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    We Are All In The Same Boat

    Today is Martin Luther King Day, the 50th anniversary of his assassination.  What would Dr. King say if he could see our society today?  He would see that we have an overt racist in the White House.  If we ever had any doubts, they were eliminated by his obscene comments when presented with a bipartisan compromise on DACA, comments confirmed by Senator Dick Durbin.  Let us add to his comments about Haitians and Nigerians his comments about Mexican “rapists;” his disparagement of the Mexican heritage of a federal judge; his clear Islamophobia; his inability to unequivocally condemn white supremacists in Charlotteville; and his casual reference to Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas.” Further, his actions make it clear that his impulse is to punish minorities (amongst others).  We see it in the way he wields his influence on the Justice Department:   Pressure to end affirmative action for universities.  A pullback on Justice Department investigations of local and state police forces.  A potential return to enforcement of mandatory minimum sentences even for low-level drug offenses.      Recall, this is a man who believes he has the “absolute right” to do whatever he’d like with the Justice Department. Dr. King would tell us that we have access to a tool that was systemically withdrawn in his time, but which is threatened again today – the ballot box.  For now, Trump’s “election integrity” commission has gone away, although Homeland Security still has a brief to investigate bogus reports of voter fraud, and  gerrymandering remains a potent obstacle. But minority voters played a vital part in the electoral turnaround in Virginia, and the African American vote was pivotal in the defeat of Roy Moore.  Likewise,  the minority voters of NJ7- - the 11% Hispanics, the 4% blacks, and the 8% Asians-- can help us deliver a powerful message in November, 2018.  We will not tolerate a racist in the White House, nor his enablers in Congress. As Dr. King said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we're in the same boat now.”  
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    The Creatures from the Red Lagoon

    Donald Trump came into power on a populist wave, promising to “drain the swamp.”  How long before his supporters realize that his promises were empty and that enrichment of his ego and his bank account are his only priorities?   He talked about a system “rigged” for the rich. He fulminated about self-serving politicians operating on the whim of lobbyists. He railed against hedge fund managers avoiding paying their fair share. He knew, he told us, because he was a poacher himself, and he was going to turn gamekeeper to protect us, the middle class from the predations of the wealthy. He would, he told us, pass a tax bill for the middle class.  Instead, we saw a feeding frenzy of Republican donors who made sure that all those rich insiders, who were supposedly going to be punished for their avarice, would carry away more than 80% of the tax plan’s benefits, while the rest of us get bupkis. So intense was the last minute lobbying that the Senate bill contained  hand written annotations in the margins.   And our President and his family are massive beneficiaries, to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars through the “pass-through” deductions, real estate provisions, estate tax changes and top-rate tax reductions.  Now we are to be subject to a multimillion dollar advertising campaign, funded by same Koch brothers who lobbied furiously for this legislation, to persuade us that this medicine will indeed be good for us.  Meanwhile, Paul Ryan is already telling us that less medicine is in our future-- those pesky healthcare entitlements stand between us and prosperity. Whose prosperity? Look for the stamp of the Koch brothers’ influence machine, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), on attempts to sell you on this scam.  And remember that our own Congressman, Leonard Lance, who acts the part of a moderate on TV, earns an impressive 83% approval rating from AFP! That swamp that needs draining?  It is a red lagoon!  Join us in banishing these creatures and restoring the promise of American democracy.   
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    Lance Doodled While the Nation Shook

    It’s been five years since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School where twenty precious first graders and six educators were gunned down in cold blood as they were seated in their classrooms. It was a moment that shook me to my core. It was a moment that shook the nation. It was a moment that surely would change our nation’s gun laws, right?  It was that moment that changed so many of us. But would it be enough to change the mind of our Congressman Leonard Lance? These children didn’t have a chance, nor did the adults protecting them. They were shot multiple times in their tiny bodies by a mentally ill young adult with a Bushmaster AR-15, magazine-Fed, gas-operated semi-automatic rifle with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. On a cold February morning in 2013, two months after the massacre, a group of accidental activists who organized shortly after the massacre waited in an office for a meeting with Congressman Lance. We had waited a month for this appointment. With those children’s faces imbedded in our souls, we were ready! We did our homework. We knew that in 2011, Lance had voted for H.R. 822, a Concealed Carry Reciprocity Bill allowing gun owners in states with lenient gun laws to carry concealed weapons into the gun-controlled state of New Jersey. We knew that Lance had an A- rating with the NRA. We knew he received $2,000.00 from the NRA every election cycle. We knew he needed to appease his ‘hunting base’ in Hunterdon County and we knew that 90% of New Jerseyans—including NRA members-- ‘favored’ federal background checks on all gun purchases. As he entered the conference room with his Chief of Staff Todd Mitchell, our goal was to encourage him to vote YES on a Federal Background Bill in the House of Representatives.  Congressman Lance sat at the head of the table, graciously welcomed us in to his office and began doodling on his yellow legal pad.  He made little eye contact with his concerned constituents and refused to give us a definitive response to our questions on his position regarding background checks: Constituent: Congressman Lance, do you believe there should be national background checks on all gun purchases as is law in New Jersey? Lance: I would need to see the legislation. Constituent: Respectfully, Congressman Lance, we are asking you to give your informed opinion on federal background checks on all gun purchases. Lance: I can’t answer that without seeing the legislation. Constituent: How much do you receive from the NRA? Lance: I think that is public record. I receive 2,000 every campaign cycle. Constituent: Those children’s lives are worth far more than that, Congressman.  Are you aware that 90% of New Jerseyans support background checks on all gun purchases?  Lance: Yes! One hour and a half later, it was clear Congressman Lance did not feel he had to answer to his constituency and was only loyal to a lobbyist group and his Republican Party. We questioned him on his Conceal Carry vote, his alliance to the NRA, and tried to appeal to his empathy for the victims. Congressman Lance was still doodling on his pad, and it was very clear that he would never protect his district or the American people against gun violence.  Little has changed nationally since those angels were slaughtered in their classroom, but this district has! WE ARE WOKE! And we are moving him. But it is not enough! He has lost all of our trust. We need a strong leader in this district. We need someone who will not be bought by lobbyist groups, who will protect and defend his constituents and put them first before party. We need a strong leader who will represent us and demand safe gun laws nationally! We need Congressman Lance voted out of office! It is our moment. Marci Bandelli Marci Bandelli is the Co-Founder of Westfield 20/20, a New Jersey grassroots activist group with over 2,000 members; the group has been featured on the PBS NewsHour, The Rachel Maddow Show, and in The New York Times.
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