DISCLAIMER: I do not attempt to be polite or partisan in my articles, merely truthful. If you are a partisan and believe that the letter after the name of a politician is more important then their policies, I suggest that you stop reading and leave this site immediately--there is nothing here for you.

Modern American politics are corrupt, hyper-partisan, and gridlocked, yet the mainstream media has failed to cover this as anything but politics as usual. This blog allows me to post my views, analysis and criticisms which are too confrontational for posting in mainstream outlets.

I am your host, Josh Sager--a progressive activist, political writer and occupier--and I welcome you to SarcasticLiberal.blogspot.com

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fracking the Earth

As I previously stated, I am transitioning my blog from this Blogger account to a custom domain through WordPress. My new address is www.TheProgressiveCynic.com and it will be the primary place for all of my future articles. That said, whenever I post an article on my new blog address, I will post an excerpt and link to the full article on this blog.

© Josh Sager – November 2012
Fracking is a very dangerous, yet increasingly common practice in the United States. Hydraulic Fracturing extraction (“fracking”) is a method of breaking up oil shales and forcing them to release the petro-chemicals that are trapped within their strata; this process works with both oil and natural gas, depending upon the location where it is done. While this process is not new, it has come into favor as liquid oil deposits are becoming harder to find and oil corporations are forced to find new places to extract their product.
The general idea behind fracking is to pump massive amounts of fracking chemicals into the earth at high pressures. Through high pressure and chemical reactions, the fracking chemicals fracture the oil shales and cause them to release the oil which is trapped within their structure (Oil shales: imagine a layer cake, where the oil is the icing between layers of cake). Once the oil is released from the shale, it can be extracted, transported and refined into a usable form. The fracking process is basically giving the earth a giant, chemical enema in order to get otherwise un-extractable oil
The first problem with fracking is that the chemicals used to break apart the oil shales are not regulated or even disclosed to the public or the government. Due to their stranglehold on our politicians, the oil companies are able to pump thousands of gallons of undisclosed chemicals into the earth with only the need to assert that these chemicals are harmless. Given the long history of companies that have been willing to lie to the government and public about the toxicity of their products in order to make billions of dollars in profit (Tobacco, pesticides, etc.), this assertion is simply not good enough.
The second problem with fracking is the affect that fracking has upon humans who live in the vicinity of the process. There are far higher rates of cancer, birth defect, and severe degenerative illnesses in areas where fracking has been employed. In many cases, people who live near fracking sites develop a variety of exotic and uncommon respiratory illnesses and chemical exposures that make them severely ill. Without disclosure of just what fracking fluid is, there can be no conclusive causal linking between the process and the severe consequences on the local population, and there can be no accountability for the companies. These companies would deny all responsibility and would have us believe that the people who live in the vicinity of their fracking sites, whether in New York or Tennessee, are just simply unlucky and that this unluckiness just happened to occur when the fracking started.
The third problem with fracking is the affect that it has on the environment. Despite the assertions by the oil companies that fracking fluid is safe, all evidence points to the fact that it is unbelievably toxic to the environment. We don’t know the full scope of the potential for environmental damage by fracking other than the fact that the potential is somewhere between large and unprecedented.
Note to Oil Corporations: Something isn’t safe if it makes peoples’ tap-water explosive.
Among the severe environmental side-effects of fracking here are a few of the more serious:
Explosive Water – In the areas around fracking sites, the groundwater becomes aerated with methane and is highly flammable; in many cases, people have been able to burn their tap water in such areas. Just one example of this explosive water contamination was found in Leroy Township, PA, when groundwater contamination from fracking led to explosive puddles over a large area.
Earthquakes – The shattering of the oil shale layers through fracking can lead to surface earthquakes in the regions surrounding fracking sites. According to a study by the University of Austin, the frequency of earthquakes around certain fracking wells has increased by nearly 800%.
Degradation of Water Quality – The contaminants from fracking seep into the ground-water base and render it unsafe for human consumption as well as or poor quality for farming. Studies have shown that water in the vicinity of fracking facilities is often contaminated with methane, petro-chemicals, and chemicals that are found in fracking fluid. Such contamination is dangerous to humans, animals and many plants that rely on water for survival.
Air Pollution – The fracking process releases gasses (ex. Methane, Volatile Organic Chemicals, etc.) that begin to escape through the land. In several cases, these chemicals have escaped to the surface and have forced people to move in order to avoid poisoning. In addition to the possible toxic effects of these gasses, the sheer volume of methane released during the fracturing process has the potential tolead to increased global warming (in regard to its effects on global warming, methane is over 100x more potent than CO2). According to a recent study by Cornell University, fracking is likely more damaging to the atmosphere than coal.

To continue reading this article, please go to this link: http://theprogressivecynic.com/2012/11/29/fracking-the-earth/

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Republicans: The Party of No

As I previously stated, I am transitioning my blog from this Blogger account to a custom domain through WordPress. My new address is www.TheProgressiveCynic.com and it will be the primary place for all of my future articles. That said, whenever I post an article on my new blog address, I will post an excerpt and link to the full article on this blog.

© Josh Sager – November 2012
The current Republican Party has become the party of no…no compromise, no facts, no compassion and no shame. This modern incarnation of the Republican Party is so extreme and partisan, that it no longer resembles the Republican Party of the 20th century—it is as if the John Birch Society (well known for their belief that water fluoridation was a soviet mind-control program) swallowed the party and replaced it as the new “mainstream” right wing.
In the last few years, the Republicans have given up all pretense of making factual arguments or compromises with other ideologies and has pursued an extreme—and often not based in reality—policy path. All politicians who deviate from this strict ideology have been (or soon will be) purged from the party and replaced with a strain of “Tea Party” right winger.
The new Republican Party orthodoxy gives up all compassion and adopts a domestic agenda that combines the social policy of the right wing evangelical movement and the economic policies of Ayn Rand. Any attempt to help the poor or invest in the infrastructure of the United States (except in military spending) is seen as blasphemy and is often answered by a primary challenge from a candidate that will toe the party line.
In the face of the massive changes that the Republican Party has gone through, relatively few people are willing to acknowledge this change. While it is true that Joe Biden expressed described this change very well when he said that “this isn’t your father’s Republican Party”, those in the media who are supposed to report on our politics have staunchly refused to acknowledge that the party has made such a monumental change. Despite the party-wide purging of moderates from the Republican Party through primary challenges against any Republican who is willing to reach across the aisle (ex. Richard Mourdock winning the primary against Richard Lugar in Indiana), there has been a virtual blackout on discussion of this phenomenon.
To continue reading this article, please go to this link: http://theprogressivecynic.com/2012/11/14/republicans-the-party-of-no/

Monday, November 12, 2012

Sign the Petition and Send this Letter to President Obama: Make the Dream Act a Priority for your Second Term

As I previously stated, I am transitioning my blog from this Blogger account to a custom domain through WordPress. My new address is www.TheProgressiveCynic.com and it will be the primary place for all of my future articles. That said, whenever I post an article on my new blog address, I will post an excerpt and link to the full article on this blog.

With the reelection of President Obama and the alignment of political forces in Washington, now is the best time to pass a federal Dream Act. A dream act is good policy and will result in the addition of numerous, intelligent, law-abiding, and high-functioning individuals to the US population. Dreamers are invested in pursuing their education, or may even be risking their lives to protect us, thus they represent the people who should be first in line to become citizens; it is high time that these Dreamers are given their chance to be Americans, and to reach their full potential (improving the lives of all Americans in the process).
The Democrats have supported the Dream Act and are heavily indebted to the Hispanic population for their recent electoral wins. The passage of a Dream Act would be a significant Democratic promise kept, and would be a very effective way to start the 2013 legislative session with a policy success.
The Republicans may not support the ideal of the Dream Act, but they cannot afford to worsen their electoral chances by further alienating Hispanic voters. If given a choice between receiving half of the credit for the passage of the Dream Act and being blamed as the sole reason why a Dream Act was no passed, the only intelligent political choice is the former.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


© Josh Sager – September 2012
In the face of a major election, people tend to get tunnel vision and fail to look at what will happen after the election is over. Ultimately, while every election is important, the negotiations and interactions of elected officials and parties after the elections are decided are vitally important. If government becomes dysfunctional, then a small minority of politicians is often able to stall progress and prevent an elected majority from pursuing their agenda. Unfortunately, modern politics have become so polarized, and those on the right so extreme, that an Obama reelection will likely result significant conflict in Washington.
With Obama reelected, the Republicans will utilize every possible opportunity to prevent his second term from being successful—this includes blocking legislation as well as ensuring that blame for the pain of the American people is placed squarely upon Obama. They will attempt to prevent any meaningful legislation from passing into law and will take every chance that they can to undermine the Obama agenda.
The primary goal of the Republican Party’s obstruction of the Obama agenda is to prevent any liberal, or even moderate, policies from being signed into law. The conservative movement has swung so far right that moderate policies, even those that they created in previous decades, have become intolerable (ex. the individual mandate). The modern Republican Party isn’t just extreme, but it has also become captured by wealthy/corporate interests. As these interests don’t want their taxes increased, nor do they want any sort of regulations which would cut into their profits (ex. worker/environmental/consumer protections), the Republican Party will do everything within its power to stop Democrats from enacting these policies. Because any significant deviance from the conservative movement’s extreme-right wing agenda is politically fatal to a Republican politician (due to primary challenges), it is unlikely that many Republicans will reach across the picket line and deal with Democrats.
In addition to stalling the passage of a Democratic agenda for the sake of policy, Republicans will attempt to set up a favorable playing field for the 2014 midterm elections as well as the 2016 presidential election. If they can prevent Democrats from being seen as successful and exacerbate the pain of the American people, it will create a situation where the Republicans have the ability to sweep into power during the next electoral cycles; massive voter dissatisfaction creates a climate where the party which is not in power has the  Just as the terrible failures and low approval ratings of the Bush presidency brought a wave of Democrats into power during 2008, the Republicans hope to create a similar situation which will benefit them.
Before they begin the organized campaign to sabotage the Democratic agenda and prepare for 2016, the Republicans will go through several levels of denial.

In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 results, many Republicans will deny the results as well as the legitimacy of the election—this denial will likely be short-lived and isolated to the fringes of the party. We saw an analogous form of this denial in the months before the election, when Republicans refused to believe in the polls that were indicating that they were losing. As with this denial of the polls, the Republican rejection of the reality of their loss will gradually fade and evolve into different types of denial.
After accepting the election loss, the Republican denial will evolve to integrate the loss, and will seek to explain how the election was “stolen” from them. Through alleging that voter impersonation fraud, a “liberal media bias”, and the interference of Hurricane Sandy caused the election result, portions of the Republican Party will attempt to mitigate their loss. Rather than accepting that their ideology (and, in some instances, extreme candidates) caused the country to reject them, these portions of the Republican Party will insulate their ideology from any criticism and will try to blame their loss on a combination of fraud and bad luck. It is likely that this form of denial will become the next “birther” phenomena and it will occupy the extreme fringes of the right for the next few years.
Eventually, the majority of the right wing will accept that Obama won the election legitimately, but they will reject the idea that their conservatism was the reason for the loss; instead of blaming their ideology, they will grasp at the individual characteristics of candidates to explain the losses. In essence, they will argue that their ideology is perfect and should be successful, but that those who they picked to represent their ideology were flawed enough that they lost. This form of denial is very common, and it appears that it will remain for as long as the conservative movement lacks power within the federal government.

The Republican Party will utilize four main tactics in order to achieve their agenda—Obstruct, Extort, Impugn, and Blame
During Obama’s first term, particularly in the post-2010 election years, the Republicans have utilized every obstructionist tactic that they have access to. Obstructionist stalling tactics are aimed at slowing down the government’s decision-making process to the point where it stops functioning; these tactics may not allow a party to pass its agenda, but they are often extremely effective in preventing opposing parties from enacting their agenda.  While there are a wide variety of ways that partisans can obstruct policy-making  here are a few of the more common examples:
  1. Stalling legislation in committee (as was done to the ACA)
  2. Declining to bring legislation up for a vote (as has happened in the House with Democratic legislation from the Senate)
  3. Maintaining a perpetual filibuster
  4. Stalling bills through the addition of numerous amendments (each amendment must be voted upon, thus this can take up huge amounts of time)
  5. Manipulating vote scheduling on order to increase the time it takes to pass legislation (ex. postponing votes until after vacations)
In the American legislature, a majority isn’t needed for many of these types of obstructionism—a committed and highly partisan minority block of politicians can easily disrupt the legislative process. Unfortunately, it appears that the modern Republican Party is both willing and able to obstruct governmental processes in service to their agenda.
By leveraging their control over the House, the Republicans will continue to block every piece of legislation that the Democrats bring forth. We will see the Republican majority in the House utilize parliamentary rules and scheduling in order to prevent any Democratic legislation from passing or, in many cases, even being voted upon. Even when Democratic legislation from the Senate is brought to a vote, it is unlikely that it will pass the unified front of Republican opposition.
In the Senate, the Republican minority will continue its overuse of the filibuster, thus preventing the Democratic majority from passing significant legislation. While it will be possible for the Democratic majority to pass legislation using reconciliation (a process to pass certain legislation with a simple majority), or through heavy compromising with the Republican majority, it is unlikely that any liberal legislation will pass this roadblock.
In the past several years, the Republican Party has utilized a strategy of extorting policy concessions from the Democrats in exchange for fixing crises which they cause. While they are in the minority, the Republicans have enough power to prevent vital legislation from passing and are able to cause significant disruption to the operation of government. Through utilizing this power to disrupt the government, the Republicans have forced the Democrats to make concessions just to pass things that, in normal years, would be bipartisan and uncontroversial.
Here are two examples of this tactic from 2011 and 2012:
  1. During the fight over the extension of the Bush tax cuts in December of 2011, the Republicans refused to extend unemployment benefits unless the Bush taxes were extended for those making over $250,000. In this situation, the Republicans literally held the economic welfare of the poor hostage (and risked putting the country into recession), in order to preserve tax cuts on the rich.
  2. During the 2011 fight over the debt ceiling increase, the Republican Party attempted to force draconian cuts on entitlements/social programs in exchange for allowing the debt ceiling to be increased. A failure to increase the debt ceiling is economically irresponsible and would lead to a government default, thus it is wholly inappropriate to use it as a political lever.
By creating a situation where the country, or at least a significant portion of the population, will be harmed unless action is taken, a minority party is able to compel the majority to act. If the majority ignores the crisis created by the minority and it harms the country, the minority can blame the majority (they are in power) and get a PR win. If the majority decides to deal with the minority in order to fix the engineered crisis, then the minority is able to extract policy concessions from the majority that would otherwise be impossible.
In Obama’s second term, there is no reason to assume that the Republicans will stop utilizing their hostage-taking tactics. As they still control the House and enough of the Senate to filibuster, the Republicans will be able to disrupt the government enough that their hostage-taking will remain effective. Throughout Obama’s second term, we will see the Republicans engineer a string of crises in order to compel the Democrats in the Senate and executive branch to acquiesce to Republican demands.
Unfortunately, there is no effective way to combat political hostage-taking by a political party other than to make sure that the guilty party receives most of the blame—the separation of powers and the protections of the partisan minority built into our legislative structure allow an irresponsible party to abuse their power in this way. The primary reasons that this tactic hasn’t been more common are that it is irresponsible and only utilizable by a party which cares more about installing its policy than the welfare of the country.
During Obama’s second term, the Republicans will make every effort to attack his character, as well as that of everybody associated with him. These attacks will not always be based in reality and, in many cases, will be extensions of the right wing frustration that they lost and are unable to rid themselves of Obama for four more years.
These are a few attacks that Obama and the Democrats will face the most during the 2012-2016 presidential term:
  • Being labeled as a socialist: The accusation of supporting socialism is a common right wing attack on people who are to their left. Unfortunately, the lack of public understanding of what actually constitutes socialism has led for this attack to be somewhat effective and has resulted in many people thinking that the current Democrats are far farther left than they really are.
  • Being labeled as an extremist: Because the right wing has pulled the political spectrum so far to the right, most leftist policies to be suggested will be considered radical and extreme policies. I predict that the rightward trend will continue and that the right wing will label everything that Obama suggests as radical, even if they recently supported it (such as what happened with the individual mandate).
  • Challenges to individuals’ “Americanism”: A common attack by the right wing is that their opponents aren’t “real Americans”, “patriots”, or “possessing “American values”. These accusations are really coded attacks on opponents that actually mean:  “not white”, “not  blindly nationalistic” and “not Christian conservative”. Due to the longstanding use of these attacks by conservatives, it is virtually certain that they will continue to be a significant line of attack during Obama’s second term.
  • Accusations that Obama is apologizing for the USA:Throughout his first term, Obama has been besieged with accusations that he is apologizing for the USA when he speaks abroad; these accusations are simply false and exist as a straw-man argument to attack the president with in the absence of any major foreign relations blunders. Barring a significant foreign relations blunder that is actually based in reality, I see no reason why the right wing will do anything but intensify this line of attack on the president into his second term.
By feeding the public a steady dose of accusations against Democrats, coded attacks on Obama, and misinformation against Democratic policies, the Republicans will attempt to poison the American people against the Democratic Party. The blind hatred that most conservatives have for Obama, combined with their frustrated helplessness over losing the election, will exacerbate the frequency and extremity of these attacks far beyond what we have seen directed at past politicians.
In addition to making every effort impugn Obama in the public, I predict that House Republicans will attempt to open numerous investigations and begin a campaign to impeach Obama within a year of Obama’s reelection. I don’t know what the attempt to impeach Obama will be based upon, but I predict that it will originate from a Tea Party congressman and will result in nothing more than several weeks of controversy.
Throughout the next few years, we will see numerous political witch-hunts started by right wing partisans in an attempt to bring down Obama and anybody allied with him. While I predict that these with-hunts will become more common in Obama’s second term, we have already seen several examples of this type of persecution during Obama’s first term. The “fast and furious” scandal—a completely manufactured and specious attack on Eric Holder for a DOJ program gone wrong—is the best example of such a witch-hunt and it is indicative of the types of “scandal” that we will see in the future. It is likely that none of these scandals will actually amount to anything, but they will result in a lot of bad press for the Obama administration and will dog him for the duration of his second term.
During the next four years, the Republicans are going to spend a great deal of time attempting to shift public opinion away from the Democrats. They will blame everything that they can on Obama and the Democratic Party so that by 2016, (the next major election cycle), the Democrats are as unpopular as the Republicans were in 2008. Through convincing the public that the Democrats are to blame for everything wrong with the country, the Republicans will try to gloss over the failure of their policies while simultaneously positioning themselves for significant wins during the next presidential election. If they manage to drive Obama’s poll numbers down to the mid-twenties (like Bush was in 2008), the next Democrat to be running for president will likely be at a significant disadvantage against their Republican challenger.
As the media has largely neglected fact-checking of modern political attacks, the Republican blame machine will completely disregard reality in order to achieve its goal. Republicans will automatically label anything that goes wrong as a Democratic failure and everything that goes correctly as a Republican success, regardless of the facts.
Put plainly: the Republicans will attempt to link literally every hardship, policy failure, and international incident that affects the United States during the next four years to the Democrats and to Obama’s presidency.

Investigation and Impeachment
During Obama’s second term, I predict that the Republicans will launch numerous Congressional investigations and, if at all possible, initiate impeachment attempts upon President Obama. Just as with the “fast and furious” situation, the Congress will fabricate numerous “scandals” in an attempt to attack the executive branch—these attempts need not comply with reality, as they are geared purely at scoring political victories. If any such investigation were to pick up significant traction, I predict that it will become a rallying point for right wing attempts to impeach Obama.
As stated by Mitch McConnell, the top goal of the Republican Party over the last legislative session was to deny Obama a second term. This attempt clearly failed and it stands to reason that these same Republicans will move towards their only option of removing Obama from office early: Impeachment.
Just as we saw with Clinton in his second term, the Republicans in the legislature will grab onto any perceived indiscretion to justify an impeachment attempt. Of the potential accusations which I predict could be the rallying cry for an impeachment attempt, there are two which are more likely to gain traction:
  1. The use of drone strikes on Americans: While the Republicans have supported the use of drone strikes, it is possible that they will latch onto the drone-based killing of Americans abroad in an attempt to impeach Obama. By claiming that Obama’s drone program violates the constitution, the right wing may attempt to attack his presidency—ironically, this accusation is arguably true and there appears to be a very real potential for attacking Obama along these lines.
  2. Accusations of Cronyism: As we saw with the Solyndra “scandal” the right wing has no compunction against accusing the president of cronyism and corruption. If they can find a significant case of political donors receiving money or benefits from the government, it is arguable that the right wing could begin impeachment proceedings based upon potential briber/corruption.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


(c) Josh Sager - September 2012
While the efforts by politicians to rig the electorate and voting process have been common in recent years, they are by no means the only attacks on voters; numerous private individuals and activist groups are also running efforts to disenfranchise voters who don’t support their political goals. Activists and political groups may not be able to alter the law in order to manipulate the vote, but they are able to intimidate, trick, or obstruct voters who are attempting to exercise their right to cast a ballot.
The use of dirty tricks by non-governmental groups to affect the vote is a very old tactic and has been fairly common in our country. Large aggregations of power and money are able to trick or intimidate individuals into conforming with the views of the collective, thus they are able to have a real effect on the vote. In most cases historical cases of non-governmental voter manipulation, the methods used to achieve the manipulation can be put into one of three categories: intimidation, bribery, or disinformation.
Intimidation: Threatening people at the polls or with consequences if they vote for a specific candidate (ex. unions compelling members to vote in a block or face isolation, people showing up at the polls and acting openly intimidating towards certain voters, etc.).
Bribery: Buying votes for a specific candidate or party with money or material gifts (ex. offering money to people who show a voter receipt that has them voting for a favored candidate).
Disinformation: Spreading false information about the time, place, and mechanisms of voting, in an attempt to make it harder to vote (ex. sponsoring robo-calls to people registered to a party that give the wring times and places for voting).
In recent years, and particularly in the time before the 2012 election, we have seen a massive increase in non-governmental voter manipulation. Numerous groups and activists have been caught utilizing dirty tricks in order to manipulate the electorate. These efforts are extremely pervasive and are a serious threat to our democracy—unless it is free and fair, an election is simply a veneer of democracy on top of a corrupt government (ex. Iran). The following are the largest and most dangerous examples of non-governmental voter manipulation that we have seen in recent years:
1) Organizing “Poll-Watchers” to Challenge People at the Polls
In preparation for the 2012 election, numerous right-wing groups have gathered, organized, and trained large numbers of “poll watchers”. These “poll watchers’ are tasked with going to polling places on election day in order to look for “voter fraud” and challenge the voting eligibility of people who they suspect to be illegitimate voters. Once these people challenge voters, the voting officials may force the voter to vote provisionally (depending upon the state), or the line is simply held up and voting takes longer—in either case, these people represent an obstruction and serve no constructive purpose.
As the poll watchers have no information about individuals, they rely solely upon appearances and bias to base their challenges upon—put plainly, they are an excuse for white conservatives to go into minority neighborhoods’ polling places in order to harass, obstruct, and intimidate voters on Election Day.
The largest of these groups is an extension of a Texas-based Tea Party organization called “True the Vote”. True the Vote has thousands of volunteers, who they deploy in minority or lower income neighborhoods to challenge voters; they very rarely are present in voting areas which are upper-income and are essentially never present in voting places that are certainly Republican. To further compound the obvious partisanship of this group’s operations, they have donated thousands of dollars to Republican groups and have distributed Republican propaganda about alleged Democratic “voter fraud”.
When partisan ideologues are sent to the polls, with the express objective of using a person’s appearance to spot their eligibility for voting, there are several severe problems which are created. First and foremost, letting activists of a party go into a polling place and selectively challenge voters for removal based upon appearance is anti-democratic and a platform for racist voter disenfranchisement. Secondly, these “poll watchers” obstruct the voting process and increase the lines at polling places with their specious challenges—this makes voting harder in targeted areas (mostly poor and minority areas), and serves to make voting more difficult for these people. Finally, the intimidation factor of having people at the polls single out voters is not appropriate and should be banned, just as no group is allowed to electioneer inside of the voting place.
All in all, “poll watching” represents a misguided and partisan attempt to obstruct the election in districts where the poll watchers want to suppress voting. By targeting areas that are unlikely to vote for Republicans, the Tea Party poll watchers make it more difficult and time-consuming to vote in these places, and, in some cases, are able to completely block people from passing regular ballots.
2) Disinformation Campaigns
Probably the most common and widespread tactic for suppressing the vote is to spread disinformation about when, where, and how to vote. By sowing confusion in the population about how to exercise their rights, and targeting this confusion at groups that are unlikely to vote in their interests, partisans are able to make it harder for their opponents’ supporters to vote. Such ads can give incorrect scheduling information (ex. claiming that the election is on the wrong day), incorrect voting requirements (ex. demanding voter ID at the polls), or can attempt to confuse people as to how they are able to vote (ex. saying that a ballot will be sent out to everybody and that showing up at the polls is unnecessary).
During the 2012 election cycle, we saw numerous examples of disinformation campaigns that were aimed at convincing people that voter ID laws were in effect, even in places where they weren’t. These campaigns convince people that they need ID, even if the law doesn’t agree, thus they prevent some voters from ever even trying to go to the polls.
The ad above is incorrectly claiming that voters should supply ID at the polls during the 2012 election, and is targeted at Spanish-speaking citizens. This billboard is an example of a voter disenfranchisement ad that seeks to trick people of a specific demographic group into thinking that they are unable to vote. The method of targeting this ad is through language and location (Spanish in a primarily Latino neighborhood of Pennsylvania), but others have simply been targeted through geographic location—groups have posted such ads in majority African-American neighborhoods, but not in majority white neighborhoods.
Not only have the 2012 election cycle’s disinformation ads been focused upon voter ID requirements, but they also have attempted to make certain groups vote on the wrong day. The Maricopa County election board in Arizona printed the incorrect date for voting in the Spanish version of many of its voting documents—this was not limited to a single instance and was included in several different translations.
As is obvious, such an ad is attempting to give Spanish-speakers the wrong information and trick them into voting on the wrong day (robbing them of their vote). This tactic will only likely affect low-information voters who speak Spanish, but it represents a very clear example of an attempt to disenfranchise Spanish-speaking voters.
Our voters, particularly in swing states, have been exposed to a great deal of misinformation during the 2012 election cycle. This misinformation is specifically designed to attack certain voting groups—most of whom are racial minorities—and swing the election in favor of the Republicans. Attempting to win an election through preventing the other side from voting is wrong, un-American, and should be decried by every American voter, regardless of partisanship.
3) Getting Employers to Threaten Employees
In the months before the 2012 election, we have seen numerous businessmen attempt to manipulate their employees’ votes through threatening their jobs or benefits if Obama wins the election. As employers hold immense power over their employees, this type of manipulation is a very dangerous an unfair tactic that preys on the workers’ fear of being fired. Workers are faced with the danger of losing their livelihood, and with it their health insurance, if they vote their consciences against the wills of their bosses—this situation is intensely anti-democratic and represents a massive threat to the American democracy.
Romney himself appears to support attempt by CEOs to manipulate their employees’s votes. During a recent talk with a business group, Romney said “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections;” when put into context, the meaning of this request is simply to ask CEOs to threaten their employees into supporting corporate-friendly (right wing) candidates.
While there are likely more cases of this then have been reported, here are a few examples of CEOs who have issued these threats:
Robert Murrey – The owner of Murrey Energy who has not only threatened repercussions against employees if Obama is elected, but also forced workers to attend Republican campaign events without pay and compelled them to give money to Republican groups.
David Siegel – The CEO of Westgate Resorts threatened to downsize his company and fire many of his workers if Obama wins re-election.
Scott Farmer – The CEO of the Cintas uniform Company threatened to stop covering employee healthcare and decrease wages if Obama is re-elected.
Without a doubt, these attempts by CEOs to control their employees’ votes are unethical and a complete perversion of the democratic process—a vote is meaningless if you can only vote for one candidate without risking your job and the security of your family. Unfortunately, these CEOs have shielded themselves by never explicitly saying that their employees should vote for Romney, only that a vote for Obama would put their jobs at jeopardy; through wiggling through this loophole, they will likely avoid any repercussions for their actions, but that does not mean that they shouldn’t be condemned for their behavior.
Voter Disenfranchisement is Voter Fraud
Despite all of the talk about “voter fraud” many people have failed to see the true source of election fraud in our country: voter disenfranchisement. If we consider the total number of eligible voters as a zero-line (100% accuracy in voting) for the election, any deviation from this number is potential “voter fraud”—people who vote illegally cause a positive deviation from the ideal point, while people to be illegally disenfranchised cause a negative deviation from the ideal point.
Put plainly, every person to vote while ineligible has the very same distorting effect on the election as every person to be illegally disenfranchised. Every person to be turned away at the voting booths is a case of voting fraud by those who intentionally limited the vote. In comparison with the dozens of confirmed “voter fraud” cases, thousands of legal voters are currently facing voter disenfranchisement. Simply by looking at the numbers, we see that the true danger of voter fraud exists in the blocking of the vote, not voters attempting to get their votes counted multiple times (or appearing at the polling places pretending to be Mickey Mouse).
Everybody who cares about democracy and the ideal of fair elections needs to clearly make the case that voter fraud isn’t just perpetrated by those attempting to vote illegally; it is also present in cases where those who should legally be able to vote are not allowed to. Every voter to be illegally disenfranchised should be portrayed as a case of voter fraud by the legislators and activists who attempt to rig the vote in their favor.
While many might see non-governmental voter manipulation as a non-partisan issue, it remains true that a vast majority of the confirmed cases of such manipulation have been perpetrated by the right wing. As the conservatives have a strong interest in keeping the electorate small (historically, they gain more power as fewer people vote), they are the ones who benefit from voter disenfranchisement. In addition to this, the alignment of corporate interests with the right wing agenda (lower taxes/regulation, reduced worker protections, etc.), has led corporate groups’ voter manipulation to become almost exclusively in favor of the right wing. Whether by design or by chance, the problem of modern voter manipulation exists as a conservative effort to condense the vote.
Voter disenfranchisement today is primarily the Republican Party’s attempts to suppress the voter turnout and eligibility of certain types of people who tend not to vote for them or their allies. In modern times, the Democratic Party has virtually no history of voter suppression—in fact, the higher the total numbers of voters, the better chance Democrats have to be elected. Groups which vote disproportionately democratic are: Students/the young, first time voters, the poor, union workers, and minorities. All of these groups are in some way harmed by the recent voter suppression bills and campaigns that have been enacted in the states recently.


© Josh Sager – September 2012

Americans like to think that one of the guiding principles of the United States of America is that the government is elected for the people and by the people. In line with this ideal, every American citizen, regardless of social station, education, or means, is supposed to get one vote with which to weigh into the selection of political representation—a millionaire’s vote has the same value as a homeless person’s. Politicians are elected to serve the good of the people that they represent and are held accountable through elections. Because voting is such a vital component of our democracy, it is important that eh voting process not be corrupted by those in power.
Unfortunately, the practical application of the USA’s voting laws has failed to live up to our lofty ideal, both in history and today. For as long as the USA has existed, there have been those who want to limit the voting franchise in order to push an agenda or discriminate against a less powerful group. Some political groups have attempted to control the government, not by bringing other people to their side, but by simply preventing groups who are likely to disagree with them from ever being allowed into the voting process.
Historically, the United States voting system has not been implemented in a way which is equitable to women and racial minorities. Women, Native Americans and African Americans were unable to vote under the law for most of the early years of our country. Not until the 1920 were women allowed to vote in federal elections (state election laws were decided on an individual basis). Even after the civil war and the passing of the 15th Amendment, states would discriminate against African Americans through “poll taxes” or “literacy tests” as a method of keeping them from affecting society. What most of us would like to think is that today, we have evolved past such discriminatory and immoral means of operating our elections, but recent events have shed doubt on this hope.
While we like to think that our country’s days of voter disenfranchisement are long gone, recent years have seen a massive resurgence in the effort to limit voting privileges on both the state and federal levels. Several major types of voter disenfranchisement laws that have gained prevalence in this new round of voter suppression:
Voter Disenfranchisement through Legislation
1) Voter Identification Requirements
By requiring a type of identification not usually held by certain demographics, politicians can disenfranchise specific groups of voters. While legally allowed to vote, those without ID are not allowed to cast ballots, thus they are functionally unable to exercise their right to vote. Members of different demographic groups have different likelihoods of carrying different types of identification. For example: young voters living in an urban environment are far less likely to carry driver’s licenses than middle-aged voters living in the suburbs. By identifying the types of identification that are statistically more likely to be carried by friendly demographics and less likely to be carried by unfriendly demographics, politicians can game the voter-ID requirements to benefit their own party.
Many will claim that these identification requirements are fair because they don’t discriminate overtly, and necessary due to voter fraud; both of these assertions are demonstrably false, and nothing more than the excuse to rig the election. Voter ID laws are created in order to make it more difficult for certain people to vote, and the types of ID which are required are chosen accordingly. Just as with the old “poll taxes”, the fact that everybody is asked for the same thing doesn’t mean that the laws aren’t discriminatory.
While those who support voter ID laws claim to be attempting to stop a massive epidemic of voter fraud, there is no evidence to back this up. Despite extensive investigations into the potential for voter fraud by government agencies and political organizations, very few cases have been confirmed and even fewer people have been convicted. At the very least, there aren’t enough cases of voter fraud to rationally justify the implementation of laws which illegally disenfranchise large portions of the population (ex. the PA voter ID law—which was blocked by the judiciary—was estimated to disenfranchise 10% of the state).
Recent pieces of legislation have been passed in conservative legislatures which are aimed at forcing every voter to show ID at the polls. In most cases, the required ID is a government issued photo ID (ex. passport, driver’s license, etc.). Unfortunately, these laws have been going into effect only months away from the 2012 presidential election, thus it is essentially impossible for every legal voter to get their ID in time for the election (the states simply couldn’t handle the workload).
Conservatives have enacted these strict voter ID laws because the groups who are likely to be disenfranchised by such laws include students, urban residents, racial minorities, and the poor—all of which are Democratic-leaning demographics. It is less common for these demographics to have a driver’s license or passport than many conservative demographics (ex. working-class white males), thus these restrictions are able to disproportionately restrict Democratic voters over Republican voters.
As an interesting note: Student IDs, even from state colleges, are not allowed as a form of voter ID, yet a gun permit is—this is because students tend to vote liberally, while gun-owners tend to vote conservatively.
2) Restricting the time and locations of voting
Some legislators utilize the tactic of selectively reducing the times and places where citizens can legally vote in order to shrink the voting population. If fewer people are able to vote, or voting becomes too inconvenient for many people, then the voting pool can be shrunk without any overt disenfranchisement.
Through the closing of voting locations, or the under-supplying of selected locations with voting stations, partisan officials can significantly affect the vote. A lack of functioning voting machines in a voting district often leads to huge lines and sometimes even the complete shutdown of the polling place. Officials who wish to manipulate the vote through the allocation of resources simply under-supply the districts which are likely to vote against their candidate; this allows them to keep up the pretense of a fair election, but to weight the vote in favor of their interests.
As voting day is not a holiday in the United States, long wait times at the polls are particularly damaging to poor workers who are unable to get significant amounts of time off. Long lines at the voting booth act as a de-facto poll tax, and those who are unable to leave their jobs for long periods of time, if not take the day off, bear the brunt of this disenfranchisement.
In addition to selectively manipulating voting resources in districts, politicians can manipulate early voting hours in order to reduce certain populations’ ability to vote. The poor, disabled, and elderly find early voting to be extremely advantageous, as early voting reduces the amount of time and effort that must be put into voting. Elderly and disabled Americans, who would be physically unable to wait for hours at the polls, find it far easier to exercise their right to vote when they are allowed to utilize early voting. Poor Americans often find early voting advantageous because it allows them to vote during the weekend, thus avoiding the loss of a full day’s work that would have resulted from waiting at the polls on election day.
Some African American churches have adopted the effective and socially beneficial practice of organizing voting drives during the Sunday before elections (souls to the polls); this practice is both highly laudable, and extremely good at getting those who would otherwise be unable to vote to the polls. Through their prominent connection to their community, these churches are able to organize large numbers of African American voters (most of whom support Democrats) to vote. If early voting is not available, efforts by these groups to organize voting drives—such as those by African American churches—are not possible.
By reducing early voting and absentee voting in the months before the 2012 election, conservative politicians have attempted to reduce the minority, poor and elderly populations which vote in the next election. Mike Turzai, the Republican House majority leader of Pennsylvania, described the true goals of the voter identification movement perfectly when he said: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Most politicians aren’t as honest (or simply loose-lipped) as Rep. Turzai, but it is virtually inarguable that the primary motivations for voter ID laws are based in voter suppression.
3) Attacking voter registration
Politicians are able to attack the funding and increase the regulations limiting voting registration organizations in an attempt to rig the vote. By attacking the organizations which register demographics that tend to support their opponents, politicians are able to reduce the total number of voters who are likely to vote for their opponents. This manner of voter disenfranchisement is extremely subversive, as it prevents people from even having the ability to vote, rather than stopping them when they try to vote.
Recent attacks on voter registration organizations include: limiting the time for forms to be passed in, increasing fines levied against these organization, and attacking the funding of voter registration organizations.
As we saw with the organization Acorn, these tactics are often very effective and can result in the defunding and disassembling of entire voter registration organizations. While the demise of Acorn is the most well-known case of this type of attack on voting, it is not a unique situation. The passage of new restrictions during 2011 essentially destroyed the voter registration organizations of the state of Florida, and has led to a near-complete cessation of organized voter registration within the state.
Through destroying voter registration organizations, particularly ones targeting minorities and young students, conservatives have attempted to reduce the number of registered voter who are likely to vote democratic. Functionally speaking, reducing the number of registered voters is identical to obstructing them at the polls or purging them from the rolls, thus attacking voter registration organizations is as effective as directly disenfranchising voters at the polls.
4) “Voter purges” 
Jeff Parker - Florida Today and the Fort Myers News-Press - LOCAL FL Voter Registration Groups and the Purge - English - Governor Rick Scott, election, laws, voter, registration, groups, LWV, League of Women Voters, Rock the Vote, purge, courts, strike, ruling,
Voter purges are used by some politicians to disenfranchise large numbers of voters who tend not to vote for them. By fabricating a reason to take these voters off of the voter registration lists—often by claiming that they have moved or are legally unable to vote—it is possible for politicians to complicate the voting process for those who are unlikely to support them. At a minimum, voter purges require citizens to prove their ability to vote, thus making the process of voting more time consuming and difficult to achieve. In a worst case scenario, the purged voter is unable to prove their ability to vote in time, or simply doesn’t know how to do so, and becomes disenfranchised.
These voter purges are the most direct form of voter suppression that we have seen since the days of Jim Crow: voters are simply taken off of the voting rolls and are explicitly denied the franchise. The most egregious examples such modern partisan voter purges can be found in the state of Florida during the lead ups to the 2000 and 2012 elections: In both cases, the Republican legislature enacted stringent voter purges targeted at democratic leaning demographics—purging “suspected felons”, most of whom where African American, in 2000 and “suspected illegal residents”, most of whom are Hispanic, in 2012.
5) Barring Felons from Voting
One of the most overlooked, but extremely dangerous, forms of voter disenfranchisement is that of barring convicted felons from being allowed to vote. In many states, the legislature or governor’s office has the power to deny felons the ability to vote—a power which allows partisan politicians to be able to manipulate the vote.
Many people overlook this form of disenfranchisement because it targets those who have the stigma of a criminal record, but they fail to see the bigger picture. Our criminal justice system, particularly as it relates to the “war on drugs”, does not treat everybody equally, thus some demographics are more likely to be disenfranchised due to a felony record. Poor Americans and racial minorities are statistically more likely than wealthy or middle-class caucasians to be arrested and charged with a crime; in addition to this, even in cases where more-privileged demographics are arrested, they are more likely to receive a lesser sentence (ex. dropping a felony down to a misdemeanor). When felons are barred from voting, it is inevitable that the structural inequalities of the criminal justice system will be translated into the voting franchise.