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Every year, we pay homage to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the month of January. Most offices are closed, kids are home from school and people generally enjoy the day off from their normal routines. But how many of us take the time to emulate Dr. King’s teachings? How many of us actually understand the fight he waged on our behalf? How many of us emulate his nonviolent dedication to defending the poor and seeking economic justice in society? In 2012, instead of just verbally praising Dr. King, we should continue his quest for equality and tackle today’s greatest civil rights challenges: leveling the playing field for everyone, fighting voter suppression, establishing stricter gun laws, a commitment to end international potential warfare and providing a quality education in our most impoverished areas. Then and only then will we truly understand the depth and meaning of celebrating Dr. King’s life, legacy and purpose. One of Dr. King’s last efforts prior to his untimely death was the Poor People’s Campaign. Combating issues of economic justice and housing for the poor, the campaign included an ‘Economic Bill of Rights’, and efforts to lobby elected officials to pass progressive legislation. Because Dr. King intently understood that the most vulnerable and disenfranchised in society were the poor, he dedicated much of his own life to giving them a platform, fighting for their rights and creating a society where they would no longer be dehumanized. Today, as many politicians cut vital programs like food stamps and unemployment insurance, the poor are increasingly watching their concerns fall on deaf ears and their voices drowned out in a sea of political wrangling. That is precisely why we cannot sit silently in the face of oppression. Until the weakest among us are afforded the same opportunities as the wealthiest, we cannot in good conscious accept that the fight for justice is complete. One of the greatest civil rights achievements we ever obtained was the capability to vote. Long denied the very basic ability to participate in the electoral process of the nation we helped construct, African Americans spent years post-slavery battling poll taxes and other discriminatory practices in order to secure the promise of one man, one vote. After some literally gave their lives so that others could one day participate in the democratic process of this nation, we are now watching that very core human right once again under attack. Passing ‘voter ID requirements’, several states have taken it upon themselves to alter the way in which citizens elect their next leaders. A poll tax by a new name, these voter ID laws are nothing more than intimidation tactics to keep the poor and people of color away from the polls. It is the most egregious and outrageous form of voter suppression we have ever witnessed in our lifetimes. And it is a blatant attempt to reverse the very work Dr. King dedicated his life to. When it comes to communities of color in the U.S., one of the most tragic realities we face is the rampant rise in gun usage and violence. We can argue as to the root causes of this rise — whether it be poverty, lack of jobs, inadequate schools, lack of opportunities — but the fact remains that it is our children we are burying and our families that are being torn apart. The larger question is, why are these guns so readily available? As the national rise in violence reaches epic proportions, we must create strict national gun laws, and we must establish programs to diminish this senseless violence. Whether it’s conducting gun buyback events, creating more alternatives for people to resolve their disputes, providing counseling where it’s often needed and seeking increased employment/opportunities for the disenfranchised, we must work together to save all of our collective futures. If Dr. King were alive today, another issue he would tackle head on would be increasing warfare around the world. As a man of the cloth and someone who embodied peaceful protest, he was always fervent in his anti-war stance. At a time when potential international warfare threatens stability in many nations and pushes us at home into deeper debt, we must look at potential conflicts through his lens. And finally, no society can advance to the next level if all of its children do not receive the same quality education. As I’ve stated many times in the past, education is often times the key that opens the door to entirely new possibilities and helps to equalize the playing field like nothing else can. But when a child doesn’t receive adequate education because of his/her socio-economic status, then we have failed as a nation. As perhaps our greatest modern civil rights struggle to date, good education is something we must ensure all children receive regardless of their race or income status. We agreed that ‘separate but equal’ was separate and unfair; now let’s work to create a united, equal educational system for all. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends,” were words spoken by the great Dr. King. As we gather to honor this civil rights advocate, let’s remember to pick up the mantle and continue the good fight, for there are many obstacles which remain. So let us not celebrate in silence, but commemorate with our actions; do something today to bring justice for tomorrow. Reverend Al Sharpton is the president of National Action Network and host of PoliticsNation on MSNBC.
We often hear facts about unemployment percentages, quantity of jobs added and the overall state of the economy.Â But how many times have you simply wondered what all of this really means?Â Who is actually impacted by â€œjobs createdâ€?Â How do people find this employment?Â How many people of color are hired?Â And perhaps our greatest challenge as yet, how many of our youth are getting this work?Â The December jobs report indicated that employment rose by over 200,000, while the unemployment rate itself fell to 8.5%.Â While this is great news, letâ€™s not forget the unfortunate reality that many of these jobs may not have reached our young people.Â As the mother of a teenage Black boy, I am increasingly concerned about his future, my own future and the fate of the next generation. The month of July is typically the summertime peak for youth employment when kids are out of school and making some extra cash.Â And that is precisely why 2011â€™s July youth employment numbers were all the more troubling and frightening.Â According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 48.8% â€” less than half â€” of all young folks aged 16 to 24 had a job.Â This was the lowest July rate on record for the series which began in 1948.Â For the first time in decades, American children faced diminished opportunities and a more unpredictable future than their parents.Â There was a time when a college education paved the way for increased prospects and guaranteed work.Â That unfortunately is far from reality now as even college grads find it impossible to obtain jobs while their mountains of debt continue to accrue.Â It is a grim reality that almost no one seems to be addressing.Â Itâ€™s partly why we saw the Occupy Wall St. protests emerge, and why more and more young people continue to join movements like ours â€“ they know weâ€™re at a pivotal moment. Recently, in National Action Networkâ€™s Atlanta chapter, we held a youth mobilization panel that focused in part on creating opportunities for young people.Â We hold similar events around the country and work with young community leaders like 14-year-old Mary Pat Hector to address the concerns of young people and create solutions for combating this great problem.Â While NAN conducts national events like our rally for Jobs & Justice, each and every one of us can do something in the neighborhoods we live in. If youâ€™re an adult with a little bit of spare time, talk to some of the young folks near you, help them to see that their future isnâ€™t all doomed. Young people, if thereâ€™s absolutely no work available near you, try creating unique entrepreneurial ways of making money that utilize your skills like selling paintings, singing at a neighborhood venue, creating a new video game, etc. And even though you may not want to, volunteering somewhere like a hospital or community group may actually lead to paid work soon. In this still tough economy, itâ€™s important to remember to think out of the box and not lose hope.Â Yes, there may be seemingly endless obstacles before you â€“ even more so than my generation faced â€“ but there are also more things at your disposal.Â Donâ€™t forget about social media and technology; things we didnâ€™t have as readily available when I was a teenager.Â No one is saying that the road ahead will be easy, but we must not lose focus.Â While we continue the political fight to keep attention on the unemployed and the plight of the suffering (including young folks), the youth of this country must stay just as vigilant on pushing their vision forward.Â Itâ€™s a message I tell my own son every day: if you donâ€™t mobilize and create a voice, no one will hear you.http://newsone.com/newsone-original/boycewatkins/why-black-people-dont-mind-spanking-their-kids/
Martin Luther King day is one of our only national holidays committed to honoring social and racial justice. Yet too often it has been watered down to a Hallmark card — a weak commemoration of one of the most inspiring individuals and formative eras in American history. It’s time for a true celebration of Martin Luther King Day. This week, Americans everywhere will remember the selfless and historic contributions made by one of the most important figures of the 20th century. Rebuild the Dream members are hosting MLK Day Movement Meet-ups to celebrate Dr. King and link the Civil Rights Movement with today’s struggle for an economy that works for all. We will come together to reflect on the struggles of our past, and unite to secure our future. This is a chance to touch base with people who are passionate about fighting for Dr. King’s dream. Neighbors and friends will gather in schools, libraries, community centers, and living rooms to watch a short video and open up a discussion on how we can strengthen our movement in 2012. If you would like to attend an MLK Day Meet-up, you can find one here. MLK day is a chance to look back and look ahead — let’s reflect on one of the most important movements of our past as a springboard for the ongoing fight for justice. There is a lot left to fight for, and every day people are continuing Dr. King’s struggle. With a powerful movement sweeping the country, we must gather together and ask: What would Dr. King and other civil rights leaders do today? How can we continue their legacy in 2012 and beyond? While the founding reality of America fell short of our ideals, we also had a founding dream that was beautiful — is beautiful — and is inherently about equality. The story of America is a story of an imperfect people struggling day after day, year after year, decade after decade, and now century after century to bring that unequal reality closer to our beautiful founding dream. That was Dr. King’s dream. That is what our movement is today. 2012 will be groundbreaking, so we have to get together and get ready. It’s our turn. Let’s honor the inextricable link between the struggles of our past and the struggle for our future.
Last night, GOP candidate Willard Mitt Romney delivered what many believed to be a general election speech after winning the New Hampshire primary and setting his sights on South Carolina. But out of all of the grandiose statements made in his teleprompter-assisted speech, Romney’s most outrageous and insulting words came with a reference to the ‘politics of envy’. Once again validating his love for the wealthy, and proving just how out of touch with reality he is, the presidential hopeful failed to realize that the majority in this country aren’t jealous of the rich — they are simply tired of a select few controlling a disproportionate amount of our money. It is beyond arrogant and insensitive to think that people seeking fairness and an even economic playing field are envious. And believe me Mr. Romney, they will remember come this November. There’s a growing movement afoot in this country. As someone who studied the teachings of Dr. King and who works to organize campaigns around various civil rights issues, I know first-hand that movements just don’t emerge out of a vacuum. Even prior to the one galvanizing element which may appear to ignite it, any massive cause is almost always triggered by several events bubbling underneath the surface. For those like Romney who would like to pretend that income inequality and wealth disparity aren’t pivotal issues, they better start paying attention to what the majority — the 99% — have been chanting in cities and towns all across this country. Last November, voters in Ohio defeated oppressive dictatorial legislation when they repealed Senate Bill 5. Essentially blocking public sector strikes, diminishing bargaining rights for some 360,000 public employees and stripping away overall union abilities, SB5 was one of the most regressive measures created in our lifetime. But proving their numbers and their own sheer power, the people delivered a resounding rejection to a bill that infringed on their rights as hard-working Americans. In Wisconsin, we watched a similar battle play out as Republican Gov. Scott Walker imposed a massive setback to public union and collective bargaining rights. After months of pushback, we now await signature totals in a recall effort by citizens tired of politicians not representing their interests. And it was precisely that frustration, that sense of injustice that also drove people from around the country — and eventually around the world — to occupy the streets and demand more opportunities for the majority. Sacrificing their own comfort to camp out in parks, demand that the 1% pay their fair share in taxes and most importantly, change the conversation to highlight the massive economic disparity in existence, the Occupy Wall St. protesters have galvanized into an entity that no presidential candidate can ignore. Time magazine named ‘the protester’ as it’s 2011 person of the year. In the U.S. alone, I saw disenchanted Americans come to my Jobs & Justice rally in Washington, and I went down to Occupy Wall St. in NY to witness mostly young people organizing a platform towards equality for their generation and beyond. Whether it was in Wisconsin, Ohio or any number of smaller fought battles across the nation, there is an undeniable momentum in the air. Emerging out of dissatisfaction with the status quo and the notion that only a tiny minority can control a disproportionate amount of the wealth, this drive for equality has reached the stage of a massive movement. And it’s a movement that will not tolerate being dehumanized, nor will it tolerate people like Willard Mitt Romney turning their legitimate concerns into banter. Romney, the people are not jealous of your mansions or boats. They are simply tired of income inequality, and tired of course of your condescending tone.
There are so many misstatements, distortions, exaggerations, flip-flops, falsehoods and flat out lies in politics, and particularly in political campaigns, that when a politician displays a rare moment of unquestioned honesty and authenticity, it becomes a major news story. (Remember the obsession with Hillary’s near tears on the campaign trail in ’08?) After months of the GOP presidential candidates accusing each other of lying about their own records and about the records of one another, we finally experienced one moment of unimpeachable, unadulterated honesty from a candidate. I’m not talking about the moment Newt Gingrich choked up while recalling his mother, or even the moment he let slip his real feelings about black people and food stamps . In fact I’m not talking about what Newt Gingrich said at all, but what he didn’t say. When Newt Gingrich refused to call Mitt Romney for the customary congratulatory call following Romney’s razor thin victory in Iowa, he said much more about what he thinks of Mitt Romney than he ever has in any debate. For that I applaud him. Being gracious in defeat is one of those idealized character traits that we all aspire to (you know, like how we’re supposed to say something nice or not saying anything at all) but few truly succeed at. We may say the right thing when our co-worker beats us in that pickup basketball game, or when our boss beats us in that “friendly” game of tennis, but how many actually mean the words, “You played a really great game” or “the better man won today” deep down inside? And if your coworker won with help from a questionable call or two, or your boss called a certain ball out on match point that looked very in to you (and everybody else), you may want to say a lot of things to them once the game is over, but “good game” probably isn’t on that list. Political campaigns are often filled with one bad call, one cheap shot, one sharp elbow and one foul after another. Yet despite often being more bruising than any contact sport (after all, even football players don’t go after each others’ families on the field), at the end of play, regardless of what happened on the court you are still supposed to pick up the phone, and call the guy who beat you, possibly by lying about you or criticizing your spouse, to say “Congratulations. I wish you the best.” Even though we all know you probably wish he would get hit by a bus. Though they may have little in common politically, former George McGovern and Gingrich do have something in common. According to the New York Times , after being trounced by Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election the former Senator also declined to pick up the phone for the standard concession call to his adversary. He sent a telegram instead. (Click here to see a list of some famous sore losers — from politics, to sports and entertainment.) (In light of the Watergate break-in, I might have opted for a singing telegram–delivered in the least favorite musical genre of the intended recipient.) Don’t get me wrong. I realize kids need to be taught the value of good sportsmanship. Frankly, that’s a lesson we could all use. But another lesson we can use? Learning to play fair. You can say a lot of things about Newt Gingrich (for instance my 90 year-old grandmother who can’t always remember his name calls him the one with “all the wives”) but one thing you can’t say about him is that he lost in Iowa fair and square. The loss may have been legal thanks to Citizens United , but I wouldn’t call it fair. He — and most of the other candidates — ultimately lost to Mitt Romney because Romney, and those supporting him, massively out spent the others. Whether or not the ads unleashed by the Romney campaign, and the super PACs supporting him, were inaccurate (a longstanding Gingrich complaint) is really secondary. If someone is flooding the airways with one message, and that message is drowning out all others, that message will get mistaken for fact — regardless of whether it is or not. Gingrich may have lost in Iowa, but he could perhaps take some small consolation in coming close to winning an unexpected new role by default: spokesperson for the movement to get rid of super PACs. Of course, then his opponents would have another example for their attack ads already going after him for his brief love fest with Nancy Pelosi over climate change, which supposedly proves that he’s occasionally too nice to liberals to be a true conservative. (Yes I laughed just as hard while typing that as you did when reading it.) But it appears that before embracing his new cause with both arms, he used one arm to signal, “Well if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” A super PAC supporting Gingrich will be spending millions of dollars on attack ads aimed at–you guessed it–Mitt Romney in South Carolina. Since Romney didn’t play fair, I must say that I don’t have a lot of sympathy for him regarding what’s about to come his way. That doesn’t mean I applaud Gingrich’s super PAC. I don’t applaud anyone, or any entity, that uses obscene amounts of money to hijack our political system. But I do find it refreshing that Gingrich actually took a stand in Iowa and essentially told Romney just what he could do with his win. And he did it without saying anything at all. Of course, a singing telegram might have worked too. Maybe a certain song by Cee-Lo Green? Keli Goff is the author of ” The GQ Candidate” and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where an earlier version of this post originally appeared.
As the new year begins, everyone’s attention is intently focused on the 2012 elections this fall and the direction of the nation. But while we parse the primaries and assess the candidates, there is another battle about to take place in this nation’s highest court that is just as vital. They are two cases set to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court in the early part of this year, and the outcome of both will determine whether we are a cohesive country of laws or whether we are a divided states that would like to make up our own rules as we go along. It is the ultimate test for many of the rights we garnered throughout the decades, and the results of these rulings will directly impact each and every one of us as Americans and the values that we hold so dearly. The two pertinent cases involve Obama’s health care reform legislation and the federal government’s ability to supersede states when it comes to the notion of immigration. By taking these two issues to the Supreme Court, some conservatives are making a feeble attempt to undo many of our civil liberties, but we, the people, refuse to stay silent. They may think they’re slick, but guess what, Republicans, we know your games all too well. On March 26th, my organization, National Action Network, will be rallying in front of the Supreme Court as it begins hearings on the ability of the federal government to enact the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. While this is merely politics for a Party struggling for relevance in an increasingly diverse nation, this case and health care reform are no laughing matter to millions of Americans living with little to no coverage. More than 2.5 million adults younger than 26 have already been able to stay on their parents’ insurance plan, and millions of children with pre-existing conditions have not been denied coverage thanks to this Affordable Care Act. In essence, that is what this legislation is all about — creating affordable options. It is the ability of millions of Americans to purchase insurance coverage at reasonable rates at a time when so many are either unemployed, underemployed or simply losing benefits as their employers cut costs. Perhaps those pushing for an end to this health care reform bill have never felt the pain of deciding whether to take a young child to the doctor or buy groceries to put food on the table. Maybe they don’t know the anguish of watching loved ones suffer because you can’t afford the right medication or the necessary treatment that could possibly save his/her life. Too busy conjuring up politically divisive terms like “Obamacare,” many on the extreme right have attempted to hide the tremendous benefits of this program that begins to rectify an unfair health care system. There is no reason why in the most powerful nation on Earth so many of its citizens are living without proper health care. As the attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act reaches the Supreme Court, we will be there letting our collective voices be heard. Be sure to join us on March 26th. The other case sadly finding its way to the Supreme Court this year is the regressive attempt by Republican-led states to enforce blatantly racist immigration laws. After Attorney General Eric Holder led the Justice Department to file a lawsuit against Arizona’s SB 1070 immigration bill, U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton blocked much of the AZ law from taking effect, and the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld her decision in a 2-1 vote. Still unable to accept these rulings, AZ Gov. Jan Brewar is now taking the issue to the Supreme Court, as she and other harsh immigration law proponents are screaming states’ rights and denouncing the federal government. Last time I checked, the federal government trumped states’ rights — and good thing they did or else we would still be sitting in “separate but equal” facilities, and still be barred from participating in much of society. With an increasingly conservative Supreme Court, we all need to pay extra attention to their findings and their rulings scheduled for later this year. And with Justice Elena Kagan recusing herself from this case, and with Justices Thomas and Scalia not recusing themselves from the health care case, we must wake up and see the bigger the picture. Make no mistake, these two Supreme Court cases are clear attempts to diminish our federal government and lay the groundwork to give states more authority to do as they please. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it was the federal government that enforced the Civil Rights Act of ’64, and it was the federal government that ended open discriminatory practices throughout the country. Without federal laws ensuring that varying states couldn’t ignore progressive regulation, women and people of color would not have many of the civil liberties we cherish today. These two Supreme Court cases are an attempt by some to slowly undo the very foundation of justice and equality in the country. They are an attempt to slowly reverse the Civil Rights Act and eliminate everything we have so consistently fought to attain. Join us on March 26th as we begin our rally in front of the Supreme Court to show our support for health care reform. As we diligently monitor both pertinent cases, and all rulings that emerge, we will be planning more action throughout the year. This may just be politics to those seeking a victory in Nov., but it is our lives and our children’s lives they are holding in the balance. Democracy is the ability of everyone to have a voice, and to have an opportunity to dictate what they want their future to look like. Make sure yours is heard.
Last week, while most of us were still recovering from holiday meal hangovers, Rick Perry sent a message to those who thought that his anti-gay “Stronger” ad was the epitome of desperation and pandering that you ain’t seen nothing yet. (Click here to see Perry’s “Stronger” ad, Ron Paul’s abortion ad, and others from the primary campaign.) Perry announced in an Iowa town hall that he had undergone a “transformation” regarding his position on abortion and now believes that the procedure should not be permissible in cases of rape or incest. Around the same time, Ron Paul became the fifth GOP candidate to sign what is known as the Personhood USA Pledge . The pledge, which has also been signed by candidates Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, and Santorum to date, reads , in part, “I support a human life amendment to the Constitution, and endorse legislation to make clear that the 14th Amendment protections apply to unborn children.” It goes on to state, “If elected President, I will work to advance state and federal laws and amendments that recognize the unalienable right to life of all human beings as persons at every stage of development, and to the best of my knowledge, I will only appoint federal judges and relevant officials who will uphold and enforce state and federal laws recognizing that all human beings at every stage of development are persons with the unalienable right to life.” Proponents of the pledge have previously acknowledged that it could criminalize birth control , a fact that, when made public, played a key role in torpedoing a personhood measure on the Mississippi ballot last fall. While abortion remains one of America’s most divisive issues, birth control and the issue of abortion in extreme circumstances are not. According to the CDC, 99 percent of sexually active American women use birth control, and though recent polls indicate that Americans are split equally on whether or not abortion should be legal, an overwhelming majority — more than 80 percent — believes it should be legal in cases of rape or incest, and nearly 90 percent believe it should be legal to save the life of a mother. Mitt Romney, who has staked much of his Iowa victory on whether or not voters will believe that, like Perry, he underwent a conversion of his own on the issue of abortion, has not signed the Personhood USA Pledge. But if various reports are to be believed, his own positions on abortion have fluctuated from pro-choice to even more extreme than those of his personhood-pledging counterparts. A new book contends that as a Mormon bishop, Romney tried to dissuade a woman from terminating a pregnancy that doctors warned was causing her internal bleeding. Despite Romney going so far as to follow the woman and her husband to the hospital, the couple made the decision to go forward with the procedure, which allegedly prompted Romney to track down her parents to get them to intervene. It is reported that her father instead decided to throw Romney out. But perhaps even more disturbing than that anecdote is that it is also alleged that while plotting his political rise, Romney met with Mormon leaders to map out an abortion strategy. It is reported that after consulting with them, a plan was adopted regarding how he would discuss the issue in order to be successfully elected in a left-leaning state like Massachusetts. This allegation plays into Romney’s most enduring criticism, namely that the man is incapable of saying what he believes — ever — just what he thinks will be the most politically expedient, even if it’s a matter of life or death. (To be clear, in this instance I am referring to the life and death of women coping with the dangers of pregnancy.) Nearly 40 years after Roe v. Wade , the current incarnation of the Republican Party seems determined to set the health of American women back by more than a century, with targeting abortion no longer enough. Birth control rights are increasingly in the line of fire. Perhaps even worse, the current crop of GOP presidential candidates seems determined to treat the health, safety, and rights of American women much like those cultures they often discuss with such scorn and superiority. ” Sharia law ” has become the dirtiest of dirty words in the culture wars, particularly in America’s post-9/11 political landscape. Yet I’m at a loss to see any real difference between the manner in which Sharia law penalizes women who are raped and the efforts of Perry and his Personhood cohorts to penalize American rape survivors with a nonconsensual pregnancy. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so sad and scary, and there’s the irony of President Obama being the subject of countless rumors and innuendo about alleged Muslim ties and efforts to inject Sharia law into the upper reaches of our government, while his strongest competition is trying to outdo one another to become the presidential poster child for the Westernized version of the very extremist laws they are busy warning the rest of us about (you know, when they are not trying to enact them on American soil, that is). The verdict may still be out on who wins Iowa, but one thing’s for sure: if any of these extremists wins, women will lose. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com , where this column originally appeared.
Just a few days before the highly coveted Iowa caucuses, all we keep hearing is talk of who is up in the polls, who is down, who made the latest gaffe and who the most conservative GOP candidate is of them all. But while we can sit and argue all day over whether Willard Mitt Romney will win in Iowa, or whether Newt Gingrich or latest favorite Rick Santorum will steal the most right-wing votes, the bottom line is, they’re all saying absolutely nothing. As we’re fascinated by the new flavor of the month, let’s not forget that at the end of the day, none of these Republican contenders have a vision for the future that is in line with hard-working Americans. They may come in slightly different packaging, but when it boils down to it, they’re all offering the same old Kool-Aid. And the country refuses to drink any more. Vetting candidates and learning their position on issues is obviously a vital part of the election process. But while we assess and analyze every nuance, let’s not lose sight of what this race is about: The fundamental direction of the nation. It’s a basic fight over whether we want to be a country with a federal government that maintains so many of the civil liberties people literally sacrificed their lives for. It’s a question of whether the United States wants to continue being united with fundamental guarantees of a free public education, and necessary safety nets like social security, unemployment benefits, welfare, Medicare, Medicaid and more. It is after all, those programs and many of the infrastructural processes that separate us from much of the world. Even at the most impoverished level, we can take some semblance of hope in knowing that there will be food stamps to feed our kids and a bit of unemployment insurance to try and clothe our loved ones. If these GOP candidates could have their way, much of this would be eliminated forever. Because of things like social security benefits, Americans know that they will not have to work forever. They are aware that programs they paid in to for years will be there when it’s their time to take a breather. When I said this election is “not about Obama, it’s about your mama” — that’s because it is. It’s about your mama, your grandmamma, your grandpa, your father, your children and your own future. We’re at a pivotal point in our history and it is not a time for complacency. President Obama was able to pass the most sweeping heath care reform we have seen. But right before many of these provisions will take place, Republicans would like nothing more than to reverse this reform and leave health insurance only for the privileged ones. If you listen to any of these GOP contenders, their entire mantra is repealing “‘Obamacare” at a time when many have already been aided tremendously by the change. It is just another example of how this 2012 race is about basic, central choice; the choice of progress vs. regression. Politics can be exciting, it can be interesting and it can be engaging to watch. We all entertain ourselves with the back-and-forth and we enjoy discussing developments — I myself have a cable TV show where we touch on issues of the day at length. But even as we debate the candidates and make our arguments, we cannot stray away from the larger picture of where we would like to see ourselves tomorrow. I’ve been an activist all my life, and was lucky to have studied the ways of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. I watched us gain many wins in the fight for justice, and I’ve seen barriers broken down all the way to the White House. I was always taught to “keep my eye on the prize,” and today, we must do the same. The prize is not which candidate or flavor of the month we go with, the prize is the direction of the United States. Keep your eye on the prize and occupy November.
While Hollywood is gearing up for the Golden Globes on January 15th (also known as the precursor to its version of the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards), the political world, or “Hollywood for ugly people” as it is sometimes jokingly called, is gearing up for its own Golden Globes: the first presidential primaries, before its own Super Bowl next November. Therefore I thought it only fitting to give awards for the best short films (aka political ads) this year, with a particular focus on the presidential primary ads. Though a recent analysis published in the New York Times noted that voters in the early primary states have been subjected to about two-thirds fewer ads than they had at this point in the last presidential primary, they have still endured thousands of them. Those outside of the early primary states tend to only see those that are particularly controversial or quirky, depriving us (or perhaps sparing us) of the countless others. Some of them good. Many of them bad. Lots of them ugly. Below is my take on the best and worst of the bunch. It’s worth noting that just like in Hollywood where there are blockbuster major studio films that can afford to spend millions on marketing and Oscar campaigns while indie flicks struggle to see the light of day, there are a couple of candidates who have the money to flood the airways more than others, so their repeat appearances on the lists below were unavoidable. But please feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts, comments and suggestions for nominees. Just so you know, I decided to focus strictly on the ads themselves, not on who deserves best actor, actress, and supporting nods, so please definitely weigh in on those too, and of course on who deserves a Razzie or two. Just click on the titles of the ads to view them in their entirety. Watch and enjoy. (Or perhaps be horrified.) Your call. Worst 2012 Primary Ads of the Year 5. Ron Paul, “Big Dog” I love dogs, but this ad using dogs as a metaphor for… something is… well there’s no other way to say it. It’s a dog with major woof factor. 4. Rick Perry, “American Story” This ad was going okay. The Texas Governor’s wife was helping to present another side of Rick Perry to voters to counter the image that’s been left by the odd, rambling figure who’s shown up at debates. Just when it seemed the Perry campaign had finally delivered a home run, the candidate swoops in at the end and ruins things. Or should I say jumps in? I have a feeling I’m not the only one who shouted, “Watch out! Mugger!” at the screen when Perry came flying out of nowhere. 3. Rick Santorum, “Pop Up Video” What is there to really say except, Rick Santorum plus an homage to ’90s staple pop up video = awkward comedy gold. Only I don’t think this ad is supposed to be funny. If it is, it’s probably supposed to be “laugh with me not at me funny.” It’s not. 2. Herman Cain, That Smoking Ad This ad is so bad it’s damn near good — like Saturday Night Live spoof good. A man who looks like the kind of guy your parents would tell the cops about if he hovered near your playground when you were a kid, wants us all to know that he thinks Herman Cain will put the “United back in the United States of America.” For emphasis, he then sends the message home with a puff of his cigarette. (At least I think it was for emphasis. Maybe the guy really just couldn’t wait for a smoke?) But the Herminator himself really gives the ad its winning ending with a creepy smile, the likes of which we haven’t seen on a presidential campaign trail since Rudy Giuliani tried to convince us he was a fun and likable guy. 1. Rick Perry, “Stronger” I’m sure some of you already saw this coming, and I’m also pretty sure I may take a bit of flack for what I’m about to type next but this is actually a pretty smart ad. I mean the messaging is not my cup of tea but then I’m not really Mr. Perry’s target audience. (Not being an Iowan for starters and then there’s that small detail of me not disliking gay people, but I digress.) The biggest failure of this ad, however, is not what Perry says, but when he said it. If he had actually released this ad shortly after his debut, the diehard religious conservatives he was hoping to reach with it might have seen it as more than a cynical ploy to salvage what’s left of a campaign that’s sinking faster than the Titanic . Standing up for what you believe in — no matter how much others disagree — is a characteristic people look for in a leader. Pandering out of desperation? Not so much. But there is one upside of this ad for the rest of us: it may end up being the most parodied ad of the election cycle. Click here to view a few. Honorable Mention Gary Johnson, “Tolerance is American” This ad is actually not bad… for a Democratic primary. Unfortunately for Mr. Johnson, he was, at the time of its release, running in a Republican primary, where I’m not so sure that ads focused on messages like, “It’s not American to stir up irrational fears about other Americans’ religious beliefs,” go over so well. Maybe he can use it for his rumored third party run? Best 2012 Primary Ads of the Year 5. Rick Perry, “Romney’s Remedy” This ad is a powerful reminder that, had Rick Perry not bungled his debate performances, he could have seriously given Romney a run for his money. The ad opens with an image of Mitt Romney looking into a mirror and seeing the image of President Obama staring back at him. Calling “Obamacare” the “most damaging prescription for America,” the word “Obamacare” is subsequently used interchangeably with “Romneycare.” That’s just the beginning. The ad fires many more shots at Romney as it goes on. 4. Ron Paul: “Serial Hypocrisy” AND “Selling Access” AND Perry Hearts Gore If there were an Olympics for attack ads, Ron Paul would have earned multiple medals this year. Mr. Polite in the debates takes off the gloves hard core when it comes to his ads — so much so that I couldn’t pick just one for this list. These three attack ads are pretty much near perfection. “Serial Hypocrisy” uses Newt Gingrich’s own words, as well as the words of a number of high profile conservatives, including self-professed party kingmaker Rush Limbaugh to bury the former Speaker. But perhaps the most brutal blow the ad delivers is its depiction of Gingrich in a love fest with one of the most loathed liberals on the planet: former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “Selling Access” is more of the same message, but features the devastating attack line, “This guy hasn’t just got skeletons in his closet he’s got a whole graveyard.” Then there’s his anti-Perry ad, which makes it sound like Rick Perry and Al Gore had some sort of political love affair. The horror! 3. Mitt Romney, “Bump in the Road” This particular ad is part of Romney’s “I’m-already-looking-ahead-to-the-general-election-campaign” strategy. It features a clip of the President making a reference to America’s economic situation being a “Bump in the Road,” and uses that line as the jumping off point for the ad. Americans of different ages, and notably, different races, holding up Romney for President signs with handwritten notes on them describing their dire financial situations as they say “I’m not a Bump in the Road. I’m an American.” Click here to see the year’s very best primary ads. Keli Goff is the author of The GQ Candidate and a Contributing Editor for Loop21.com where this post originally appeared. www.keligoff.com
When African Americans and other disenfranchised groups were still vying for an opportunity to have their voices heard and participate in the social and political process of the nation they helped construct, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was enacted to legally push forward this ability. When folks like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were entrenched in the struggle for civil rights, they achieved a victory with passage of the Voting Rights Act. And when states failed to comply with equal voting opportunities for all by creating literacy tests and other subliminal discriminatory practices, the federal Voting Rights Act superseded individual state’s attempts at bigotry and marginalization. Now, more than 40 years after the success of this historic legislation, many Republicans would like to slowly and covertly repeal the practice by establishing voter ID requirements in an effort to restrict individuals participating in the process. My message to them: don’t think you’re fooling anyone; we see your attempts at stealing the 2012 election and you will not get away with it. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a poignant message this week when he addressed an audience on this very issue at the Lyndon Johnson presidential library in Austin, Texas. Holder said he was calling on political parties to “resist the temptation to suppress certain votes in the hope of attaining electoral success” and stated that voting itself must be viewed “not only as a legal issue but as a moral imperative”. As someone who has been extremely concerned and vocal about this subject, I commend AG Holder and the administration for stepping in and tackling this pressing issue head on. We must support the AG in his efforts for not only are the most vulnerable among us at risk, but so too is our entire political structure as we know it. The biggest (and most laughable) excuse proponents of voter ID laws like to use is the notion that they are somehow preventing ‘voter fraud’. When only some 38 cases of ‘voter fraud’ have actually been found to exist, the idea that this is somehow an inherent and urgent dilemma should be insulting to anyone with a semblance of intelligence. When other, more problematic issues like voter restriction have been proven to discriminate and hinder fair voting, the real focus should instead be on how we can allow for more citizens to cast their ballots – not less. If an elderly 80-year-old has been voting for decades with proof of a utility bill or other documentation, how can we ask him/her to go through a lengthy process of obtaining a copy of their birth certificate, going to the DMV, etc? Who will assist this person in wrangling through the bureaucracy? The draconian ID requirements don’t only target the elderly. Many states are now prohibiting college students from voting in the state where they attend school. Next fall, when many of these students are entrenched in their studies, they will tragically find out that they are not eligible to vote. And how many of them will be able to leave school to travel out-of-state just to vote? Think we all know the answer to that. And of course, it should come as no surprise that Black and Latino citizens will suffer the greatest with these new ID laws. It’s estimated that millions and millions of minority voters will be excluded from the process as many either don’t have the money, time or means to obtain new identification. President Obama rode into office with massive support from both young people and minorities. When record numbers of Blacks, Latinos and the youth voted in the 2008 election, it’s blatantly clear why the right-wing is attempting to create these new ID requirements. Instead of trying to find ways to cheat the elections, perhaps they should understand why their antiquated policies are so disliked by the majority. They are attempting to change the rules because they realize they are doomed for failure — the nation is not on your side. And we, the people, will not allow you to block anyone’s right to vote; we’ve fought too hard and too long for justice