Meet the Delegates: Joe Smallhoover – Democrats Abroad

Joe SmallhooverJoe Smallhoover is the Chair of Democrats Abroad France. We tried unsuccessfully to find some time together during the convention, but finally a mutually workable time a few days afterwards.

While he lives in Paris now, Joe was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Upper St. Clair, PA. He attended Washington and Jefferson College and Duke University. He holds an MA in Germanic languages from the University of Virginia and did advanced studies in Europe on a Fullbright, as an exchange teacher before returning to the US to obtain a law degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He has lived in Paris since 1985, and has practiced law in France, Belgium and Germany.

DocJess: Where did you get your interest in politics?

Joe Smallhoover: I have been involved since I was in diapers. My grandfather was the Chair of the Allegheny County Commissioners from 1934 until the late 1950’s and active in the Democratic Party all his life. I grew up in that household and was treated to seeing state and local dignitaries on a regular basis and learned the ins and outs of politics.

DJ: Democrats Abroad is a group of ex-pats…

JS: Let me stop you. Often people say “ex-patriots” instead of “expatriates” as if we are not patriotic Americans. We certainly are patriotic, and one of the ways we show that is by voting. We just happen to be living outside the country and prefer to be called Overseas Americans or Americans Abroad.

DJ: Sorry, I meant no disrespect.

JS: I know. It’s a common theme we deal with.

DJ: So. If I lived outside the country, how would I join Democrats Abroad? What exactly do you do?

JS: Democrats Abroad (DA) is recognized as a state party by the Democratic National Committee and we even have our own primary. The French and English groups are the oldest within the umbrella of DA, both chapters having been formed in 1964. We have committees in 41 countries, active but less organized committees in another 20 countries, and members from 160 countries.

If you are an American abroad, you can vote in the state primary of the state you lived in just prior to moving overseas, or you can participate in the Democratic primary as a part of DA.  Democrats Abroad, by the way, also participates directly in the DNC, with seats on various committees.

DJ: Is that true for the general election?

JS: Overall yes, in most cases. Federal law says that Americans living abroad can participate in Federal elections. There is a Federal ballot that can be used, or in some states, Americans abroad can file an absentee ballot for that state which would include all the offices on all the other ballots for that state.

However, some states will make you pay state income taxes if you vote on the state ballot because it establishes part of a residency requirement. Some states won’t charge taxes. It’s a fluid situation as states do change their rules over time. I lived in California just before I moved to France, and it used to be that you had to pay state taxes to vote absentee in state and local elections, but that was changed a few years ago.

Many states have an overseas ballot that is a Federal ballot. These ballots are both for civilians overseas as well as uniformed (military) voters. The rule is you can file one ballot or the other, not both.

DJ: What do you do to encourage voting?

JS: In France, we have an event every week across the land. We have multiple talks on issues that affect people. We also have caucuses, such as the Minority, Women, LGBT, and Youth. We have programs to discuss topics like the environment, economy, etc. We hold dinner debates, as well as social events. We are active and embedded in the American community overseas.

I started an internet site close to 30 years ago, before it was popular, after someone complained he couldn’t find Democrats Abroad. It was a nascent, flat site, but it was a start and I saw the benefit of early adoption. Now, we’re active on our websites, and we leverage social media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to do as much outreach as possible so people can find us easily.

DJ: Do the Republicans have something similar?

JS: They tried, but they were more about fundraising. They’ve dissipated. They’re smaller than DA by at least a factor of 10, and they are not active in as many places. We have precincts and wards and a “county/state” structure while the Republicans have some elections but they’re relatively small, and most of their folks are involved by appointment and not election.

DJ: Was this your first convention?

1928-democratic-national-convention-ticket-valueJS: No. A member of my family has been present at every convention since 1928. I have attended all the conventions since 1996.

DJ: What did you think of Philadelphia?

JS: Each convention is a little different because of the dynamics of delegates, candidates and the city itself. Philadelphia was very welcoming. It was a wonderful feeling, being a native Pennsylvanian. The convention was smoothly organized. There were very few glitches that make being and attending difficult. Except meals were difficult. The lines were long and once you were in the arena there weren’t any other nearby options. But that’s to be expected and taken in stride.

The convention itself was absolutely spectacular. The speakers were tremendous and there were a number of surprises like Khizr Khan. When he held up a copy of the Constitution, it was one of the most powerful things I’d ever seen at a convention.

I also appreciated Gabby Giffords. I’d met her in Paris before she’d regained the power of speech, and to see her take the podium, and speak, well, all I could think was if she could do this with her limitations, imagine how much brilliance must be locked inside of her.

DJ: And Larry Sanders?

JS: We had all seen him tear up in private, and were overwhelmed by the pride he had for his brother. It was very powerful, and then, we got to see his brother react. It was a moment that won’t soon be repeated.

DJ: One last thing. Some of my readers either live overseas or have kids who live overseas. How do they connect with you?

JS: Our site is www.democratsabroad.org and if they need to register, they can go directly to www.votefromabroad.org/vote. As long as someone makes the deadline, which differs in the various states, a ballot should be automatically sent, although one can download a Federal write-in absentee ballot as a substitute. All the instructions are available on the website.

See our full series of delegate interviews.

PA Veterans Find Trump’s Remarks Offensive

Ahead of Donald Trump’s event in Mechanicsburg on Monday, Pennsylvania veterans condemned Trump’s offensive remarks and called on Trump to apologize to a Gold Star family he personally attacked multiple times over the weekend.

Donald Trump has attacked the US Armed Forces repeatedly: Calling it weak and ineffective, accusing our soldiers of stealing reconstruction money from Iraq, and denouncing prisoners of war for being captured.

Congressman Chris Carney, a former Commander in the United States Navy Reserve:

Folks like me who have served this country honorably for many years are absolutely disgusted at Donald Trump and what he said about those who have sacrificed for this country. It is clear Trump has neither the temperament nor the experience to be Commander-in-Chief and to lead the forces of the United States – especially when we have such complex issues bedeviling the country and the world right now. It is unfathomable that a man like that would want to sacrifice the honor of the military for his ego. Anybody who looks at this objectively will realize that Donald Trump is as hollow as it gets when it comes to being Commander-in-Chief.

Donald Trump has called for the military to violate the Geneva Convention’s ban on torture and conduct reprisal killings of the family members of enemy soldiers and terrorists: “We’re going to have to do things that are unthinkable.”

However, as retired Army Major General Gale Pollock pointed out, our soldiers have all taken an oath to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” and are required to refuse illegal orders.

We asked Pollock what protocol troops and officers are trained to follow if they are given an illegal order. She responded that you are supposed to raise the issue with the person who gave the order and explain why you believe the order to be illegal. If this does not solve the problem, then the issue must be brought up the chain of command. This is why the question of illegal orders issued by the commander-in-chief is especially problematic. To whom could our military appeal to countermand such illegal orders? This would raise the specter of a constitutional military-civil crisis where our military leaders were forced for the first time in US history to ignore the orders of its civilian leadership.

“After 36 years in the Army, I believe very strongly in the values we share in the military. Loyalty duty, respect, selfless-service, honor, integrity, and personal courage,” said I think we have seen a trend of the military being insulted, whether it’s our prisoners of war, men who sacrificed their lives, or veterans. I am just really troubled by this, and I think it’s important we recognize that these behaviors, these accusations are unacceptable for a leader in America. Pennsylvanians respect the men and women who serve. And I would hope that many of us would be offended by the continued insults against our military that Mr. Trump has offered.


Last week, Mr. Khizr Khan the father of a Muslim American war hero gave a moving speech at the Democratic National Convention. He also called out Donald Trump’s offensive and divisive religious discrimination that would have prevented their son – an Army captain who gave his life to save other soldiers in his unit – from even entering the United States of America.

Fmr. Navy Lt. Commander Manan Trivedi was the battalion surgeon with the first units to cross the Iraq border in 2003.

Frankly, I find Donald Trumps latest rhetoric disgusting, disgraceful and reprehensible towards veterans. It’s just one more piece of proof that he lacks any kind of judgement to be our Commander-in-Chief. Unfortunately, I have seen first hand the ultimate sacrifice that people like Captain Khan and so many others have made. For Donald Trump to denigrate his family and service is beyond the pale.

For him to attack a mother who is still grieving for her son. It’s shameful.

This is not the first time for Trump. Remember his comments about Senator John McCain. Time and time again, Trump has insulted our veterans, and our men and women in uniform deserve better.

Meanwhile, Trump’s most vitriolic supporters are praising him for refusing to apologize to the Khans including Trump’s advisor Roger Stone who called Khizr Khan a “Muslim Brotherhood agent”. Similarly, the white nationalist video blogger Ramzpaul and the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer spouts hatred:

So, an Islamic terrorist from Pakistan infiltrates the US military, with the intent of getting high-quality training to use in his jihad against Whites, and also perhaps for the purpose of sabotage, and accidentally gets his dumbass killed.

And now, the Jews tell us we’re supposed to celebrate him as a hero? Just because he’s dead? […]

I am hereby calling for the Khan family to be immediately deported to Pakistan. What’s more, I want their terrorist son’s body dug up and shipped back with them.

This terrorist filth has no more right to rot in our ground than he had to walk on it.

Trump’s comments on the Khan family are the latest in a series of his disrespectful rhetoric and record aimed at American veterans and military families such as lying about donations to veterans’ charities, firing employees because of their military service and verbally attacking prisoners of war.

Angry Words From the Father of a Muslim-American Patriot

Mr. Khan with Pocket sized Constitution. Photo: Freeze Frame from DNC Video Feed.

Mr. Khan with Pocket sized Constitution. Photo: Freeze Frame from DNC Video Feed.

Editor’s note: Attacks and counter attacks are raging over this speech. Updates have been added at the end of this article.

One of the most emotional moments during the last night of the Democratic National Convention centered around the story of fallen Army Captain Humayun Khan and the convention address by his bereaved father. Captain Khan, a University of Virginia graduate, was killed in action in Iraq in 2004. He was one of 14 American Muslims to give his life serving the United States during the decade following 9/11.

In a video released at the convention, Hillary Clinton is shown paying tribute to Captain Khan during a speech on national security that she delivered shortly after Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the United States.

The video was followed by a stirring speech by Khizr Khan, the fallen captain’s father. Khan slammed Donald Trump for his divisive and discriminatory policies. Holding a copy of the Constitution, he asked whether the Republican nominee had ever read it and also whether he had ever been to Arlington Cemetery. “Go look at the graves of the brave patriots,” he said, “who died defending America — you will see all faiths, genders, and ethnicities. You have sacrificed nothing and no one.”

Donald Trump should fear the wrath of Khan for scapegoating a religion and giving ISIS exactly what it wants.

Editor’s Note:

Since Mr. Khizr Khan’s respectful and dignified speech explaining why he disagreed with Donald Trump’s plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States, Trump has hit back describing himself as having been “viciously attacked.”

Senator John McCain and veteran’s groups have strongly criticized Trump for disparaging the family of a brave fallen soldier.