Blue America '18

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Who Changed Trump's Mind About Leaving Marijuana Up To The States?

A few days ago, Roger Stone sent out a VICE News article, "The GOP has a marijuana problem only Trump can fix," reminding its readers that Trump said multiple times on the campaign trail that the issue of marijuana legalization "should be up to the states." 

It came as a bit of a surprise when Trump's Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, announced a major policy change last week that under the Trump administration, legal weed isn’t up the states at all. In another rollback of an Obama-era policy, Sessions gave federal prosecutors the authority to pursue marijuana cases at their own discretion, even in places where weed is now legal under state law. Sessions’ move has left several Republican lawmakers and Trump allies fuming. They warn that not only does the president appear to be breaking a campaign pledge and putting himself at risk of alienating a swath of his base, he’s jeopardizing the long-term future of the GOP, since young voters overwhelmingly support legalization. Former Trump campaign advisor Roger Stone, who formed a bipartisan group called the U.S. Cannabis Coalition to push for legalization, was especially irked.

“This is not only bad public policy, it’s bad political policy,” Stone told VICE News. "It’s a vote loser, and it’s inconsistent with what the president promised the American people."

Stone went so far as to speculate that Sessions may have gone rogue and changed the federal marijuana enforcement policy without running it by Trump first.

"I don’t even know if the president knows about this change," he said. "The last time I spoke to the president on this issue, which was a couple months ago, there was no change on this, he was supportive of states’ rights to make their own decision."

Asked about the discrepancy on Thursday, however, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed that Trump had changed his mind. "The president believes in enforcing federal law," she said.

Regardless of Trump’s personal beliefs, it’s clear there’s a weed schism within the GOP that could affect the party’s popularity at the polls for years to come. According to Gallup, 64% of Americans overall support marijuana legalization compared to just 51% of Republicans.

As Ted Lieu put it when we spoke with him about it last week, "It’s funny-- but not actually funny-- that states’ rights matter to the Trump Administration and Republicans only when it’s politically expedient. AG Session’s vendetta against democratically legalized marijuana is a humongous waste of federal resources and has proven to be unpopular at the state and national level."

Putting it into perspective last week, Jasper Ward of Green Wave Democrats wrote that "campaigns are what candidates make them about. The double edged sword for Democratic candidates in 2018 is that there are so, so many awful things going on that there are too many things campaigns can be about. The common denominator, of course, is Trump and the Republicans have set the train ablaze and aimed it right at the 99% of Americans tied to the tracks. Trump is insanely and angrily opening the throttle to full speed, and the GOP is standing off safely to the side counting their money and watching it happen." He asserted that "the people who are really going to save America (and maybe the world?) are the challengers out there in red districts and against horrible Democrats like Dan Lipinski and Debbie Wassermann Schultz. They are the ones who are not only going to rush the cabin and stop the train, but because they are not infected by the last two decades of greyscale that has touched everyone in Washington-- including Democrats-- they are going to chart a new path forward for the 2020s."

This week gave us a perfect example of the dichotomy of Establishment DC Dems not doing enough to save the country and Progressive Challenger Dems stepping up to chart the new way forward: When Jeff Sessions announced he was suspending the Justice Department memo that prevented US Attorneys from going after the marijuana industry in legal states, the reactions of most Establishment DC Dems showed why Democrats are in the mess we are in.

Sure, there were a few progressive stalwarts like Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) who were willing to take Sessions on directly. Beto: "After our country has spent more than $1 trillion on the war on drugs, leading the world in the size of our prison population and seeing marijuana just as available today as it was at the start of the war on drugs-- and just as the majority of Americans have come to the conclusion that we must end the federal prohibition on marijuana, and most states have followed suit-- I can't understand how the Trump administration would take us back to the dark ages of the drug war.

Blue America has a new fundraising page for progressive challengers who are actively campaigning for legalization. You can check out-- and hopefully contribute to-- the candidates here.

The progressive candidate in the Illinois race to replace GOP incumbent Rodney Davis, Dr. David Gill, an emergency room physician told us that he’s “amazed by the gall of politicians like Jeff Sessions, who adhere to the concept of 'States' Rights' only when it suits their needs and desires.

“Mr. Sessions is a complete and utter hypocrite. The war on drugs has failed to decrease drug use and has cost taxpayers billions of dollars. Current policy also disproportionately impacts communities of color. It is finally time to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana. Legalization of marijuana has proven to successfully stimulate the economy in Colorado. This policy will generate billions of dollars in tax revenue and reduce the huge financial burden posed by incarcerating non-violent offenders. As an emergency medicine physician, I rarely see adverse events related to marijuana; in contrast, trauma caused by legal alcohol always keeps my Emergency Room busy."

And Derrick Crowe is the progressive Democrat running in the Austin/San Antonio district where science denier Lamar Smith is retiring. "Marijuana should be legal," he told us, "and Jeff Sessions' obsession with destroying families and communities by jailing people for marijuana offenses is inhumane and puritanical. At the same time that Trump and the GOP are trying to cut people off from their health coverage under the ACA, Sessions is working to end folks' ability to use marijuana to alleviate terrible pain in states that allow medical marijuana. And, at a time when African Americans are almost four times as likely than Whites to be jailed for marijuana use despite similar usage rates, it's a racial justice and criminal justice reform issue. It's clear that there's no level of pain too great or injustice to deep to get in the way of Republicans' efforts to please their donors."

Here’s an idea…call it a ‘no brainer’— Let’s provide positive reinforcement for these candidates.

Let’s make sure the people driving the train are a new generation of leaders who are not afraid to take a principled stand that is contrary to DC ‘Savvy Democrats’ who assure us this issue is meaningless (and therefore will not make it a priority when we take back the majority).

Let’s support Green Wave Democrats!



How About A Nice Piece Of Art For Christmas? Blue America "Gung Ho!" Contest

The wonderful Nancy Ohanian has donated one of her gorgeous signed prints, "Gung Ho," to Blue America to use for raising money for the candidates we've endorsed this year. She would like to see Congress flip from red to blue and so would we... and we know you would too. So this is how this works. Just contribute any amount to any of our candidates on this page. One dollar; ten dollars, $1,000... it's up to you. Split it between all the candidates, give it to your favorite candidate or split it between 2 or 3 candidates... all up to you. (Just not more than $2,700 to any one candidate.)

Next week (Monday, December 17), we'll pick one name randomly and send that person the signed "Gung Ho" print by Nancy. Easy, right? 

This is an especially crucial election cycle. I don't think there's ever been more at stake than now with this madman in the White House and a Congress filled with enablers and cheerleaders. We can't get Trump out of office next November... but we can and will put a check on him by defeating lots and lots of Republicans in Congress, starting with Paul Ryan and working our way down.

And what makes this cycle even more exciting is that there seems to be a mammoth anti-Trump/anti-GOP wave building and intensifying. Every poll this year has show it. And as we saw a few weeks ago in Virginia and last week in Georgia, there are no districts that are too red to flip-- IF the right candidates are running. The men and women on this list are for real progressives of good moral character and with solid work ethics. Most important, these are the people who will make Congress a better place and force Congress to make our country a better place. Please give generously.

And if you want to have a chance to win but find yourself in a tight financial situation, send a letter to Blue America at PO Box 27201, Los Angeles, CA 90027 and tell us you want to be part of the Christmas "Gung Ho" contest (be sure to include your contact info). The FEC demands we make some lawyer language available for our contests. You can find it here.

And one more thing about the progressive candidates Blue America has endorsed so far this cycle. We talk to them-- sometimes for months-- and get to know them and we don't endorse them until we feel as sure as is humanly possible that when they get into Congress they will earnestly endeavor to enhance the lives of working families and make the tough decisions necessary to move our country along in a more progressive direction. Message us on the Blue America Facebook page to let us know if you want more information on any particular candidate.

Thanks for always doing what you can to make this a better world,

Howie, for the entire Blue America team.



#GOPTaxScam Targets Disabled Veterans

The Republican Tax Scam will have serious, even devastating, consequences for the nearly 20% of Americans who have disabilities-- greater tax burdens and decreased opportunities.

As Robyn Powell explained last week to Rewire readers,

"People with disabilities already have massive expenses and far less income, on average, than their non-disabled counterparts. Many of their medical necessities-- such as long-term care and certain wheelchairs-- are not covered by some insurance plans, including Medicare, and can cost an individual tens of thousands of dollars. These services are not just about one’s health; having access to a power wheelchair or in-home care can be the difference between living in an institution or a private residence. Right now, taxpayers may deduct out-of-pocket medical expenses if they exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income. Notably, 8.8 million people-- primarily people with disabilities and seniors, as well as their caregivers-- benefited from this important deduction last year." But to make life a tad more bearable for overburdened private jet owners, Trump's and Ryan's Tax Scam eliminates the out-of-pocket medical expenses deduction.

Los Angeles area Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA), a veteran and an Air Force colonel is the West Coast regional Vice Chair for the DCCC. He told us that "The GOP tax scam will be a disaster for our veterans and our country. It is particularly disgusting that Republicans have proposed repealing tax credits to hire disabled veterans while at the same time giving billionaires and corporations a huge tax cut. Tax policy is ultimately a statement of priorities-- and Republicans like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are showing us what their priorities are, and it isn't our veterans." 

And Lieu is exactly right: the Tax Scam falls especially hard on disabled veterans. Blue America talked to some of the progressive veterans running for Congress, in light of the passage of the Tax Scam in both Houses. 

I wonder if all those self professed Christians in the Republican Party ever think of Jesus' admonition: “That what you do to the least of these, so do you do to me." This morning, Randy Bryce texted us that he had been going over parts of the GOP Tax Scam and one of the parts that infuriated him was how it penalizes veterans wounded in the line of duty. "After serving in the Army I returned home to Southeast Wisconsin," he told us. I saw fellow veterans without homes and I worked hand in hand-- through my union and with the Democratic Party and state government to bring needed assistance their way. That is the best of America and is the America I was proud to protect and serve. Targeting disabled veterans who served their country is especially cruel and unAmerican. Seeing this tax scam try and rip needed services away from my brothers and sisters who served sickens me. We didn't serve to protect a billionaires ability to fly a Learjet on the cheap. We served to protect the best of our American values. These frauds are shameful, and we will repeal and replace their leader in the house, Paul Ryan-- a man who appears to truly enjoy hurting those in need in order to see his billionaire buddies smile."

Doug Applegate, the progressive former Marine colonel running for a a San Diego/Orange County seat held by Darrell Issa: "Once again Veterans get the short end of the stick. The problem lies with the decline of Vets sitting in Congress and voting Veterans’ interests. Don’t just “thank a Vet for their service”; that doesn’t come close to paying the bill. We need to thank Veterans with our votes!"

As Pennsylvania's Tom Prigg put it: "We fought for our country. Some returned home wounded. All we want is the ability to live a good, normal, productive life. To take care of our families. But now Keith Rothfus and the Republican’s new  tax bill will eliminate the Disabled Access Credit and the Work Opportunity Credit  tax credits for businesses who hire disabled people like our vets. This heartless bill not only takes away our wounded warrior’s ability to work and take care of their families, it also takes away their dignity by undermining their livelihood. Keith Rothfus, a congressman who never misses an opportunity for a veteran photo-op, supports this bill that will hurt tens-of-thousands of American Veterans and their families."

Tom's concerns were echoed by all the veteran candidates we talked with. James Thompson is running for the Wichita, Kansas seat, held by Ryan rubberstamp Ron Estes. "Ron Estes is a hypocrite," he told us. "He gives lip service to supporting veterans by showing up to some high profile events to get free media coverage. Yet when the rubber meets the road, and he is given a real opportunity to help veterans, especially disabled veterans, he didn't have their six. He voted in favor of the Republicans’ Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which will give massive tax breaks to the wealthiest of Americans, like the KOCH brothers here in my district. This is not tax reform, it is tax robbery paid for by robbing disabled veterans to pay the privileged princes of Wall Street. Ron Estes and his ilk, at the direction of these modern day robber barons, removed the Disabled Access Credit and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Simply put, the Work Opportunity Credit incentivizes companies to hire disabled veterans, while the Disabled Access Credit allows them to actually hire disabled vets by making it possible for those same companies to afford special accommodations like ramps. Ending these two credits, harms veterans. PERIOD. Veterans need representatives to watch their six, not use it as an opportunity to stab them in the back. I promise every veteran out there, regardless of party, I will have your six, and will lead the way in making sure our countries heroes are taken care of when they go to war and when they return from it. I hope everyone will call and encourage their Senators and Representatives to vote FOR VETERANS by voting no on the #GOPTaxScam."

Jared Golden is the Maine House whip. He told us that: "Bruce Poliquin and his corporate allies in Washington are intent on funding their tax cuts on the backs of our children and disabled veterans. By adding over $1 trillion to the debt, future generations will be on the hook for tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Where the tax plan does make up costs are on the backs of the disabled including our wounded fighting men and women. These tax credits are designed to create an incentive for businesses to hire disabled veterans and others with disabilities, I find it morally reprehensible that these laudable and effective tax credits are where Rep. Poliquin and the Republicans in Congress want to find 'savings' so that millionaires and billionaires can buy an extra yacht, or a corporation can move more jobs overseas." 

Please consider helping these military vets with their congressional campaigns by contributing what you can at this link.



People Who Say It Cannot Be Done Should Not Interrupt Those Who Are Doing It

womensmarch2.jpg“And the little screaming fact that sounds through all history: Repression works only to strengthen and knit the repressed.” — John Steinbeck, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (Based on last week’s election results, it’s working!)

Normally, Democrats win districts where the PVI is D+something and Republicans win districts where the PVI is R+something. The higher the "something," the more likely that party will win. But it's not always the case.

Allison Ikley-Freeman's successful campaign for a state Senate seat in Oklahoma last week-- a seat where Trump beat Hillary 61.4-32.7%-- was in a very red district southwest of Tulsa. No one thought she had any chance at all. It's the kind of area where the DCCC always says-- and always wrongly-- that only a rich Republican-lite Blue Dog could win. But Allison is a young progressive who was outspent 3-1, campaigning on a Bernie-like platform. And she's a proud lesbian, married to an African-American. She doesn't fit the DCCC model at all.

There are 5 Blue America-endorsed candidates we're always always being told are in "impossible" races. None of them are as "impossible" as Allison's race was. And all 5 are being run by exceptionally good candidates:

  • James Thompson (KS) R+15
  • Jenny Marshall  (NC) R+10
  • Tom Guild (OK) R+10
  • Derrick Crowe (TX) R+10
  • Dan Canon (IN) R+13

Since Tom Guild was the first person to tell me to watch Allison's race in Tulsa, about a week before the election, I spoke with him about what her victory meant to his race on the other side of the state. He hit the nail on the head:

"We have knocked doors for more than 5 months and visited with thousands of good, hard working, incredible people in our district. They want to earn enough money to pay their bills and provide for their families. They want affordable health care and peace of mind when they or someone they love get sick and need medical care. They want dignity and security in their golden years. They want the heavy burden of college student debt lifted from their shoulders after scrimping for years and burning the candle at both ends to attain their educational goals. Government should lighten our burdens and help us on our journey. Many times today, government frightens decent and honest people by threatening to take away their health care or jobs or affordable loans or programs like Social Security or Medicare that they have paid into for decades. We need to elect people to public office who want to help people and not hurt them. Public servants should make people’s American Dreams attainable instead of throwing roadblocks in their way. I’m willing to do everything in my power to make each person’s dreams a reality. I’m willing to provide a hand up not a cold slap in my fellow Americans faces. Together, we can create positive change in America. To go fast, go alone. To go far, we need to take our journey together and support one another.  We must help each person arrive at their unreachable star and celebrate with them as they achieve this miraculous victory."

Derrick Crowe is running in an Austin/San Antonio district due south of Tom's. "The establishment," he told us, "does not like to be proven wrong about past failures, and when you sign up to run in an ostensibly 'red' district,' the groups in D.C. will tell you that you're crazy. "Too red. Too conservative. Too long since the Democrats held the seat. Too much money on the other side"

Well, we just saw a socialist beat the former speaker of the Virginia statehouse, and a progressive member of the LGBTQIA community win in a solidly #MAGA district. It reminds me of the saying, 'People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.' Well, we're doing it. The progressive moment is here, the wave is barreling to shore, and people who want to run for office as progressive populists should step forward right now. There will never be another time like this, and you'll never be able to do more good. And when people tell you it can't be done, tell them it's rude to interrupt."

Jenny Marshall is also running in an "impossible" district in the South, held by an entrenched multimillionaire incumbent. The DCCC won't figure it out until the day after election day, but the way things have been going lately, maybe "entrenched multimillionaire incumbent" isn't what voters are looking for right now.

Jenny:

"People wish me luck when I tell them that I am running for Congress against Virginia Foxx. I tell them there is no luck about it, just hard work and a message that people believe in. The people in the 5th are struggling to make ends meet and they want someone who will fight for them. They want someone with the courage to stand up for regular folks and take on out of control corporate greed and Washington lobbyists. As I have traveled the district I have listened to story after story of medical care that is too expensive and jobs that pay too little. I have listened to veterans who can't get the help they need and college graduates saddled with enormous debt. I sit and listen as they pour their life stories out and I can relate. I know what it is like to have more month than money, to worry about health care costs and student loan debt. As we trade stories, I talk about the changes I want to see in Congress and by the end I have another supporter. Over the past 11 months I have met thousands and thousands of people at all kinds of events. The overwhelming message back to our campaign is “run, Jenny run!”  So, I am running, but I am not alone. We are building a top notch campaign team with more volunteers and donations coming in daily so that we can knock every last door in the district to get our message out. I believe that with hard work and our grassroots organizing we will win in 2018." 

Dan Canon is an exceptionally accomplished candidate running in Indiana, a state the DCCC fears and, when they even try-- always run a Blue Dog. Dan is far from a Blue Dog. "We are seeing on the ground," he told us, "genuine excitement for real progressive politics, not just with Democrats and Independents but also with Republicans and those who have never been involved or even voted before. With Indiana's abysmal voter turnout we know that if we get more people to vote, we win. Talking to over 40,000 voters already and registering over 4,500 new voters, we know that one-on-one conversations about progressive policies are what will win this race."

James Thompson was ignored by the DCCC and the Beltway elites when he ran in a special election this year. But he came incredibly close to flipping one of those "impossible" districts, this one in the Wichita area. He's running again and the DCCC is ignoring him again. (Fine... it's an opportunity to elect a real progressive instead of the kind of retrograde Blue Dog that Luhan and Pelosi would prefer.)

James told us that "Something is only impossible so long as people believe it is so. As long as you believe in your cause and are willing to work, nothing is out of reach. No state is too red. No precinct too Republican. As Nina Turner recently told me, we need to be “hard on issues and soft on people.”

"This battle is not between Republican and Democrat; that is their narrative. The battle for our country’s soul is between the privileged princes of Wall Street/corporate class and the working people of this country. Working people exist in both parties and we need to come together as one to take back the power the billionaire boys club siphoned from us for decades with tax breaks and loopholes. When We the People stand together nothing is impossible."

These kinds of seats, in a cycle like this, is exactly where the DCCC should be making big plays. They're not. But we can. Want to help? Every donation absolutely makes a difference.



Blue America Progressive Candidates Step Up In TX, IA, HI

Blue America endorsed 3 extraordinary new candidates for Congress last week:  

Kaniela Ing in Hawaii’s Honolulu seat, Austin Frerick in the district that stretches across southwest Iowa from the Omaha, Nebraska suburbs through Des Moines, and Lillian Salerno in the north Dallas Metro.

Aside from all being well-experienced progressives, all three have something else in common; all 3 are running populist campaigns shining a light on how monopolies hurt working families. In other words — trust-busters.

Kaniela Ing is the most progressive member of the Hawaii legislature:

“In today’s political climate, no entrepreneur looking to grow his or her business should ever consider voting Republican. The GOP’s pro-oligarchy agenda has rigged the American economy against both workers and the majority of business owners. A handful of multi-national corporation and Wall Street investment firms are seeing enormous gains, while everyday entrepreneurs are being hung out to dry. Now that the GOP controls Congress and the White House, it’s no wonder so many corporations are driving up prices, lowering wages, and shipping jobs overseas. The greatest threat to American innovation, small business, and a resilient economy is the monopolization of industries. Democrats must lead the fight to break apart monopolies and big banks, and build a future economy that leaves no one behind.”

Austin Frerick was an economist in Obama’s Treasury Department and he’s getting well known throughout western Iowa for taking on Monsanto. Monsanto noticed too — and their PAC is helping fund two candidates running against Frerick, a conservative Democrat, Theresa Greenfield, and an even more conservative Republican, David Young.

“I’m seeing this pattern of corruption that made me want to get into this race,” said Frerick. “Who’s going to look out for the farmer who’s facing rising seed costs when an incumbent congressman is beholden to Monsanto’s political action committee and the Democratic candidate is getting campaign contributions from one of Monsanto’s biggest lobbyists?” And Frerick makes a broad case against monopolies that go beyond just seed prices. He talks about cable service, pharmaceutical prices, and craft beer(!!) as universally relatable examples.

“Craft breweries are a great example of innovative new small businesses challenging monopolistic incumbents. More than 98% of all breweries are locally owned small businesses. These are the type of businesses that grow our local economies. But Anheuser-Busch InBev and MolsonCoors sell 71% of all beer in the US and they’ve set out the dominate the industry even more… And what’s happening in the beer industry is a microcosm for our economy at the moment. Economists across the political spectrum agree that monopolies harm small businesses and communities and also lead to higher costs and lower quality for consumers. Let’s allow craft breweries to thrive. If we want local small businesses to have a chance in the modern economy, we have to enforce our antitrust laws and stop barons like Anheuser-Busch from robbing us.”

Lillian Salerno has the same idea. She recently announced her candidacy for Texas’s 32nd Congressional District, which Pete Sessions has represented for 11 terms. A deputy undersecretary for rural development in the Department of Agriculture, she tells voters, “I had a front-row seat on the game being rigged.” She believes antitrust policy can make the economy more dynamic: New business creation has fallen dramatically in recent years, stifled by incumbent behemoths who either buy out or cripple the competition.

All three have competitive primaries in districts that are likely to go blue in 2018 — the one Hawaiian district is certain to stay blue —  so whoever wins the primary will be a member of Congress.

Primaries are crucial, especially because each of these candidates is being opposed by conservative, Republican-lite quasi-Democrats from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party. None of them are wealthy and all three are counting on grassroots help from people like us. I gave; can you consider doing the same?

Thanks for always doing what you can to make this a better world,

 — Howie, for the entire Blue America team




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