Monday, December 10, 2018

Vote suppression: It's what Republicans do

            "Voter fraud is a felony!"

            So says the mega-decibel warning (did President Trump provide the punctuation?) posted in black and red in minority communities across the country.

            The billboards show how serious the Republicans who paid for them are about this stuff, more or less.

            We say "more or less," because when clear evidence of actual voter fraud presented itself months ago in a North Carolina congressional primary, Associated Press reported, "GOP officials did little to scrutinize the results."

            Now a whole election in a North Carolina congressional race in that same district may get tossed into the Dumpster over the very same concerns.

            The allegation is that GOP-hired operatives were going to the homes of absentee voters who hadn't turned in their ballots, offering to deliver them to polling locations and either trashing or altering them. The ballots, not surprisingly, were from largely minority communities.

            Another day, another scheme by Republicans to trash the vote.

            If that sounds broad-brush, it's because broad-brush tactics by Republicans have become so common in suppressing the vote, with people of color targeted.

            Such was the case when Brian Kemp, running for governor of Georgia while oh-so-conveniently also running the election as secretary of state, put in doubt the voting statuses of thousands of voters, the preponderance of them having black or brown skin.

            On and on it goes, this pernicious, anti-democratic gambit.

            Such was the case in North Dakota when Republicans made it difficult to impossible for Native Americans to vote due to the lack of street addresses in the reservation residences.

            Such was the case in Latino-majority Dodge City, Kan., where Republican officials moved the city's one polling place – that's just one place for a population of 27,000 – outside the city. (The average elsewhere in Kansas is one polling place per 1,200 voters).

            Such has been the case in state after state with restrictive laws that judge after judge has deemed to be targeted at people of color.

            One tactic the GOP likes is to limit the time voters have to get to the polls. The better to marginalize the working poor and those without transportation.

            Hence, among its grab-bag of power-grab efforts before a Democratic governor took office, one thing the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature did was pass a law to slash early voting schedules.

            The most abominable feature of all of these efforts is that they harm the constitutional rights of poor people, particularly people of color, and the Republicans know it. Indeed, they appear to thirst for it, though many colors are the future of the American electorate.

            The GOP, writes Jamil Smith in Rolling Stone, "has only one demonstrated strategy for competing in a browning America: Whiten it, physically and electorally."

            Harrumph if you will, but no one should be fooled by GOP vote-suppression tactics.

             Federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos was not fooled. She ruled that Texas' voter I.D. law, which is basically like so many GOP-written laws of its ilk, had the clear and tactical intent of discriminating against black and Hispanic voters.

            The law survived later appeals (another favorite tactic being to appeal and re-appeal rulings while elections continue to happen year after year) but no one should be fooled about its political designs.

            It's beyond ironic, now, that a party whose standard-bearer came into office squawking, without a shred of evidence, about illegal votes, now is embroiled in an actual vote-fraud imbroglio in North Carolina.

            As Paul Waldman writes in the Washington Post, reasonable people should all hope that in light of these matters, Republicans will "give up their repulsively disingenuous claim that their vote suppression measures are actually about 'voter fraud' and 'the integrity of the ballot' and just say, forthrightly, they don't actually care about voter fraud."

            Now, that would make a great billboard, with an exclamation point.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Trump's intriguing definition of 'zero'

           "For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia," said Donald Trump on July 26, 2016.

            That "the record" on which he swore was Twitter rather than, say, before congressional investigators, ultimately may prove beside the point.

            Trump was lying to the constituents he sought to serve as president.

            A question from a constituent: Why lie?

            As many a fact-checker attests, when Trump's lips are moving, untruth generally emanates. Some lies, however, are of more consequence than others.

            This whopper now has Trump "fixer" Michael Cohen pleading guilty to lying to Congress. Cohen, who was negotiating with Russian interests about building a Trump tower in Moscow (to be named Zero Investments Tower?), acknowledged misrepresenting the extent to which he and his boss were working with Russian interests on the matter.

            If Ken Starr went after Bill Clinton for the definition of "is," Robert Mueller now is interested in Donald Trump's definition of "zero." As every American should be.

            More important is for us all to understand why Trump would lie about it.

            After Cohen's guilty plea, Trump said of his Moscow dealings that "everybody knew. I mean, we were very open about it."

            You mean the Russian empire-building designs of which there were "zero"?

            Cohen admitted that the Trump Organization was pursuing the project as late as June 2016, the same month of the Trump Tower meeting with Russians meant to share "dirt" on Hillary Clinton.

            In written responses to questions from Robert Mueller, Trump has said he didn't know about that meeting.

            In his tower. Attended by his son. Attended by his son-in-law. Attended by his campaign manager.

            Trump didn't "know" about this – zero knowledge – until he dictated, aboard Air Force One, a letter providing a contemptuous story that the meeting was to discuss the adoption of Russian children – a tale that Donald Jr. later admitted wasn't true.

            Regardless, Trump has said that it isn't a crime to get dirt on an opponent.

            So why didn't he simply insert himself into the meeting, maybe have the speaker phone squawking? Did he have "Fox and Friends" to watch?

            Following this train of thought: If someone far away, on some couch somewhere, hacked into the Democratic National Committee's computer system, who wouldn't use dirt that emerged against the nasty, rotten Dems?

            Richard Nixon's boys were asking the same back before there were emails to hack.

            Trump biographer Tim O'Brien says that with Trump's trail of deception, "the unforgiving force of the U.S. justice system, which (Trump) has tried to undermine since becoming president, is encircling him." Mueller appears to have locked in, writes O'Brien, on the "fact pattern" of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

            This could include the apparent engagement of two key Trump insiders, Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi, with Wikileaks, the vessel for the sharing of those hacked DNC emails.

            Then there were Hillary Clinton's emails.

            "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said in a July 2016 press conference.

            That same month, Mueller asserts in the indictment of Russian hackers, those clandestine figures attempted to "spearphish" email accounts at a domain used for Clinton's personal emails.

            It's significant that the Republican-controlled House Intelligence Committee has already wrapped up its investigation and concluded that, as Trump says, there was "no collusion."

            Democrats who will run that show in 2019 have more questions, though. One person they want to testify is the now-forthcoming Michael Cohen.

            Can Cohen be trusted? Here's what Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said, "Obviously, you have to be a little bit ginger with anybody who's been lying for a long time," while calling him now, "a truth-telling refugee in Trump world." Call him Patient Zero.

            Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.