Three lessons from last week’s elections, Time to add names, ideas #NativeVote18

7RVNtr5C
Green Party candidate Eve Reyes-Aguirre is running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. She is co-chair of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus. (Campaign photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Three lessons from  last week’s election results.

First: Gerrymandering can be defeated. The election districts in Virginia were designed to support incumbents, and especially Republicans. The Atlantic described the “well-documented” Republican operation to gain “control of the mapmaking process in 2010 (and) saw their share of legislative seats steadily grow, even as their actual vote shares decreased. In other words, these maps helped Republicans retain majorities even when they earned substantially fewer votes.”

That changed Tuesday. Voters swamped the supposedly safe districts and Democrats gained significantly. Perhaps even control of the legislature (votes are still be counted and will be recounted in a key race). So turnout beats districts drawn by one side to win. (The definition of gerrymandering.)

Second: Minority parties can win in this election cycle. It’s always tough to run as a third or fourth party candidate in the United States. The deck is stacked. The system is rigged to favor the two established parties. However some twenty-plus self-described Democratic Socialists (ala Bernie Sanders) won on Tuesday, including Denise Joy in Billings, Montana. Joy was elected to the city council.

This could be an interesting trend.

Some states, California and Washington, have top-two primaries. That means a candidate can win even without party affiliation. But in most states — unless the rules change — the biggest opportunity for socialists, independents and Green Party candidates is for offices such as school boards and city councils. Another mechanism that makes it easier for third party candidates is ranked choice voting (where you pick your favorite, second favorite, etc.) Several cities, such as St. Paul, Minnesota, now use that approach. Maine also voted to adopt ranked choice, but has not yet implemented it because of opposition from the legislature (and entrenched parties).

In Arizona, Eve Reyes-Aguirre (Calpolli)  is running for the U.S. Senate on the Green Party ticket. She is a co-chair of the Global Indigenous Women’s Caucus and a co–founding Mother of the newly formed World Indigenous Women’s Alliance. She was also a representative at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women for the American Indian Law Alliance- 2015, 2017. Reyes-Aguirre is also running against the two-party system. Her web site says: “The two-party system has allowed wealth inequality to skyrocket to it’s highest point since the 1920’s. Eve is committed to developing an economy that promotes a equal sustainable quality of life for more families through the enactment of a living wage, limitations on corporate tax incentives, and a truly progressive tax structure. We must all be treated equal to live equal.”

Screen Shot 2017-11-12 at 7.57.33 AM.png

That brings to eight the number of Indigenous candidates running for the U.S. House or Senate so far in 2018 election. Three Republicans — Rep. Tom Cole (Choctaw), Oklahoma; Rep. Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee), Oklahoma, former state Sen. Dino Rossi (Tlingit), Washington — and four Democrats — former state NM state Democratic Party chair Deb Haaland (Laguna), Carol Surveyor (Navajo) in Utah, Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols (Cherokee), and J.D. Colbert (Choctaw) in Texas.

Lesson three. This is the “when” to jump and run in 2018 races. So much about politics is timing. Good candidates sometimes, no often, lose because their timing is off. It’s not the right cycle. There are too many headwinds. Barack Obama generated turnout that encouraged Native voters and candidates. The chaos of 2016 with Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump did just the opposite. Turnout was down, especially in Indian Country. But we know most Native American candidates are already outsiders. So we need a little luck. And good timing.

The 2018 election ought to be that. President Trump and his Republican Party have to defend infighting plus legislative failures from healthcare to possibly taxes. And the president’s popularity is only about a 38 percent approval rate. Awful numbers. On top of that, even popular presidents lose midterm elections. Democrats lead in the average of generic polls, 47 percent to 38 percent.

But Indian Country needs more candidates, especially in districts that can be won in this climate.

My top pick: Alaska’s at large district. Several Alaska Natives have challenged Rep. Don Young for this seat over the years, including Willie Hensley (Iñupiaq), Georgianna Lincoln (Athabascan), and Diane Benson (Tlingit). And Young seems invincible. He was first elected in 1973 and is the longest serving member of the House. But, if this is a wave election, then no member of the House is invincible. And, even better, there are some really strong potential Alaska Native candidates. 

Alaska will already have an interesting election field that includes Gov. Bill Walker and his running mate Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott (Tlingit).

And in Minnesota another high profile race will feature state Rep. Peggy Flanagan who is running for Lt. Gov. with U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

At one point during the 2016 election cycle (which we now know was not good timing) there were more than a hundred Native American candidates. We need those kind of numbers again. Especially this time around. There are more than 62 Native Americans serving in state legislatures around the country and many of those will be running for re-election.

So that brings me back to rule 3, part A. It’s my favorite rule in politics because it’s so simple: You gotta run to win.

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 do so. Just credit: Mark Trahant / TrahantReports.com #IndigenousNewsWire #NativeVote18

ICYMI: Podcast election special is on iTunes or Soundcloud. Download here. 

Turning fear into fight; Peggy Flanagan launches her campaign for Congress

screenshot-2017-02-14-04-47-31
Minnesota Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park) at the Minnesota women’s march. (Campaign photo).

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Timing is everything in politics — so Minnesota Rep. Peggy Flanagan is wasting no time in her bid for Congress. This week she launched a new web page and her social media links. Flanagan is a member of the White Earth band of Ojibwe and she would be the first Native American woman elected to Congress. (And that’s still a first, as in ever.)

“After Election Day, like many of you, I was in deep mourning and felt afraid. As I’ve had conversations with folks in the community, that sadness and fear have turned into righteous anger and the deep desire to ensure that we do everything we can to stand up to the politics of hate and division,” Flanagan wrote. “It’s time to turn our fear into fight, our emotion into empathy, our sorrow into strategy, our despair into hope.”

To make that happen she will run for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District seat if Representative Keith Ellison is elected the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

“Now more than ever, we need to stand up for our children, our families, and our communities and draw a circle of protection around the most vulnerable. So, after talking with my family, friends, and members of my community, I’ve decided that if Keith resigns from Congress to serve as chair of the DNC, I will seek the open seat. I have become clear about that.”

And that’s where the timing comes in.

First, Ellison must get elected to the DNC post. That election requires 224 votes to win from the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee. The election could be as soon as the weekend of Feb. 23 during the party’s winter meeting.

Ellison, who represents Minnesota’s 5th district, faces a mix of competing interests within the Democratic Party, including former Labor Secretary Thomas Perez (who has been endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden). Ellison’s pitch is that he understands the Donald Trump era and he can capture the energy from those who supported Bernie Sanders for president.  “That’s why The Nation enthusiastically endorses Ellison in the contest to lead a DNC that must repurpose itself in order to derail Trump, while at the same time speaking to young voters who won’t settle for anything less than an aggressively progressive opposition party,” the magazine said in an editorial this week.

Another progressive magazine, Mother Jones, put it this way: “Many Democrats underestimated the extent to which Trump’s religious intolerance and ravings about ‘inner cities’ would appeal to broad, largely white swaths of the electorate. Ellison, who built his career battling racist institutions, knew better than to make that mistake.”

Perez has said his focus is on building a party that includes rural areas and red states. He also caused a controversy — at least among some Democrats — when he first admitted that the the primary process was rigged for Hillary Clinton but only to say a few days later that she was the nominee “fair and square.”

Of course Flanagan is a supporter Ellison (long before a potential bid for Congress). And others in Indian Country have also weighed in. Deborah Parker who was a member of the DNC’s Platform Committee on Facebook called Ellison and Flanagan: “A winning team for Indian Country.” And Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II endorsed Ellison last month.

Flanagan is about as prepared as any candidate could be. She’s taught many candidates how to run campaigns and knows how to be effective from messaging to fundraising. “I’ve spent my whole life working for social change as a community organizer and an advocate for children and families,” she writes on her web site.” And I am incredibly grateful that my neighbors trust me to be a voice for them in St. Paul. I go to work to fight for them every day to show them that I will always stand up against the politics of divisiveness, exclusiveness, hatred, and fear. And given the chance, I will do the same in Washington.”

C4kQfgPVMAA62Ii.jpg

If there is a special election, Flanagan will likely have competition from other elected leaders in the Minneapolis. However, once again, there’s that timing thing. Flanagan won her legislative seat in a special election and she understand what’s required to win. That’s why she already has her campaign logo, a Flanagan web site, early fundraising link, Twitter feed, and Facebook page. The idea is to be super-competitive — before there is even a race.

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 – Indian Country was like America … only more so

It’s hard to understate how important the difference the enthusiasm gap made in this election. Bernie Sanders showed how to stir passion in voters. Hillary Clinton? Not so much. (Trahant photo from Billings rally.)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

This election Indian Country was like America. Perhaps only more so.

Most American Indian and Alaska Natives voted for Hillary Clinton. But that support was mild. There were not enough votes to make a difference in red states like Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota. Just enough votes to stay the course in blue states like New Mexico, Washington or Oregon. And, most important, not nearly enough votes in the swing states.

Hillary Clinton earned the most votes, 60, 839,922, to Donald J. Trump’s 60,265,858. But that, of course, is not the way we elect the national leader and Trump’s 290 electoral votes were more than enough to win.  What’s more: The margins within those states were such that Native American voters could not have made the difference. There would have had to be a wider coalition of voters, something  Barack Obama did so well, and Secretary Clinton did not.

A few examples.

If you look at a color-coded 2012 election map Indian Country pops out. There are bright blue pools of voters in deeply red states. Shannon County (now Oglala Lakota County) voted 93.4 percent for Obama. That’s Pine Ridge. Obama won 3/4s of the vote in Rolette County, North Dakota, which includes the Turtle Mountian Band of Chippewas.

Or next door in Montana, voters from the Fort Peck Reservation came out and led the county with 56.5 percent voting for Obama. But blue faded in the red states this election. Trump picked up 200 more votes than Mitt Romney in 2012, but the real number is that nearly 600 fewer voters went for Hillary Clinton compared to Barack Obama.

Same story in Oglala Lakota Country. Clinton won, and by a large margin, but with 500 fewer votes than Obama.

In Rolette County nearly 1,300 fewer votes for Clinton.

The red states did not change because of that, but it’s a good indication about how tepid the support for Clinton was, even in Indian Country.

This story played out in blue states, too. More than 2,000 voters disappeared in McKinley County on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

And, in swing states, such as Arizona, that slight difference, a few hundred people who did not vote here and there, added up into real numbers. In Apache County, where the majority of the voters are Navajo, 17,147 picked Obama four years ago. This election only 12,196 voted for Clinton.

Indian Country will make a difference in future elections. The demographic makeup of the country is changing fast and we are a part of that. What’s most stunning about this election is how little demographics mattered. I wrote in December: “Sure, it’s even possible, that one of the Republican candidates  will whip up magic and united a coalition of voters. But that would take words designed to reach consensus with the new majority of voters.” And that would have been true: If enough of us had been motivated to vote.

I think it’s clear that Clinton took Indian Country for granted. There was no attempt to learn and execute  what worked from the Bernie Sanders campaign. In June, I suggested the Clinton campaign appoint and promote public Native  surrogates because “there ought to be a face from Indian Country.” This could have helped build enthusiasm.

And ignoring Standing Rock was a sure way to turn off Native voters. There was probably a “let’s get past the election” conversation, although eventually Tim Kane did weigh in, but nothing changed the narrative that Clinton represented more corporate  power, not less. Supporting Standing Rock would have been the right call morally. But I can see how the politics was more complicated because union voices (and donors) wanted the pipeline to proceed.

Yet that might be the essence of Hillary Clinton and why she lost. Her campaign was a package of powerful interests trying to market itself as the voice of ordinary people. Indian Country’s answer was, yeah, whatever. Meh.

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

#NativeVote16 – Making history, showcasing so much remarkable talent

sharlainereplacementpic-1
Washington legislative candidate Sharlaine LaClair was recently featured on the cover of a national story from Refinery29: “35 Women Running For Office you should know about!” (Campaign photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

There is no question in my mind that gender is on the ballot this election.

Hillary Clinton would be the first woman ever elected in U.S. history. While the Republican nominee for president finds new ways to show his contempt for women almost every time he opens his mouth. And that, I believe, will determine the result.

When you look the Native American candidates running for all offices across the country, it’s clear that women are making history. This will be a break-through year.

Denise Juneau, as NBC News pointed out Saturday, would be the first Native American woman ever elected to Congress. (From the state that elected the first woman to Congress.)

Juneau is the only Native American woman running for Congress but if you look back at the history of women who have tried, the list is significant. Just a few: Jeanne Givens in Idaho, Ada Deer in Wisconsin, Kalyn Free in Oklahoma, and Wenona Benally and Mary Kim Titla in Arizona’s First Congressional District. (The district with the highest percentage of Native voters.) You could add to that list two vice presidential nominees, Winona LaDuke and LaDonna Harris. Or the two Native American women running statewide in North Dakota, Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun and Ruth Buffalo.

Indeed, more than 37 percent of all the Native American candidates running this election are female.  In Minnesota six of the seven candidates running for the Legislature are women. And three of the four Native candidates in Arizona.

screenshot-2016-11-05-13-34-39

Of course that number is not half, so there remains a long ways to go. But a little perspective from the data. Nationally women make up about 20 percent of Congress both in the House and in the Senate. And in state legislatures women make up 24.6 percent of those bodies, a percentage that Native American candidates could exceed.

And it’s not just the numbers: It’s the resumes, it’s the talent.

Jamescita Peshlakai (who is running unopposed in Arizona for the state senate) is Navajo and a Persian Gulf War  veteran who served in the U.S. Army for eight years. She used the G.I. Bill to get her college education, eventually earning a master’s degree in history and educational psychology. She already has legislative experience, serving in the Arizona House.

On the same ballot in the same district, Benally is running again this time for the legislature and unopposed). “I am a Harvard Law School graduate. I also earned a master’s degree in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government and a Master’s of Law from the James E. Rogers College of Law,” Benally wrote on her Facebook page. She recently told the story about a meeting with Bernie Sanders. She wrote:”I thanked him for inspiring a new generation of young leaders – like me – who have picked up the torch and are seeking change at the local level. His response: ‘No, thank you!'”

This story of talent is repeated from coast to coast. It’s Tawna Sanchez in Oregon. It’s Laurel Deegan-Fricke in North Carolina. And it’s Red Dawn Foster in South Dakota. (The complete list is here.)

Screenshot 2016-11-06 06.41.33.png

Washington legislative candidate Sharlaine LaClair was recently featured on the cover of a national story from Refinery29: “35 Women Running For Office you should know about!”

The slide show included her picture and said: “Why you should know her: LaClair, a member of the Lummi Nation, would be one of four Native Americans in the Washington Legislature if elected.” Featured in that same slide show is Denise JuneauTulsi GabbardKamala Harris, and Paula Hawks. Cool company.

I can’t imagine a more difficult year for women to run or, more important, raise critical issues. Donald Trump has sunk the national discourse, especially on issues of gender, to a new low. A poll last week by Pew Research found “substantial differences in the level of respect voters think Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have for different groups in American society, and some of the widest gaps are on women, blacks and Hispanics.”

Native Americans were not included in the Pew poll, but, I would argue we would show a similar gap. In Alaska, for example, Republican Rep. Charisse Millett, Inupiaq, wrote “Donald Trump’s character has been proven beyond question to be that of a bully, misogynist, and a sexual aggressor. His comments released recently are simply further proof that he is no leader – he is part of the problem.”

As I said: There is no question in my mind that gender is on this year’s ballot.

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 – Headline of the day? ‘Native vote tips the Electoral College’

nativevote16small
Interactive version of this graphic is here.

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Over the years I have joked about Indian Country being included in the Electoral College. Each tribal nation should have a vote and a say about the next president of the United States. (Of course it would have to be a much larger college. But in a country of 323 million that would make a lot of sense). Plus it would be so cool to hear the reading of votes from tribal nations.

While that’s fun to think about, the way the 2016 election map is starting to take shape, and Native American voters could actually help deliver as many as 50 electoral votes out of the  538 total. That’s because six states with a significant Native population are also close enough where every vote could be the difference.

Those states on my list: Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin. Let’s look at the numbers.

A look at the polls shows a tight race (again). The Real Clear Politics average of polls has a Hillary Clinton lead of 1.7 percent, 47.2 percent to 45.5 percent for Donald Trump. That shows that more Republicans sticking with Trump despite what would be disqualifications in any other election year. Paul Ryan’s statement captured that discomfort perfectly on Tuesday when he said, “I already voted for our nominee.” There is no name is needed in that sentence.

But in any election what matters is who votes.

According to the U.S. Election Project more than 28 million people have already done so. And, as I have written before, one number that I am interested in comes from the three states that break down returned ballots by gender. Women, so far, have cast 56 percent of the ballots in those states, up from 53 percent from four years ago. (African Americans, on the other hand, have turned in fewer ballots than when Barack Obama was a candidate.)

North Carolina has 15 electoral votes. The Census Bureau reports that 122,000 people consider themselves American Indian and 184,000 alone and in combination with other races.

The Elon University Poll shows North Carolina in a statistical tie. “Among likely voters, Clinton has 42 percent of the vote while Trump has 41.2 percent, with 8.7 percent saying they are still undecided in the race,” the poll showed.

The poll also showed that the gender gap is shrinking, with 55 percent of women voters planning to vote for Clinton, compared to 61 percent during the second Elon Poll nearly a month ago. Men continue to prefer Trump by a 56-44 split.

“North Carolina is still very much in play for both Trump and Clinton,” said Jason Husser, director of the Elon University Poll and assistant professor of political science. “The Old North State is continuing its tradition as a source of true toss-up electoral votes.”

One thing I like about the Elon Poll is that it publishes cross tabs. Most of the demographic breakdown was limited to white and black. But thirty-nine people in the poll identified themselves as “other,” at about 5.5 percent of those surveyed, but it wasn’t a big enough pool to get a sense of what the “other” is thinking.

Wisconsin polls have consistently showed a Clinton lead in the state. A recent one by Remington Research Group pegs Clinton at 46 percent, Trump at 42 percent, Gary Johnson at 4 percent, someone else at 3 percent, and 5 percent undecided. The Remington poll includes whites, African Americans, Hispanics, and the “other” in that poll is 4 percent.

Trump campaigned in Wisconsin this week and has plans to return again.

The Native vote program has been growing in the state. The Native Vote program, a partnership with Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute and tribes in the state, saw turnout increase by one percent in 2012 from 2008. “But on the reservations we saw 2 percent, 6 percent, and even 14 percent increases,” the Native Vote program reported. “The Menominee reservation even reached an astounding 90 percent voter turnout, and the Lac du Flambeau and Menominee newspapers announced that they had record turnout levels.”

Polls in Nevada also reflect a dead-heat. (The average of polls show Trump with a one-half point lead.) Two Nevada tribes were successful in getting a federal court order for early voting locations and Friday nine more tribes asked for additional polling locations, according to the Reno Gazette Journal. The filing said some tribal members in remote communities had to drive 275 miles roundtrip to cast a ballot. Native Americans are about 1.6 percent of the state. But even a small percentage is important in a state that’s tied.

Arizona and New Mexico are on different paths. Both have a long tradition where the Native Vote has impacted elections.

The Secretary of State in New Mexico publishes a list of Native American precincts, detailing where the Native vote has the most numbers. But there remains a significant gap between registered voters and those who actually turnout. In 2014, some 66,000 people were registered to vote while only 26,000 cast ballots.

New Mexico, like Wisconsin, is a state where Clinton has lead for a long time, but that Trump is trying to make competitive. One challenge for the Republican is that the state’s former governor, Gary Johnson, is polling around 7 percent. Johnson was a Republican and is now the Libertarian Party nominee.

Even in New Mexico there are no polls that include Native American voters.

Arizona is a state that Democrats would like to flip, turning a reliable Republican state into a Democratic one. If that happens the coalition will include voters from tribal nations. Clinton already has a track record here. During the primary, Navajo voters picked Clinton and challenged the narrative of Indian Country’s support for Bernie Sanders by more than 17 points. Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye recently endorsed Clinton and the campaign recently said there are some 25 field organizers working to bring out Native voters.

“Tribal communities have swung a lot of elections in Arizona,” Charlie Galbraith, a member of Navajo Nation and a political adviser to both the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee said in Buzz Feed last week. “In an election that will be razor thin, getting out the vote in Navajo Nation could turn the state blue.”

And now, Alaska, the wild card.

A poll by Craciun Research showed a Clinton lead of four points, 47 to 43 percent, over Trump. That’s just one poll. And it defies the state’s recent history. Still. It makes you wonder.

Two key points: The Alaska Native vote and gender.

The poll identifies Alaska Native voters by geography. It cites “the unprecedented endorsement of Clinton by the Alaska Federation of Natives board. In the rural North and Northwest regions of the State, the poll shows Clinton is beating Trump by a margin of almost 5:1, 74 percent to 15 percent.

Second: “The gender gap is at levels not experienced in the recent past with women supporting Clinton by a margin of 17 percent.”

A shout out to Craciun Research. I love that the Alaska Native vote is measured. Would it be so across the land.

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 – The Speaker campaigns in Montana, but will it help or hurt?

20151029111007001_hd
Democrats need to win 30 seats for the gavel to be returned to Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Paul Ryan travels to Montana Sunday to try and unify Republicans who are divided by their own presidential nominee. (CSPAN photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

A couple of days ago I wrote that “there is one tell that’s worth watching: Where are they?” This is better indicator than polls because it shows where the candidates themselves think they are vulnerable.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan will campaign this Sunday with Rep. Ryan Zinke in Billings. According to KULR News, Zinke said “by bringing in Ryan and other notable Washington leaders, he is showing lawmakers in D.C. that Montana counts.”

Not to my way of thinking. It shows that the Republican leadership is worried about losing what should have been a safe seat.

But Ryan is a fascinating choice because he highlights the Republican conflict that is Donald Trump.

There is already a move on Capitol Hill to delay the election for the next Speaker (or Republican leadership) until December. giving both sides more time to campaign. According to Fox News the Freedom Caucus had a conference call to explore alternatives to Ryan. There is a Dump Ryan movement that’s as strong as ever.

Trump supporters are angry with Speaker Ryan because they say he’s exactly what’s wrong with the Republican Party.  Talk show host Sean Hannity called Ryan a “saboteur” who “needed to be called out and replaced.” And Rep. Tom Cole said Ryan should just“go fishing for awhile.”

And that’s not even the harshest attack. A long piece in Breitbart News says Ryan and Hillary represent Washington. A picture shows the speaker with an “I’m with her” Hillary background. The piece quotes Patrick Caddell saying the Republican Party Party is “at war with their voters. They are literally abandoning their own.” Ryan, he says, wants Clinton elected. “What you have is a Bush and Clinton dynasty,” Caddell said. “And the curtain has risen on the corruption that they’re all in the same game and that ultimately they’re allies. That’s what the American people have been revolting about. I fear that the establishment’s mind doesn’t even understand that that’s what the base is revolting against.” (The head of the Trump campaign, Stephen Bannon, is a former executive with Breitbart.)

This fracture is not what campaigns want to talk about. Even if voters do. So Sunday’s campaign event will be highly scripted (it’s ticketed and a donation is required). Ryan will campaign for a generic Republican agenda, sans Trump. Zinke won’t disavow Trump, but will praise Ryan, and he won’t be asked about that contradiction.

But there is another narrative to consider: Will women voters support Zinke if he sticks with Trump (even as he holds close to Ryan)?

A letter in the Billings Gazette reflects this very issue. “I was an early supporter of Ryan Zinke for Congress. I saw a proven leader, willing to commit his skills to fix a broken Congress. I thought he would begin to guide elected officials into a more effective decision-making process,” writes Connie Wardell.  “When I heard the tape revealing Trump’s explicit thoughts about women and bragging of his ability to rape women and get away with it, I expected Zinke to be one of the first to renounce his endorsement of Trump. When he refused, I realized that I was wrong in my first impressions of Zinke.”

Ryan’s answer has been to avoid Trump and campaign for Republicans. But Zinke still supports Trump, but, as he told Montana’s Daily Interlake, “You can’t defend Trump. He’s un-defendable … not that that makes Hillary [Clinton] a better candidate.”

A recent poll for Lee Newspapers by Mason-Dixon polling shows that women in Montana already favor Clinton. “Among women voters polled, 44 percent said they would cast their ballot for Clinton and 39 percent for Trump. That’s only a five-point difference, although the margin of error could mean the actual figure is a little higher and therefore more in line with national polls – or even lower and therefore more unusual by comparison.” (The pollster said they didn’t think that would translate down ballot. But they had little evidence.)

But this poll was done a couple of weeks ago and Trump’s gender deficit is getting worse. As a piece in FiveThirtyEight said: “We could be looking at the largest gender gap in a presidential election since at least 1952: Men are favoring the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, in typical numbers, but a historically overwhelming share of women say they will vote for the Democrat, Hillary Clinton.”

And in early voting, so far, women are voting in greater numbers than in 2012. In Georgia, North Carolina, and Louisiana, 55.8 percent of the returned ballots are from female voters. (The national average was 53 percent four years ago.)

Ryan and Zinke won’t be talking about that, of course. The mission will be to show a unified Republican Party. As if.

And Denise Juneau need not say a word.

Twelve days to go.

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 – Still loving Obamacare, elders, and new round of endorsements

14570771_1172916179463766_8122222817092511924_o
Joe Pakootas speaks to voters in Walla Walla, Washington. (Photo via Facebook)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Thirteen days and counting. And the election issue once again is the Affordable Care Act.

A report by the Department of Health and Human Services details the rising costs for individual policies. So after two years of moderate premium increases (2% for 2015 and 7.5% for 2016) premiums are going up sharply in 2017. The is ideal for Republicans because the say this highlights why the law won’t work. So it’s an election issue. Again.

But here’s the thing. Yes, this is a problem. It needs to be fixed. But most people are not impacted, especially in Indian Country. (The problem here is that not enough young people are buying that insurance. There are many solutions to that specific issue.)

Let me explain.

The increase in premiums is only for people who buy their plans through healthcare.gov. Most people who do that get a tax subsidy as part of the deal. And most American Indians and Alaska Natives would be eligible for a subsidy in any case.

Most Americans, and most in Indian Country, do not buy individual plans. Most of us get health insurance through work.

Still other Native Americans benefit from the single greatest success of the Affordable Care Act, the expansion of Medicaid.

If you look at the big picture: More people are covered by health insurance than ever before. Most of the law is working, well, brilliantly.

But Republicans will be campaigning on a repeal and replace pledge. Except there is not now, nor has there ever been, consensus from the Right about what a replacement would look like. There is nothing behind the curtain.

One more thing: Remember that any repeal of the Affordable Care Act is also a repeal of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act.

Fear not. This election should bury the very notion of repeal. Perhaps then Congress will actually tinker with the law (like it does with all legislation) to make it work better. Because if you look at the numbers – all of the numbers – then the Affordable Care Act remains a success story.

u-s-uninsured-rate-is-at-an-all-time-low-but-the-public-doesn_t-know-it

Out on the campaign trail last night, Joe Pakootas had a huge crowd in Walla Walla. He wrote on Facebook: “I am the embodiment of the American dream: a minority that came out of poverty, through foster care, into a minimum wage job, turned CEO and now Congressional Candidate. The incredible support I was shown tonight, whether through each handshake, Pakootas sticker or shirt that was worn, or the uproar of applause when I took my seat, is humbling and encouraging. I never thought I would make it here, but it’s all for the people that I’m fighting. I will stay true to that when I’m in Congress.”

More endorsements.

Chase Iron Eyes was endorsed by the Alliance for Retired Americans, a union-based advocacy group. “Could it be due to the fact that I respect my elders, that I won’t let Washington privatize social security unlike my opponent, or is it that I will lift the tax cap so that those making over $125,000 per year pay the same taxes as those making under that amount already pay,” Iron Eyes wrote on Facebook. “We need you to stand for those who invested their whole working lives laying into social security and are not seeking ‘entitlements’ as politicians say.”

Or not an endorsement. In Fargo, the Forum newspaper endorsed Rep. Kevin Cramer for re-election. The paper says he “has no serious competition. Democrat Chase Iron Eyes is running a shoestring campaign with virtually no help from his party.”

However the Forum makes an eloquent case against Cramer. “If he has a blind spot in this election cycle, it’s his near-worship of presidential candidate Donald Trump. Unlike other prominent state Republicans, who have been muted in their squishy support for Trump, Cramer is positively giddy about the New York billionaire, often acting like a cow-eye high school cheerleader who is smitten by the thuggish captain of the football team. Cramer has been too willing to set aside his oft-stated values of family, faith and decency for a heady ride on the Trump party bus.

In Minnesota, Donna Bergstrom, a Red Lake tribal member, was endorsed by the Duluth News Tribune as a “clear choice.” She is a retired Lt. Col. in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. The paper says Bergstrom, a Republican, has “a wealth of research and knowledge, strong positions, even stronger leadership experience, and an impressive resume.”

“I’m not a politician but a common citizen who is concerned over the direction of the state just like you,” she said at the paper’s candidate forum.

And that direction will be settled in 13 days.

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 – A landslide? That would be great news for Native challengers

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

What does a landslide look like? And, more important, what would that mean for Native American candidates?

First: Hillary Clinton is peaking at the ideal moment. And, at the same time, Donald Trump’s campaign is imploding. He had a bad week, a poor debate, and he’s out of time to change the conversation. But more important than all of that there is no Trump organization, people on the ground methodically reminding people to vote. Instead of running a campaign designed to build a winning coalition, Trump chose to defy math and narrow his base of support.

One hint at what’s to come on Election Day is found in the data of early voting.

According to CNN, working with a data company, Calalist, says more than 3.3 million Americans have already voted. And based on demographic profiles, Democrats are stronger now than they were four years ago in North Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

“Democratic early turnout has stayed steady in North Carolina compared to 2012, while Republicans have dropped by about 14,500. In Nevada, Democrats have a smaller early voting deficit today than they did at this point in 2012,” CNN reports. “And Democrats are slightly ahead in Arizona in the early vote so far, though they are lagging Republicans in the tally of how many Arizonans have requested ballots.”

The U.S. Elections Project publishes the most comprehensive collection of data, a spreadsheet of early voting statistics from across the country. Already there are some interesting numbers (spreadsheet here). North Carolina breaks down returned early voting ballots by gender and 56 percent of them so far are from women. In 2012 53 percent of the state’s electorate was female. 

To put that number in perspective: Across the country women were 53 recent of the total electorate in 2012 and were the key bloc for President Obama’s re-election. A three percent increase would produce a landslide.

We don’t know the break down by gender in other states but there is data about the number of ballots received.

In Montana, where Denise Juneau is running for Congress, requests for early ballots are up by 15 percent from four years ago. As of 310,990 ballots have been mailed or requested and 43,639 have been returned.

And, in North Dakota,  there have been 67,837 requests for ballots and 25,662 people have already voted (including me.) Chase Iron Eyes is a candidate for Congress, Marlo Hunte-Beaubrun is runnng for the North Dakota Public Service Commission, and Ruth Buffalo is on the ballot for the state’s insurance commissioner.  They are running on the Democratic-NPL ticket.

South Dakota did not have early voting in 2012, but it’s now available, and 48,564 ballots have been requested. Henry Red Cloud is the Democratic candidate for Public Utilities Commissioner.

There are no early voting numbers for Washington state (where most people vote by mail) or in the Oklahoma congressional districts. (Republicans Tom Cole and MarkWayne Mullin are in seats that are not competitive.)

Back to my lede: What would a landslide mean for the Native American candidates? If women vote in higher percentages than in 2012 that would be really good news for Juneau, Joe Pakootas in Washington, and for Iron Eyes, Hunte-Bueaubrun and Buffalo. Would it be enough to erase a Republican advantage? That remains the open question.

But a presidential landslide could be a factor. What happens is that some voters like to be associated with victory, so they switch to the winning teamside. And, at the same time, other voters are disillusioned and just stay home. That really impacts down ballot races. (Northern Idaho often has this problem because networks “call” the state when the polls close in the Mountain time zone while there is still an hour to vote in the Pacific time zone.)

Of course not every presidential election results in a down ballot landslide. Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide did not flip the House and Republicans picked up 16 seats.  Democrats would need 30 to control the House.

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 – A Democratic House was a long shot … until last week

 

14469727_1244488048926625_3596233070513416866_n
Photo post on Facebook by Stevens County Democrats. Incumbent Republicans have a new challenge: Rejecting Trump (and making their base mad) or sticking with Trump (making it that more difficult to build a majority margin.)
Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Early in the election cycle I made a prediction: I said if Donald Trump was the Republican nominee, the House would be in play for the Democrats. The reaction (and more than once) was 30 seats? Not likely. (Previous: Native candidates could help flip Congress).

Not likely are the words of the day. It’s a possibility now because Donald Trump’s war against Republicans has not only doomed his bid for the White House, but it’s making it more likely that Democrats will win the Senate and unlikely as it was, the House. The polling data backs up this idea (certainly good news for Denise Juneau, Joe Pakootas, and Chase Iron Eyes.)

Let’s look at the numbers, shall we?

A survey for the Democrats Congressional Campaign Committee shows a seven-point advantage for Democrats in the generic poll (49 to 42 percent). This is a question asked every cycle, basically would you vote for a Democrat or a Republican? It’s usually close. It usually favors Democrats, slightly. (Remember more people vote for Democrats for Congress. Republicans win because of the district system.) Two years ago before the election the same question showed Republicans with a two-tenths of one percent lead. The final result: Democrats 49.2 percent; Republicans 48 percent. (Previous: Will Republicans stand by Trump? Watch congressional races).

But it’s now seven points. That’s sweep territory. And the prospect of the House of Representatives shifting from Paul Ryan’s leadership to Nancy Pelosi.

The Trump campaign has created an impossible political dilemma for Republican candidates because he’s now attacking Republicans and forcing them to stand with him or against him.

That leaves Republicans with three choices. Hide. Denounce Trump. Or continue supporting Trump as a flawed candidate.

Washington’s Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers picked door number three. In a statement on Spokane’s KXLY she said: “I have said all along that I absolutely disagree with some of Donald Trump’s statements – especially the video released on Friday. I will be voting for Mr. Trump because I believe that we must defeat Hillary Clinton who has a record of deliberately misleading the American people.”

Democrat Joe Pakootas  is relentless on this issue.

“Sexual assault remains a prevalent issue in our country. 1 out of 5 women and one out of 71 men will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. These estimates are likely very low because rape is one of the least reported crimes. Few are reported, even fewer are prosecuted, and even fewer find the rapist guilty,” Pakootas posted on his campaign web site and on Facebook. “First of all, we need to stop normalizing rape culture. This means not tolerating any talk that encourages sexual assault. We need to make sure the burden is on the perpetrator, not the victim. We need to teach individuals NOT to assault, as well as safety to victims.”

So what does Door Number Three look like politically?  According to the national survey, when Running against a Republican “who continues to endorse Donald Trump” the Democratic margin moves from a 7-point advantage to a 12-point advantage. Voters, especially mainstream voters, don’t like that approach.

The logic behind that spread is simple. To reach a majority, fifty percent plus one, a candidate needs consensus. A broad coalition of voters. So ignoring those who think Trump crossed the line will not accomplish that. And, at the same time, if you do denounce Trump, his hardcore supporters will not forgive you and stay home, vote Libertarian, or write in another name.

Who else is in this camp? Rep. Kevin Cramer in North Dakota, who is being challenged by Chase Iron Eyes.

In Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke also says he still prefers Trump over Clinton. He told Breitbart:  “What Mr. Trump said was wrong. There is no other way to say it. He should be ashamed. But, that doesn’t make Hillary any better a candidate. What we face everyday is a bureaucracy that’s grown out of control, a government that have become separated and is no longer held accountable to the people,” he said. “This is a unique election in the history of our country.”

Dozens of senior Republicans, including Speaker Ryan and Sen. John McCain, have distanced themselves from Trump. But that choice doesn’t inspire voters either, according to the DCCC survey. “Even against a ‘Republican candidate who never formally endorsed Donald Trump and now says they won’t vote for him’ the Democratic margin moves from a 7-point advantage to a 10-point advantage.” The reason? The survey reports only 39 percent of voters say: “That these Republicans are showing character and integrity for finally standing up to Donald Trump.”

Update: Some of the Republicans who wanted Trump to withdraw have now changed their minds and are back as supporters. At least voters know where they stand. For the moment.

Republican Representatives Markwayne Mullin and Tom Cole have so far been quiet, sticking with Door Number One. For now.

These are significant numbers. In a recent  Montana poll Denise Juneau trailed Zinke by three points and another by 11 points. So a 12-point swing would change everything. Same story in Washington state. And, if Iron Eyes can get his message out, even in North Dakota.

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 – Will Republicans stand by Trump? Watch congressional races

 

img_0130-2
Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Montana, and State Supt of Public Instruction Denise Juneau at an August debate in Frazer. (Trahant photo)

Mark Trahant / Trahant Reports

Let’s start with the big picture. Donald Trump’s recorded revelation of felony intent — and yes, it’s that serious — ought to disqualify him from the presidency. There is no excuse. We are not talking about lewd behavior, consensual relationships, or being boorish. Trump said he can engage in criminal behavior. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” he said. “You can do anything.”

In less than 24 hours we’re seeing Republicans disinvite Trump from events (as is the case with Paul Ryan) and others reverse their endorsement (as happened in Utah) along with calls for Trump to drop out of the race. This is unprecedented. And expected. We knew this was Donald J. Trump. This tape is only conformation.

Denise Juneau, who’s running for Montana’s only House seat, called on her opponent Rep. Ryan Zinke to withdraw his  endorsement of Trump. “Donald Trump has shown his complete disrespect for women since the beginning of his campaign, but that didn’t stop Congressman Zinke from backing him from day one,” Juneau said in a news release. “Just this week, Congressman Zinke laughed off Trump’s sexist behavior, calling him an ‘equal opportunity offender.’ I’m calling on Congressman Zinke to denounce Trump’s violent remarks, withdraw his endorsement, and apologize for joking about Trump’s consistently offensive language. Montana’s 500,000 mothers, daughters and sisters are watching.”

Watch this discourse play out in every congressional race in the country, including where five Native Americans are on ballots.

Of course most politicians will try to talk about something else. North Dakota’s Kevin Cramer would prefer to talk about energy policy. He sees himself as a key voice for a Trump energy policy. Cramer said this week that the Paris Agreement on climate change is “is unilaterally disarming the American economy at the behest of the world.” And that statement is exactly why he’s on the side of the Dakota Access Pipeline project and ready to roll over the sovereignty or legitimate concerns of the Standing Rock Sioux.

But how can any candidate now be legitimate when talking about Donald Trump? There is no energy policy for a disqualified presidential candidate.

Even before the Trump tape surfaced, Chase Iron Eyes in a debate was pressing Cramer about his views on women. “Today in my debate with Kevin Cramer I said we are creating a 21st century North Dakota; a North Dakota where women earn the same as men for the same work! Where women’s sovereignty over their own bodies must be respected,” Iron Eyes posted on Facebook. Audio of the debate his here.My perceptions of patriarchy are skewed but I have daughters and I was happy to be able to use the word patriarchy in a US Congressional debate, maybe the 1st time in ND history, for a man anyways. For Trump to even suggest or for a man to even ask or consider whether or not a woman should be “punished” for her own serious health care decisions, is conceptually repulsive.”

In Oklahoma, neither Rep. Tom Cole nor Markwayne Mullins have weighed in on the Trump tape yet. However in recent weeks, Cole called Trump  a work in progress. We will see if that is still the line after a few days.

In Washington state, Democrat Joe Pakootas immediately denounced the Trump tape. “As a husband, father & grandparent I am appalled & sickened by the vulgar comments spoken by my opponent’s presidential candidate Donald Trump about women today,” Pakootas posted on Facebook. “Most Americans are outraged & disgusted by this sick behavior. However, last night my opponent again expressed her unwavering support for Mr. Trump. It is beyond time for my opponent to demonstrate some moral courage & put integrity above party politics. I call upon her to stand up for women as a Christian & a leader & condemn this reprehensible behavior. He is not fit to be president & anyone who endorses a man like that does not deserve another term in the United States House of Representatives.”

That last sentence sums up the debate ahead.

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