Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Tag:

American Politics Is Very Imitative, So Remember — And Beware

It’s a better than even bet that in Massachusetts today there is more than one ambitious young Democratic candidate running for local office who is deliberately pronouncing the word “again” so that it rhymes with “a pain.” Why, you logically ask? Because that’s how the martyred John F. Kennedy pronounced “again.” American politics and campaigns are frankly imitative.

Half a century ago, in 1968, then-presidential candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, discarded his suit jacket, rolled up his shirtsleeves and waded into the campaign crowds who came to see him. The unspoken message was clear: This leader in shirtsleeves was a regular guy, unpretentious, ready to go to work and even, if pushed too hard, prepared to defend, mano a mano, the less powerful against the Rich Bully.

How many times have we seen the candidate in her campaign TV spot listening attentively to children or to retirees signaling to us voters that this candidate truly cares about the next generation and also honors the older generation? Then there are the obligatory images of the candidate of the people (who may actually be on his way to a high-number fundraiser with hedge fund managers) smiling comfortably and respectfully in the company of blue-collar workers in hard hats or firefighters or cops; I’m a regular Joe at home with ordinary Americans who, unlike me, actually shower after work instead of before.

Why do we see these canned and unoriginal political TV spots year after year? Because they work and politics is imitative. That may be insulting to us voters’ intelligence, but it is usually not a threat to the nation. What can be a threat to the nation and to our public life is when a candidate runs and wins and becomes a major national force the way that US Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy (R-WI)., did when on Feb. 9, 1950, he told a Republican party dinner in Wheeling, West Virginia, “I have here in my hand a list of 205 … a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy at the State Department.” In Salt Lake City, McCarthy’s number of communists would be 81; in Reno, Nevada, it was 57.

So politically powerful did McCarthy become leading the Red Scare that Dwight Eisenhower, a national hero, failed during the 1952 campaign in Milwaukee to defend publicly his close friend and Army chief of staff General George Marshall — who served as secretary of state and received the Nobel Prize for authoring the Marshall Plan that rebuilt a war-devastated Europe and stopped Soviet aggression — after McCarthy had falsely accused Marshall of “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.”

Baseless charges and unfounded accusations of treason were Joe McCarthy’s M.O. Nobody on his “list” was ever arrested for treason. The guilt of no alleged spy was ever confirmed, but dozens of would-be Joe McCarthys ran as his disciples and imitators across the country, and too many won ruining the lives of American citizens with vicious unsubstantiated charges. McCarthy made cowards of all but a handful of U.S. senators. Sound a little familiar in America 2019?

If anyone still wants to know why the 2020 presidential campaign matters so greatly, just understand what the reelection of Donald Trump would mean to American political life and to the hundreds of ambitious young politicians who would rationally, if not admirably, conclude, “I see. That’s how you run and you win.” American politics is, do not forget, highly imitative.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us About Donald Trump

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

Asked to explain his political views, Theodor Geisel — better known as Dr. Seuss — once said that he was “against people who push other people around.” Were he alive today, he would surely be using his sharp pen to make fun of Donald Trump.

On March 2, tens of millions of children and their parents read Dr. Seuss books as part of Read Across America Day, sponsored by the National Educational Association (NEA) in partnership with local school districts and some businesses. The NEA, which started the program 20 years ago to encourage reading, was smart to tie the program to Dr. Seuss, who remains — 26 years after his death — the world’s most popular writer of modern children’s books.

As kids and as parents, most Americans know all about The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Green Eggs and Ham, and many others of Seuss’s colorful characters and stories. What some may not know is that despite his popular image as a kindly cartoonist for kids, Geisel was also a political progressive whose views permeate his children’s tales. Many of his books use ridicule, satire, wordplay, nonsense words, and wild drawings to take aim at bullies, hypocrites, and demagogues. Trump would have been an easy target for Geisel’s artistic outrage and moralistic mockery.

His popular children’s books included parables about racism, anti-Semitism, the arms race, corporate greed, and the environment. But, equally important, he used his pen to encourage youngsters to challenge bullies and injustice. Many Dr. Seuss books are about the misuse of power — by despots, kings, and other rulers, including the sometimes arbitrary authority of parents.

In a university lecture in 1947 — a decade before the civil rights movement — Geisel urged would-be writers to avoid the racist stereotypes common in children’s books. America “preaches equality but doesn’t always practice it,” he noted. Generations of progressive activists may not trace their political views to their early exposure to Dr. Seuss, but without doubt this shy, brilliant genius played a role in sensitizing them to abuses of power.

In several early books — including The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938), The King’s Stilts (1939), and Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949) — Geisel made fun of the pretension, foolishness, and arbitrary power of kings.

In 1941, Geisel became an editorial cartoonist for the left-wing New York City daily newspaper PM. Fervently pro-New Deal, PM included sections devoted to unions, women’s issues, and civil rights. Geisel sharpened his political views as well as his artistry and his gift for humor at PM, where he drew over 400 cartoons.

Before many Americans were aware of the calamity confronting Europe’s Jews, Geisel — a Lutheran who grew up in a tight-knit German American community in Springfield, Massachusetts — drew editorial cartoons for PM that warned readers about Hitler and anti-Semitism, and attacked the “America First” isolationists who turned a blind eye to the rise of fascism and the Holocaust. Trump adopted “America First” as one of his campaign themes.

His PM cartoons viciously but humorously attacked Hitler and Mussolini. He bluntly criticized isolationists who opposed American entry into the war, especially the famed aviator (and Hitler booster) Charles Lindbergh, right-wing radio priest Father Charles Coughlin, and Senator Gerald Nye of North Dakota. Trump has rekindled anti-Semitism, nativism, and isolationism with his bombastic and hateful rhetoric.

Through his PM drawings, Geisel was one of the few editorial voices to decry the U.S. military’s racial segregation policies. He used his cartoons to challenge racism at home against Jews and blacks, union-busting, and corporate greed, which he thought divided the country and hurt the war effort. Geisel would have used his pen to remind his audience about the vicious anti-union campaign that Trump waged at his Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas and his campaign comments about lowering America’s minimum wage in order to compete with China and other foreign countries.

After World War II, Geisel occasionally submitted cartoons to publications, such as a 1947 drawing, published in the New Republic, depicting Uncle Sam looking in horror at Americans accusing each other of being communists and disloyal Americans, a clear statement of Geisel’s anger at the nation’s right-wing Red Scare hysteria, which soon spiraled into McCarthyism. Geisel would surely have dipped into his inkwell to lambast Trump’s outrageous “birther” accusations questioning President Obama’s loyalty and American citizenship, which fueled Trump’s campaign for president.

Geisel devoted almost his entire post-war career to writing children’s books and quickly became a well-known and commercially successful author — thanks in part to the post-war baby boom. He was popular with parents, kids, and critics alike.

His 1954 book, Horton Hears a Who!, was written during the McCarthy era. It features Horton the Elephant, who befriends tiny creatures (the “Whos”) whom he can’t see, but whom he can hear, thanks to his large ears. Horton rallies his neighbors to protect the endangered Who community. Horton agrees to protect the Whos, observing, in one of Geisel’s most famous lines, “even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The other animals ridicule Horton for believing in something that they can’t see or hear, but he remains loyal to the Whos. Horton urges the Whos to join together to make a big enough sound so that the jungle animals can hear them. That can happen, however, only if Jo-Jo, the “smallest of all” the Whos, speaks out. He has a responsibility to add his voice to save the entire community. Eventually he does so, and the Whos survive.

The book is a parable about protecting the rights of minorities, urging “big” people to resist bigotry and indifference toward “small” people, and the importance of individuals (particularly “small” ones) speaking out against injustice. A reviewer for the Des Moines Register hailed it as a “rhymed lesson in protection of minorities and their rights.” It isn’t difficult to imagine that Geisel would have a lot to say, and draw, about Trump’s track record of discriminating against African Americans in his apartment buildings — a practice that led to a lawsuit filed against Trump by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the federal Fair Housing Act — or his ongoing attacks on immigrants and Muslims.

Geisel’s finest rendition of his progressive views is found in Yertle the Turtle (1958). Yertle, king of the pond, stands atop his subjects in order to reach higher than the moon, indifferent to the suffering of those beneath him. In order to be “ruler of all that I see,” Yertle stacks up his subjects so he can reach higher and higher. Mack, the turtle at the very bottom of the pile, says:

Your Majesty, please / I don’t like to complain

But down here below / We are feeling great pain

I know up on top / You are seeing great sights

But down at the bottom / We, too, should have rights.

Yertle just tells Mack to shut up. Frustrated and angry, Mack burps, shaking the carefully piled turtles, and Yertle falls into the mud. His rule ends and the turtles celebrate their freedom.

The story is clearly about Hitler’s thirst for power. But Geisel is also saying that ordinary people can overthrow unjust rulers if they understand their own power. The story’s final line reflects Geisel’s democratic and anti-authoritarian political outlook:

And turtles, of course … all the turtles are free

As turtles, and maybe, all creatures should be.

Geisel would no doubt make fun of Trump’s lust for fame and power and his climb to the top of his real estate empire on the backs of his employees — waiters, dishwashers, and plumbers, among others — and contractors whom he stiffed by failing to pay them for services they rendered. Geisel would also find much to criticize regarding Trump’s authoritarian tendencies and his outrageous megalomania.

The Sneetches (1961), inspired by the Protestant Geisel’s opposition to anti-Semitism, exposes the absurdity of racial and religious bigotry. Sneetches are yellow bird-like creatures. Some Sneetches have a green star on their belly. They are the “in” crowd and they look down on Sneetches who lack a green star, who are the outcasts. One day a “fix-it-up” chap named McBean appears with some strange machines. He offers the star-less Sneetches an opportunity to get a star by going through his “star on” machine, for three dollars each. This angers the star-bellied Sneetches, who no longer have a way to display their superiority. But McBean tells them that for ten dollars, they can use his “star off” machine, ridding themselves of their stars and thus, once again, differentiating themselves from the outcast group.

The competition escalates as McBean persuades each Sneetch group to run from one machine to the other “until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew / Whether this one was that one or that one was this one / Or which one was what one or what one was who.”

Eventually both groups of Sneetches run out of money. After McBean leaves, all the Sneetches realize that neither the plain-belly nor the star-belly Sneetch is superior. The story is an obvious allegory about racism and discrimination, clearly inspired by the yellow stars that the Nazis required Jews to wear on their clothing to identify them as Jewish.

Were he alive now, Geisel would surely object to the similar ideas emanating from Trump during his campaign — including his anti-Semitic tweet depicting a Jewish star surrounded by dollar bills and his inflammatory rhetoric about Muslims, Mexicans, and people with physical disabilities. Nor is it difficult to imagine that Geisel would have a lot to say, and draw, about Trump’s failure to mention Jews when he issued a proclamation about Holocaust Remembrance Day, and his unwillingness to condemn recent hate crimes targeted at Jewish cemeteries, community centers, and day schools until he was pressured to do so.

Geisel’s The Lorax (1971) appeared as the environmental movement was just emerging, less than a year after the first Earth Day. He later called it “straight propaganda”— a polemic against pollution — but it also contains some of his most creative made-up words, like “cruffulous croak” and “smogulous smoke.”

The book opens with a small boy listening to the Once-ler tell the story of how the area was once full of Truffula trees and Bar-ba-loots and was home to the Lorax. But the greedy Once-ler — clearly a symbol of business — cuts down all the trees to make thneeds, which “everyone, everyone, everyone needs.” The lakes and the air become polluted, there is no food for the animals, and it becomes an unlivable place. The fuzzy yellow Lorax (who speaks for the trees, “for the trees have no tongues”) warns the Once-ler about the devastation he’s causing, but his words are ignored.

The Once-ler cares only about making more things and more money. “Businesss is business! / And business must grow,” he says. At the end, surveying the devastation he has caused, the Once-ler shows some remorse, telling the boy: “Unless someone like you / cares a whole awful lot / nothing is going to get better / It’s not.”

The Lorax is an attack on corporate greed — a trait that Geisel would certainly recognize in Donald Trump, along with his denials of global warming, his pledge to expand the use of coal to generate electricity, his attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency, and his pledge (during his speech to Congress this week) to weaken environmental regulations.

In 1984, Geisel produced The Butter Battle Book, another strong statement about a pending catastrophe, in this case the nuclear arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, fueled by President Reagan’s Cold War rhetoric. “I’m not anti-military,” Geisel told a friend at the time, “I’m just anti-crazy.” It is a parable about the dangers of the political strategy of “mutually assured destruction” brought on by the escalation of nuclear weapons.

In this book, Geisel’s satirical gifts are on full display. The cause of the senseless war is a trivial conflict over toast. The battle is between the Yooks and the Zooks, who don’t realize that they are more alike than different, because they live on opposite sides of a long wall. The Yooks eat their bread with the butter-side up, while the Zooks eat their bread with the butter-side down. They compete to make bigger and better weapons until both sides invent a destructive bomb (the “Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo”) that, if used, will kill both sides. Like The Lorax, there is no happy ending or resolution. As the story ends, the generals on both sides of the wall are poised to drop their bombs. It is hard for even the youngest reader to miss Geisel’s point.

Geisel would surely poke fun at Trump’s cavalier and bombastic attitude toward nuclear weapons as well as his proposal, announced at his speech to Congress this week, to increase the Defense Department budget by $54 billion.

Geisel wrote and illustrated 44 children’s books characterized by memorable rhymes, whimsical characters, and exuberant drawings that encouraged generations of children to love reading and expand their vocabularies. His books have been translated into more than fifteen languages and sold over 200 million copies.

His books consistently reveal his sympathy with the weak and the powerless and his fury against bullies and despots. His books teach children to think about how to deal with an unfair world. Rather than instruct them, Geisel invited his young readers to consider what they should do when faced with injustice. Geisel believed children could understand these moral questions, but only rarely did he portray them in overtly political terms. Instead, he wrote, “when we have a moral, we try to tell it sideways.”

Although Trump has been subject to much criticism and satire by columnists, editorial writers, TV pundits, and comedians, as well as Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live, no cartoonist has been able to scrutinize and ridicule his bullying and buffoonery the way Geisel dissected the despots and blowhards of his era. We could surely use Geisel’s voice — and his pen — since Trump took office.

Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College.

IMAGE: Ron Ellis / Shutterstock.com

Paranoia Is On The Rise In American Politics

The cult classic Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, is among my favorite films. Released in 1964, it’s a brilliant satire of a certain paranoid period in recent American history.

It was a time when fears of a nuclear-armed Soviet Union infused politics with a sense of doom; when the Joseph McCarthys of the country ruined the lives of civil servants and Hollywood entertainers with baseless charges of treason; and when the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society unleashed a campaign decrying the fluoridation of water as a communist plot.

As Strangelove‘s Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper put it, “Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face?” Played by Sterling Hayden, Ripper was unforgettable.

Yet, I may not have fallen in love with the movie if I had understood it less as history and more as a foreshadowing of our current crazy times. If I had first seen Strangelove just after an armed madman entered a Washington, D.C., pizzeria to rescue children supposedly held in a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton — “news” gleaned from disinformation, or “fake news,” sites — I may have found the film alarming instead of funny.

It seems we are in the throes of another of those periods when the “paranoid style in American politics,” as the historian Richard Hofstadter put it in a groundbreaking essay, is ascendant. No nefarious act, no multilayered conspiracy, is too bizarre, too complex or too ridiculous for some to believe.

Comet Ping Pong, a neighborhood pizza joint in northwest Washington where I’ve eaten once or twice, has become the target of determined propagandists spreading the laughably preposterous (and utterly false) claim that Clinton and John Podesta, her campaign manager, are operating a child sex ring out of its basement. For months now, the eatery’s owner and its employees have been subjected to death threats launched on social media as the kooky theory has ricocheted across the internet. The lunacy reached its zenith a few days ago, when a heavily armed Edgar Welch allegedly traveled from his North Carolina home to “self-investigate” the claims and rescue any enslaved children.

During the same week, Lucy Richards, a Tampa, Florida, woman, was charged with making death threats to the father of one of the children slain in the December 2012 Sandy Hook massacre. Richards is among those who insist that the massacre was a hoax staged by liberals to further the cause of gun control.

Her target was Lenny Pozner, whose son, 6-year-old Noah, was killed on that horrific day. Pozner has dedicated himself to exposing the liars who claim he never had a son to be murdered by a psychopath, so he has earned their ire. (Try to imagine the agony of a father who still grieves for his young son but who must now also put up with these maniacs.)

Hofstadter’s essay was published in 1964, the same year that Strangelove was released, but it reads like an analysis of our current hysterical age. “I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. … This term is pejorative, and it is meant to be: The paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good,” he wrote.

Donald Trump, who introduced himself on the national political stage by insisting that President Barack Obama was a foreign-born usurper, is a master of the art of the paranoid style. Indeed, even in victory, he and his minions continue to fan the flames of hysteria, using social media to spread distortions and outright lies. Perhaps it shouldn’t be any surprise that there are some who run about as if their hair were on fire, seeing networks of secret schemers out to destroy the country.

But if anybody is apt to destroy democracy, it’s the lunatics who cast aside obvious facts, preferring to indulge the most far-fetched scenarios as hidden truths. Their resistance to reality could render the country ungovernable.

Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

IMAGE: Sterling Hayden as Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

Trump’s Authoritarian Presidency: Echoes Of 1930s Germany And 1950s McCarthyism Abound

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

When Richard Spencer, a leading alt-right white power ideologue finished his speech at Saturday’s day-long “Become Who We Are” summit at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Building, someone yelled, “Heil the people!” and the room shouted back, “Heil victory.”

It wasn’t the evening’s first Nazi reference nor most brazen. Soon after Spencer started slamming the mainstream media, overlooking how it gave the president-elect endless free coverage, he jeered, “Perhaps we should refer to them in the original German?” The crowd shouted back, “Lügenpresse,” a Nazi-era word for “lying press.” Spencer continued, to cheers, that white power was rising. “America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity… It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

America under Donald Trump is entering an uncharted authoritarian era. Whether apt historical precedents are in the first months of Hitler’s rule in 1933 in Germany or closer to the 1950s anti-Communist witch hunts led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy remains to be seen. But there are myriad events that everyone is seeing and unfolding behind closed doors that are forming a prologue to Trump’s authoritarian rule.

Looking backward, people always ask if the course of history could have been changed. Many people would like to dismiss some of the recent events as bad dreams that will vanish if ignored—like last weekend’s neo-Nazi rally in a federal office complex in the Capital; to Trump taking to twitter to denounce the cast of the musical, Hamilton, for closing a performance by openly imploring the vice-president-elect, MIke Pence, in attendance, to honor America’s diversity.

But that becomes harder to do when the president-elect is appointing scarily intolerant men, propagandists and war mongers to top White House posts. It doesn’t just look like Trump is posed to deport millions of migrants, roll back civil rights and go after his critics—by appointing race-baiting propagandist Stephen K. Bannon as a top adviser; Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General; and Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as top national security advisor—a man who supports racial profiling by police and has lied that Islamic law is spreading across America. It also looks like Trump is relishing his unfolding role as an American strongman, as evidenced by his Sunday tweet: “General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who is being considered for Secretary of Defense, was very impressive yesterday. A true General’s General!”

The question is how far will Trump go to achieve his objectives at home and abroad, including putting the country on a path toward war. Historic comparisons are both useful and imprecise. Yet there are enough echoes of Trump’s ascension to Germany in 1933, the year Adolph Hitler became the country’s newly appointed chancellor. Then and now were periods seen by some as a brutal darkening and others as a great national revival. (My most recent book is set in Holland during the war).

Like Hitler’s earliest days in power, we are seeing increases in race-based hate crimes. Back then, it was targeting communists, socialists and Jews. Now it is targeting muslims. Trump’s advisors are pointing to a much-criticized World War II-era Supreme Court ruling, Korematsu v. United States, to allow creation of a national muslim registry. That ruling held that wartime detention was constitutional.

Where today parts with the past, at least so far, is we haven’t seen how Trump would expand the federal policing and deportation apparatus. People forget that President Obama oversaw the arrest and deportation of 2 million immigrants before signing executive orders suspending deportation of 40 percent of the 11 million undocumented migrants here. It’s an open question what Trump would do accelerate and ramp up the federal police state. In Germany, Nazi-supporting paramilitary groups created their own arrest, detention and torture stations during the first year of Hitler’s rule. The authorities didn’t stop them, and most of the American journalists stationed there at the time didn’t want to conclude that paramilitary violence was part of a larger societal trend.

What those outside targeted circles in Germany didn’t see at that time were the steps being taken to start transforming a democratic republic to authoritarian rule. (The military buildup and dictatorship followed). In short, the tell-tale signs were the increasing control that the government exerted over all aspects of society, but especially the civil rights of the officially loathed minorities. It started with national registries, moved to what jobs could and could not be held, and then declaring and forfeiting property and assets.

What is the contemporary parallel? On immigration, visa-less detainees have virtually no legal rights. Until Obama issued his executive orders suspending deportations in his second term, undocumented people arrested for traffic stops would be turned over by local police to ICE—federal immigration authorities—and disappear into a deportation treadmill. Trump and the GOP have threatened to ramp up that process, including the prospect of blocking all federal aide to any municipality or state that acts as a sanctuary state. There’s also been talk about seizing the international wire transfers of money sent by migrants here to families in Central America. What’s clear is that this is uncharted territory, domestically speaking, on this issue.

What happens with the Muslim registry, with segments of police forces resurrecting racial profiling, with crackdowns against protesters and dissent, are all open questions. But the president-elect and his top advisors, like most of the anti-Communist crusaders from the 1950s McCarthy era, have shown little tolerance of dissent and a willingness to go after critics. In California, people at anti-Trump protests talk about opening their homes to people fleeing federal police sweeps. The last time that was heard was in the 1980s when refugees fled Ronald Reagan’s Central American wars and hid from U.S. authorities here.

During the first months of Hitler’s rule, German authorities told foreign journalists and diplomats that attacks by fascist thugs were outliers and would soon end. There were even official denunciations by the government, but it didn’t stop. There even were a handful of Americans who were assaulted, after being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But most of the foreign press corps, visiting tourists and even diplomats didn’t grasp the emerging character of the new regime. And those who did see it for what it was—after witnessing violence firsthand—and tried to talk about it, were, frequently dismissed as too political, prejudiced and shrill.

Some people will shrug and say that upheaval and random victims always accompany every revolution—including what’s in store as Trump strives to “make America great.” Others will respond that people must speak out against dark forces when the future hangs in a balance and those accumulating power are silently gathering their forces. What’s certain about Trump’s America is the country is heading into an authoritarian time. How wide, how deep and how destructive that wave will be is unknown.

As Richard Spencer, who led the neo-Nazi chants last weekend at the white power gathering in Washington told the New York Times, his movement and Trump shared many values. “I do think we have a psychic connection, or you can say a deeper connection, with Donald Trump in a way that we simply do not have with most Republicans.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America’s retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of “Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting” (AlterNet Books, 2008).