#NativeVote16 – Deborah Parker named to Democrat’s platform committee

  Deborah Parker speaking at a Senate press conference about the Violence Against Women Act. (YouTube photo)


First the news. Then the context. 

The news is that Deborah Parker has been named to the Democratic National Convention’s Platform Committee. That’s both remarkable and important. She was  appointed by Bernie Sanders. 

As Nicole Willis posted on Facebook: “I am beyond pleased that American Indian and Alaska Native issues are such a high priority for this campaign– so much that one of our platform spots has gone to Deborah Parker!” (Willis is the National Tribal Outreach Director for the Sanders’ campaign.)

Now the context. 

Every four years political parties craft carefully worded statements.  They outline exactly what the party hopes to achieve over the next four years should they win the White House and Congress. These are aspirational documents, not a governing document or political legislation. 

So the way it works is that usually the party’s nominee selects the platform committee. That’s exactly what will happen on the Republican side as Donald Trump will start to put his stamp on the Republicans campaign.

But the Democrats are not there yet. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a sizable lead, but not quite enough delegates to win. And Bernie Sanders is in that tough spot of trying to catch up to Clinton with fewer and fewer delegates up for grabs. When there is no nominee, usually, the party appoints the convention committee posts. 

On Monday the party picked another route. Clinton was awarded 6 seats; Sanders 5; and the remaining 4 will be appointed by the party itself. 

Politico call this a “concession” to Sanders because his supporters will be able to influence the party to be more progressive on a range of issues, such as a higher minimum wage. 

Parker, a former vice chairman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington, was an early supporter of Sanders. Parker has much to offer any platform committee. First, she understands and can communicate the relationship between tribes and the federal government and what might be possible in terms of improvement. Second, Parker was a critical voice in the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act. She adds expertise and credibility.

Four years ago, the Democratic Party Platform included this section on Tribal Sovereignty:

American Indian and Alaska Native tribes are sovereign self-governing communities, with a unique government-to-government relationship with the United States. President Obama and Democrats in Congress, working with tribes, have taken unprecedented steps to resolve long-standing conflicts, finally coming to a resolution on litigation—some dating back nearly 100 years—related to management of Indian trust resources, administration of loan programs, and water rights. 

The President worked with Democrats to pass the HEARTH Act to promote greater tribal self- determination and create jobs in Indian Country. The Affordable Care Act permanently reauthorized the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to improve care for Native Americans. Democrats enacted the Tribal Law and Order Act, support expansion of the Violence Against Women Act to include greater protection for women on tribal lands, and oppose versions of the Violence Against Women Act that do not include these critical provisions. We will continue to honor our treaty and trust obligations and respect cultural rights, including greater support for American Indian and Alaska Native languages. Democrats support maximizing tribal self-governance, including efforts for self-determination and sovereignty of Native Hawaiians.

In addition to Parker, other members of the Democratic Platform Commitee:

Bernie Sanders’ appointments:

* Dr. Cornell West;

* Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minnesota);

*Bill McKibben (Author, expert on climate change);

* James Zogby (Arab American Institute)

Hillary Clinton’s appointments:

*Ambassador Wendy Sherman;

*Neera Tanden (Center for American Progress);

*Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Ohio State);

*Carol Browner (Former EPA head);

*Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Illinois);

*Paul Booth (union leader);

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, who has endorsed Clinton, will head the committee. The DNC also named Rep. Barbara Lee, D-California; Former Rep. Howard Berman, and a former CEO, Bonnie Schaefer.
— Mark Trahant

#NativeVote16 – Oregon’s primary is the big day for Tawna Sanchez; Turnout test

Controversy in Oregon: Tawna Sanchez posted this picture with former Rep. Gabby Giffords because of a flyer that accuses her of being soft on gun control. Since wrote: “That is a despicable lie! In fact, this picture is me joining Gabby Giffords for the kickoff of the Oregon Coalition for Common Sense, a statewide organization working to close the loopholes in our background checks system and make our communities safer.” (Facebook photo)

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports

It’s another primary Election Day. Tonight returns will come in from Oregon and Kentucky. And while most of the attention will be on the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders contest, there are a couple of other things worth thinking about. Especially in Oregon.

First: The primary is the Big Day for Tawna Sanchez. She’s a candidate for the Oregon House in Portland, District 43. She’s Shoshone-Bannock. The candidate who wins the primary will win the office. (Previous: A record year for Native candidates?)

Sanchez is running on a  progressive platform. From her campaign page: “I’ve spent my life sticking up for women, children, and families. I protested coal and uranium mining on native reservations.  I’ve helped create a domestic violence program that is a national model. I was the second employee at NAYA, and today we employ 120 people.”

If elected, Sanchez would be a voice for what I have called the most underrepresented people in the country, urban American Indians. (And bonus: Sanchez has received support from Oregon tribes, most recently an endorsement from the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs.)

Sanchez is running against Roberta Phillip-Robbins. Earlier this month it was reported that Phillip-Robins was ineligible to run for office because her job was funded by a federal grant. She resigned from her job. But as the Willamette Week noted: “… on May 9, Sean Cruz, a former legislative staffer who has endorsed Sanchez, filed an elections complaint against Phillip-Robbins, arguing that because she was ineligible to run between her Dec. 17, 2015, candidate filing and her May 6 resignation from the county, she illegally—if inadvertently—collected nearly $100,000 in campaign contributions during that time. “Election laws have been broken and an impartial investigation is called for,” Cruz wrote.”

This controversy continues on election day. This morning Sanchez posted an election alert on Facebook:

“People across the District are telling us they’ve receiving mail and visits from Roberta Phillip-Robbins canvassers falsely claiming I oppose stronger gun laws. That is a despicable lie! In fact, this picture is me joining Gabby Giffords for the kickoff of the Oregon Coalition for Common Sense, a statewide organization working to close the loopholes in our background checks system and make our communities safer. I am incredibly disappointed that my opponent is stooping to this level to try to win this election. I think my record speaks for itself as a leader for decades in the domestic violence community, this is not something I would do.”

There is another reason to watch Oregon’s Primary Election returns. Turnout. Oregon is a vote by mail state and consistently has a higher turnout than other states. It’s a system that makes it easy to vote.

Let’s look at the numbers. Eight years ago, was the last contested primary on both sides, and Oregon’s voter turnout was 43.2%, according to the United States Election Project. That was second only to New Hampshire’s 53.6% (the lowest primary turnout numbers would come from a few caucus states that don’t even bother to count.)

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com





#NativeVote16 -Tom Cole says he’s more worried about Clinton than Trump


Should a Republican back Donald Trump? Rep. Tom Cole says it’s a simple decision. (Campaign photo)

What’s a Republican to do?

Mark Trahant / TrahantReports


So what is a Republican candidate for Congress to do? Support Donald Trump and some of his nonsensical policies? Or back a third-party candidate who has little chance of winning?

Oklahoma’s Tom Cole says a simple decision. He said he’s a Republican. He’s on the ballot as a Republican and he will support the nominee of the party. So yes, he’s supporting Donald Trump.

“I’m a lot more concerned about Hillary Clinton than I am about Donald Trump,” Cole said according to the Oklahoma-based blog, web site NonDoc. Cole said there are issues he disagrees with Trump and will continue to do so, such as Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the country. “Number one, it’s unconstitutional. It’s pretty clear, if you read the Constitution, we can’t impose religious tests for anything. And second, we need Muslims in this fight as (they are) a lot of the best friends our country has around the world.”

Cole said he worked with Clinton and she is effective, even when he disagrees with her ideologically. He said her election would be a continuation of Barack Obama’s policies.

And, according to NonDoc, Cole, who is a member of the Chickasaw Tribe, said that’s not all bad.  “I always joke, I’ve probably got more Obama pictures — I have five Obama pictures on the wall in my house, because four of them are Indian legislation that’s passed. So we’ve worked on some things together. But, I think we’ve got a very different view of what the appropriate level of taxation and regulation is. And somebody that’s going to defend Obamacare, for instance, we just disagree. Philosophically, I am certainly to the right of Secretary Clinton.”

Cole and many others who are in the Republican Party recognize the ballot challenges of running with Trump and the difficulty of a conservative running as a third party candidate.

First, there is the problem of ballot access. Many states have filing deadlines that make it difficult for independent candidates to get on all 50 state ballots. As I have reported earlier, even established parties, such as the Libertarian and the Green parties, have not been able to do that. (Previous: How does a country with a rigged, two party system reinvent itself as a multiparty democracy.)

Second, there is a fun, practical problem. A third-party candidate means splitting the vote in the all-important contest to win states (and electoral college votes). Let’s take Montana as an example. You could make the case that Jon Tester won re-election in Montana in part because of the 31,892 votes that Dan Cox earned as the Libertarian Party candidate. Tester won re-election with 236,123 votes while the Republican Denny Rehberg had 218,051 votes.  I don’t think every Libertarian vote would have gone for the Republican, but in a three-way race, it’s hard to know exactly. Now imagine this three-way choice in the presidential race: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and a third-party conservative challenger. I would guess that a conservative would do far better than Dan Cox, maybe even getting more votes than Donald Trump. But would it be enough to win Montana? That I doubt. What it would do is put Montana in play for the Democrats.

Conservatives could  also get serious about the Libertarian Party. The party’s likely nominee is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. He’s also a former Republican. The Libertarian Party convention is at the end of this month. But again, the question has to be, what states can Libertarians win?

And what about a third-party challenge by Bernie Sanders? On Twitter there is more and more talk of such a possibility. Again, the ballot access requirements make that problematic. And even if it did happen, what states could Sanders win in a four-way race? There is really no way to answer that question.

Mark Trahant is the Charles R. Johnson Endowed Professor of Journalism at the University of North Dakota. He is an independent journalist and a member of The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. On Twitter @TrahantReports

Reposting or reprinting this column? Please credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com