MEGA-MARCHERS SOON TO BE MEGA-VOTERS

English: March for America brings 200,000 peop...

By Kirk Clay

Election 2014 Will Be Next Demonstration For America’s Rising Electorate

The Latino community came out in extraordinary numbers for the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform March.” It was also remarkable to see so many progressive whites and People of Color (POC) exercising their First Amendment right.   As Reverend Joseph E. Lowery would say “You could almost see America expand the franchise before your eyes.”

People of all races and religions came from every corner of this nation to give their time, talent, and resources for a noble cause – helping their neighbor.  During the March’s aftermath, this same coalition will undoubtedly come together to push through commonsense, compassionate, and comprehensive immigration reform.  After that, they will stay together to fight future issues like disenfranchisement, voting rights retrogression, racial profiling, and discriminatory employment practices. Because midterm elections are influential in underlining national issues, 2014 will present a new opportunity for this rising electorate to vote their interest.

The month of March has affected Washington in a big way, bringing even more electoral momentum to an already high powered movement. As we saw in 2012, enthusiasm levels in communities of color tend to drive political activity at the state and local levels too. The next election will probably be a deliberate continuation of this trend. Just like the righteous issues of the past, immigration reform may be the flame that ignites massive voter registration and epic midterm turnout.

So who will benefit from this new political energy? It seems that the Democrats are in the best position at this point.  A strong Latino performance in 2012 has moved more than 12 Democrat swing seats to the safe column. Also, people of color (POC) helped to make 152 Democrat districts safer per districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election. This will free up resources for challenging a sizable portion of the GOP’s 30 swing seats and capturing the 17 seats needed to flip the House.

No one can be absolutely sure what will happen in November 2014 but it should be understood that the GOP will face a contextual impasse. Their party is dominated by Tea Party ideologues that are out of touch with the rest of America. As the latest Gallup poll shows:

  • 7-in-10 (69%) Americans would vote for a law to allow undocumented immigrants a chance to become U.S. citizens.
  • More than 7-in-10 (73%) Democrats and Democratic Leaners would vote for an earned path to citizenship.
  • 42% of Republicans and Republican Leaners would vote against an earned path to citizenship.

The bottom-line is that the GOP is now caught between deportation and amnesty – the wrong move could cost them the House. Take Nevada’s 3rd Congressional district where the demographics are 16% Latino, 6% African American, and 12% Asian. The President won this district with close to 50% of the vote and the GOP Congressman failed to get a clear majority of the vote. All it would take is one “47% style” comment or a “bad vote” and this may be his last term.

It’s ironic how obstructionist public policy created this political environment.  Meaning, the landscape is what it is today because of the policies embraced in the past.  Looking forward, it’s evident that this election will be about legislators channeling their patriotic spirit to understand more compassionately, share more generously, and legislate more unselfishly. It’s unmistakable that they have concentrated on obstruction too long and now it’s time to focus on improving the future quality of life for all Americans.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

YOUNG VOTERS OF COLOR MAY DO IT AGAIN IN 2014

Kirk Clay

Hit With The Sequester, Young Voters May Give An Encore Performance

Young voters played a significant role in Obama’s 2012 victory, helping him sweep all four battleground states—Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Nevada—with 60% of the youth vote.  Nationwide, voters under the age of 30 made up a large share of the overall electorate, representing 19% of all voters, an increase from their share in 2008.

English: Voters in line to cast ballots in 200...

As we move towards the 2014 midterms, we see signs of a repeat “high-water mark” performance.  Already young voters have been extremely vocal on progressive issues like immigration reform, gun violence, and marriage equality.  Fueled by the power of social media tools like Twitter and Facebook in politics, the youth electorate’s role is beginning to solidify.  According to 2012 exit polls, young voters expressed more progressive attitudes on a range of issues—from gay marriage to the role of the federal government—than other voters.  They are the only age group in which a majority said that the government should do more to solve problems.  Additionally, they are the most racially and ethnically diverse age group with over 40% currently being voters of color (VOC).

The stage is now set for the next act and it looks like the same play with a slightly different cast. It’s true that next year’s election will not have a leading man reciting “47%” lines. However, Romney’s performance was so memorable that similar lines may haunt GOP candidates in youth districts of influence – Congressional districts that are not necessarily majority minority but have enough diversity to effect the election.

Take the “sequester” fight for example. To most young VOC this seems to be an extension of the “Makers- vs – Takers” campaign. First, almost all young people in poverty will be affected by the “sequester.” Second, most of these voters fall into the “47%” grouping. Lastly, Congress recently approved a modification to the “sequester” that includes education cuts – federal loans, grants and work-study aid which have a greater impact on young voters.

The larger implications for election 2014 are clear, especially in battleground states like Florida where Leon and Franklin counties have high poverty and unemployment rates. It’s going to be hard for the GOP to persuade young VOC that “spending cuts” are good for their county. This is especially true in a college town Congressional district like Florida’s 2nd, where the demographics are 5% Latino, 24% African American, and 2% Asian. Note that this district has a significant young VOC population and President Obama received close to a majority of the vote in 2012.

The truth is, the GOP brand is taking a beating and the political environment is changing in states like Florida. As a matter of fact, Republicans are having an identity crisis while the Democrats are securing their image as champions of the Middleclass. This actuality is magnified on campuses like Florida A&M.

Looking towards 2014, it seems that 2012 was a trend setting year in politics. Young voters are continuing to move away from the GOP and increasingly support Democrats. If they continue to be engaged at a high degree, register to vote at healthy levels, and support commonsense candidates – then 2014 may look a lot like the 2006 midterm elections. If young voters stand up for what they believe in and fight for what they believe is right, they will bring new energy to Washington.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC

WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF MEDICARE ON SENIOR VOTERS OF COLOR?

voting day in a small town
voting day in a small town (Photo credit: Muffet)

 By Kirk Clay

Senior Voters of Color Want Solutions for Medicare Not Gridlock

 

Choosing a vice president is the biggest exercise in judgment a candidate performs. It offers a rare view of the candidate’s core values and beliefs. Just recently, the GOP Presidential nominee chose a running mate from Congress that vows to repeal Obamacare and drafted a budget which includes a proposed change in Medicare. As a result, we are debating policies that would impact the daily lives of our seniors.

Of the 47 million American’s who are covered by Medicare or Medicare Advantage, the elderly make up the majority of our nation’s most vulnerable who depend on the red, white, and blue Medicare card. This economic policy has significant real life implications.  Before it’s inception in 1965, one in three seniors lived in poverty, many having squandered their life savings on costly medical care. Today, only one in six elderly people are in poverty due to medical cost. Clearly, Medicare has made a difference.

As noted by many political experts, the senior voting block is one of the most educated and active constituencies in politics. Therefore, this debate provides us with an exceptional opportunity to have a conversation about the need for a balanced approach to America’s health and financial security.

Further, this positions Medicare as one of the best issues for debating the role and size of Government. Simply put, if a candidate can’t explain to our seniors how shrinking or maintaining the current size and role of government would work, maybe they shouldn’t be elected.

A recent study from AARP underscored how serious of an issue Medicare will be for senior voters as they head to the polls—especially voters of color.  According to the study:

●          Two-Thirds of Latino and Three-Fourths of African American senior voters plan to rely on Medicare even more due to the state of the economy.

●          49% of Latinos and 35% of African Americans are not confident that Medicare will be there for them and future generations.

●          90% of Latinos and 97% of African Americans say the next President and Congress need to strengthen Medicare for future generations.

●          97% of Latinos and 98% of African Americans believe Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare.

To get a better sense about the significance of Medicare, I talked with my Grandma. She confirmed the study, “Baby, these politicians will tell you anything to get elected. The truth is, I now get a number of benefits after Obamacare.”

She reminded me of how the family struggled to help her pay prescription costs until she started receiving the discounts. “Remember how you were shocked at how low the bill was last week? I think it’s called closing the doughnut hole.” We also talked about the fact that seniors now get free wellness visits and the limit on out of pocket costs for things like co-pays. She shot back “how will it work if they repeal Obamacare?”

I couldn’t answer that, because I haven’t seen a healthcare plan from Congress. They launched “A Pledge to America” after Conservatives took control of the House in 2010 but nothing happened. No wonder this Congress has the lowest approval in history with only 10% of Americans approving the job they’ve done in the last two gridlocked years. According to the AARP study, among senior VOC 57% of Latinos and 90% of African Americans approve of the job that President Obama is doing. By contrast, more than 62% of Latinos and 67% of African American senior voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

That’s why it’s so interesting that the GOP would bring a leader of the “Do-nothing” Congress into the race for the White House. That sentiment is backed by our seniors–64% of Latino and 65% of African American seniors believe their personal economic circumstances have been negatively affected by political gridlock. Also 88% of Latinos and 93% of African Americans believe Medicare is critical to maintaining their health.

Those two numbers may indicate the reason the GOP presidential candidate is having such a hard time connecting to voters on a personal level. A reported 74% of Latinos and 80% of African American seniors say “learning the candidates’ plans on strengthening and reforming” Medicare would help them to decide who to vote for. Yet 48% of Latinos and 39% of African American seniors say Candidates are not doing a good job explaining their plans for strengthening and reforming Medicare. To them, if you don’t have a comprehensive healthcare plan, people may take it to mean you’re hiding something.

Is grandma right? Are VOC in swing states paying attention to this debate? Will American voters base their vote on trust? Are there enough progressive Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Unions, Seniors, and Young Voters to break the stalemate in Washington?

To figure this out we should look to states like Nevada where the state gained a Congressional seat and an electoral vote after the 2010 census. VOC now make up 28% of the citizen voting age population and 60% of them are registered to vote. VOC represented 26% of the electorate in 2008 and that number jumped to 29% in 2010, a Tea Party wave year. That year, Latinos represented 16% of the vote share and 69% voted for the progressive Senate candidate. While North Las Vegas grew by 87% to 216,961 and now have over 46,000 “key” VOC in the area, it will take plenty of resources to engage this electorate.

Note that, 88% of Nevada’s baby boomers disapprove of the job Congress is doing and 93% believe that Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find a solution to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

For over 46 years, Medicare has made a difference for millions of Americans. It is one government program that has worked so well that people don’t think it’s a government program at all. Many seniors say that “if I didn’t have Medicare, doctor bills could wipe me out and put a burden on my kids”. Paying six thousand dollars more for insurance may not sound like much, but if you’re a senior citizen living on a fixed income and you’re already counting every penny, $6,000 is serious money.

As my grandma and I continued to talk, I realized that she didn’t care about who is credited for building Medicare. All that matters is that it works and she has access to it when she needs it. She reminds me that we all stand on the shoulders of our parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. They taught us that America works best when we all help each other become successful. A successful society is built on a nucleus of hard working, talented, and compassionate leaders that are trustworthy. The thing is “you can’t buy trust, you earn it.” That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPac

THE SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS COMPROMISE AND REJECTS POLARIZATION

By Kirk Clay

U.S. circuit judges Robert Katzmann, Damon Kei...
U.S. circuit judges Robert Katzmann, Damon Keith, and Sonia Sotomayor at a 2004 exhibit on the Fourteenth Amendment, Thurgood Marshall, and Brown v. Board of Education. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Voters of Color May be the Key to Political Civility

The recent Supreme Court decisions regarding Arizona’s immigration law SB 1070 and The Affordable Care Act reminded me of another significant moment in American history–the Court’s ruling on the Brown v. Board of Education case.  That ruling had a profound impact on the lives of every person in the country and helped move this country forward with regards to civil rights, social justice and equality.

Just like the 1950s, it is hard to measure the impact that these decisions will have on the social fabric of this country and the world. However, it’s clear that we are witnessing a watershed moment. And for many voters of color (VOC), these rulings are a strong signal that no matter how dysfunctional Congress has become, there is hope.

As the Presidential campaign picks up speed, voters are starting to pay attention to the triple impact that their vote will have in November.   The next President may have an opportunity to appoint at least one new Justice to the Supreme Court who will have the power and responsibility to continue making landmark decisions that can move our country forward as the Congressional leaders who are elected struggle to respond to those Supreme Court decisions.

Healthcare is going to be a huge issue for igniting greater civic engagement among VOC. According to a recent Gallup survey, 21% of Latino registered voters rated healthcare as one of their top priorities.  In states like Texas, 20% of children in the state have no health coverage and 37% of Latinos have no health insurance. Many adults living in major metro areas around the state are uninsured:

Beaumont-Port Arthur area—26%

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown area–24%

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area–21%

San Antonio area–18%

Austin-Round Rock area –18%

Interestingly enough, these metro areas also have a significantly high Latino and African American populations.

This and other issues will be the true story behind this election. The truth is that even if there isn’t a clear indication of a “change” election, the landscape is set for voters to hold obstructionist law makers accountable. There are 19 new seats, 36 open seats, 2 vacancies, and 57 seats where no incumbent will be on the ballot. Many of the new seats are solid People of Color (POC) prospects.

Census data shows the Latino population increased by 15 million in 2010, and 20% of that growth happened in Texas. People of Color are already the majority in Texas and their vote trends in the Democrats’ favor.

Latinos make up about 25% of the state’s new registrants in 2009 and 2010. People of Color represent 54% of the state’s total population and 41% of the citizen voting age population (CVAP).  They represent 40% of registered voters and just a little more than 19% of frequent voters. Also, over 3 million registered Latino and African American voters stayed home in 2010. Just imagine what would happen if a modern coalition of conscious Whites, Latinos, African Americans, Asians, Native Americans, Women, Unions, and Young Voters came together and increased Latino turnout from 24% to 49% and African American turnout from 35% to 49%. Together, we could add over 1 million more VOC.

This could be the difference in congressional races in areas where so many VOC are uninsured. For example, Fort Worth grew by 38% to 741,206 and now has over 140,000 registered “Key” VOC with close to 95,000 infrequent voters. If properly resourced, and the electorate continues to expand, we may see a significant voter turnout increase. These voters may vote for more progressive Congressional leaders and begin the process of putting TX’s 38 electoral votes in play for future elections.

No one is entirely sure how voters are going to respond to these last 2 years of impasse. The truth is that The Affordable Care Act was an example of politicians compromising to get something done. First it was voted out of Senate Committee with the support of a Republican, then passed with the help of two Independent Senators and recently upheld by a Republican appointed Chief Justice.

Will voters reward compromisers? Or will this be the 21st century battle over civil and human rights that lights the fire of social justice and changes the tone in the House? Now is the time for all Americans to embrace hope and play a part in shaping our nation’s future. That’s popping the clutch.

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Kirk Clay is Senior Advisor at PowerPAC