things better for you? Not for me.”

The play here for courting voters is very obvious and doesn’t necessarily distinguish itself from the play Romney-Ryan are making to cut into President Obama’s overall lead with women. The difference here is that a best case scenario for the GOP, and the hyper-funded anti-Obama Super PACs, is to compete for and win a sizeable percentage of single white female heads-of-households, twenty-something years of age, with some college education, but no four-year degree, while the best case scenario for the GOP, and the hyper-funded anti-Obama Super PACs, is for Latino voters to stay home, or find themselves disenfranchised by the introduction of new voter ID requirements, the reduction of early voting and vote-by-mail options, and the limits placed on voter registration campaigns conducted by nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations.

The margin that the Romney campaign must make up for when it comes to Latino support for the President is simply too significant to overcome in the fewer than two months remaining before Election Day. If Latinos show up in large numbers on November 6, the way they showed up in large numbers in states like Nevada in 2010—where Latino voters comprised 12% of all of Nevada’s registered voters in 2010, but comprised 16% of the members of the electorate taking part in those midterm elections—then Romney-Ryan will most assuredly only see the White House as members of a tour group; via press images, novelty calendars, or souvenir postcards.

Although Latinos played prominent, primetime roles at the RNC and DNC, the GOP and the hyper-funded, anti-Obama Super PACs aren’t interested in actually courting Latino voters by offering clear alternatives to the President’s positions, or articulating something akin to a laundry list of campaign promises. There are and will be no shiny objects intended to draw attention to the Romney campaign’s stances on (or avoidance of) hot button issues considered critical to the Latino electorate. Any such tactics would prove a losing formula. Instead, the strategy must be to foment feelings of disgust, disappointment, and desperation among Latinos, writ large, and direct these feelings toward President Obama. The expectation? That fanning the flames of the Latino enthusiasm gap, coupled with the onslaught of laws designed to restrict voter registration, early voting, and vote-by-mail, as well as to suppress the participation of voters who tend to support the Democratic Party will rob Obama-Biden of the hard fought states of Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, Iowa, Ohio, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.

After all, Mitt Romney would never have been able to fully erase the fact that he captured the Republican Party’s nomination, in large part, by running to right of a crowded field of hard-line, anti-immigrant candidates. The policy of “self deportation,” currently enshrined in the GOP platform adopted at the RNC, was based on the logic that if conditions for any and all undocumented immigrants became intolerable enough, they would do the work of removing themselves from the US, so the government wouldn’t have to. Key components of this magic formula for making life in the US unlivable for immigrants included a clear as day pledge by Mitt Romney to veto the DREAM Act if it should ever cross his desk. And last, but most certainly not least, asserting unapologetically his support for, “Arizona as a model for the rest of the nation,” SB 1070 style laws in all 50 states.

Occasionally, Latino Republicans, and other GOP-friendly people of color will make an argument similar to the one Romney campaign surrogate, Carly Fiorina makes when asked about the gender gap separating Romney-Ryan from Obama-Biden. Women should not be treated as a special interest group, or single-issue voters, because women care about every issue. Simply replace the word “women,” with the word “Latinos” or “Hispanics” and voila, you have what appears to be a strong declaration about the ever-presence, integration, and incorporation of historically marginalized populations, allowing for any amount of spin; lending itself to the sound-byte friendly talking-points any surrogate worth his or her salt is expected to communicate.

Unfortunately, facts are facts, even in a world where truth is confounded with truthiness.

Mitt Romney may have talked a good game back in April about “getting Hispanic voters by overcoming the issue of immigration.” And he may have had a Communications Adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, who believed in hitting the “reset button for the fall campaign… like an Etch A Sketch… shake it up and start over again.” Nevertheless, as columnist, Maureen Dowd, recently pointed out, “He remains too insecure about this base… Mitt is running from his elusive better angels… he once seemed to have sensible, managerial instincts, [but the fact that] he won’t stop ingratiating himself with the neo-Neanderthals… [is] the biggest reveal of all”

One week ago, Mitt Romney enthusiastically endorsed the reelection of Iowa’s Steve King, despite the fact that he is one of the most strident anti-immigrant, anti-Latino voices in the US Congress: A member of the House of Representatives, who argued an electrified fence should be built along the southern border (without advocating anything similar for the northern border, much less the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines). An elected official, who compared immigrants to dogs, and then doubled down on this comment, instead of apologizing for it. An obstructionist legislator, who pursued a lawsuit to prevent DREAM Act eligible students from receiving the benefits of President Obama’s deferred action (DACA) program. A hateful xenophobe, whose white-supremacist propaganda was on full display during the Congressional hearing he held to promote a federal “English only” policy, despite data from the Pew Center, affirmed by the Economist, and aligned with studies by Nielsen, that immigrants from Latin America, and their children, learn and use English as their primary language, at rates that rival any previous wave of immigrants from anywhere in the world.

If Mitt Romney were actually interested in winning Latino votes, he would not have made this endorsement. But since Mitt Romney is only interested in keeping Latino voters home because they lack the will to vote for President Obama, and making sure that those who do actually show up to vote are inconvenienced, hassled, and harassed by early voting and vote by mail restrictions, as well as new voter ID laws, created by GOP-controlled legislatures, intended to suppress the votes of those who elected Barack Obama in 2008, backing Steve King is exactly what the doctor ordered: Red meat for the GOP base that has gobbled up anything and everything offered up by Federation for American Immigration Reform attorney, and Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach.

Malcolm X, (El_Hajj Malik El-Shabazz) famously said, “I have more respect for a man who lets me know where he stands, even if he’s wrong, than the one who comes up like an angel and is nothing but a devil.”

Only by applying this standard is it possible to say anything positive about Kris Kobach.

As Kansas Secretary of State, Kobach sits on the Objections Board that has yet to determine whether or not President Obama’s name will be allowed to appear on the November 6 ballot. The decision is pending a review of the authenticity of the birth certificate produced by the State of Hawaii. When asked to comment on this monumental waste of taxpayer dollars, and irreplaceable time in the lives of the human beings forced to take part in this absurdity, Kobach said, “I don’t think it’s a frivolous objection.”

You might be thinking, “Ok, so one Romney immigration adviser is a guano-crazy birther, who believes in unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and fuels rumors that President Obama was born in Kenya, that he’s a secret Muslim, that’s he’s the Antichrist, and so forth, but at least he lives and works in a small red state, and doesn’t have any real influence over what happens nationally, or what’s in the GOP 2012 Platform, right?”


As Suzy Khimm wrote in Mother Jones, “If there’s a controversial new anti-immigration law that’s captured national attention, chances are that it has Kris Kobach’s imprimatur… Kobach helped Arizona lawmakers craft the infamous immigration law that passed in the spring of 2010… [and] coached legislators across the country in their efforts to pass dozens of similar measures, ranging from Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri to the small town of Fremont, Nebraska… Kobach, 45, has spent much of his professional life developing the legal framework that a growing number of officials have used to justify laws further criminalizing illegal immigration… [But he got his big break targeting Middle Eastern immigrants in the wake of 9/11, when] he helped create a program that required all visiting citizens from 25 mostly Arab countries to be fingerprinted and monitored—a policy that critics said amounted to racial profiling…

Kobach advanced an idea that had long been circulating in conservative legal circles: that local and state officials have the ‘inherent authority’ to enforce federal immigration laws… If local and state governments were to strike out on their own, they could undermine federal efforts, create jurisdictional chaos, and detract from law enforcement efforts by discouraging immigrants from cooperating with police… Kobach joined the Immigration Reform Law Institute and began working with local officials across the country to combat illegal immigration on the ground level… defending legislation in Pennsylvania and Texas that would revoke operating licenses for businesses that hired illegal immigrants and fine landlords who rented to them…

Obama’s Department of Justice has aggressively challenged the major laws that Kobach has helped author. In addition to filing lawsuits against the Arizona and Alabama laws, the DOJ has taken action against Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose officers Kobach helped train in immigration enforcement. In December, Arpaio’s officers were forced to handin their federal credentials due to complaints about their immigration enforcement tactics, which the DOJ called illegal and discriminatory… legal challenges haven’t slowed down Kobach, who has endorsed Mitt Romney and provided the candidate his immigration talking points… He successfully shepherded through a new Kansas voter ID law, claiming that the current laws allowed immigrants to commit voter fraud… He’s now advising Kansas legislators on a bill that would give local police far more latitude in checking the status of suspected illegal immigrants—effectively bringing Arizona’s law to his own backyard.”

But wait, there’s more.

Kobach put his stamp on the Republican Party Platform. It now:

(1). Prevents any claims immigrants might have to human rights or religious freedom by banning the use of international laws or those outside Judeo-Christian traditions in court.
(2). Calls on each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, to demand would-be voters produce proof of US citizenship before being allowed to register, and require them to present state-issued photo identification cards before allowing them to actually vote.
(3). Calls on each of the 50 states, and the District of Columbia, to establish laws modeled after AZ SB 1070 in order to pursue and persecute undocumented immigrants—requiring law enforcement officers conduct immigration checks on anyone who has been detained, and making e-verify mandatory for all hiring, regardless of job type or sector.
(4). Calls on the Department of Justice, the US Attorney General, and all other federal entities to drop lawsuits against states and local authorities that have passed such laws.
(5). Denies any and all federal funding to institutions of higher education that allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition rates, regardless of whether they meet a given state’s residency requirements and/or have graduated from one of its high schools.

“Neo-Neanderthal,” you say?

You betcha.

There’s a special place in hell for someone who was given the exceptional privilege of attending Harvard and then Yale Law School, who is suing the Secretary of Homeland Security so qualified students won’t be able to attend college or graduate school programs because they arrived in the US as children without permanent legal status.

While Jeb Bush lays the groundwork for his 2016 run with the release of a book that declares, “Immigration is vital to America’s future, fueling its growth, vibrancy and creativity.” Kris Kobach (and by extension Mitt Romney) can be found on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch page, and in segments on Rachel Maddow, and other cable news programs, about an irrefutable personal and professional relationship with Russell Pearce—a man whose political aspirations hit a glass ceiling when mounds of evidence surfaced linking him with confirmed neo-Nazi, minuteman border vigilante, and murderer of women and children, J.T. Ready.