Archive for the ‘Redistricting’ Category

Content in Tennessee

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

In 2010, the political landscape in Tennessee changed. A large stash of “dark money” sweeps the Tennessee Democratic Party from power, for the first time since Reconstruction. Candidates of the Republican Party were elected in mass, based on empty promises of job creation and a focus on education. It did not seem to matter that many of these candidates were not vetted; more less qualified to hold political office or even hold a regular job in the common job market. The voters did not seem to care they were electing unqualified people to office.

Unfortunately, the lack of qualification of candidates was not the only thing wrong with the “political winds of change” that affected Tennessee and many other southern states that created the perfect political storm. This political change was driven by much darker forces and was not based on the normal issues that affect most elections or spark most political up evil. This change was fueled by racism and hatred of President Obama. And it occurred at a time when control of political power was up for grabs for ten years, not just for an election cycle.

It occurred at a time when the political party who won the state, would control the state for ten years, and be allowed to redistrict the political landscape and reallocate the political power of a state. The masterminds of this political up evil had more important goals in mind than just political victory and they were more than happy to use hatred to achieve their vile agenda. Nor, did it matter that mindless teabaggers would serve as minions to assist the rich in reaching their goal.

We have since seen the devastation of this political change and the damaging impact it has had on the poor and middle class in our state and nation. It did not take long to realize the promises of job creation and focus on education were empty words “lies” by the GOP to simply gain power and control.

And since the election, the GOP has taken undemocratic steps to entrench their political power. Adopting measures to ensure voter suppression on the vary people their vile agenda has harmed the most: the old, young, poor, women, sick and minorities. They have attacked women healthcare, workers’ rights, gay rights, minority rights, civil rights, and dismantled the safety net that has successfully protected the poor, old, sick and middle class since the Great Depression, while continuing to give large tax breaks to the rich and corporations.

It does not seem to matter that they have lost national power as a party, they seem happy with the short term state power and/or regional power they have achieved and they have used this power to undermine national laws and political legislation.

Four years later, the attacks on women’s rights, voter’s rights, workers’ rights immigration, and civil rights has escalated by the GOP. Attacks on the poor and middle class have also escalated as the GOP attempts to dismantle and gut public education and social programs like Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and unemployment compensation.

Not since the Great Depression, has the GOP agenda been so void of a moral compass.Republicans are attempting to dismantle the vary programs designed to help those in need, during tough economic times, like now, when 40 million Americans need government subsidized food assistance to simply live and 1.3 million Americans lost their unemployment compensation, yesterday, because of GOP cuts. In months, another 1.9 million will lose their unemployment compensation. The GOP don’t even seem concerned about the additional loss of 240,000 jobs that will occur from this loss of this money from the economy. Nothing, not even the welfare of the nation, is more important than their vile agenda.

In Tennessee, more than 20% of Tennesseans receive government assistance for food and experienced cuts in SNAP assistance. More than 18,000 Tennesseans lost their unemployment yesterday.

The GOP faithful calls these expenditures on humanity – waste and too expensive to afford, yet, they don’t hesitate giving large tax breaks to the rich and corporations. They spoke not one objection when it came to the costs of twelve years of two “unfunded” wars and giving corporate “welfare” to the greed driven military contractors. They never seem to have a problem with waste when it comes to giving large tax breaks to their rich friends but God forbid – we help the poor or middle class during tough economic times.

Four years later, unemployment in Tennessee is 8.1% while it is 7% nationally. The Tennessee legislature has not passed nor discussed one act of legislation related to job creation. Nothing has been done to strengthen public education, in fact the GOP works feverishly to dismantle it. The Republican “super majority” legislation has been more concerned with catering to their gun lobbyists’ friends and other special interest groups. Our governor is too busy handling his messy shady dealings to something that would actually help middle class folks like extending Medicaid for 170,000 Tennesseans.

Did Tennesseans get what they bargained for when the voted red in 2010? Is there any buyer’s remorse or are folks in Tennessee simply content with the sad state of affairs of our state as a result of that vote?

Dark Money for a Vile Agenda

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

As wing-nut legislation sweeps across the nation, specifically the south, I hear more and more people ask, where did this nutty legislation come from? Folks find it hard to believe that in 2013, such legislation, not seen since 1850 is serious legislation today. Most of this legislation, is not reflective, of the people in the majority of these states, where such outrageous medieval laws are not only being discussed but enacted.

Then why is such an obvious minority view being cast on the people in state after state? One has to travel to the areas held by the Taliban to find similar draconian laws. Most of these laws are crafted by the American Legislative Exchange Cancel (ALEC). ALEC is a group of individuals who craft laws to solely benefit corporations and the wealthy and not the best interest of the middle class or the nation.

To understand the outrageous legislation sweeping the nation, one must look at recent elections and the motivations to steal them. How did Republicans win a 234-201 majority in the House of Representatives despite Democrats receiving more votes in congressional districts and races overall? How can a majority of votes not equal victory? One can point to redistricting as the main reason for disparity.

In the November election, over a million more Americans voted for Democrats seeking election to the U.S. House of Representatives than Republicans. But that popular vote advantage did not result in control of the chamber. It is amazing that an overwhelming popular vote advantage did not result in a Democratic majority in congress.

How did Republican dominate redistricting in 2010? The answer is simple. They relied on dark money and millions in corporate donations to achieve Republican-friendly maps across the nation. Those who gave this money, where rewarded in being able to write legislation, which is now sweeping across the nation.

Corporate tobacco giants Reynolds and Altria, each gave more than $1 million to the main Republican redistricting group, as did American Crossroads (Rove’s super PAC); Walmart and the pharmaceutical industry also contributed with big donations. More importantly, other donors, who gave to the nonprofits Republicans created, will never be disclosed – dark money.

In 2012, it appears that dark money did not do much in terms of returns in victories for Republican donor but it paid off quiet handsomely with donations dumped into redistricting in 2010.

Democrats were outspent 3-to-1 and did not prioritize winning state legislatures. They also faced a Republican surge in 2010.

Across the nation, Republican operatives, funded by dark money groups, drew the crucial lines which packed as many Democrats as possible into very small districts. The result: they were able to flip state’s congressional delegations in favor of Republicans by shocking disparity. The combination of party operatives, cash and secrecy also existed in many other states, including Tennessee, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio.

As demographics change, lines are shifted to make sure everyone is equally represented and to give communities a voice. Redistricting is supposed to protect the fundamental principle of one-person-one-vote. In order for Republicans to win, they undermined the votes of Democrats, especially African-Americans.

This strategy began in the run-up to the 2010 elections. Republicans poured money into local races. It was an efficient approach. While congressional races routinely cost millions, a few thousand dollars here and there can swing a campaign for a seat in the state legislature.

The Republican effort to influence redistricting overall was spearheaded by a group called the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC). For most of that time, the groups primarily mission was to serve as a vehicle for donors to influence state legislatures, key battlegrounds for regulations that affect corporate America. Its focus changed in 2010 to redistricting.

This effort was primarily financed by Walmart and tobacco companies, the largest funders in 2010 were the Chamber of Commerce and American Justice Partnership, giving a combined $6.5 million. Those two groups raise money from corporations and others but they do not have to disclose their donors.

As the 2010 heated up, the RSLC jumped into local races in many states. They made secret contributions keeping their involvement away from the attention of state voters. They simply funneled money into newly formed local nonprofit groups.

Twenty legislative bodies which were previously split or under Democratic control are now under Republican control due to excessive dark money spending in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and North Carolina, among other states.

Next, Republicans drew new district maps, redistricting by Gerrymandering Democrats out of power. To fund the redistricting work, the Republican State Leadership Committee used its previously dormant nonprofit arm, the State Government Leadership Foundation. Dark money funded this effort and allowed to keep secret the identity of their donors.

Of course the group who performed the redistricting was paid with dark money and the redistricting process was so secretive, it is impossible to know the full extent of its activities.

Through the spring and summer, after the elections, legislators in charge of redistricting traveled the states holding public meetings, soliciting comment and proposed maps from citizens — though the Republicans on the committee would not produce draft maps themselves. This occurred in state after state. Fuzzy maps, no maps and incorrect maps cluttered the political landscape. This procedure was simply a ploy while the real maps were being devised in secret locations behind the scenes.

Specially crafted districts guaranteed big gains for the Republican Party. Now those in those states are paying the price for the elections bought by dark money. The legislation bought by this money are reaping misery on those living in these radical states.