Posted on November 01, 2019 in Countdown

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Democrats Discuss Consequences for Israel

J Street’s conference was earlier this week and that means Democratic candidates for president had an opportunity to address U.S. Israel/Palestine policy, including the question of whether the U.S. should continue funding and arming Israel’s occupation. Not surprisingly, we’re thinking "about time!!" on that one. Centrist front runner former Vice President Joe Biden didn’t say a word about it (worse yet, he later said conditioning military aid to Israel was "outrageous'), and Senator Amy Klobuchar refused to answer a question about it. Mayor Pete Buttigieg was a little bolder and braver, saying it was important to “ensure that U.S. tax-payer support to Israel does not get turned into U.S. tax-payer support for a move like annexation.” Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke more broadly on the need to “find ways to apply pressure and create consequences for problematic behavior.” Senator Bernie Sanders spoke in more concrete terms:  “If you want military aid, you’re going to have to fundamentally change your relationship to the people of Gaza.” Yes, some of these statements are better than others, but the fact that we’re finally talking about this is a testament to the progress we have collectively made in beginning to hold Israel accountable.

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The Election is Here (Like, Actually)

This Tuesday, November 5, is Election Day in a number of states -- AZ, CA, FL, IN, KY, LA, MI, MS, NJ, OH, PA, VA, WA – to name just a few. So, first you should check if you have an election and that you're registered to vote. Go do that now. Don’t worry, we’ll wait. All good? Okay, cool. Now, we’re particularly excited about an initiative on the ballot in New York City. Question 1 is a ballot initiative that will bring Ranked Choice Voting to NYC. We at AAI have officially endorsed this initiative (say whaaaaaaa??) because Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is a way to reform our elections and make them more fair. What is RCV in NYC, besides lots of initialisms? So glad you asked. In this case, voters will be able to rank up to five candidates, or can vote for just one candidate. If no candidate has a majority of the vote in the first round, the last-place finisher is eliminated and the voters’ next choices are counted. It sounds more complicated than it is, so here’s a handy explainer video. RCV is totally rad for a few reasons. It produces majority-supported winners. It creates a more level playing field for candidates from historically underrepresented communities. It saves time and taxpayers’ money, since there aren’t runoff elections needed. Majority support! Representation! Money saved! What’s not to love? So, if you’re an NYC voter, head over to the polls during early voting or on Election Day on Tuesday and make sure to vote yes on Question 1. Have questions or want to chat with us about RCV? Give us a call at our Yalla Vote Hotline at 1-844-YALLA-US (844-925-5287).

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A Halloween Treat: Remedying NC’s Gerrymandering

News out of North Carolina this week is (almost) as tasty as the Kit Kat in your Halloween pillow case. On Monday, a three-judge panel ruled the state’s congressional districts violate the state constitution because they are drawn with a partisan bias, and ordered the maps to be redrawn before the 2020 primary. These judges aren’t playing tricks, either, because they will postpone the primary if the Republican-controlled state legislature tries to drag their feet. In September of this year, another decision ruled the state’s legislative districts violated the state constitution. Together, these decisions mean voters participating in 2020 elections will be voting in newly drawn districts that more closely resemble fair maps at the federal & state levels. This victory, and the decision to sue states based on violations of their individual state constitutions rather than the U.S. Constitution, is breathing renewed momentum into the nonpartisan redistricting movement. So enjoy your gerrymandering costumes while you can because they’ll soon be resigned to the past (fingers crossed).

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Where’s the Federal Funding to Fight Zombies & Goblins?

Unlike the evidence-backed rise of white supremacist violence, “black supremacist violence” is not really a thing. So why are federal law enforcement officials spending so much of their time investigating it? You might remember from way back in 2017, when the news first broke that the FBI had produced intelligence documents on the new domestic terror threat of so-called “Black Identity Extremists.” These revelations rightfully caused widespread consternation, including among members of Congress. Since then, federal lawmakers have repeatedly pressed administration officials for more information about this label, which critics have described as a false predicate for targeting black activists. While the FBI has disavowed this label, we know that the underlying premise continues to inform federal counterterrorism activities (Nowadays they use the term “Black Racially Motivated Violent Extremism.”). This week, we learned fromThe Intercept that, between 2015 and 2018, the FBI “dedicated considerable time and resources to opening a series of “assessments” into the activities of individuals and groups it mostly labeled ‘black separatist extremists.’” An assessment is an authority that the FBI uses to open investigations without a factual predicate or any indication of criminal activity. In other words, it looks like the FBI is investigating black activists without evidence of criminality. Meanwhile, the very real threat of white supremacist violence has spread. Um, since we have big budget deficits and mounting debt, can we at least focus our security resources on threats we know are real?

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Red October

The protests and bloodshed have continued this week in Iraq, leaving at least 240 people dead and over 8,000 injured. Protests began on October 1st in Baghdad and throughout the south of the country. Corruption and bureaucracy in Iraq are rampant, employment and opportunity are scarce, and the distance between political elites and average Iraqis could not be greater. As a consequence, protests in Iraq have become common since at least 2011. But this month has been different, both in the clarity of the calls by the protesters for a complete rejection of Iraq’s political system and the government’s astonishingly authoritarian response. Now, with political support drying up, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is likely to be forced to resign. The central question now is whether his successor—or any individual—will be able to take on Iraq’s political class and enact any of the fundamental reforms that the protesters have been demanding. Whatever the outcome, the courage Iraqis have demonstrated in the face of repression has been nothing short of epic.

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