Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

The midterm elections in Georgia and Florida are far from over. I live in Georgia, and I am no fan of Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor. Her progressive credentials are no deeper than her gender, race and hair style. From 2011 to 2017 she was the Democratic party leader in the lower house of Georgia’s state legislature.

In capitalist America, legislatures choose as their leaders those lawmakers who are most effective at gathering bribes – politely known as campaign contributions, from corporations and wealthy individuals. That’s the leadership ladder Stacey Abrams climbed, and she emerges dripping with fracking money, nuke money, gentrifiers money and all the rest. Since she’s running against a naked white supremacist in the Trump era, our black political class and the rest of the Democratic party honchos are hoping we ignore this. We shouldn’t. And we shouldn’t get caught in the useless game of comparing the white racist crook to the crook that looks like us.

What’s important now is that the election is plainly being stolen, not from Stacey Abrams but from the majority of people who imagined that they and their votes ought to be counted. The election is being hijacked four ways.

FIRST, the election was stolen in the couple of years leading up to the current mid-term in which Brian Kemp as secretary of state purged some six or seven hundred thousand people from the voting rolls, often without the bother of even notifying them.

SECOND the election was stolen by the Secretary of State and officials in many counties who closed over 200 polling places going into this election alone, and by the state legislature which apparently feels the need to cut early voting hours and locations every session.

THIRD, the election was and is being stolen by the convenient expedient of not counting provisional ballots. Provisional ballots were introduced with the 2002 passage of the cynically misnamed Help America Vote Act, which provides that any vote which officials can find or invent a reason to question goes on a provisional ballot, separate from other cast ballots. Our good friend Greg Palast calls these placebo ballots, because they give the uninformed voter the opportunity to imagine that she has actually cast a vote, even though that vote may never be counted. In practice local officials have wide discretion on whether to actually count the placebo – I mean provisional ballots and frequently they are discarded, without the bother of notifying the voter.

Though federal law provides for the issue of placebo ballots, the Help America Vote Act allows states to make up their own procedures governing how and whether these are counted. In Georgia the law is that if you vote a placebo ballot you must appear in person before election officials while they’re still counting, and satisfy them that you are who you say you are and that you do indeed have the right and the intention to vote in that particular precinct. So federal courts have ordered Georgia counties to set up web sites and hot lines so that voters can discover whether they were among the tens of thousands who were issued these second class ballots, in the hopes that they can satisfy the authorities that they are real voters with the actual intent of exercising the franchise.

FOURTH, and worse than mere theft of the election, the electoral process is being fundamentally undermined and delegitimied by right wing media, corporate social media and Republican officials from the president down who are doubling and tripling down on the most outrageous vote fraud fairy tales, from thousands of votes showing up days late “out of nowhere” or “from the trunks of rented cars”, to busloads of non-citizens taken from polling place to polling place, to Democrats changing clothes and returning to polling places to vote a second or third time. It doesn’t matter that they’re all blatantly untrue, truth isn’t the goal. Elections are kind of magic, that is they do something only magic stuff can do. Elections confer legitimacy. At least they have until now. Blatant lies like these strip the magic from elections, and enable Republicans to claim any election they don’t win is crooked on the flimsiest of grounds or no grounds at all. This is beyond problematic, it’s a step toward fascism. If Trump doesn’t stroke out or choke on a hamburger with too much ketchup, he’ll be running again in 2020, with a gaggle of little fascists imitators at his coattails. They’re rehearsing they are building a playbook not just on how future elections can be stolen, but how they can be hijacked or even set aside.

Trump and his followers are sowing the wind, and we all stand to reap the whirlwind. I’m part of the Green Party in Georgia. We don’t support the Democrats and they don’t support us – Democrats have conspired with Republicans over the years to keep competition from the Green Party off the ballot. But we do want every voter and every vote counted. We expect to be running candidates in next year’s local elections around the country, and if they don’t change the law on us again as they have so many times, to compete in the 2020 elections. If they can do it to Democrats they will certainly do it to us.

In the end, the only legal solution to the vote counting mess is abolition of the placebo ballots maliciously introduced by the 2002 Help America Vote Act, and transitioning back to paper ballots, which can be accurately counted and if necessary recounted. Canada uses paper ballots, and their election results are ready by bedtime on election day. Georgia on the other hand has faith based voting machines, brought to us back when crooked Democrats instead of crooked Republicans ran the state. Recounts are not even possible – all officials can do is press the buttons again and the machines will spit out the same totals from wherever they came the first time.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Bruce Dixon. For three years now Google and other corporate social media suppress the appearance of Black Agenda Report in search results and by other means. The only way you can be certain you’re getting fresh news, commentary and analysis from the black left each and every week is to go to www.blackagendareport.com and hit the subscribe button so that our free weekly email newsletter is delivered straight to your email inbox with links to each week’s new content. Following us on Facebook doesn’t always do that. And the only way more people find out about Black Agenda Report is for you to share our articles by email and social media. We’re grateful when you do.

Direct download: 20181115_bd_count_every_vote.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:01am EDT

Was This Really The Most Important Mid-Term Election of Our Lives? Maybe Not.

For an occasion so momentous, not much has changed. The 115th Congress are lame ducks and though it will be dominated by a Democratic caucus with 229 votes, eleven more than the barest majority the 116th which swears in January 2019 won’t be much different.

Its Democratic party leaders are uniformly war Democrats, devoted to the bombing of several countries, to maintaining US fleets in every ocean, over 800 US military bases in a hundred plus countries, and to keep spending more on the military than the next nine or ten countries combined. Although a good hundred Democrats in the 115th Congress have signed on to a watered down version of Medicare For All, Democratic leaders are not committed to educate the public so Democrats can use this to win in 2020, and nobody expects Nancy Pelosi and the gang to support debt forgiveness for student loans, free college tuition, rent control, a living wage tied to actual prices, reining in the frackers and oil companies, or laws that would enable workers to organize unions and protect themselves. All these are things Democratic voters want, but Democratic leaders in the new 116th Congress do not.

Existing Democrats did not just overwhelmingly approve Trump’s record military budget proposal, they heaped upon it an additional amount greater than the entire amount spent by Russia while American communities are cutting and closing public schools, libraries and community hospitals and privatizing infrastructure from crumbling roads and bridges to the Post Office and the Veterans Administration. The new Democratic House leaders are expected to be Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, both 78 years old, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, age 79. Pelosi is in that spot because she raised $129 million for Democrats in the 2016 cycle. American legislative leaders like Pelosi in the federal Congress and Georgia’s Stacey Abrams who headed Democrats in the Georgia state House rise and fall on their ability as rainmakers, bringing in investments — I mean donations from wealthy corporate interests and individual donors, many of whom the law allows to remain anonymous. It is these big donor Democrats to whom Democratic party leaders are loyal, not to those who merely vote for Democrats.

Our Revolution, Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, the three nominally progressive outfits offered varying levels of technical assistance, fundraising and other help to fifty or so congressional candidates of varying strength around the country. About 30 made the general election but only seven backed by the Justice Democrats won on Tuesday. 3 of these were incumbents and the other four replaced retiring Democrats in Detroit, Boston, Minneapolis and New York City. The progressives were unable to dislodge right wing Dems in St. Louis or anyplace else, let alone win uphill battles against Republicans in districts around the country.

The DCCC, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was more successful. DCC is the official bagman for receiving this corporate money and deciding which Democrats to invest it in. Back in the 2006 election cycle, the last time Democrats got control of the House, Rahm Emanuel, since then Obama chief of staff and now Chicago mayor was calling shots at DCCC. He used those corporate millions to fund blue dog primary challenges against any Democrat with the slightest public opposition to the Iraq war. Rahm Emanuel must be smiling now.

DCCC backed some three dozen congressional contenders for 2018, who conspicuously flaunted their credentials as military officers, as special operators, as “dilplomats” – likely spies and the direct handlers of US sponsored torturers, mercenaries and kidnappers. Eight of the 29 seats Democrats picked up for the 116th Congress will be these CIA Democrats, as Patrick Martin at the World Socialist Web Site, which was the first to call attention to their presence named them. And there are DCCC candidates like Democrat Lucy McBath who narrowly won in Georgia’s 6th district backed by record amounts of cash and buoyed up by the drive to elect Stacey Abrams that state’s governor. McBath is one of the many Democrats who campaigned this year with absolutely no mention of America’s global empire, with US fleets in every ocean, US bombs, drones, logistical support and blockades in dozens of countries and 800 US military bases around the world. Corporate media colluded with both Democrats and Republicans to keep any discussion of US global empire off the table this campaign season, evidently because this is something upon which they pretty much agree upon.

Can we really hold anybody’s “feet to the fire?”

In the real world, the phrase “we’ll hold their feet to the fire” is a powerful metaphor. Wouldn’t it be lovely to strap your shoeless alderman, your water commissioner, your school board member, your state senator or your member of Congress to some kind of table and crank the hot coals closer an inch at a time under searching inquiry about this or that piece of the peoples business? But it’s a fantasy, the system has never worked that way. In the real world politicians are entrepreneurs, subject only to their own consciences and political table manners. Rather than propagating the feet to the fire fantasy we’re better off looking at the factual, the actual history of the Democrats about to lead the the House in the 116th Congress. The last time Nancy’s crew got control of the House was the 2006 election. Leading Democrats like Detroit’s John Conyers had crisscrossed the country howling for the impeachment of Cheney and Bush. Conyers’ 40 years seniority made him the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, with the power to call impeachment hearings. The red button was on his desk. But he wouldn’t push it. Conyers’ weak and cowardly excuse was “what would Fox News say?” That’s not wishful thinking, like “feet to the fire.” It’s the real history of the real Democrats who just won the House.

That’s the character of the 116th Congress, the product of what we were told was The Most Important Mid-Term Election of Our Lives. Maybe somebody lied to us about that as well.

Georgia’s gubernatorial race, which pitted a gun waving racist Republican Brian Kemp against Stacey Abrams the Democratic leader in Georgia’s state house the past seven years was, as Greg Palast has been explaining for months, stolen by Kemp and Republicans long before the polls opened this week. As Georgia’s two term secretary of state, Kemp and other Georgia Republicans have pursued a years-long death of a thousand cuts effort to shrink the number of voters likely likely to oppose Republicans. Flimsy legal pretexts were invoked to strike hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters off the rolls. Republicans repeatedly slashed the locations and hours of early voting opportunities and closed more than two hundred polling places, nearly all in Democratic leaning precincts. Kemp’s office has simply disappeared some 50,000 new registrations signed up by backers of Stacey Abrams and other Democrats, afterward saying these people could vote with the infamous provisional ballots introduced by the cynically misnamed Help America Vote Act. Georgia law allows local election officials to disregard provisional ballots unless voters re-identify themselves on the spot. Additionally Georgia’s statewide standardized voting machines are uniquely vulnerable to tampering thanks to the faith-based audit proof systems introduced in the 1990s and early 2000s when Democrats controlled the state’s legislative and executive branches, a system faithfully protected by Republicans ever since.

It took every bit of this long running chicanery to get Brian Kemp within spitting distance of his opponent, and it still might not be enough. Kemp finally resigned as GA Secretary of State the day after election day, and Abrams has not conceded defeat, insisting that a full and honest count of absentee and provisional ballots will necessitate a December 4 runoff election. Though Republicans have declared victory, the outcome of this election could hang in the balance for days or weeks. We’ll see.

Was this really “The Most Important Mid-Term Election of Our Era? Probably not.

Like Congressional Democrats who tell us they’re really The Resistance, not the Assistance somebody lied to us here. The election just passed was serious business for sure, the people’s business mishandled, misrepresented, bought and stolen. Some who insisted it was The Most Important Mid-Term Election of The Era were innocently mistaken, frightened by Trump and the genuinely scary rise of white nationalism. In every election some are focused on their own careers which can be made broken with the outcome. And in some cases for whatever reason some people simply lied to us.

Whatever else elections, even crooked ones might be, they are also in part magical devices which can confer legitimacy, what the Chinese used to call the Mandate of Heaven upon the authorities who hold them. This is why insecure tyrants like Haiti’s Papa Doc or Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos made sure they got 90, 95 or 99% of the vote. Candidates and parties in the election just past were chosen by moneyed elites. Corporate media disciplined its pollsters, reporters editorial boards and commentators to keep discussion of privatization and poverty at home and empire abroad off the table. Millions of Democrat and independent leaning voters were struck from the rolls or prevented from taking part, and federal judges have affirmed that US voters have no right to verifiable audits of elections. The president really is a racist demagogue who wants to lock up hundreds of thousands of immigrants today, and maybe Americans tomorrow. No joke. Fascist mobs, encouraged by the NRA and smiled upon by local cops are becoming more common. Millions of Americans are mired in insurmountable debt for the crimes of trying to own homes or for seeking college educations or just for getting sick. The economy is “booming” mostly for one-percenters, not the rest of us, and a third of working age Americans are outside the formal labor market. So yeah, elections are important and all.

But anybody who tells you dancing to this crooked music is what our ancestors fought and died for is talking nonsense. Elections and voting are frequently not the most important things happening in the struggle for human liberation. And this was probably not the Most Crucial Election of All Times.

Maybe we should give the side eye to the folks who tell us that every two years.

You should know that Google and other corporate social media have routinely suppressed the appearance of Black Agenda Report’s news, commentary and analysis from the black left from appearing in newsfeeds and search results for 3 years now, as they do for a growing list of leftist web sites and news sources. You can and should like and follow us on Facebook and Twitter, but they still might not let you see us, that’s what’s real. The only way to ensure you’re getting all the weekly audio, video and print content Black Agenda Report produces each week is to go to www.blackagendareport.com and hit the “subscribe” button which sends our free weekly email newsletter to your inbox every week with links to all our new content for your reading, listening and sharing pleasure. Remember that on the internet nobody can find us if nobody gets sent. So share Black Agenda Report with somebody, please. Corporate censors are unable to block or even to trace email. That’s why marketers call email the “dark social media,” and why dark social media is your friend. Yan also subscribe to our audio content at iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.

For Black Agenda Radio Commentaries, I’m Bruce Dixon.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him via email at bruce.dixon@blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 2018110_bd_most-important-midterm-election-EVER.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:05am EDT