LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Beginning this month, we will not be writing monthly op-eds in the Shawano Leader.  It appears they just don’t have the staff to vet controversial statements made by both political parties.  However, we will continue to educate the public about current issues in monthly Letters to the Editor.
March’s letter is about the Wisconsin Idea: the job of government is to serve the people’s best interests.  Governor Evers’ budget does just that but will it pass?  In April the letter will be about citizens’ responsibility in a democratic form of government.

VOTING IS IMPORTANT TO MAINTAINING OUR DEMOCRACY

Here is the op-ed that was printed in the Shawano Leader this month:

In a democracy, the people hold the political power.  Every citizen, controls that power through their vote. We can hire the people who we think will be best for maintaining our democracy or we can fire those who don’t have our best interests in mind.

Democracy requires the people to exercise their right to vote.  Throughout our nation’s history, there have been struggles for voter access.  It continues today with the crackdown on voting rights that the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature is expected to pursue.

The struggle for voting rights began when the 15th Amendment was passed in 1869 allowing black men to vote. But when they started to cast ballots and were elected to government positions, the Southerners who wanted to maintain the status quo of white power, set up artificial hurtles like poll taxes, literacy tests, and other measures meant to discourage the Blacks from exercising their voting rights.

Barriers like these prompted activist John Lewis and 600 vote-seeking marchers to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 6, 1965. The violence of that day and other civil rights protests pressured the government to finally pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  It outlawed legal voting barriers at the state and local levels, ended Jim Crow laws which intimidated black voters and strengthened the voting rights that Native people had won in every state.

However, that act didn’t stop those who continued to try and keep the power for themselves.  In 2013 they took their grievances to the United States Supreme Court.  In the case known as Shelby County v. Holder the provisions requiring states to get permission before passing new voting laws were dismantled. Since then, self-interested state legislators all over the country had the green light to increase hurdles to voting.

In recent years Republican politicians have tried to retain their power by making it harder for certain populations to vote.  These strategies include reducing the number polling locations in predominately African American or Lantinx neighborhoods and only having polling stations open during business hours, when many people are working and unable to take time off.

In the 2020 election, there were additional obstacles to voting employed.  Voting machines were removed from polling places which caused hours-long lines.  The United States Post Office was crippled to the point that mail delivery was not reliable thus putting mail-in ballots at risk of arriving too late to be counted.

In Wisconsin, some districts have been gerrymandered to the point that Democratic voters have little power. The Republican legislature has initiated voter ID requirements which make it more difficult for the elderly and the poor to vote.

It wasn’t enough that Republicans in the Legislature reduced the opportunity for early voting from three weeks to two weeks, they may further limit early voting. Wisconsin has enjoyed Election Day registration for years but they may try and do away with this also.  Absentee voting was instrumental in making it safe for high voter turnout in the November, 2020 election even in a pandemic.  Now there may be more restrictions placed on the ability of voters to utilize absentee ballots.

An overhaul of our nation’s voting system is necessary to shore up confidence in our democracy.  However, access to the ballot box should be made easier rather than being part of an effort to maintain a partisan advantage by making it harder to vote.

The Democrats have made the need for a fair voting process a top priority with their introduction of the For the People Act in the House of Representatives (H.R.1) and in the Senate (S.1).  The Act is meant to counter voter suppression tactics and to make it easier for eligible voters to cast their ballots.  It would create national automatic voter registration and require paper ballots in all jurisdictions.

The For the People Act has provisions that address redistricting and government ethics.  It would prohibit extreme partisan gerrymandering and take a variety of other steps to make the redistricting process more transparent and accessible, including requiring congressional redistricting to be done by independent commissions.

H.R.1 also involves reform of our campaign finance system. The 2020 election was far and away the most expensive election in American history.  We know from extensive research that the people who fund campaigns wield enormous clout in our political system.  The For the People Act would revitalize the system that has promoted small donor public financing for presidential primaries and extend it to congressional races.

The bill’s critical companion legislation is the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.  It would restore the full sweep of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and undo the damage of the Supreme Court’s Shelby County decision.

It is disappointing that many voters don’t see the need to turn out to vote in local elections.  When there is low voter turnout, important local issues are determined by a limited group of voters, making a single vote even more statistically meaningful.

This apathy can’t continue if we want to maintain a vibrant democracy.  The Citizens of Wisconsin need to rise up and make it clear to our legislators that we want to expand voting opportunities.  Any attempt to restrict election participation of any Wisconsinite should not be tolerated.

Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. Our democracy gives us this precious right.  Vote as though your life depends on it, because it does.

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JANUARY OP-ED

The following op-ed appeared in the Shawano Leader on January 22nd.  Here it is if you don’t get the paper.

Polarization Leaves Parties Feeling the Chill

Politics used to be a subject that was avoided when speaking with friends and acquaintances.  Now many of us have taken sides and talk about it freely with those who agree with us.  At the same time, we refuse to listen to those who oppose our views.

There are many reasons for our polarization.  Social media has put us in our own comfortable bubble. Just like advertisers that want our business, the internet tracks our clicks and gives us information that we agree with even though it may be misinformation. 
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FEAR CAN BE ALLEVIATED BY HOPE AT THIS TIME IN LIVES

At This time in our nation’s history, we have much to fear.

FEAR:  An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.  It can be real or imagined.  This “loss of control” may cause us to panic.

HOPE, however, is always possible when we begin to look at the whole picture positively and begin to believe something could happen.

We need hope right now.

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SOCIAL PROGRAMS PROVIDE FOR THE GENERAL WELFARE

Socialism is a scare word.”  When speaking about the GOP in 1952, President Harry Truman went on to say, “Socialism is their name for anything that helps all people.”

The theme of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAP) Convention held last March was “America Versus Socialism”.   Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told attendees: “It’s a very intended theme. Our view is it’s not capitalism versus socialism because socialism isn’t just about economics. Socialism, we believe, gets to the very core of violating the dignity of the individual human being that has God given rights.”

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Where’s the Trump Health Care Plan?

There’s a reason Donald Trump has never produced a health care plan that protects citizens from injury, health issues; and those with preexisting medical conditions.  The GOP simply wants health care systems that are cheaper; provide insurance companies more net profits, and stock market gains to his rich friends who invest in them.

Any thought of an alternative Affordable Care Act (ACA) that Republicans have offered relies on eliminating most ACA provisions that would suggest a greater risk and cost sharing between healthy and sick citizens.  Simply put, reducing protections for patients with great health care needs does not bother GOP leadership.

Republicans talk of reducing premiums and rolling back protections, including preexisting conditions.  America deserves more than talk.  Continue reading

Biden has real plans for Health Care

Yes, candidate for President Joe Biden has one.  President Trump?  No, he has a “Trust me.  I’ll get ‘it’ to you after the election.”  Sad.

Joe Biden has a plan.  It centers around reinforcing portions of the Affordable Care Act and improving access to care.  Whether one has coverage through an employer or has to purchase one’s own, there will be a “like-Medicare” (not present Medicare) option.

Some portions of the “public option” will be for those who don’t have Medicaid benefits that they may qualify for in another state.  It’s a great idea for evening the insurance playing field for those stuck in states that do not provide for their own citizenry. Continue reading

TIME TO PAS​S THE TORCH OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS

OCTOBER OP-ED

For those of you who don’t get the Shawano Leader, here is the Shawano Dems’ op-ed.

TIME TO PAS​S THE TORCH OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Calling all women voters.  This election is crucial to your rights as women.

Women have been fighting to have equal rights for over a century.  The women’s rights movement began in Seneca, New York in 1848.  At this very first woman’s rights convention in the United States, women discussed their social, civil, and religious condition and lack of rights for women.  This event triggered the fight for women’s suffrage and the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.

Up until this time women’s voices remained unheard of in a world where men’s voices dominated.  The leaders of the Seneca Falls Convention vowed to work toward a society where women’s voices would resound loudly and their rights would be equal to men’s.  Continue reading

AMERICA’S ELECTIONS DEMAND INTEGRITY

September’s Op-Ed on Election Integrity.  It will appear in the Shawano Leader on Friday, Sept. 18th.

The cornerstone of a democracy is the people’s right to elect their leaders.  It is vital that our elections are safe and secure.

Today the majority of people in our country get their news from social media, primarily Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  They are exposed to a daily dose of hoaxes, rumors, conspiracy theories and misleading news.  When it’s all mixed in with reliable information from honest sources, the truth can be very hard to discern.

Facebook has echo chambers where a person only encounters information or opinions that reflect and reinforce their “own opinions”.  Facebook is a private company controls the content you see according to algorithms and commercial interests.  When a single company which controls the news content for the majority of the population, the possibility of abuse is rampant.

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THERE ARE NO EASY ANSWER FOR SCHOOL REOPENINGS

Parents are terrified and they should be.  COVID-19 is extremely infectious.

It’s a tough time for parents and school districts.  They are forced to make decisions they don’t want to make.

With no federal guidelines to follow, each school district must wrestle with how best to accommodate all students in a safe environment.  Options include returning to virtual learning started in the spring, the usual in-class instruction or some combination of the two. 

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