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A few well-written words can convey a wealth of information, particularly when there is no lag time between when they are written and when they are read. The IPS blog gives you an opportunity to hear directly from IPS scholars and staff on ideas large and small and for us to hear back from you.

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Entries tagged "elections"

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Election Night Party with IPS

November 6, 2012 ·

Live at IPS

Join the Election Night Party with the Institute for Policy Studies to hear from our team of experts for thought and analysis that you won’t hear in the mainstream media. IPS invites you to tune into the livestream of our Election Night Party, 8 PM to 11 PM ET.

CLICK HERE TO TUNE INTO THE LIVESTREAM.

We’ll feature a discussion with IPS drug policy expert Sanho Tree on the marijuana legalizations initiatives and how legalization will impact the drug war and our drug policy toward Latin America. You’ll hear a rundown with IPS inequality and economy guru Sarah Anderson on the “inequality vote,” the pro-99-percent candidates versus those whose Congressional actions favor the rich. We’ll have a frank and informative talk with IPS organizer Netfa Freeman on the private polling service that is used by most major broadcast news stations to forecast election winners, and how electronic voting machines may affect democracy.

And we’ll have discussion on much, much more. We'll talk about Proposition 37, the California ballot initiative that would require the labeling of genetically engineered food. We'll break down how marriage equality initiatives are faring four states. We'll review the presidential candidates’ foreign policy positions. And there will be more.

You won’t hear our experts repeat the same old phrases or analysis that you get on network news. The Institute for Policy Studies is a Washington-DC-based think tank speaking truth to power for 50 years. Tonight, we’ll be speaking the truth on livestream.

Join us for our Election Night Party, 8 PM to 11 PM ET, on our UStream Channel: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/live-at-ips

Why Elections Matter, and Why We're Still Arguing About It

October 29, 2012 ·

It’s practically the eve of the election—and I’m still kind of stunned to hear from people who don’t plan to vote, who think voting doesn’t matter. A young writer, 21 years old, wrote to me the other day, after seeing an interview I did on what elections are and aren’t, and on how the candidates do and don’t differ on foreign policy. (Spoiler alert: mostly they don’t.)

Among other things, he said “We young people understand that the political theater of electoral politics will not bring about the radical transformations required to avert environmental and economic catastrophe.”

And of course he’s absolutely right. Anyone who thinks that choosing a “better” leader for the US empire will somehow bring about “radical transformations” has been watching too many campaign infomercials. Only powerful social movements can do that. We have to fight for democracy and we have to build our movements—choosing a presidential candidate doesn’t accomplish either one.

Because national elections—at least those for president—in this country are not democratic. As I said in the interview he was critiquing, presidential elections are not our turf, they’re not our people, they’re not our choices. And anyone who thinks that voting for one candidate over the other is going to solve our problems—especially global problems including wars, occupations, climate change and global inequality—is way wrong.

So our work has to focus on building our movements. But who gets elected president is dangerously relevant. My own work focuses on stopping the drone war, getting US troops out of Afghanistan now instead of two years from now, ending US support for Israeli occupation and related issues—and on those issues there’s hardly any difference between the candidates.

There is one war-and-peace issue where they do differ, and that one matters a lot. Both set “red lines” and say they would use military force against Iran—that’s disastrous under any circumstance. Romney’s red line, which is Israel’s red line, would use force to prevent Iran from reaching “nuclear weapons capability.” While it’s not defined anywhere in international law, “capability” is generally assumed to include the ability to enrich uranium and scientific knowledge. And arguably, Iran actually has that capability already. In the real world of potential new wars, there’s a huge difference between that, and Obama’s red line, which he would invoke to prevent Iran from “having” a nuclear weapon, an event which the entire combination of US military and intelligence agencies agree could not happen before at least a couple of years out. The difference matters—because over years it is possible to build and strengthen movements that will make any such new wars impossible.

And while foreign policy shows the closest parallels between the two parties, that isn’t the only issue. Who gets appointed to the Supreme Court—whether a mainstream moderate centrist or a young right-wing extremist ideologue who will work for decades to move the court even further to the right—matters a huge amount. And that’s exactly who the current Republican party will appoint. Top Republican candidates view rape—“legitimate” or otherwise—as God’s plan for bringing babies into the world. Women, especially poor women, living in much of this country already have few or no options for full reproductive healthcare, especially in how to deal with unwanted pregnancy. One party is pledged to appoint judges who will overturnRoe v. Wade and make abortion illegal across the board. That matters.

Some undocumented young people have just won the opportunity to gain legal status in this country; that’sway not enough, but it matters when the alternative is a new regime pledged to deport all undocumented or to force them to “self-deport.” Obama’s commitment to Medicare and Social Security remains mostly intact, largely because his political base demands it; Romney’s commitment to both is non-existent, except as a means towards increasing privatization. As usual it’s the poor who would suffer the most. Obama has not made good on most of his earlier commitments on climate—but Romney would take those failures further, opening up the Keystone pipeline on his first day in office.

My on-line critic went on to say, “Perhaps a Romney administration would speed up a response by a dislocated working class in overthrowing this doomsday machine? Obama is an extremely effective tool of the corporate enterprise.” Somehow I never accepted the view that the worse things get, the more likely we’ll have a revolution. I just don’t think it works that way. Revolutionary processes—look at the Arab spring—don’t emerge where people are the most beaten down, the most impoverished (which is why we haven’t seen a Sierra Leone uprising or a Niger spring). They happen when people have some renewed hope and then those hopes get dashed. I’m pretty sure we’re not anywhere close to a revolutionary moment in this country. And I certainly don’t think that making things worse for the poorest, oldest, sickest and most vulnerable among us is a viable strategy for building movements—or for making revolution.

This election is not about supporting or withdrawing support from Obama; it’s about keeping the worst from gaining even more power than they already have, so we can get on with the real work of building movements. If you want to call that the “lesser-evil” theory, fine. There’s an old saying that when you’re drowning, and the water is rising up over your mouth, that last half-inch before it reaches your nose is a half-inch of life and death. Especially if you’re short—or in this case, especially if you’re poor.

This election, regardless of who wins, will not solve the problems of this country and the world. We have to build movements powerful enough to take on the challenges of climate change, war, poverty, inequality. But we should be clear, there are significant differences between the two parties and the two candidates; while neither are our allies, one will make our work of building movements even more difficult, will threaten even more of our shredded civil liberties, and will put even more people around the world at much greater risk. Around the world many people are terrified of an electoral result that will return us—and them—to the legacy of George W. Bush.

Elections don’t change the world—only people’s movements do. But elections can make our work of building movements impossible—and that’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

This blog post originally appeared on TheNation.com.

Celebration and Relief in Egypt

June 24, 2012 ·

The announcement by Egypt's electoral commission that Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi had won the run-off presidential election last week generated a joyous party, with music, dancing, chanting, and fireworks in the huge crowds who had gathered in Tahrir Square. But behind all the celebrating was a sober reminder that Egypt's revolutionary process remains unfinished, and that its goals of freedom from dictatorship, real democracy, human rights are still unrealized.

Egyptians rallied in Tahrir Square to celebrate the election of Mohamed Morsi. Photo by Jonathan Rashad / Flickr.This was still a moment to rejoice. Many supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood flooded into Tahrir Square, celebrating that their candidate, whose organization had been banned for so many years, now holds the top seat of Egyptian power. For many others, the mood reflected less celebration of the candidate than relief that the threat of Egypt's still all-powerful military rulers to reverse the popular vote in favor of their own chosen candidate Ahmad Shafiq, had not come to pass — and a commitment to continue the unfinished revolutionary process launched more than a year ago.

In the week since the vote, after public counts showed a clear Morsi victory, Egyptians held their collective breath waiting for the decision of the military-backed election commission. Rumors were rampant, that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces or SCAF, the generals who have held power since the overthrow of Mubarak last year, would not allow their long-time nemesis, the Muslim Brotherhood, to come to power at all, and would simply steal the election and hand the presidency to Shafiq, Mubarak's own last prime minister with longstanding ties to the military hierarchy. The fact that it didn't happen is one sign of the truly shifting power relations in Egypt — unlike the 30 years of the U.S.-backed Mubarak dictatorship, the military could no longer simply announce their decision and expect it to hold; post-Tahrir Square, the people's voice still has to be taken into account.

But there are other power shifts that remain to be realized. There had been a significant call from a number of progressive and secular forces to boycott the run-off election, in protest of the paucity of choices. The limited option of choosing between the old regime or the old opposition did not reflect the breadth, the enthusiasm, and the power of the people's revolutionary process that culminated in Mubarak's overthrow by the protesters of Tahrir Square. The boycott call may well portend some of the future struggles that could pit supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood against those secular and religious forces calling for equality, citizenship, and human rights. But despite that boycott call, after the vote, many of the secular activists and organizations who had played such a central role in the Arab Spring uprising came together with the Muslim Brotherhood in a unified front to challenge the military's continuing seizure of power.

The main threat to Egypt's revolutionary trajectory right now comes from the seizure of ever greater positions of power by the SCAF. In the days following the vote, the SCAF dissolved the Brotherhood-dominated parliament elected several months ago, and announced that it was taking over the constitutional drafting process, that the new president would not command the military and would not have oversight power over the military and its enormous budget, including the $1.3 billion in military assistance the U.S. provides every year.

In a highly symbolic move, within an hour following the election commission's recognition that Morsi had won the presidency, the SCAF also announced that since the parliament, for 40 years the site of presidential swearing-in ceremonies, was dissolved, Morsi would be sworn in at theSupreme Constitutional Court. The court, a holdover of the Mubarak era, had been the instrument used by the SCAF to provide a veneer of legality over its dissolution of the newly elected parliament, so imposing it as the venue for the new president's taking office is a deliberate slap in the face to the notion that this election should herald a new day for post-Mubarak Egypt.

There have been rumors, though so far unconfirmed, that the Brotherhood negotiated terms of power-sharing with the generals during the days between the election and the announcement of results. In its first statements after the announcement Brotherhood spokesmen reaffirmed their commitments to represent all Egyptians, not only their own supporters, to standing for human rights, civil rights, women's rights, minorities including Egypt's Coptic minority, and more. But if they have already signed off on an agreement with the generals, their former tormenters, to allow military control to continue under a Muslim Brotherhood figurehead president, they may have to contend with as mobilized and determined a popular opposition as Mubarak did in his final days in power. Morsi's announcement that he would choose his defense minister only after consultations with the SCAF does not bode well for claiming the real powers of the presidency.

It remains unclear whether protesters will demand that Morsi insist on swearing his oath of office inTahrir Squareitself, the place most resonant of the struggle to reclaim Egypt's democracy. It remains unclear whether Morsi, or the Brotherhood, or protesters inTahrir Squarewill publicly call for the $1.3 billion inU.S.military aid to either be directed to the elected government or cancelled altogether.

The loudest chant inTahrir Squareremains "Down, down with military rule!" Many protesters in the Square have already announced their intention to remain in Tahrir once again, reprising the 18 days of the spring uprising, until the SCAF has transferred real power to the elected civilian government. Until that happens, the status of Egypt's revolutionary transformation remains precarious, active, and unfinished. It is a reminder that no part of the Arab Spring is yet a finished revolution. These are revolutionary processes, still contested and still in formation. Revolutionary times, indeed.

A Winning Strategy: Voters in Upstate New York Rebuke Radicalism

May 26, 2011 ·

Earlier this year, New York’s 26th House district was left without representation following the resignation of conservative Republican congressman Chris Lee. You remember Lee. He was the congressman who was forced to resign after it was revealed that he had posted shirtless photos of himself, a married man, in the personals section Craigslist. In the bid to replace him were two conservatives, Republican Jane Corwin and Tea Partier Jack Davis. Also on the ticket was Democrat Kathy Hochul.

The 26th district is the most conservative House district in New York and one of the most reliably Republican districts in the nation. Indeed, it hasn’t elected a Democrat in half a century. Yet last night, Hochul, the Democrat, scored a victory. She did so by making the Republican effort to dismantle Medicare the central issue of the campaign.

The Ryan Budget gave Hochul a win and Democrats a celebration. Creative Commons photo by BuffaloPundit.

Medicare has been one of the most successful social programs in the history of the nation. It is a program that seniors desperately need. But the House budget committee chairman’s draconian budget proposal would dismantle Medicare, as we now know it. Today Medicare is a guaranteed healthcare insurance program for elderly Americans. Under the conservative plan, Medicare would be transformed from government guaranteed health insurance to a voucher-like program that would not cover the costs that many seniors will face when confronted with health problems. When Paul Ryan initially introduced his plan it was hailed as courageous and innovative by conservatives in the mainstream media. We were told that Ryan was being brave by starting a conversation. The voters in New York disagreed. They know that there is nothing courageous about cutting programs that help those in need. They know there is nothing brave about cutting taxes for the wealthy, while telling everyone else to fend for themselves.

The Republicans have now tried to claim that the Ryan budget was just a marker. Meaning that it is a starting point. This is utter nonsense. The entire House Republican conference, with the exception of four members, voted for the budget. They cannot just sweep their support for dismantling Medicare under the carpet. And there’s no hiding from their goal of forcing American seniors to pay more for deductibles and co-payments, as will inevitably happen when the cost of healthcare skyrockets and the premium support, offered in the conservative budget, fails to keep up with the rise.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that seniors would have to pay up to two-thirds of the cost for their insurance, as opposed to the 25 percent they pay now. No one should be surprised; the conservatives always seek, during tough economic times, to shift the onus to the elderly, middle-class, working class and poor, instead of to the economic elites — the ones who should be sacrificing the most during this sluggish economic recovery. If last night’s election was any indication, the American people are finally waking up to this reality. 

Juan Thompson is a student at Vassar College and a current intern at IPS. 

Who Gives A Rat's Behind that Progressive Lawmakers WON?

November 8, 2010 ·

I recently published the blog post Buck Up Progressives--We WON! Many readers appreciated the silver lining to an otherwise demoralizing mid-term election outcome. Others thought the resilience of Congressional Progressive Caucus lawmakers meaningless at best, just the same or worse than corporate-owned, pro-wealthy Republicans at worst.

So, does it matter that there are close to 80 self-proclaimed House progressives who maintained their seats in the wake of an unprecedented flood of secret money, thanks to the Supreme Court's "Citizen's United" ruling?

It certainly does.

An overwhelming majority of Congressional Progressive Caucus incumbents won after governing with integrity in most instances. They weren't always successful. They failed in their bid for Single Payer, then in their stand for a "Robust Public Option" in the health reform bill. They couldn't defund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lack of movement on truly progressive steps to reverse climate change, to get a good jobs bill out of Congress, scrap Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and securing full enfranchisement for citizens living in the District of Columbia were deeply disappointing.

Yet, thanks in large part to progressive grassroots movements, advocates and experts, Congressional Progressive Caucus lawmakers successfully increased food stamp benefits for our growing numbers of hungry families. They helped keep 3.3 million people out of poverty by extending Unemployment Insurance to our alarming number of unemployed workers. They, at least temporarily, helped create 250,000 state jobs for low-income TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) recipients in the Great Recession's wake.

They played a crucial role in getting Congress to rein in predatory lenders, regulate Wall Street, pass credit card consumer protection, protect worker rights, increase the minimum wage, subsidize health insurance for Americans who lost their jobs, boost the Earned Income Tax Credit to lift vulnerable families out of poverty, and more.

In other words, they did more than any other congressional block to introduce and pass progressive legislation that made significant differences in the lives of poor people and others who are struggling in this country. They have laid the groundwork for more that can be done in the lame duck session, including passing a meaningful jobs bill, extending much-needed Unemployment Insurance, passing a good child nutrition bill and extending the TANF Emergency Contingency Fund to keep jobs for low-income workers.

Because progressive Democrats prevailed in the midterm elections as the Blue Dog delegation's ranks were halved, we will likely have Nancy Pelosi as Minority Leader instead of conservative Steny Hoyer. Because we have so many progressives in Congress, we'll have champions for our causes and venues for our ideas.

There's no question that our possibilities of advancing any more of a progressive agenda in Congress are vastly diminished if not eliminated by key progressive losses, and that future congressional elections are jeopardized by sweeping GOP victories in many state legislatures. Indeed, we'll probably see some of the successes we've had rolled back. But keeping the Congressional Progressive Caucus intact marks a significant win for progressives and for poor people, immigrants, people of color, young people, senior citizens, single mothers, and the unemployed. It's the least we need.

We would be much worse off without them.

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