A Jewish Response to the Plight of the Dreamers

Photo: Bend the Arc Facebook.

Koach Frazier is arrested as Stosh Cotler and Rabbi Jonah Pesner continue to sing. Photo: Bend the Arc Facebook.

“Why would you do this for us?” This question was posed after a group of over 80 rabbis and Jewish leaders were arrested during a protest at the Capitol, led by the Jewish organization Bend the Arc, on behalf of the Dreamers. [Read more…]

Regulating the Communications Industry: From Bells to Bandwidth

The government has repeatedly had difficulty regulating telecommunications, and the current controversy over net neutrality is no exception. It is a battle pitting telecommunications titans AT&T, Comcast and Verizon against virtually everyone else who uses the Internet — which is virtually everyone else. The titans appear to have prevailed, and Internet users, including The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, are seriously worried. [Read more…]

Pennsylvania Gerrymandering Cases Percolating in the Courts

Note: Since submitting this article, Senator Leach has stepped back from his congressional campaign in the light of recent accusations about his personal conduct.

Back in 2004, when I held my first public forum on gerrymandering and 23 people showed up, I could never have predicted that the drawing of legislative district lines would become such a trendy topic. My last forum on this topic drew over 350 people. It seems like every day there is a new article in some national publication on how obscenely drawn our lines are (especially Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, in which I am keenly interested). In addition, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Gill v. Whitford this year, a case directly challenging the concept of gerrymandering that could, if decided right, be one of the most consequential cases in the court’s history.

Here in Pennsylvania, things are really popping. While we await the outcome of Gill, there are two important cases percolating in which the district lines in our state are under judicial review. [Read more…]

Why Anti-Semites Oppose the Marcus Nomination

–Naomi Friedman

Kenneth Marcus.

Note: In January, 2018, the Senate committee that oversees education approved the nomination of Kenneth Marcus. The full Senate needs to confirm his nomination.

Kenneth Marcus, founder, president and general counsel for the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, has dedicated most of his career to fighting for civil rights. Marcus was nominated by President Trump for the position of assistant secretary of education for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Meanwhile, anti-Israel groups have been aggressively working to block his confirmation. [Read more…]

Partisan Gerrymandering Is on Trial in Pennsylvania

State and federal courts in Pennsylvania are taking up the issue of partisan gerrymandering — and their decisions could potentially have a significant impact on the 2018 midterm elections. Partisan gerrymandering is the intentional drawing of voting district maps to benefit a particular political party — and Pennsylvania is infamous for its gerrymandered districts. As Stephen Wolf of the Daily Kos explains, “[T]he GOP’s brazenly tortured lines have produced a stable 13-to-5 Republican congressional majority in what is otherwise an evenly divided swing state.” [Read more…]

Gerrymandering Book Author Spoke Against Republican Strategy

Editor’s Note: The Philadelphia Inquirer and Montgomery County have information about today’s election.

Gerrymandering expert and book author David Daley spoke in Plymouth Meeting ahead of the Nov. 7th local elections. Daley is the author of Rat F**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy. In “Rat F**ked” (a colorful slang term for political sabotage), Daley documents the GOP’s insidious strategy to redraw the electoral maps in the United States to guarantee a Republican majority in the House of Representatives through 2020. [Read more…]

Church Shooting in Texas

Police in front of Texas church after the shooting. Photo: NBC News

Texas church shooting. Photo: NBC News

by Adam Kessler

Our hearts are heavy as we learn of yet another mass shooting, this time in a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.  Three of the five deadliest shootings in modern U.S history have occurred in the last 18 months.  We thought that nothing could be more outrageous than the mass murder in Las Vegas barely five weeks ago. We thought the same thing after Orlando,  Sandy Hook, and Columbine; the list continues to grow with an alarming regularity. At the same time, while mass shootings garner most of the attention, non-mass homicides by gun happen daily with shocking frequency.  Simply by way of example, Chicago is close to recording its 600th homicide for the year. [Read more…]

Can Democrats Win Control of the U.S. House in 2018?

By Bill Madway, DJOP

The 2018 midterm elections offer a critical opportunity for the Democratic Party. Although it won’t be easy – due, in large part, to gerrymandering – we have a realistic chance of winning control of the U.S. House. All 435 seats in the House will be up for election. With the GOP currently at 240 seats and the Democratic Party at 194 (one seat is vacant due to the resignation of Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz), we need a net gain of 24 seats to take the House.

One reason for optimism is that the President’s party typically loses House seats in midterm elections. Over the past 18 midterm elections, which dates back to Harry Truman in 1946, the President’s party has lost an average 25.6 seats in the House. So, the gain we need (24) is within this parameter.

Another reason for optimism is the Democratic Party’s current standing in “generic ballot” surveys, that is, in polls that ask people which party they would support in a Congressional election. According to FiveThirtyEight’s most recent findings, Democrats hold a 10-point lead vs. the GOP in the generic match-up. The figure is similar in RealClearPolitics’ most recent calculations; Democrats hold a 9-point lead.

What does this mean? In a recent report, Alan I. Abramowitz of Sabato’s Crystal Ball writes, “…Democrats will need a lead of at least five points on the generic ballot in early September of 2018 in order to gain the 24 seats they need to take control of the House” (emphasis mine). The recent poll results compiled by FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics show that the five-point threshold is well within reach.

Looking specifically at Pennsylvania, our state will play a pivotal role in the battle for control of the House. In a recent column published by PolticsPA, Louis Jacobson, senior correspondent for PolitiFact and a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times, identified four House incumbents as vulnerable to ouster. All four are Republicans from Southeastern PA – Ryan Costello (PA-6), Pat Meehan (PA-7), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-8), and Lloyd Smucker (PA-16). All of the Democrats in the House, except Matt Cartwright, who represents the 17th Congressional District (Wilkes-Barre, Scranton and Easton), are considered safe. Cartwright is rated as potentially vulnerable.

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball is not as bullish on the Democrats’ chances in these four races. In a July 27 column, he rates all four as “Leans Republican,” but this represents a downgrade from “Likely Republican” for Costello and Meehan. So, if strong Democratic candidates are selected in the 2018 Primary Election, and Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall, all four of these seats could realistically flip. Looking at the incumbent Democrats, Kondik rates Bob Brady (PA-1), Dwight Evans (PA-2), Brendan Boyle (PA-13), and Mike Doyle (PA-14, Pittsburgh) as “safe.” Democrat Matt Cartwright (PA-17) is rated “likely” to win.

What are the implications of these predictions for Democratic voters? While the signs are encouraging, they’re only signs. Action is required to turn them into reality. If you reside in one of the “flippable” district discussed above, get involved in the primary process now as some candidates have already announced their running. Investigate them, and if there is someone you support, volunteer for her/his campaign, make a contribution, etc. Don’t wait until 2018 to bring your resources to bear; beating an incumbent is seldom easy and can’t be done, if people wait until after the Primary Election to get involved.

For PA Democrats who reside in a Congressional district currently represented by a Democrat, you’re in an enviable position. Your Representative in the House is very likely or likely to win re-election in 2018. But you can’t take anything for granted; so making sure your Representative is re-elected is job one. However, you can do more, much more. You can help Democrats running in nearby Congressional districts win by volunteering and providing much-needed funds. And as I said above, don’t wait until 2018 to get involved.

A final word. In response to the question I posted at the outset, yes, the Democratic Party can win control of the U.S. House in the 2018 midterms. What’s more, Pennsylvania, as it has many times in the past – look no further than the 2016 presidential election, for an example – will play a pivotal role in the outcome. And this means all of us have an important role to play. There are several “flippable” seats in PA. As long as each of us does not confine our electioneering efforts to the arbitrary boundaries of our own Congressional district, we will defeat several GOP House incumbents in PA, getting our party closer to the majority in the House.

Bill Madway is part of the leadership team of Democratic Jewish Outreach PA. He has 25+ years practicing and teaching marketing communications and market research. For questions or comments about the commentary above or other topics, contact him at 610-527-9502 or [email protected]. You can follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/thtleader.

 

Will the Next Charlottesville be Here?

Jeffrey Saltz, Democratic candidate for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County

By Jeffrey Saltz

Candidates for public office frequently state that they learn the most about local issues by talking with their voters.  This may sound like a cliche, but in fact I recently learned about virulent anti-Semitism and racism lurking right in our backyard, by talking with voters who have been exposed to such hatred.

Together with my running mate Wendy Rothstein, I am a Democratic candidate for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County — the main county court located in Norristown.  As a candidate, I have traveled the length and breadth of Montgomery County, a large and diverse district, from my home in Lower Merion to close-by communities in Cheltenham and Abington, to the more rural areas farther north.  Wherever I go, I have spoken of the lessons that we have learned this year about the importance of judges in protecting individual rights and in standing up to government abuse of power.

Ever since August 12, I mention the march of neo-Nazis and Klansmen in Charlottesville, which for me was a blaring wake-up call.  The Charlottesville march was sickening and terrifying.  And the most frightening part was that we know that we have not seen the last of these hate groups — especially with the encouragement provided by Donald Trump’s message of moral equivalency.  As I have addressed groups around the county, I have asked the question, “What if the next march is here?”  Free speech is constitutionally protected, but violence and intimidation are not.  Who do you want sitting in the courthouse if the marchers come here and bring these legal issues with them?

Audiences seemed responsive.  But in truth, I wondered whether my questions were just abstract and hypothetical.  That was until I went to the Perkiomen Valley, in the northern reaches of Montgomery County, encompassing towns like Schwenksville, Red Hill, and Pennsburg.  To a group of voters, I posed my usual question — “What would happen if the Klan were to come here?” — but the reaction was very different.  They laughed.  My question was a foolish one.  As the audience explained, “The Klan is already here.”  They told me how Klan members have lived in the community for years, including the man in their neighborhood who stands in public places dressed in a Nazi-style brownshirt.  The Klan has typically been quiet, but recently, I was told, they have become more vocal.  “They feel they have permission now,” one voter said.

White supremacist carrying a Nazi flag during Charlottesville riot. Photo courtesy: Andy Campbell

Voters in the town of East Greenville showed me flyers that they had received in the mail, anonymously, before the Charlottesville march.  I will not describe them in detail, because they were so offensive that I refuse to repeat their content.  Let me just say that they were the most vile anti-Semitic and racist materials that I have ever seen.  It was as if they had been taken right off the wall of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.  They were appalling.  I could only imagine the fear that was evoked when everyone in the neighborhood opened their mail that afternoon.

My experience with the voters of the Perkiomen Valley drove home the point that questions about where the next Charlottesville will occur are not just hypothetical.  The hate groups are already here.  More of them may be coming.  We need to be ready, so that violence and intimidation do not threaten our democratic values and individual rights. 
_______________

Jeffrey Saltz lives in Lower Merion and is a Democratic candidate for the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.  He is a past President of Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne.  More information is available at www.saltzforjudge.com. 

Supreme Court Stays Court-Ordered Texas Redistricting. What Does It Mean?

Original gerrymander cartoon by Elkanah Tisdale, "Boston Gazette," March 26, 1812.

Original gerrymander cartoon by Elkanah Tisdale, “Boston Gazette,” March 26, 1812.

The case challenging redistricting in Texas, Veasey v. Abbott, has been around since 2011. Congressional districts set after the 2010 census were alleged to be discriminatory against minorities and hence illegal under the federal Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs won, and new districts were drawn and approved by the federal district court.

But in three elections since then, plaintiffs argue that the new districts have proven still to be discriminatory. The federal district court and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and ordered the districts redrawn in time for the 2018 election. The case is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. [Read more…]