Yesterday I spent all day at my division polling station, in the Election Board of my division of my ward in Philadelphia-I served as Machine Inspector. I helped set up the voting machine and turned it on, to help people get ready to vote, the most basic and simple-and essential-function of a democracy (what’s left of it in this country). I showed people how to use the machine if they were a little confused; and when the polling station closed I helped take the cartridge out of the machine, along with the tape that counted the votes, and closed the machine. It was a great day, rough in spots, but I enjoyed my work in advancing the democratic process. I hope all of you voted, and I encourage you to play a role in your own communities.
As a committee-person for my ward, I join my other committee-people to listen to candidates for City offices in Philadelphia this year-Mayor, district City Council-member, Council at Large, Sheriff, City Commissioner (in charge of the voting system), Register of Wills, and Common Pleas and Municipal Judges. We ask the candidates questions about legalizing marijuana and sex work, reentry programs for ex-offenders, the Soda Tax, the ten-year tax abatement for real estate developers, gentrification, funding pre-K education, low-income housing, the $15.00-an-hour minimum wage, publicly-funded political campaigns, avoiding foreclosures on homes for sheriff sales, among others. These candidates come from various backgrounds, including immigrant and working-class histories; these are people sincerely trying to change the lives of their constituents.
I urge you to get involved in the affairs of your communities where you are, ask questions of candidates-maybe be one yourself-and for God’s sake get out and vote.
A special meeting of Philly For Change-one of my favorite groups-will take place on Monday, April 15, 2019, at 7:00 PM, at Tattooed Mom, 5th and South streets in Philadelphia. There, we will meet the following candidates:
Maria Quinones Sanchez, City Council, 7th Councilmanic District;
Isaiah Thomas, Adrian Rivera-Reyes, Asa Khalif, and Fernando Trevino, for City Council at Large;
Jen Devor and Kalil Williams for City Commissioner;
and judicial candidates Wendi Barish, Gregory Weyer, Dave Conroy, and Jennifer Schultz;
and a discussion on voting machines led by Rich Garella.
This will be the last meeting before endorsement. I hope to see you all there.
Today I took part in the taping of Conversations Across Time (https://www.conversationsacrosstime.net/) at PhillyCAM, the public access channel of Philadelphia. (https://www.conversationsacrosstime.net/) . We discussed immigration and the private prison industry how that industry profits from warehousing Central American immigrants fleeing poverty, gang violence, and repression in their homelands; I played Associate Justice Antonin Scalia.
Later on, I went to South Philadelphia High School, to attend a class for election board workers, people who supervise the process of recording people coming to exercise their right to vote, and have their votes counted. We learned of setting up the polling station on Primary Election Day (May 21 in Pennsylvania), setting up the machine for accurate voting, taking down the machine, and passing the results on to be recorded.
In both locations, we emphasized the importance of people going out to vote. If you reside in the City/County of Philadelphia, please look up the website of the City Commissioners, https://www.philadelphiavotes.com/ .
Last night, I attended the monthly meeting of Philly For Change, held every Wednesday evening at Tattooed Mom, 5th and South streets in Philadelphia. we listened to the campaign pitches of candidates for the offices as City Council at Large and City Commissioner ( the body that runs the voting system in Philadelphia).
Lisa Deeley, current incumbent Chair of the City Commissioners, spoke to the group, along with Omar Sabir and Moria Bohannon, also running for City Commissioner. They took questions about the integrity of the new voting machines the City has purchased, whether they can be safe from computer hacking-a real fear. They also spoke about the need to educate people about how the voting system works, and of the importance of voting.
Candidates for City Council at Large were Justin DiBerandinis and Derek Green, who spoke of how their life experiences influence their participation in the political process. We as citizens should also involve ourselves in the process, because it affects our lives.
I hope everyone within the sound of this newsletter voted. I did my modest role in the process; as a committee-person in my division, I handed out flyers throughout my ward, and I served as Clerk in my division’s election board, taping up posters and helping take the information from the machines after the election.
In my division, it was an epic turnout; serious issues were at stake in this election, such as the environment, tax codes favoring the wealthy and placing the tax burden on already stressed working families, dilapidated schools, and aging infrastructure-along with a commander-in-chief who runs the government like a mafia family, who does not honor military veterans or people who died in the service of their country, and whose deepest thoughts are on Twitter (nothing against social media, he’s not that deep a thinker).
But it shouldn’t take an impending national catastrophe to motivate people into voting; politics, and the issues of the community affected by politics, are the concern of each person. Now that the election is (for the most part) over, we can take a breather-burnout and wearing down are problems for activists-then continue our work on educating ourselves on the issues and meeting to plan strategy; politics is not about elections, it’s about working with, and on, the governing system for the benefit of the entire community.
I’m pleased with some of the results; we didn’t get the Senate, but we have the House, with a new cadre of women members-over 100 at last count; recounts have added to the number. A definite, long-overdue sea change is coming to our politics. We have Sharice Davids in Kansas (Native American and gay), Deb Haaland in New Mexico (Nate American), Rashida Tlaib in Michigan (Muslim) and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota (Muslim and Somali-American), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York (Hispanic and the youngest female member elected). In Colorado, Jared Polis (Democrat) will be the first openly gay man to be elected governor of a state (Kate Brown of Oregon is already the first openly bisexual governor of a state). Marsha Blackburn will be Tennessee’s first female US Senator.
The question-Should there be new leadership for congressional Democrats? Often congressional Democratic leaders, like Steny Hoyer and Chuck Schumer, have gone along too much with accommodating Republicans, giving up too much to them; and Majority Leader (and possible Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi does not want to take the radical measures necessary for the country and the economy, like “Medicare for all,” to make our health care system closer to Canada’s single-payer system, preferring to stick with the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”).
Alas, taking corporate money, and the Clinton “centrist” tendency to imitate the Republicans in accommodating corporations with “free trade” deals detrimental to workers, like the North American free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have rendered the Democrats incapable of challenging the Republican program. And so we have been taught that “free trade” is the new normal, the reality we have to accept, and any challenge is just plain silly.
Oh? This new crew of Democrats in Congress hopefully could challenge this belief. But do we have to accept Pelosi as Speaker again? Would any attempt to dislodge Pelosi weaken the Democrats in Congress, at a time when the Republicans are now weakened by their own President, and may not ever recover? This is a great test of political skills for the new crew, to be ready to deal with the established leadership, but from a position of strength, to advance their agenda within the framework of the party caucus.
The party leadership would have to consider first the needs of the American people and the issues Americans face on a daily basis, and the leaders would have to finally be weaned away from the corporate trough. The new members represent the American people as they are-not so affluent, not so white, mainly female, many not heterosexual, and not all of them identifying as Christian. Eventually, with practice of political skills like committee work, public speaking, and negotiating, these newbies will attain leadership positions.
The new congressional crew will have to deal with such serious issues as income inequality, health insurance, dilapidated schools and infrastructure, the environment, factories closing and jobs moving to low wage regions, then overseas (a phenomenon dating back to the fifties and sixties, supposedly a golden age for the American worker). For the good of the nation-seriously-the new crew and the old heads must come together for the people’s welfare. (I’m not an either-or thinker; the new crew and the old veterans have their virtues, skills, experience, and energy.)
This election has also exposed the terrible reality of voter fraud, particularly in Georgia, Texas, and Florida, during their senatorial and gubernatorial campaigns. How interesting it is that while people were exercising the most simple and basic act of a citizen-voting-machines, lost electric power or were not open on time, absentee ballots were misplaced until the deadline for counting them passed, and people suddenly found themselves NOT on the voting rolls, even though they voted for decades. Fortunately, the results of these voting suppression schemes are observed and challenged. And IF these candidates are “elected” by fraudulent means, like Brian Kemp in Georgia (who, while running for Governor, was still the state’s Secretary of State, in charge of the voting system), we don’t have to accept them as the legitimate holders of those offices. This is not about “being a good sport” and “you lost get over it.” This is serious business, not a kid’s backyard ball game. These offices affect how people’s lives work-law enforcement (will it turn into state repression?), pollution, discrimination, you name it.
And do the conservatives think that we the people will take this? NO! We will continue our work of activism, agitation, education, and voter mobilization. Rest assured I’ll do my part, and if we all come together in this work, we can and will win. Please forgive the cliché, but “Many hands make light work.” Bye!