Election Day 2018: A nation on edge heads to the polls
By CLAIRE GALOFARO, MARTHA IRVINE and SHARON COHEN
AP National Writers
Monday, November 5
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Michael Gregoire marched along a downtown sidewalk in the tense days before the midterm elections, waving a hand-painted sign at passing traffic: “DEFEAT REPUBLICANS 2018.”
“The survival of the country is going to depend on this election,” he said as another man stopped for a moment to argue. The strangers faced each other from opposite edges of the great American divide, Democrat versus Republican, both convinced the election is among the most consequential in their lifetimes and that they must save the nation from the other side.
“I’m voting for Donald Trump,” Stuart Kanter said. “He’s not on the ticket. But, in a way, actually he is.”
President Donald Trump looms large over Tuesday’s election, which is expected to draw historic numbers to the polls and will determine which party controls Congress. For Gregoire and Kanter, and for voters across the country, the election represents something far greater than whatever Senate and House races appear on their ballots. It is a competition for the soul of America — a referendum on Trump and the venomous political culture that many blame for gridlock in Congress and a recent spate of hate crimes and politically motivated attacks.
Less than two weeks ago in this city, a white man gunned down two African-American shoppers at a grocery store in what police described as a racially motivated attack. Days later, an avid Trump supporter was arrested for mailing pipe bombs to prominent critics of the president, all of whom Trump routinely derides as “evil” and “un-American.” The next day, another gunman opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, massacring 11 worshippers and telling police “all these Jews need to die.”
Don Albrecht, a 75-year-old accountant and Republican who voted for Trump in 2016, lives blocks away from the Louisville grocery store where two people died. He’d pulled into the parking lot minutes after the gunfire erupted, saw the police cars and shaken employees, and felt like the country’s poisonous political climate had landed in his backyard. He wishes he could take back his vote for Trump.
“He has diarrhea of the mouth and diarrhea of the brain. He’s just so irresponsible,” said Albrecht, who worries Trump’s embrace of the far-right is remaking his party. “I don’t think the American public is going to put up with it. I think there’s going to be a big backlash against Republicans because of this divisiveness.”
He’s undecided going into Election Day. He can’t remember ever voting for a Democrat but said he might this time in protest.
Other Trump voters remain staunchly behind him, and plan to choose Republican candidates to help him make good on his pledges, including vows to implement more hardline immigration policies. “I want to see the wall go up,” said Joe Spirko, 57, as he peddled Trump flags outside of one of the president’s rallies in Florida last week. “Since Trump come along, I feel a lot better.”
Trump has stepped up his rhetoric on immigration ahead of the elections, focusing on a caravan of Central American migrants heading toward the United States. Trump and his backers have called it “an invasion” — though the group of a few thousand people, including mothers and children, remains hundreds of miles away — and suggested without proof that there are criminals and terrorists in the crowd of those fleeing violence and poverty. In a White House speech, the president said he would sign an order preventing border-crossers from claiming asylum, a legally questionable proposition, and said he’d told military troops he’s mobilizing to the border to respond to thrown rocks like they were “rifles.”
Julie Hoeppner, a 67-year-old psychologist in Indiana, voted early for Republican candidates, also citing illegal immigration as a primary concern.
A friend recently sent Hoeppner a photo of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island with a note that said: “For our ancestors, this is their caravan.” Hoeppner didn’t respond but thought to herself that her ancestors arrived legally. “Which is a big difference,” she said. “They didn’t come trying to storm the border.”
Pedro Panelo, the 21-year-old president of the College Republicans at Wheaton College in Illinois, is frustrated immigration became a last-minute political football, because the issue is more complex than what either Democrats or Republicans make it out to be. Panelo, the son of a Mexican immigrant, said migrants shouldn’t be demonized, but he stopped short of criticizing the president, and plans to vote for Republican candidates who could help push Trump’s agenda.
“When it comes to his actions, I’m not a huge fan of his tweets,” Panelo said. “But what I say is look what he’s done for the country and not always what he’s said on Twitter.”
He said he’s felt an extraordinary level of enthusiasm for this election among his fellow students. Young people, who historically sit out of midterm elections, and women are both expected to be pivotal forces Tuesday. In Georgia, Democratic campaign volunteer Adrienne White said she struggled to recruit volunteers ahead of the 2016 presidential election but that it’s been easy this year, especially among women.
In Pittsburgh, where residents just finished burying those gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue, some voters saw their Election Day decisions as a way to send a message that the country is headed down a dark and dangerous path.
“This is probably the most important election in the past 100 years. This will turn the tables,” said Barbara Villa, 71, who with her husband planted a crop of “Vote Blue” signs outside their home.
Rose Cathleen Bagin, 77, lives in the same neighborhood as the synagogue. She lashed a sign to her front porch reading “VOTE FOR GUN CONTROL,” and she is stunned every time she sees the crowd at Trump rallies on television cheering for his divisive language.
“I can’t stand the terrible things he says and the terrible things he’s doing,” said Bagin, who plans to vote Democratic Tuesday. “I’m terrified. We’re going to a place I just don’t understand.”
Also contributing were AP reporters Allen G. Breed and Adam Geller from Pittsburgh and Tamara Lush from Estero, Florida.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics
Florida’s pick for governor: Trump’s guy vs. liberal darling
By BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Sunday, November 4
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Floridians will choose between one of President Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters and an unabashed liberal when they elect a new governor Tuesday.
The contrast couldn’t be greater between Republican former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who would be Florida’s first black governor and the first Democrat elected to the office since 1994.
The two are opposites on issues, background, campaign style and message in a politically divisive year. The contest is essentially a referendum on Trump and votes may be cast as much, if not more, on emotion than issues. About the only thing they have in common is they both have preschool children and they were born a year apart.
“He’s for Trump,” Marc Grizzard, 51-year-old church pastor from Live Oak, said when asked the most important reason he is supporting DeSantis. “There ain’t no need to get somebody in there, even if they are Republican, if they aren’t going to support the president.”
Toni Pentecouteau, a 72-year-old retiree from Destin, is supporting Gillum and cites, in part, DeSantis’ close relationship with Trump.
“I can’t vote for someone who has to ask Trump first if it’s OK,” she said. “We have a president who violated federal and state housing laws, who has bankrupted many times, who has been sued, who doesn’t pay his creditors.”
When the year began, few would have predicted a showdown between DeSantis and Gillum.
DeSantis was the underdog in the Republican primary until Trump endorsed him and Gillum shocked political observers when he won a crowded primary despite spending far less money, largely on grassroots support of Democrats who call themselves progressives.
DeSantis, 40, was educated at Yale and Harvard universities before becoming a Navy officer. He won his House seat in 2012 running as a political outsider, but he clearly had larger ambitions. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, dropping out when Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio decided to seek re-election.
Gillum, 39, was a 23-year-old Florida A&M University student when he became the youngest person elected to Tallahassee’s city council. He was elected the city’s mayor in 2014. He tells a story about a poor upbringing in Miami, and the lessons he learned about getting a good education from his mother and grandmother.
At campaign events, DeSantis has unleashed a largely negative message about Gillum and sometimes comes across as angry, while Gillum barely mentions DeSantis and has an upbeat, positive style.
During a rally in Destin, Gillum mentioned pipe bombs that were mailed to Democratic leaders, allegedly by a Trump supporter, in talking about political division.
“The beauty is, I believe there are more of us than there are of them. There are more of us who believe in decency,” Gillum said to loud applause. “We can win these races not by dividing people, but by bringing folks together to give them something to vote for, and not just against.”
The event ended with the crowd chanting Gillum’s campaign slogan, “Bring it home!”
That same night, DeSantis was giving thousands gathered at a rally with Trump several reasons to vote against Gillum, citing an FBI investigation into corruption at Tallahassee City Hall among other issues.
“I’m proud to say that of the candidates running for governor, I’m the only one that has worn the uniform and served in our military, I’m the only candidate that ain’t going to raise your taxes here in Florida and I’m the only guy who can credibly say that I’m not under investigation for corruption by the FBI,” DeSantis said to cheers.
DeSantis used more than half of his speech to attack Gillum. At one point the crowd began chanting, “Lock him up!”
Gillum has said he’s not a target of the investigation.
Racial division has also been an issue in the campaign. The day after the primary, DeSantis said on Fox News that Florida voters shouldn’t “monkey this up” by electing Gillum. DeSantis spent weeks explaining the remark, saying it had nothing to do with race, but rather his belief that Gillum will hurt Florida’s economy.
The Gillum campaign, in the final week, cut ties with a campaign volunteer caught on video calling Florida a “cracker” state and saying the campaign was taking advantage of “white guilt.”
Gillum is taking a nontraditional route in the general election. He’s seeking out young voters and minorities who tend to have lower turnout in a midterm election.
He’s also going to areas Democrats have traditionally ignored, like Okaloosa County in the western Panhandle, which Republican Gov. Rick Scott carried in 2014 with more than 75 percent of the vote in a year he didn’t receive 50 percent of the statewide vote. Trump carried the county with 71 percent of the vote in 2016.
“They told me this was a red county!” Gillum said after being greeted with thunderous applause from an overflow Okaloosa crowd. “I see a sea of blue. In fact, I see a tsunami of blue about to slip over this area.”
DeSantis largely focused his campaign on the Interstate 4 corridor that runs from Daytona Beach to through Orlando to Tampa Bay and the large urban areas south of the highway.
If DeSantis wins, he can give Trump credit for exciting the party’s base. When DeSantis wrapped up his speech at Wednesday’s Trump rally, he turned to the president and shook his hand.
“I appreciate it. Thanks,” DeSantis told Trump. He then laughed and added, “This is crazy. This is awesome.”
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics
Parkland survivors vote for 1st time, months after massacre
By KELLI KENNEDY and MIKE SCHNEIDER
Saturday, November 3
PARKLAND, Fla. (AP) — Nine months after 17 classmates and teachers were gunned down at their Florida school, Parkland students are finally facing the moment they’ve been leading up to with marches, school walkouts and voter-registration events throughout the country: their first Election Day.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student activists set their sights on the 4 million U.S. citizens turning 18 this year. They’re hoping to counteract the voter apathy that’s especially prevalent among the youth during midterm elections. Many of the activists, now household names like David Hogg, postponed college plans to mobilize young voters. Many of them support gun reform, in the name of their fallen classmates.
“It is kind of the culmination of everything we’ve been working for,” said senior Jaclyn Corin, one of the founders of the March For Our Lives group. “This is truly the moment that young people are going to make the difference in this country.”
Corin, who voted along with her dad at an early polling site on her 18th birthday, visited a half-dozen cities in just a handful of days last week, getting up at 3 a.m. to board planes.
It has been a whirlwind for the students, with celebrity support from Oprah to Kim Kardashian, a Time magazine cover, late night TV spots and book deals — but all of it misses their main target unless it motivates students to cast ballots by the end of Tuesday.
At a University of Central Florida event during the final week of election campaigning, Stoneman Douglas graduate and current UCF student Bradley Thornton escorted fellow students to the campus’ early voting site. UCF student Tiffany McKelton said she wouldn’t have voted if the Parkland activists hadn’t shown up on campus.
“I’ve never voted in a primary election. I actually did it because of them,” said McKelton, a psychology major from West Palm Beach.
In the past months they’ve boarded countless buses and planes, passed out T shirts, and hosted BBQs and dance parties on college campuses around the U.S.
Thornton said talking things through often does the trick.
“I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had that were like, ‘Ah, I’m not interested’ … and through just a simple, really nice cordial conversation, they get this magical inspiration to vote,” Thornton said.
Corin said she’s encountered plenty of voter apathy along the way. The students often note that voter turnout in the last midterm elections was the lowest since World War II.
“It’s really about tying it back to gun violence or tying it back to immigration or whatever that person is passionate about,” Corin said. “I’ve used that tactic so many times and it has actually worked.”
It remains to be seen what role the youth vote will play in this year’s midterms.
The 30-and-under crowd is more likely to vote in this year’s midterms than in the past. Forty percent say they’ll vote, compared to just 26 percent in 2014, according to a new poll by Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. They’re being pushed, in part, by a strong disapproval of President Donald Trump.
Trends in Florida’s early voting suggest a surge in young voters.
Of the 124,000 people aged 18 to 29 who had voted in person at early polling stations as of Thursday, nearly a third did not vote in the presidential election in 2016, according to analysis by University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith. About half of those new voters were newly registered.
“There are newly energized voters who sat out in 2016, or have registered since then, who are turning out. There’s no question about that,” Smith said.
In contrast, for people 65 and older who had voted early and in person, about 7 percent didn’t vote in 2016.
Matt Deitsch dropped out of college after the Feb. 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas to help start March For Our Lives alongside his younger siblings, Parkland survivors Ryan Deitsch and Samantha Deitsch.
He said this year’s election will be a starting point, “not a culmination.”
“It’s where we really get to see what kind of push we really made to the needle,” Deitsch said in between passing out fliers to UCF students. “We’re running a really good race but there’s really so much work to do.”
Corin said the young activists will continue with their mission regardless of the election outcome.
“The fact that we’ve engaged a new generation of voters, that’s a win,” Corin said.
Schneider reported from Orlando.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics
The Right to Vote Is the Foundation of Lawful Government—No Consent = No Government
By Kary Love
One of the great things about being a small-town country lawyer is you get to meet so many “ordinary” Americans going about their business, raising their kids, volunteering in their communities and working day after day to make a better tomorrow. One of the troublesome things about being a country lawyer is you encounter the contrast between those ordinary people and their so-called “leaders” and “law enforcers.” Though many of the latter reflect the good qualities of “ordinary” Americans, many, if not most, as taught by experiments in psychology, abandon their moral codes and embrace the psychopathology of those granted governmental power.
Power is dangerous. Unless constrained by law, there is no difference between the power of a police officer to shoot an unarmed person and that of a mafia enforcer. The sole difference is the police officer is only empowered to kill in accordance with the law. If he kills, like a mafia hit man, outside the law, then he is, too, an “outlaw.” So too, the FBI, the CIA, the US Army and every other governmental agent authorized to kill. Either it is done in accord with the law or it is illegal, possibly criminal. “Law enforcers” voluntarily swear an oath to the Constitution not to deprive persons of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Those who live up to it may rightly be considered heroes. Those who do not may rightly be considered Mafioso. I don’t make the law, but I have been trained to understand and interpret it.
In that training, I have learned American law has a principled foundation. It is known as the Declaration of Independence (DOI) passed by Congress July 4, 1776, it is the law that established America, and it remains in force to this day. Because America was going to “secede” from the British Empire, possibly to engage in “revolution” and war against the “mother country,” the American revolutionaries thought they had a duty to state the principles of law that justified such otherwise “treasonous” action.
The main justification was declared to be the fact that the English government was not based on the “consent” of the American people and was therefore “illegitimate” (which means unlawful). Not legal. How could the Americans claim that?
Simple. Americans’ did not have the right to vote for representatives in Parliament. Thus, the Americans argued, laws passed by Parliament were not lawful in America because they did not “have the Consent of the Governed.” The DOI declared government “derives its just powers from the consent of the governed.” Without such consent government powers cannot be exercised “justly.” It that event the DOI continued, “it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it” (government).
The foundation of America is the idea that true representation of the people, meaningful consent to the laws its government passes, must be obtained by the government or it risks being “illegitimate” or a government of “outlaws.” This consent, in a republic such as the American, is derived from periodic votes of the people electing “representatives” or agents of the people representing the peoples’ input to lawmaking—since having direct votes was not technologically possible at the time—election of representatives (not “rulers”) was deemed prudent. But, should voting not be representative, consent would not exist, and government would be of questionable legitimacy.
Sadly, voting is apparently becoming less and less reflective of the consent of the people.
Keith Sellars, one of the 12 Alamance County, NC residents prosecuted for voting in 2016, tellingly wrote at Counterpunch:
For me it’s important that we call this what it is: voter suppression. Other policies — including a proposed voter ID constitutional amendment, polling site closures and early voting restrictions, and partisan and racial gerrymandering — hope to do the same.
One in three black men in the United States has been charged with a felony. In North Carolina, black men are incarcerated at four times the rate of white men. And here, as in most states, that can mean harsh restrictions on your right to vote. So even if we think these laws are unfair, the opportunity to influence them is taken from our hands.
As reported in the Guardian:
The two most recent Republican presidents have entered office despite receiving fewer votes than their opponent in a national election, thanks to the electoral college, which systematically over-represents small states. (California gets one electoral vote per 712,000 people; Wyoming gets one per 195,000.) With the presidency in hand in the run-up to the 2020 census, minority rule will be further entrenched by adding a citizenship question to the census. This will result in systematic undercounting of the population in heavily Democratic areas, which will in turn further reduce their influence as legislatures draw maps based on the data.
Then there’s the Senate. Because of its bias toward smaller, rural states, a resident of Wyoming has 66 times the voting power in Senate elections as one in California. Thus, in 2016, the Democratic party got 51.4 million votes for its Senate candidates. The Republicans got 40 million. And despite losing by more than 11 million votes, the Republicans won a supermajority (22 of 36) of the seats up for election, holding their majority in the chamber.
The hideously malapportioned Senate and electoral college permit the last piece of the minority rule puzzle to snap into place: the supreme court. In 2016, after losing the contest for the presidency and the Senate by millions of votes, the Republicans were able to install two supreme court justices. There may be more.
In fact, when the Senate confirmed Trump’s first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, it was a watershed moment in American history. For the first time, a president who lost the popular vote had a supreme court nominee confirmed by senators who received fewer votes – nearly 22 million fewer – than the senators that voted against him. And by now, it will not surprise you to discover that the senators who voted for the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh represent 38 million fewer people than the ones who voted no.
I am just a small-town country lawyer. But I am also an American. I have been honored to work with many ordinary Americans to build their communities, support the education of their children, raise money for charity, and I have learned they have a wisdom and a decency far beyond that of those who claim to be their “rulers.” I have witnessed their capacity for judgment as they sat on juries, small township Boards, and in private organizations doing good in their communities. The record of their success at self-governance is manifest all around us every day. I thank them for their service!
I have also witnessed the creeping suppression of their right to vote, and to have their vote counted and respected. It may not be my place to warn those who think they rule, who think they are above the law, and who believe they have power to disregard the “consent of the governed,” and so I do not. The Declaration of Independence does that. The dust bin of history is replete with the bones of failed governments that tried to rule without the consent of the people. “With a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence” the Declaration launched a government based on the consent of the people. Those who would undermine it, by imperiling the right to vote, do the work of another power that shall not be named.
Kary Love is a Michigan attorney who has defended nuclear resisters, including some desperado nuns, in court for decades and will on occasion use blunt force satire or actual legal arguments to make a point.