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

Disenfranchisement Today: Don’t Gloat While Suppressing The Vote

Today marks the first Presidential election since the Supreme Court struck down two key elements of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. The Voting Rights Act — which was developed in the 1960s to protect the sanctity of electoral privileges — included a coverage formula that subjected states and counties with a history of voter disenfranchisement to federal oversight. In addition to Section 4(b)’s coverage formula, Section 5 stipulated that states and counties under federal auspices were required to receive federal preclearance to any proposed changes.

Although the Voting Rights Act was created to protect citizens’ constitutional rights to “equal protection of the law” and from having their rights “denied or abridged,” the provisions of the Voting Rights Act were applied to states that demonstrated voter discrimination based on 1960s and 70s standards. In Shelby v. Holder, Shelby County, Alabama, argued that the historical basis for the uneven application constituted outdated oversight in violation of the 10th Amendment.

In 2013, the Supreme Court declared the coverage formula and pre-clearance requirements outdated remedies, and held that the uneven oversight was unconstitutional. Thanks to Shelby v. Holder, states are in control over their own electoral affairs, adopting legislation without justification.

Perhaps, ironically, although the Court’s decision suggested that states did the time for their crimes and that it was time to move forward, we are witnessing a dissolution of our progressive values through the implementation of vituperative voting policies.

In its report, “Why Is It So Hard to Vote in America?,” the Brennan Center parsed the ways that the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder could affect the 2016 presidential election, and identified the truly ostensible nature of voter disenfranchisement.

The Brennan Center study juxtaposed subjective measures of electoral freedom with current conditions to highlight the disparity. By polling 1006 Americans over the age of 18, researcher Craig Newmark  showed the dichotomy between our perception of freedom, and the movements to underpin it.

Since 2010, 21 states have adopted restrictive regulations — which can manifest in the form of Voter Identification laws, closed primaries, and limited early voting — to suppress voter turnout. The draconian developments largely affect minority populations, particularly Hispanics and African-Americans. As a result, the many successful efforts to mobilize the Latino vote in the 2016 election are mired by the fact that 8 out of 12 states with the largest Hispanic populations have adopted restrictive measures to complicate the procedures.

The Brennan Center found that, in total, 16 million American voters will be affected by voter suppression efforts; the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officers (NALEO), determined that 875,000 of disenfranchised voters will be of Latino/a descent.

Today, we are witnessing the greatest setback to voting rights in 50 years, as millions of Americans are actively deprived of their constitutional right to vote.

In GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, State Police are investigating two alleged instances of voter fraud. The first claim accuses the Democratic Party of disseminating false information about polling places in a deliberate attempt to mislead voters. Although the State Democratic Party has attributed the erroneous information to technical error, the State Police are also investigating another Democratic group for claiming that voters can cast their ballot by text.

In Virginia — which boasts lenient open carry laws — a “Trump Election Observer” was spotted standing outside a polling station with a gun. The unidentified man, who donned a Trump t-shirt and a legal gun permit, was reported for using electoral coercion to discourage votes for “Crooked Hillary.” Despite claims of voter intimidation and threat to child safety, Virginian authorities determined that the man’s actions were not “illegal” per se because his cordiality paired with his respect for both Virginia’s open carrying laws and the 40-feet-no-canvassing zone did not constitute a legal violation.

In Maine, Republican Governor, Paul LePage, stands accused of disseminating fake fliers on the Bates College Campus in an attempt at voter discouragement. The signs from the Bates Election Legal Advisory featured false information that claimed voter eligibility was contingent on driver’s license and vehicle payments. In addition to discouraging voters with the prospects of exorbitant fines for non-compliance, the Governor proclaimed that students could only vote upon establishing permanent residency in Maine. The Governor’s erroneous application of the law was compounded by threats to pursue violations with every extent of the law.

In North Carolina, GOP officials stand accused of active minority voter suppression. Although the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals  overturned parts of the HB-589 law that allowed race-based voter information requests, banned early voting, and implemented strict voter ID laws, the GOP found legal loopholes to actively suppress the minority vote. Republican controlled Board of Elections conformed to the minimum legal requirements by opening one polling place for early voting. The “one-stop-shop” for early voting resulted in long-lines, and many voters without the ability to stand in line were left behind. In addition to the HB-589 legal loophole, North Carolina legislatures in three counties invalidated thousands of ballots based on an antediluvian law that allows individual voters to challenge one another based on returned mail. It is no surprise that these areas are home to the state’s largest African-American communities, but it is quite shocking that the GOP officials have actively bragged about their successful voter suppression efforts.

In addition to individual state voter suppression efforts, the Department of Justice is currently responding to numerous claims of voter coercion and suppression from the Donald Trump campaign.

In five states — including swing states Ohio, and Pennsylvania — Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, and his supporters are facing federal lawsuits for alleged coercion and minority voter suppression. In addition to citing inflammatory statements from various “Trump rallies,” the plaintiffs corroborate their case by mentioning the campaign’s commission of the vigilante group “Trump Election Observers.”

In the wake of Shelby v. Holder, the Department of Justice was left virtually powerless to condemn state judicial decisions that ruled in Trump’s favor. Acknowledging the complaints, however, the Department of Justice responded to accusations against the Trump campaign by deploying over 500 election monitors to protect polling places in 28 states.

The Department of Justice deployment constitutes an interesting compromise between the “outdated” provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and the current demand for oversight. The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby v. Holder suggested that the states had reached an equalizing point, which justified the judicial drawback.

In Shelby v. Holder, the states claimed that the unnecessary compromised the delicate balance between federal and state powers in the 10th Amendment. Given the Court’s decision in Shelby County, it appears that the federal intervention constitutes a violation of federal and state separation; however, the state’s vituperation and flagrant violation of the 14th and 15th Amendments constitutes federal involvement vis-a-vis the Necessary and Proper Clause.

The federal intervention and growing demand for national voting laws creates an interesting legal question for Congress, which must adjudicate on the balance between federal and state. The outcome, however, is dependent on the results of today’s election, which features elections for 469 congressional seats.

If the states-rights Republicans win, it is very unlikely that federal pre-clearance will pass; however, if the Democrats win, we could be on the brink of federal action.

IMAGE: Reed Saxon/Associated Press

Without The Voting Rights Act, 2016 Will Be Our Least Democratic Election In Decades

The 2016 presidential election is the first since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision to strike down two sections of the Voting Rights Act, both of which had served as crucial structural safeguards against voter disenfranchisement since the ‘60s. This time around, states and municipalities have the freedom to run their own elections without oversight from the Justice Department. They can run democracy into the ground, if they want to, and in many cases, they have.

The VRA outlined a coverage formula that required states with a strong history of structurally disenfranchising voters be subject to federal oversight. The sections of the law on the Supreme Court’s chopping block — Section 4(b) and Section 5 — stipulated that states and municipalities that perfunctorily precluded voters would be subject to a preclearance requirement, which required these states to seek federal approval before instituting any changes to their voting practices.

Advocacy groups have tracked the effects of Shelby County v. Holder since 2013, and they claim there has been a clear uptick in racially discriminatory voter suppression since the ruling — in fact, such a trend is plain to see.

This month, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officers (NALEO) released “Latino Voters at Risk: Assessing the Impact of Restrictive Voting Changes in Election 2016,” which examines the effects of restrictive voting practices — including registration restrictions, proof of citizenship requirements, early registration deadlines, Voter ID laws, closed primaries, and lack of language accommodations — on the Latino voting population in 19 states that have successfully passed restrictive voting laws since 2012, including 16 that would have required federal approval of such changes before enacting them.

NALEO found that over 8 million Latinos are vulnerable to vicious voter restrictions in this election, and that 875,000 Latino votes will be affected by both outright and ostensible forms of voter disenfranchisement, which include registration restrictions, voter ID laws, shortened in-person voting times, and absentee ballot restrictions.

Quite notably, they found that Latinos in states with the largest increases in their Latino population are the most vulnerable. In the absence of federal oversight, there’s very little than can be done to protect their voting rights, other than protracted legal fights after such laws are passed.

The Public Religion Research Institute’s “American Values Survey” may show one, albeit obvious, reason for the flood of new laws. Though their survey found that 56 percent of respondents believed that Hispanics face “a lot of discrimination” in America, only 42 percent of Republicans believed Hispanics face a disproportionate amount of discrimination, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.

Republicans, incidentally, are the ones proposing restrictive legislation because Republicans benefit from implementing laws that disenfranchise minority voters; voters who, on the whole, tend to vote more often for Democrats.

NALEO makes a strong case for Latino voter disenfranchisement, but similarly unscrupulous laws can and have been applied to a number of minority communities in the U.S., including African-Americans, disabled people, and the elderly.

Take, for example, the events of March 22, when watched voter suppression happen right before our eyes during the Arizona presidential primary as the dramatically reduced number of polling sites forced voters to spend the entire day waiting on lines to cast their ballots. Arizona was one of the 16 states in which laws to restrict voting rights would have had to been cleared by the federal government, before Shelby County v. Holder.

North Carolina was another such state. After the Supreme Court gutted the VRA, Governor Pat McCrory signed into law strict voter ID requirements, cut early voting, eliminated same-day registration, banned out-of-precinct voting, and ended preregistration for future voters younger than 18 years old. Of course, the effects of these restrictions were later found to have disproportionately affected African Americans and Democrats.

How did we get here? What went wrong?

In Shelby County  v. Holder, Shelby County, Alabama claimed that the continued renewal of Section 4(b)’s coverage formula and Section 5’s preclearance requirement blurred the line between federal and state jurisdictions as outlined in the 14th, 15th, and 10th Amendments. Shelby County also argued that the VRA used outdated information from 1964, 1970, and 1975 to justify greater federal oversight 50 years later.

Writing for a 5-to-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts echoed Shelby County’s sentiments, stating that Section 4(b) was incompatible with the constitutional principles of federalism and states’ equal sovereignty because the unequal treatment is rooted in “40 year-old facts [that have] no logical relationship to the present day.” Roberts argued that, while the VRA was effective in remedying racial discrimination in the voting process, progress since its passage made its protections irrelevant.

The Court’s majority opinion suggests that the United States has achieved equality, and, therefore, no longer needs the coverage formula and preclearance requirements in the Voting Rights Act as structural safeguards. It implies that the racism, sexism, and classism that necessitated the creation of those safeguards no longer exist.

However, the United States is not a perfectly egalitarian country by any definition — especially in terms of voting access.

In October of 2012, the Brennan Center published the Election 2012: Voting Laws Roundup, which provided an overview of state election law. The Brennan Center reported that voter suppression efforts peaked after the 2010 midterm election, and that, between 2011 and 2012, over 180 voter restriction bills were proposed in 41 states.

And since the Supreme Court’s decision, such efforts have only grown more intense. Without the preclearance of historically restrictive states that the VRA used to require, more and more often these bills make it into law, and the vote is distorted even more to favor those with the power to manipulate it — namely, state legislatures and governor’s mansions, the overwhelming majority of which are controlled by Republicans.

There may come a time such as the one Chief Justice Roberts imagined in 2013, when our politics is free of discriminatory animus and attempts to restrict the vote along racial or otherwise partisan lines. That day has not come, and without the full strength of the Voting Rights Act, it never will.
Photo: Ohio voters cast their votes at the polls for early voting in the 2012 U.S. presidential election in Medina, Ohio, October 26, 2012.  REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

What’s The Real Significance Of The Paris Agreement?

On Friday, April 22, I watched 175 global leaders convene at the United Nations to confirm their collective commitment to climate action by officially signing the Paris Agreement.

In an attempt to improve implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Paris Agreement sets a goal of preventing global temperatures rising 2℃ or more above pre-industrial levels, with a stretch goal of 1.5℃.

Although the international movement to reduce greenhouse gas emission can be traced back to before the 1992 UN framework and the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the possibility of effectively adopting an international agreement seemed extremely unlikely until the talks in Paris at the end of last year.

But what took so long?

Some quick economics and history, to explain: As it stands, businesses determine the price and quantity of the goods they produce based on the intersection of cost and demand. However, without an acknowledgement otherwise, “cost” as typically understood in the business world overlooks the external costs and social consequences of their production — including environmental effects.

If companies actually added these external costs, including potential environmental degradation, to their private costs, then prices would be higher and demand would go down, leading to widespread corporate losses. The ever-present need to supply an increasingly globalized world cheap goods forces companies to choose between harming the environment or harming their businesses — and, for them, the answer was pretty clear.

Throughout the 20th century, the belief that all nations were in direct competition with one another limited the potential for large-scale global cooperation on this front, as evidenced by the failures of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.

But as the destructive power of global warming became increasingly clear, so too did the international consensus that something must be done about it.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change brought together 192 countries in an effort to balance these two competing needs: addressing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels and encouraging domestic economic growth.

Yet, although 197 countries and territories ratified the UNFCCC, the treaty was non-binding and therefore unenforceable.

In 1997, the international community convened again in Rio de Janiero to extend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change by ratifying the Kyoto Protocol. Unlike its predecessor, which simply recommended that advanced industrialized nations reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, the Kyoto Protocol required nations to actually keep their promises by actively committing to the UN’s targets.

Since the United Nations believed that the industrialized nations were the primary perpetrators of greenhouse gas pollution, the Kyoto Protocol instituted “common but differentiated responsibilities” — the idea that developed countries can do more to change (and, just as meaningfully, have contributed more to) global emissions levels, and therefore should be responsible for changing their own behavior more. The Kyoto Protocol legally bound 37 industrialized countries and the European Union to international emission reduction and exempted developing nations from the first commitment period.

Unfortunately, the Kyoto Protocol’s dichotomous expectations led many nations to withdraw from the discussions because they believed that some nations were unfairly exempt.

In 2001, the Bush Administration rejected the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol because it exempted countries like China, among others. Canada, Russia, and Japan followed suit by withdrawing from the second round of commitments and pursuing their own unilateral economic interests.

Unlike its predecessor, the Paris Agreement requires every country to adopt domestic-level policies based on their proposed “Intended Nationally Submitted Contributions” (INDCs) in order reach the 1.5 degree goal. Fifteen states of the original 175 have already ratified the agreement domestically — the fact that all nations are expected to participate precludes individual nations from arguing that the treaty is unfairly applied.

But the real difference between Kyoto and Paris lies in citizens’ access to — and support of — international efforts to address climate change. Pew Research Center’s Spring 2015 Global Attitudes Survey studied public opinion towards climate change legislation in over 40 countries and found that, although levels of concern varied by region, 8 out of 10 respondents polled believed that climate change is an imminent threat.

Citizens’ collective concern paired with the imminence of the climate change threat will continue to spark domestic movements for climate change legislation, which will pressure governments into adopting the Paris Agreement at home. The Paris Agreement has a long way to go, if our aim is to avoid irreversible global climate catastrophe. But the framework the agreement put into place is crucial for addressing climate change on a global scale.

Here’s How Trump’s Wall Would Create A Diplomatic Crisis

Since announcing his candidacy for president last summer, Donald Trump has said that Mexican leaders have manipulated the United States, using crime and illegal immigration to further their agenda. He claims that the Mexican government disseminated pamphlets about successful illegal immigration, and that the Mexican and the U.S. government’s supposed inaction on illegal immigration has cost the U.S. billions of dollars in healthcare, housing, and education expenditures in addition to its effect on crime and jobs.

He has also advocated for building a giant, uninterrupted wall along the U.S.-Mexico Border.

However, although “build that wall!” has become a Trump campaign catchphrase, Trump hasn’t offered a substantial policy proposals on the project, nor has he elaborated on the different tactics he would use to “build a great, great wall. . . [that] Mexico will pay for.”

Trump can talk all he wants, but the question remains: Why would Mexico pay anything for this disaster of an infrastructure project? And what would happen if they refuse?

According to Adam K. Webb, Resident Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Nanjing,  “Mexico simply will not agree to build a wall, no matter how much noise Trump makes about it.  It would be an immensely unpopular expense when a large chunk of Mexico’s population lives in poverty.  No Mexican president would last in office if he budged on this.”

But Donald Trump is the greatest negotiator in the world, author of The Art of the Deal and other gems. Surely, he must have a strategy.

On his website Trump states that until Mexico pays for the wall, his administration would impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards – of which we issue about one million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico [Tariffs and foreign aid cuts are also options].  

In other words, Trump will confiscate any payments that undocumented workers send back to their families and friends in Mexico as a form of economic sanctions.

The World Bank reports that remittance payments comprise only 2 percent of Mexican GDP; however, as the National Review explains, Trump’s remittance ban would have a profound effect on poorer local economies in Mexico, where 19 percent of income comes from remittances. To complicate things further, Trump would increase the fees of diplomatic visas, as a political statement, and on the visas of Mexican nationals working in the U.S. under NAFTA.

Trump claims that, after a while, it would be more expensive and parlous for the Mexican government to allow the United States to institute these policies than it would be for them to construct the wall.

That’s ridiculous.

Though Trump proposes to “impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages,” it would be incredibly difficult for the government to effectively calculate and monitor illegal wages, especially as many undocumented workers use social security numbers voluntarily shared with them by family members.

He also wants to “increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them)” as a form of diplomatic sanction, but that action would do little more than further disincentivize the Mexican government from cooperating with an already antagonistic Trump administration.

The proposal would create incredible amounts of diplomatic tension with Mexico, which would jeopardize our security and diplomatic standing, and, more importantly for Trump, would make the Mexican government even more hostile to paying for any kind of border wall.

And though Trump promises to “increase fees on all border crossing cards — including those one million cards issued to Mexican nationals, NAFTA worker visas, and port of entry fees — as a lever of pressure on the Mexican government to build a wall, that could just as easily lead to more illegal immigration by Mexicans who can’t afford to cross the border legally.

If Trump increased the fees for visas while crippling the local economies through remittance bans, he would be dis-incentivizing legal immigration. He would be making it more expensive to come to America through a legal route. And if Mexicans really want to come to America in the wake of local economic chaos, they will do whatever it takes — even if it means coming through the previously-excavated tunnels, or simply crossing at the parts of the border where Trump’s fantasy wall won’t be able to reach.

Should Donald Trump plow ahead with his plan, however, the American people, the Mexican government, and other nations will be forced to respond. Let’s consider the global political ramifications of a Trump presidency.

According to Professor Webb, “there are very few ways that [Trump] could try twisting Mexico’s arm harder, without incurring consequences that would far outweigh whatever supposed advantage he might gain by playing to the worst segments of American public opinion.”

Although the United States has been largely unafraid of imposing sanctions to achieve political objectives in the past, Mexico’s fate is so closely tied to the U.S. economy that sanctions in the form of tariffs, limited visas, and customs delays, and asset freezing could be equally detrimental for the U.S. economy — especially since the North American Free Trade Agreement has largely guided continental trade and cross-border investment over the past 2 decades.

World Policy Institute Fellow and former Bard College Professor Jonathan Cristol agreed that Trump’s potential sanctions would lead to unprecedented consequences for Mexico, as the United States imports 81.2 percent of Mexican exports.

And if Trump managed to force Mexico to pay for the wall, it wouldn’t be “without destroying America’s reputation and provoking worldwide counterbalancing against the U.S.” Cristol noted in an email.

Trump would have to strong-arm the Mexican government, possibly by instituting extremely high tariffs on Mexican goods — the costs of which would be passed on to consumers.

“I assume Trump thinks that the cost of building the wall would be less than the damage to Mexican business when U.S. consumers stop purchasing goods produced in Mexico,” Cristol said, “But this ignores two important factors: first, many of these goods are produced by American owned firms, so it would have a rebound effect on the U.S. economy; and second, most importantly, it would be a major violation of World Trade Organization trading rules.”

Both scholars agreed that the sanctions could lead to a variety of responses, from diplomatic measures or brute force.

Professor Cristol said that he was confident that Mexico could win the lawsuit against the U.S. government, predicting that “retaliatory measures would be taken against the U.S. economy to the point at which the damage was equivalent to the damage caused to Mexico.”

And what if Trump responded to Mexican recalcitrance with the threat of force? That in turn could potentially lead to the potential cessation of close diplomatic relations with the United Kingdom, Canada, and France, after those nations were forced to re-evaluate their alliances in light of the United States’ aggressive treatment of Mexico.

Dr. Cristol suggested that, in addition to reconsidering ties with the U.S., Trump’s rhetoric could cause other nations to expand their military industries in order to address their fear of what the United States had become.

Professor Webb agreed, and added that Trump’s actions would affect other nations’ perception of the United States, pushing traditional allies into the Russian and Chinese orbits. Under these circumstances, Mexico would be seen as a victim, evoking sympathy among many other nations.

In short: Though Donald Trump plays the embattled victim of bad trade deals and generous immigration laws, his attitude toward the Mexican government and the Mexican people would isolate the United States on the world stage — as indeed it already has.


Rory Mondshein received her B.A. in Political Studies and Social Policy from Bard College in 2014. In addition to working as a freelance writer, she serves as Oxford Global’s Education Ambassador. In September, Rory will be pursuing her MSc in Human Rights at the London School of Economics. 

Photo: A man walks near the border bridge connecting El Paso with Ciudad Juarez, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, February 24, 2016.  REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Europe’s Far Right Is Propagandizing The Brussels Bombing

Following the attacks in Brussels, Belgium that killed at least 30 people and injured many more, EU heads of state issued a joint statement condemning the attacks and reinforcing “European values and tolerance from the attacks of the intolerant.”

Yet while the European Council urged members to “be united and firm in the fight against hatred, violent extremism and terrorism,” right-wing party leaders around Europe used the attacks to justify and extend their xenophobic platforms.

 

In Austria, according to the Wall Street Journal, Heinz-Christian Strache, who serves as one of the leaders of the far right Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), responded to the attacks by saying “[These attacks highlight why] irresponsible mass immigration from the Arab world must be ended once and for all.”

Austrian anti-discrimination organization ZARA has said racism in Austria is higher than ever, with 1201 reported and recorded xenophobic attacks.

With roots dating back to the 1800s, the Freedom Party advocates against EU integration. In the midst of the uncertainty and unrest over Europe’s migration crisis, the FPO managed to win 30 percent of votes in September’s local elections, and sustained that victory in October’s general elections.  

 

In the wake of the Paris terror attacks, France’s far-right party, Front National, aggressively pushed their anti-EU, closed border platform, to huge success: In France’s December election, Front National won a record six million votes in the first round.

After the Brussels bombings, party leader Marine Le Pen made a statement to a Canadian crowd after attending meetings in Quebec:

“We need to take seriously the criminal networks of Islamic fundamentalists that exist in our countries… I’ve maintained this position in France for months. And I will repeat the same thing everywhere I go… I don’t get the sense that Islamic fundamentalism is being treated like the threat it really is. And just like I saw in France in the past, here in Canada, whoever condemns Islamic fundamentalism is accused of Islamophobia.”

Marie Le Pen has been impugned for “thinly veiled racist positions” — positions her father, Jean-Marie, pioneered without any veil — and has been outspoken about the deterioration of French society at the hands of multiculturalism.

 

Under Chancellor Angela Merkel’s leadership, Germany has been incredibly welcoming of refugees. After a video of Germans congregating to warmly welcome the first round of refugees, the world began to look to Germany, and in particular Chancellor Merkel, as a beacon of strength amid global disequilibrium.

But in September 2015, when Deutschland Trend conducted a public opinion poll to measure Germans’ opinions towards the resettlement, results showed that German support for migrants had decreased since Merkel’s initial announcement, and Merkel’s approval ratings had plummeted, with one in two Germans believing that Merkel acted inappropriately.

Germans’ growing discontent with Chancellor Merkel and the Christian Democratic Party have yielded a rise in nationalistic sentiment and right-wing politics.

The right wing Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) — with slogan “Asylum requires borders – Red card for Merkel” — has benefited from increasingly resentment towards Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the migrant crisis has fueled support for the anti-immigration AfD party, and recent public opinion polls show support for the AfD rising while approval for Merkel’s Christian Democratic party decreases.

In the wake of the Brussel attacks, the Alternative Fur Deutschland leader Frauke Petry said “The dream of a colorful Europe is dead, bombed away yet again… Finally accept it. It is time for change!”

 

In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV) has suggested that Europe should close its borders to Muslims to avoid the “Islamic invasion.”

The PVV advocates for strong assimilation into Dutch culture, and prides itself on being Eurosceptic. With many Dutch dissatisfied with the European Union’s agreement to resettle refugees, the PVV is building a base in Holland.

In fact, according to public opinion polls, the PVV has attracted such a strong following that it could win an election immediately. In a statement issued to Breitbart London, Wilders claimed:

“It is time to act. First of all, we must close our national borders and detain all the jihadists whom we have foolishly allowed to return from Syria. We must also tell people the truth. The cause of all this bloodshed is Islam. We need to de-Islamize the West. That is the only way to safeguard our lives and protect our freedom.”

In a later interview with Breitbart, Wilders continued to denounce the attacks by saying:

“I fear that we ain’t seen nothing yet. According to Europol 3,000 to 5,000 European jihadists, who went to Syria to fight in the ranks of IS and similar terrorist groups, have meanwhile returned to Western Europe. Some of them hid among the hundreds of thousands of Islamic asylum seekers that entered Europe from Asia and Africa… Two of last November’s terrorist in Paris had fought in Syria. So had the terrorist who, last August, attempted to attack the high speed train between Amsterdam and Paris. So had the two terrorists who, in January 2015, massacred the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo. So had the terrorist who, in May 2014, shot four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.”

European Commissioner Hermann Kelly, commented that “[it] is amazing to me that these people can kill people abroad, come here, and then walk free in the centre of Brussels.”

In response to Kelly’s observations,  Wilders said “Returned Syria fighters are a huge threat. They are dangerous predators roaming our streets. It is absolutely unbelievable that our governments allow them to return. And it is incredible that, once returned, they are not imprisoned… In the Netherlands, we have dozens of these returned jihadists. Our government allows most of them to freely walk our streets and refuses to lock them up. I demand that they be detained at once. Every government in the West, which refuses to do so, is a moral access have pushed for closed borders if one of these monsters commits an atrocity.”

Wilders is one of many European leaders that have pushed for closed borders in the wake of recent tragedies.

In addition to his public interviews, Wilder tweeted:

“If I become Dutch Prime Minister next year, I’ll crush Islamic terrorism, close our national borders, and De-Islamize The Netherlands. #nomore”

A few hours later, Wilder posted another tweet that directly blamed Islam for the attacks:

“What are the causes of all these terror attacks?

Islam

Islam

Islam

#StopIslam”

 

Hungary, like many European countries, responded to the migrant crisis with increased nationalistic sentiments.

According to the Hungarian government’s website, the Orban government sent Hungarians a questionnaire to gage their opinions about the migrant crisis. However, economics professor Gyorgy Malovics explained that the questionnaire was framed in nationalistic terms, as it included warnings of Hebdo-style killings and reminders of Hungarian pride.

NPR reports that over one million Hungarians responded to the survey, and the results have been used to justify Hungary’s strictly anti-migrant policies.

According to Express, Orban’s government commissioned the construction of a 110 foot wall along its shared border with Serbia in order to keep migrants out of Hungary.

Yet Orban’s hardline stance was not enough for some Hungarians. The Jobbik Party is even farther to the right, and 20 percent of Hungarians supported them in April elections, a huge increase in support.

Although support for Jobbiks has decreased since April, it should be noted that they were the ones that proposed the fence as well as the military deployment that followed.

Following yesterday’s attacks, Hungarian Foreign Minister stated that “There is no doubt that illegal migration is behind the rise in terror threat”

Representatives from the Orban government responded to the attacks by saying “We’ve said many times: [the] EU have to fully stop illegal migration,

 

As Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi agreed to European Union demands to accept refugees amidst funding threats, the Italian public began shifting in favor of the Northern League, which boasts a strong anti-immigrant record.

Northern League leaders Gian Marco Centinaio and Massimiliano Fedriga commented to the Wall Street Journal:

“We are astonished and heartbroken for the lives broken by Islamic hate. We aren’t responding, the E.U. institutions are weak, fragile, helpless and are turning the other way, allowing these massacres.”

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Northern League has also called for the closure of Mosques.

Photo: Belgian troops on patrol in cenral Brusselsl following Tuesday’s bomb attacks in Brussels, Belgium, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

Donald Trump Mobilizes Hispanic Voters… Against Donald Trump

From the start, Donald Trump spoke and acted like a Republican presidential candidate who wanted to lose. That strategy hasn’t worked too well in the Republican primaries, but Trump’s open racism makes him a nearly-unelectable general election nominee, especially among Hispanic voters.

As it stands, Hispanics represent the largest minority populations in the United States. With over 27.3 million newly-eligible Hispanic voters set to cast ballots this year for the first time, it should come as no surprise that this group has the potential to sway the entire election, particularly in swing states.

Historically, though Hispanics comprise a very large percentage of the U.S. population, they have a relatively low voter turnout. In February, the Center for Latin American, Caribbean, and Latino Studies (CLACLS) found that, although 28 million Latinos were eligible to vote, only 48 percent cast a ballot in 2012.

But if history is any indication, this election could mark a major turning point in that trend.

In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson, sponsored an initiative to restrict immigrants and their children from enjoying public education and health care. The proposition failed after many Latinos went to the polls to vote against it.

In 2012, Arizona politicians tried to introduce legislation to limit Latinos’ civil liberties through increased racial profiling. In the wake of the xenophobic bill’s passage, many grassroots organizations hosted voter drives. In fact, according to the grassroots organization Promise Arizona in Action, 11,975 Latinos in Arizona went to the polls to vote against the legislation, which represented a 28 percent increase compared to 2008.

In August of last year, according to a Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, 70 percent of potential Republican voters believed that a wall should be built along the U.S.-Mexican border, and 92 percent of those respondents support large-scale deportation efforts.

Recently, in Indiana, an elementary school student was publicly bullied at a school basketball game. Throughout the game, students at a predominantly white school chanted “Build the wall” as they held up pro-Trump signs to distract the other, primarily-Latino team.

In Northern Virginia, a student was told that he would be “sent home” when Trump becomes president.

In Boston, Knicks player Jose Calderon was heckled by Celtics fans who chanted “Go back to Mexico” and “build a wall.”

According to the Public Religion Research Institute’s “American Values Survey,” 56 percent of respondents believed that Hispanics face “a lot of discrimination” in America. However, that average belies a partisan split: only 42 percent of Republicans believe Hispanics face a disproportionate amount of discrimination, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.

As Donald Trump has made clear, 2016 will be a landmark year for racism in our electoral process. But Trump’s brand of anti-immigrant xenophobia cuts both ways. Turnout among white voters may increase, but they’re far outnumbered.

In fact, Mr. Trump’s comments have inspired political donors like George Soros to launch the “Immigrant Voters Win” PAC, a $15 million initiative to mobilize Latinos in swing states to register to vote. Univision has launched their own voter registration initiative as well, with a goal of registering 3 million new Latino voters.

Florida offers a valuable case study in how this could all play out for Donald Trump, should he be his party’s nominee. According to the Pew Research Center,

Among all Floridians, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in 2016. This is due in part to Hispanics, who accounted for 88% of growth in the number of registered Democrats between 2006 and 2016. During this time, the number of Hispanic registered voters increased by 61%, while the number of Hispanics identifying as Democrats increased by 83% and those having no party affiliation increased by 95%. The number of Hispanic Republican registered voters has grown too – but much more slowly (just 16%).  

In 2014, a study from the Pew Hispanic Center showed that 62 percent of Latinos nationwide support Democratic candidates. According to the CLACLS, the relative surge of Latino voters can help decide election winners in swing states like Florida and Pennsylvania.

So, sure, Donald Trump won Florida. He also won Nevada — “even among Latinos!”

That is, among Latino Republican primary voters.

In Florida, according to Fortune, relatively few Latino Republicans came to vote and only 7 percent of the Latinos who did vote favored Trump.

The Nevada caucuses showed similarly unimpressive results: the Washington Post reported afterwards that, for all of Trump’s talk, he only won 2 percent of eligible Latino voters, “because there aren’t many Latino Republicans and because turnout in Nevada’s caucuses is very small.”

Surprise: Donald Trump knows how to twist statistics to say whatever he wants them to say. But that doesn’t change reality — 80 percent of Hispanics have a negative view of Donald Trump. And yes, their voices will be heard in November.

Photo: Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump brings up a Latino member of the audience as he speaks during a campaign event in Tucson, Arizona March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich

Republican Islamophobia Is Creating Tens Of Thousands Of New Muslim Voters

Over the past few months, we’ve seen nearly the entire Republican Party coalesce around the rhetoric that Donald Trump pioneered just a few months ago: one massive hyperventilation over immigration, trade, and above all, Islam. No matter how much they’ve disavowed Mr. Trump’s language — some of them haven’t at all — nearly every Republican governor and every candidate for president echoed Trump’s language on monitoring or excluding Syrian refugees  after the Paris terrorist attacks. Most followed suit when it came to a religious test on domestic surveillance.

Since announcing his candidacy in June, Mr. Trump has claimed that Muslims celebrated 9/11 by the thousands in New York and New Jersey and that “Islam hates us.” Trump has used Islamophobic rhetoric to justify his policy proposals, which include a Muslim travel ban, a national registry to identify Muslim-­Americans, and greater governmental surveillance on Muslims, including on mosques, in the style of the NYPD.

Trump’s language has found plenty of willing ears. According to a study from the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of Republican voters support blunt statements about Islamic extremism. It’s no surprise that Trump’s message has gained a lot of traction among his party’s base.

While the motives behind Trump’s statements are dubious, the consequences are indubitable. In Virginia, a Muslim civil engineer was publicly shamed at a local government meeting, as the crowd accused him of being part of “an evil cult” and shouted that all Muslims are terrorists. In New York, a Muslim 6th grader had her hijab pulled off as fellow students called her “ISIS.” In Texas, an anti­-Muslim group took to the streets and held an armed protest outside of a local mosque.

These are just a few of the 73 Islamophobic attacks that have occurred since the Paris Attacks on November 13th.

The correlation between Trump’s rhetoric and rising Islamophobia cannot be ignored. In fact, according to a YouGov/Economist surveyRepublican voters who believe that Islam poses a direct threat to national security were more inclined to vote for Trump.

YouGov/the Economist’s findings are corroborated by a recent Pew survey, which showed that 4/10 Americans believe that some Muslims in America are “anti­-American.”

Earlier this year, the Council on American­-Islamic Relations (CAIR) conducted a survey to study the ways that recent Islamophobic rhetoric has affected Muslim voter registration. Looking at over 2,000 respondents in the six most heavily Muslim­ populated states, CAIR found that 74 percent of U.S. Muslims planned to vote in the November election, compared to the 69 percent of Muslims that indicated an interest in 2014.

Of the respondents to CAIR’s poll, 67 percent were inclined to vote for a Democrat, compared to 15 percent that identified as Republican. Compared to the 2014 results, newly-politically active Muslim voters skew heavily Democratic. 

Pollsters also asked respondents to rank political issues in order of personal priority, and found that 30 percent of respondents believed that Islamophobia was the most important issue in 2016. Compare that to the same survey in 2014, which found that Islamophobia was the third most important issue for voters, behind healthcare and the economy. In fact, only 15 percent of respondents said that Islamophobia was the most important issue to them two years ago.

In 2016, the latter figure has doubled. Islamophobia was respondents’ primary concern, and reasonably so.

Muslim communities have responded to increased racism with civic engagement: In December, U.S. Islamic organizations including CAIR and the Islamic Society of North America announced that they were teaming up to encourage Muslims to register to vote, with the goal of registering one million new Muslim voters before the November election. As the Executive Director of the American Muslim Alliance put it: “we’re going to register our people and take our souls to the polls.”

Since that meeting in December, we have seen numerous Muslim voter drives all across the country. In Virginia, mosques hosted outreach events in inclement weather. In Georgia, mosques have disseminated emails about the registration process. In urban areas like Chicago and Detroit, mosques have emphasized the importance of voting.

If these organizations reach their goal of registering 1 million new voters, Trump’s rhetoric, and the rest of his party’s parroting of it, will grow even more politically detrimental for the Republican Party. And in future election cycles, increased numbers of voting Muslims may prove a powerful incentive against the type of racism we’ve seen so far this season.

But don’t bet on it: the Republican Party’s “autopsy” of Mitt Romney’s 2012 loss assumed the same would be true of the increasing number of Latino voters in the U.S. — Donald Trump, safe to say, did not heed their advice.

Photo: Muslim Student Association (MSA) West President Bashar Subeh (R), 20, a student at Cal Poly Pomona, watches the Republican presidential debate with other students at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) office in Anaheim, California December 15, 2015.  REUTERS/Jason Redmond