8,000 pizzas sent to hungry voters stuck in long poll lines
By ALINA HARTOUNIAN
Wednesday, November 7
PHOENIX (AP) — A group sent 8,000 pizzas to hungry voters as they waited in long lines that plagued polling places across the country Tuesday.
The group Pizza to the Polls collects social media reports of long lines and doles out pizzas accordingly. The nonprofit enjoyed a boost in recent days because of tweets and donations from celebrities like Debra Messing, Alyssa Milano, Mandy Moore and Patton Oswalt, raising more than $300,000 over a 24-hour period.
Co-founder Katie Harlow of Portland, Oregon, said she and two friends came up with the idea in 2016 after seeing long lines during the early voting.
“We just wanted a way to help out and siphon our jitters into something productive,” she said. They picked pizza to keep people in line because of its mass appeal and because it’s easily shared.
Yoga teacher Angie Starz ate some cheese pizza delivered by the group during her two-hour wait to cast her ballot in Chicago on Monday.
“People that were crabby and quiet transformed into talkative and were connecting with one another,” she said. “It’s amazing how a little bit of pizza can shift a mood.”
The pizza deliveries are a barometer of where the worst lines are occurring.
“The worst has been Georgia. We’re getting reports of three-hour, four-hour lines. Which is really frustrating for us,” she said. “We really wish we didn’t have to do this.”
Harlow said they will be delivering pizza in 2020 as well and will aim to do so until people aren’t waiting in voting lines anymore.
“We know we’re not changing the world with pizzas, but it’s nice to feel like you’re making a difference,” she said.
THE ISSUES THAT WON’T GO AWAY
By Robert C. Koehler
How much real change manifested itself in the 2018 midterms? How deeply does the outcome reflect the American soul?
Apparently, about 113 million Americans, basically half the electorate, felt compelled to vote in the midterms, revved up either by intense opposition to or support for Donald Trump. This is a lot more than usual for a non-presidential election, but still fairly pathetic for “the world’s greatest democracy.”
How much closer did we move to becoming a nation able and willing to focus on the real issues that threaten the planet?
To the extent that the election was about Trump and Trumpism:
“… keep in mind,” Tom Engelhardt reminds us, “that he entered an unsettled world already well prepared for such a presidency by his predecessors in Washington. If the fascist … tendency that lurks in him and in the situation that surrounds him does come out more fully, he will obviously be aided by the ever more imperial presidency that was created in the decades before he left Trump Tower for the White House.
“When he entered the Oval Office, he found there a presidency in which — particularly on the subject of war (the president was, for instance, already America’s global assassin-in-chief) — his powers increasingly stood outside both Congress and the Constitution. The weapons he’s now bringing to bear, including executive orders and the U.S. military, were already well prepared for him.”
This country has been spiraling in the wrong direction for a long time. Some progressives determined to change the game were among those who gained office in this election, which is something worth celebrating — but hardly reason to heave a sigh of relief. Most of the issues that truly matter, that require a fundamental shift in American politics, remain rawly unaddressed and unacknowledged. They were essentially invisible in the mainstream election coverage, which, as usual, presented it as a horse race for the entertainment of Spectator America, not the creation of the future.
These issues include:
A. Militarism, endless war, unconscionable military spending, nuclear weapons. This was utterly off the table in the midterms. As Chris Hedges pointed out, some 85 percent of Senate Dems voted for this year’s $716 billion military spending bill, indicating a “unity” of surrender to military-industrialism. We no longer glorify our wars, we ignore them. And even progressive candidates seldom declare an intent to challenge the culture of war. Is there any political traction whatsoever for the antiwar movement? I fear there hasn’t been for four and a half decades — since the defeat of George McGovern.
B. Climate change, environmental catastrophe. This is not unrelated to the issue of war, since the world’s militaries are by far the biggest polluters. While environmental sanity is at least something that can be addressed politically, the urgency of global warming hardly has political traction. And, as a headline on Vox summed things up regarding the midterms: “Fossil fuel money crushed clean energy ballot initiatives across the country.”
C. Poverty, inequality. “In the wealthiest country in the history of the world,” writes Maria Svart, national director of Democratic Socialists of America, “many of us live in quiet desperation. Farmers are committing suicide, and so are taxi drivers in New York City. That’s why in the battle for the soul of our country, we must win.” Capitalism is still sacrosanct and Donald Trump, the alleged working class populist, cuts the taxes of the rich and is, as Hedges notes, an “embarrassing tool of the kleptocrats.” But socialism is no longer a taboo word in American politics and self-declared socialists are getting elected. Medicare for all and publicly funded college tuition are gaining political traction. The 99 percent have a voice. But of course the rich still have almost all the power; for the most part, this means that their self-interest rules.
D. Guns, violence, mass murder, a culture of violence. This issue still carves a deep gouge across the American electorate. Mass murders keep occurring. Should we get serious about gun control or should teachers and rabbis be armed? There is no real dialogue across the divide. We still live in a culture that worships violence. Just as we will not, as a nation, consider demilitarizing, neither will we disarm. And war keeps coming home.
E. Militarized police, police shootings and racism. The antidote emerges in concepts such as community policing and restorative justice — security that involves connecting with and understanding others, even those we dislike and distrust. This transformation is taking place across the whole planet, quietly, and for the most part beyond the world of politics. From my point of view, it’s one of the biggest sources of hope — it’s the cultural path beyond the worship and glorification of violence.
F. The prison-industrial complex. The United States has the largest prison system in the world (and it’s becoming increasingly privatized), with 2.3 million people — mostly impoverished people of color — behind bars. Our prison system is a regrouping of Jim Crow America, which can’t stand having a country without second-class and tenth-class citizens. But here’s some good news from this year’s midterms: “Florida restored voting rights to more than 1 million people with felony records, which amounts to the biggest enfranchisement since the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the women’s suffrage movement,” Vox reports.
G. Immigrant scapegoating, hatred and fear. Because our unwinnable, endless wars can no longer serve the function of unifying the country, Trump has turned to immigrants — in particular, that “invading caravan” of desperate, shoeless Central Americans — as the Other he needs to rev his base and get the vote out. However, the Trump administration’s treatment of immigrants, including the cruel separation of parents and children, has shocked and enraged much of the country, putting the country’s long-standing policy of cruel indifference to global suffering (and of course one of its leading creators as well) into the national spotlight like never before.
H. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, hacking. Ah, democracy, a nuisance to the powerful, a system to be gamed! If the voting can’t be controlled, my God, Republicans could lose. Witness Georgia and North Dakota, where bureaucratic twists deprived African-American and Native American citizens of their right to vote in large enough numbers to skewer election results. Stacey Abrams may yet prevail in her quest for the governorship of Georgia over Secretary of State and Purger in Chief Brian Kemp. But American democracy is not safe from itself, no matter how much the media insists on blaming all its flaws on the Russians.
Robert Koehler, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Chicago award-winning journalist and editor.
The votes have been counted, the results are (mostly) in: What’s next for health care?
November 7, 2018
Simon F. Haeder
Assistant Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University
Disclosure statement: Simon is a Fellow in the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program, a national leadership development program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to equip teams of researchers and community partners in applying research to solve real community problems.
Partners: West Virginia University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Ever since the legislative battle over the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health care has dominated the political landscape in the United States. First, the bruising fight to enact the Affordable Care Act. It was followed by the equally bruising battle over its implementation, which has lingered on.
Early on, it brought with it dramatic electoral losses by Democrats at both the federal and state levels, which handed Republicans control of both chambers of Congress as well as many governorships and state legislatures.
Yet after two years of full-on assaults on the health law under unified Republican control in Washington, D.C., health care was once more a dominant issue for most voters. This time around, health care appears to have helped Democrats with significant increases in the House of Representatives as well as many state races. As Republicans expand their majority in the Senate and with President Donald Trump in the White House, how will the midterm election results change anything going forward?
The big winner: Medicaid (and Medicare)
In a night with mixed results, Medicaid came out a winner in a number of ways. For one, without control of the House of Representatives, efforts to undo the expansion under the Affordable Care Act, capping spending on the program by block granting it, or implementing a statutory provision for work requirements are off the table.
At the state level, changes are also profound. In three red states, Utah, Nebraska and Idaho, voters told their legislators to expand the program, potentially adding insurance coverage to more than 300,000. Moreover, Democratic gubernatorial wins in Wisconsin, Kansas and Maine could move those states toward expansion.
Yet, Medicaid could have done even better. A ballot initiative to fund the state’s Medicaid expansion via tobacco taxes failed in Montana under heavy assault by tobacco companies. If the legislature does not provide continued funding, Montana may be the first state to undo the Medicaid expansion. Republican wins in Alaska could also undo the expansion there.
Moreover, initiatives in Nebraska and Idaho did not include a funding mechanism, which may delay expansion there. Perhaps most crucially, millions more could have moved closer to insurance coverage with Democratic wins in Georgia and Florida.
The elections also brought mixed prospects for the future of work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries. Newly elected Democratic governors in states like Wisconsin, Kansas and Michigan may seek to weaken or undo them, while newly elected Republican governors in Ohio and Florida may seek to strengthen and expand them.
Finally, loss of the House of Representatives also means that Republicans will be stymied in their attempts to curtail and privatize Medicare, the insurance program for America’s seniors.
Close second: Medical marijuana
Despite continued federal opposition, the country seems to move decisively towards the legalization of marijuana. For one, while a measure was defeated in North Dakota, Michigan followed its neighbor to the north and became the 10th U.S. state to allow recreational marijuana use. Two other states, Missouri and Utah, moved to become the 31st and 32nd states to allow medical marijuana. Giving the growing evidence that marijuana may help counter the devastating opioid epidemic, these developments may prove quite positive from a health care perspective.
Too early to tell: The Affordable Care Act
As with Medicaid, the Democratic takeover of the House brings some relief for the Affordable Care Act. The effects on the Medicaid expansion have been discussed above, but more generally, Democrats in Congress can now hold up any major statutory effort to undo or undermine the Affordable Care Act.
Yet despite Democratic gains across the nations, three major factors that could substantively affect the Affordable Care Act remain largely out of their control.
For one, with a Republican in the White House and in control of the executive branch, regulatory powers, such as the implementation of statutory decisions, remain staunchly in Republican hands. While largely out of the public’s eye, regulatory decisions account for the vast majority of lawmaking today, with broad implications. The future of the Affordable Care Act as well as Medicaid will continue to be impacted by this, as exemplified by the recent decision by the Trump administration on short-term, limited duration and association health plans.
Second, Republican control of the Senate expanded, and health care moderates Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski are no longer pivotal to many Republican efforts. This is particularly important for judicial confirmations as judges across the ideological spectrum continue to shape policymaking on important decisions.
Finally, the future of the Affordable Care Act itself hangs in the balance as it is under threat by a lawsuit sitting before a federal judge in Texas. At stake are particularly protections for pre-existing conditions, but the judge may declare the law in its entirety unconstitutional. This would likely lead to a protracted legal struggle all the way to the Supreme Court, with uncertain outcomes.
The big loser: Americans in deep red states
The midterm election results continued the nation’s path toward a country where one’s place of residence has tremendous implications for one’s ability to access crucial social services and health care, with significant implications for socio-economic and health outcomes.
In places like California, Oregon and New York, Democratic legislatures and governors will likely move full speed ahead in expanding access to coverage and care by protecting the Affordable Care Act and by designing and implementing creative approaches to solving important health care issues. However, they will face impediments in their quest by an unsupportive executive branch in Washington, D.C., which will limit their ability to be fully successful.
Yet in other places, states will take the opposite path. States like Texas, Oklahoma, Florida and Georgia will likely continue their fight against support programs like Medicaid by adding administrative burdens including premiums, frequent recertification and work requirements. Ironically, in red states with popular initiatives and referendums voters themselves have counteracted some of these acts by their legislatures by, for example, expanding Medicaid. Yet, most states that have yet to expand Medicaid do not allow for popular votes on the issue.
Overall, these developments will further widen the chasm between states in a country facing a deep and lasting partisan divide. In some places, support programs like Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will help those in poverty lead healthier and more productive lives, while those in others places will lack such support.
Perhaps most importantly, these experiences will shape individuals’ perceptions of themselves, their country and democracy, with significant implications on efficacy and involvement in the political process.
The takeaways for 2020
In my opinion, health care will continue to play a dominant role going into the 2020 election cycle. For one, it accounts for a fifth of our economy and holds tremendous implications for personal and governmental budgets. With that much at stake, political conflict is inevitable.
Moreover, health care has traditionally been a highly ideologically driven issue in American politics. With moderate Republicans losing their races, the remaining GOP members of Congress will be more conservative. They will also likely be fully supportive of their president. Both parties have much to gain from digging in on their positions, leaving the rest of American to pay the tab. Bipartisan compromise may prove elusive.
Finally, crucial and controversial decisions remain ahead for health care, including litigation about the Affordable Care Act, work requirements for Medicaid beneficiaries, the future of Medicare, and reining in medical and pharmaceutical costs. Unquestionably, these far-reaching controversies will keep health care front and center.
Latinos can be an electoral force in 2020
November 7, 2018
Lisa Garcia Bedolla
Chancellor’s Professor of Education and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley
Lisa Garcia Bedolla is affiliated with the Center for Community Change Action and the Sandler Phillips Center. She has been funded by the Civic Participation Action Fund.
University of California provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation US.
Latino turnout surged in the midterms, early signs show.
There are 27.3 million eligible Latino voters in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center – 12 percent of the electorate. Historically, most haven’t voted. In the 2014 midterm election, just 27 percent of eligible Latinos cast ballots, compared to 43 percent of eligible white voters.
These midterms looked different.
Final data from the 2018 election won’t be available for months, but absentee and early voting tallies – along with exit polls and Spanish language Google searches on polling locations – suggest that Latinos voted in record numbers on Tuesday.
There was a nearly 120 percent increase in absentee and early ballots cast by Latinos compared with 2014, according to my analysis of data from Catalist, an electoral research firm. Seventy-six percent of those requests came from “strong Democrats.”
Yet hope among Democrats that Latinos rejecting President Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant policies would trigger a blue tsunami were dashed in Texas and Florida. Both states have large Latino populations and high-visibility candidates whose campaigns targeted and excited Latino voters with progressive agendas for tackling inequality.
Why couldn’t Latinos hand wins to Democrats Beto O’Rourke of Texas and Andrew Gillum of Florida?
I study Latino civic engagement. In my assessment, congressional redistricting intended to suppress minority votes and high Republican turnout were the primary reasons – not low Latino support.
In Texas, Latinos requested 365 percent more early and absentee ballots than in 2014, Catalist data show. Florida saw a 129 percent increase. In contrast, in California – which this year had a handful of highly competitive congressional races but no competitive statewide races – early and absentee ballots requested by Latinos still were up almost 50 percent over 2014.
Those numbers show that when candidates and campaigns engage Latinos and focus on the issues they care about, Latinos will show up at the polls – an opportunity Democrats and Republicans alike missed in the 2014 and 2016 elections.
In Texas and Florida, as in other Republican strongholds with large Latino populations, Democrats competed in highly gerrymandered districts, and Trump’s anti-immigrant appeals mobilized his base.
The result was increased participation in both parties. That helps explain the narrow losses of O’Rourke and Gillum.
The midterms were not a Latino tsunami. But they hold important lessons for the 2020 election.