Peter Rothberg | The Nation

Peter Rothberg

Peter Rothberg

Opposing war, racism, sexism, climate change, economic injustice and high-stakes testing.

Winter in America

The sublime (and sublimely troubled) singer/songwriter Gil Scott-Heron wrote in 1981 at the dawn of the Reagan Revolution of waking up one day to find "Winter in America."

This morning in late 2004, at least in New York, a similar feeling is palpable. Yesterday's election did see record-turnout, yet, even without many of the expected polling irregularities, Bush won the popular vote. Young people did support Kerry in expected overwhelming fashion. The problem was that the youth demographic hit the polls in far fewer numbers than predicted despite the attention lavished on students by pollsters, the media, the Democratic Party and celebs like Michael Moore and Sheryl Crow.

Sure, the Bush campaign's unprecedented--at least in modern history--dishonesty helped win lots of votes. And the culture wars killed the Dems in numerous battleground states. But there must be something more. If not enough people saw through the Administration's hypocrisies--despite the remarkable, progressive organizing that went on to raise awareness of how the Bush agenda is crushing America--then there's more going on than just Karl Rove's brilliance coupled with a virtually bottomless war chest.

Regardless, as David Corn writes in his Nation weblog, now "there will be no good-bye to reckless preemptive war, an economic policy based on tax breaks tilted toward the wealthy, a war on environmental regulations, a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, excessive secrecy in government, unilateral machismo, the neocon theology of hubris and arrogance, a ban on effective stem cell research, no-bid Halliburton contracts, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, and much more."

In other words, being a progressive is now a much more important job than ever before. So, it's a good time to single out a few of the many public-interest groups who are now the only bulwark we have against an increasingly emboldened Bush team set out to impose its fundamentalist agenda on a divided nation. Please join, volunteer with, make donations to, praise often and otherwise support these organizations with all your might.

Bush's judicial appointments--Supreme Court and appellate--will likely be among the most damaging consequences of his second term. The Alliance for Justice has been on the front-lines of judicial fights since 1979 in an effort to promote a fair and independent judiciary.

The future of reproductive choice is also now in question. Both Planned Parenthood and NARAL-Pro Choice America will fight to the death to defend rollbacks on women's reproductive freedoms--whether they come in the form of the quiet de-funding of state-based health programs or the anticipated selection of anti-choice justices when vacancies on the Supreme Court open up.

Even if evangelical Christian John Ashcroft is pushed out of the Justice Department as some rumor-mongering has it, the wall between church and state will likely become much lower in the next four years. As Esther Kaplan writes in her invaluable new book on the relationship between Bush and the Christian right, in his first term, "Bush bucked up the movement...from his efforts to block abortions and gay marriage to his expenditure of significant political capital to support abstinence education, church-based social services and socially conservative judges." God only knows what he's planning for his second go-around.

People for the American Way has been sounding the alarm on the unprecedented influence of the Christian right on the Bush White House and is well-placed to expose the slow creep of the evangelical movement into the machinery of government.

In his first term, Bush's assault on the environment was so blatant and relentless that, as Mark Hertsgaard noted in a Nation story, "even American television now reports it as a simple fact, like gravity. " We can only imagine the plans of an Administration unencumbered by the burdens of a re-election. Fortunately, there are numerous good environmental groups operating currently, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club being among the most well-known and effective.

Further consolidation of the media was a major goal of Bush's first-term. A popular rebellion against Bush's FCC chairman Michael Powell was able to defeat Powell's clumsy efforts to rollback virtually all media regulation in June of 2003. The Free Press Media Network, founded by The Nation's John Nichols along with Robert McChesney to generate policies that will produce a more competitive and public interest-oriented media system, was in the forefront of organizing public opposition to Powell last year.

Needless to say, this is a very incomplete list of both issues and organizations. There are thousands of groups bracing to redouble their commitment to economic justice, peace and the environment over the next four years. It may be "Winter in America" but, as Katrina vanden Heuvel wrote the day before the election, "a grand coalition of progressivism" has developed over the last two years and no matter how we feel today, it won't go away. It also won't grow without your help, so support these groups--and others like them--today.

Decision Day

With the networks, the cable news stations, radio outlets, newspapers and magazines and, of course, the internet, this election will be the most widely reported electoral contest in US history. So, where are some good places to find independent reporting on Election Day?

First, of course, check out The Nation's special election weblog Ground War 2004, which features Nation correspondents reporting from swing states nationwide on the battle to preserve voting rights.

The Independent Media Center is providing around-the-clock reporting coast to coast with a special emphasis on Ohio and Michigan.

Created in response to repeated reports of problems at polling places, Blog the Vote is compiling news stories and eyewitness testimony about problems people have in attempting to exercise their franchise.

Link TV, with its partner Salon.com, will offer up-to-the-minute election results, reporting from the polls, political commentary, and updates from key battleground states. Although Link is not available on many cable systems, those with satellite TV can tune in through DIRECT TV (channel 375) or DISH Network (channel 9410). You can also click here to watch online.

Alternet has consistently published valuable articles on voting and the election throughout the campaign season, and will continue to post new reports on Election Day. The site also has a special state page for Ohio, designed to provide breaking news on what could be the decisive swing state.

Michael Moore has created "Mike's Election Watch Page," which is publishing reports of electoral fraud, voter intimidation and other polling place irregularities.

Check out the Common Dreams news site daily for a collection of each day's best articles culled from both the alternative and mainstream media.

Election Protection 2004, which has sent thousands of volunteers to swing states across the country to defend against voter intimidation, is posting reports by its poll watchers detailing problems they're finding at the polls.

Finally, check out Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart tonight for a special one-hour live election special at 10:00pm EST.

Co-written by Patrick Mulvaney

Help Preserve the Right to Vote

With the Presidential election less than a week away, it's clear that GOP operatives are attempting to disenfranchise voters through intimidation, suppression and bureaucratic maneuvers in battleground states coast to coast.

The examples are already legion: Just this week, it was revealed that in Broward County, Florida, 58,000 absentee ballots have not reached voters who requested them. In Ohio, thousands of Republican challengers are being deployed to polling places in heavily Democratic--and minority--areas to contest voters' eligibility, while the Republican Secretary of State has decided not to count "provisional" ballots filed at the wrong polling place, a judgment that will hit minorities the hardest. In Las Vegas recently, a former employee at the voter registration firm Sproul & Associates in Las Vegas--run by ex-Arizona Christian Coalition head Nathan Sproul--said he witnessed co-workers shredding new applications of registered Democrats. In Jacksonville, Florida, Suzanne Charlé reports, in a new Nation weblog, that GOP officials have resisted calls to process new registrations.

Fortunately, progressive activists nationwide are joining the fray in response. From voter mobilization to election monitoring, an unprecedented volunteer effort is under way to both turn out the vote and to prevent GOP operatives from turning the vote away. New York Newsday reported yesterday that Democratic-leaning groups expect to send 30,000 volunteers into swing states to join tens of thousands of paid grassroots workers and tens of thousands of local volunteers.

A coalition of groups led by People for the American Way has formed Election Protection to organize volunteers to most effectively preserve voting rights in this election. Click here if you want to be a last-minute volunteer, click here to support Election Protection with a donation, and click here to find out where your polling place is located.

The 527 group America Coming Together is also organizing eleventh-hour bus caravans nationwide to battleground states as well as phone banks for those who want to stay at home but answer questions and urge people to vote on Tuesday.

Republicans for Kerry

One of the many strange hallmarks of Election 2004 is the numerous Republican groups which have formed to organize support for Democrat John Kerry's campaign. There are also, of course, "Bush Democrats" around, but they're far less organized, and if my colleague Patrick Mulvaney's crawl around the internet is any indication, far fewer in number than their counterparts.

President Bush's extremist agenda, his Administration's skyrocketing budget deficits and his dishonesty in the run-up to war are the main reasons cited by longtime Republican voters for abandoning their party's nominee. The choice is simple to voters like Mitch Dworkin, who explains in an article on the Republicans for Kerry 2004 site that, "Bush and most of his Administration represent an extreme faction of the Republican Party and are out of touch with the American people."

There are numerous groups and organizations to check out to get a sense of the unusual number of Republican and conservative groups opposing President Bush in the upcoming election:

Republicans for Kerry

Another Republican for Kerry

Republicans Against Bush

Republican Switchers

Republicans 4 Kerry

Conservatives for Kerry

There are also several less formal, web-based groups comprised of Republicans opposing the Bush re-election effort, including the "Republicans Against Bush" Meetup and an AOL journal called "Republicans for the ouster of King George II." And even the Log Cabin Republicans, which notes on its website that "every victory for a fair-minded Republican is a victory for the future of [the Republican] Party," have pointedly chosen not to endorse Bush's re-election bid.

It's unclear what effect these typically GOP voters will have on the race's electoral math but it's clear that Bush is the most unpopular Republican nominee in memory among members of his own party.

Do You Know Your Polling Place?

Thanks to Nation reader Keith Kritselis who wrote in to alert us to a new website he created that he's hoping will help clear up some of the confusion caused by what looks like a spate of conservative attempts to keep just enough potential voters from casting their ballot next Tuesday.

The website's goal is to help voters identify and find their polling place, which is especially important in the wake of news that local Republican poll watchers may try to bar people from voting in any form if they mistakenly show up at the wrong polling place.

As Kritselis writes, "our database of online poll locators has been slowly growing. We now can get 63 percent of the US population the exact location of their polling site in 4 clicks or less. For the other 37 percent we provide a local phone number which they cancall to receive the information they need...This is a small one man operation with no marketing dollars. Anything you can do to help get the word out would be greatly appreciated."

Click here to check the site and circulate word about it to anyone you know who might need the information next week.

Taking it to Crossfire

Nation readers don't need to be told that what passes for TV punditry is far more degrading than uplifting for the national conversation.

With talking heads ranting at each other in soundbite form, it's difficult for even the most dignified, articulate analyst to avoid being caught up in the calculated theater of debate shows like MSNBC's Hardball, CNN's Crossfire and Fox News' Hannity & Colmes. To steal a good line from the man I'm about to praise, TV debate shows are as much about real debate as the World Wrestling Federation is about real athletic competition.

Jon Stewart dropped that line, among many other spot-on remarks, in an amazing confrontation with Crossfire hosts Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala this past Friday on the CNN program. Invited on to plug his (hilarious) new book, Stewart instead took the opportunity to publicly confront his hosts about why he thinks Crossfire's programming and the mainstream media in general are "hurting America." (He also told Carlson and Begala: "You have a responsibility to the public discourse, and you fail miserably.")

The result: perhaps the most direct, frank and truthful comments on the real role the media plays in shaping debate ever uttered on a major television news program. And, thanks to the internet, this remarkable moment in live TV, which clearly thrilled the in-studio audience, can live on well beyond the hundreds of thousands of people who saw it air last Friday.

Click here to watch the interview, click here to read the full transcript, and check out Stewart's comedic interpretation of the news every Monday through Thursday on Comedy Central.

Just One Vote

This year the Supreme Court and its future composition should be a bigger issue than ever. Yet, few people, including, curiously, the Democrats, are talking about it. Regardless, as Katha Pollitt says in her latest Nation column,"there is hardly an area of life that will not be affected by the judicial appointments made in the coming years."

And if the Dems won't raise the issue, then groups like the Alliance for Justice are doing their all to raise it for them. This week, in conjunction with the opening of the new Court session, the AFJ launched a new campaign centered on campuses.

The Student Action Campaign mobilizes college and law students around the country with an emphasis on raising awareness of the importance of the Supreme Court both in our everyday lives and as an issue in the presidential election.

As the group says, "Just one vote in the booth in November could make the difference in just one vote on the bench for decades to come." Click here for more info on the AFJ's Supreme Court campaign and click here to help the group extend its efforts.

VP DEBATE: Cheney's Cyber Slip

Does Dick Cheney know where he steered voters watching the vice presidential debate last night? In response to a series of attacks from John Edwards on Cheney's corrupt tenure as CEO of Halliburton, the vice president said that Kerry and Edwards "know the charges are false. They know that if you go, for example, to factcheck.com, an independent website sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, you can get the specific details with respect to Halliburton."

The problem with Cheney's rebuttal was that he meant to say "factcheck.org," rather than "com." George Soros quickly capitalized on Cheney's error, snatched up the URL overnight, and now, if you click on factcheck.com, as many people have and will, you get redirected to. . . Oh, just go ahead and do it. This is too good to give away.

(Thanks to Washington Monthly blogger Kevin Drum for bringing this amusing item to the world's attention. Click here to read Drum's excellent blog.)

Help Stop Racial Profiling

On February 27, 2001, President Bush expressed his firm opposition to racial profiling--the targeting of individuals by law enforcement officers on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion. "Racial profiling is wrong," he said, promising to "end it in America."

Now, more than three-and-a-half years later, Bush has failed to support a single legislative effort to ban this discriminatory practice. And not surprisingly, his Republican partners in the House and Senate have followed suit, refusing to take action against racial profiling.

In a recent study, Amnesty International found that roughly 32 million people reported that they have been victimized by racial profiling in the United States. The practice has afflicted people of all professions from all walks of life.

A new bill, recently introduced in Congress, "The End Racial Profiling Act of 2004," which currently has 16 co-sponsors in the Senate and 124 in the House, would serve as a big step in the right direction by outlawing racial profiling at all levels of law enforcement, tightening exemption loopholes, and requiring agencies to collect comprehensive data.

Click here to send a letter to your elected reps asking them to support the Act, click here to find contact info for your local media to ask the press to report on this important new bill, and click here for a list of AI's suggestions on how you can help end racial profilling in America.

Voter Registration Day

Groups from all over the country have come together to create the first-ever National Voter Registration Day today to build media interest and to bring out new volunteers for voter registration efforts before most states close their voting rolls on October 4.

You can find organized voter registration activities in most every region, city and town in the US. Click here for a nationwide calendar of events to find out what's happening in your area, and click here for a list of national voting rights projects looking for volunteers.

And make sure that you're registered to vote? MoveOn recently checked public voter files, and, shockingly, found that close to 30 percent of its members were not currently registered. Make sure you're not turned away from the polls on November 2 by clicking here. The process takes about three minutes with The Nation Online's new voting page.

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