15.78 million environmentalists did
not vote in the 2014 midterm elections.
This cannot happen again in 2018. At the Environmental
Voter Project, we are laser-focused on finding these
environmentalists and turning them into consistent voters.
Email your suggested questions by clicking here.
On April 19, 2018, we will be hosting a debate with the candidates running for the United States Congress in our new 7th District.
We want YOU to let us know what questions should be asked of the candidates.
You will be voting for one of these candidates and the debate is a great forum to help you decide which candidate gets YOUR VOTE.
- What issues are important to YOU?
- What do YOU want addressed in this debate?
- What topics do YOU feel the candidates need to clarify for you to make your decision on May 15, 2018?
Join us as we march to end gun violence in our schools.
Where? IBEW Union Hall at 7th and Walnut Sts in Allentown
Well, it was one great night- probably the best night for Lehigh Valley Democrats since the 2005 County Executive sweep. Now that the dust has settled, we realize that Lamont McClure won a historic blowout of the incumbent County Executive, an eight point win. We now see that Phil Armstrong won a surprisingly easy 5% win against a better funded candidate who started with a substantial name recognition advantage. The wins didn’t stop there though. Northampton County Council went from 7-2 Republican to 6-3 Democrat in one night. Democrats won races in Upper Milford, North Whitehall, Palmer, Bethlehem Township, South Whitehall, Bangor, Lower Saucon, and all sorts of other communities that Donald Trump won last year, some substantially. County wide Democrats regularly rolled up numbers in excess of 20,000 in Northampton County, let alone Lehigh County. Ellen Ceisler won both counties in her race for Commonwealth Court, while Maria McLaughlin rolled to a big win in Lehigh County and a strong second place in Northampton. Democrats even got surprisingly easy wins they didn’t expect- like the victory of Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski for a fourth term. How?
I’ve read many theories of what happened, and why we won, and many of them are insightful. I was actually a part of the County Executive campaigns though, and later in coordinating Get-Out-The-Vote efforts in both counties, so I might have a few insights to add here. Here are a few thoughts on what actually happened and why we won.
- In Northampton County, it’s the suburbs, stupid. Palmer Township and Bethlehem Township are the Ohio and Florida of Northampton County- if you win them, you probably win the county. If you lose them? Have a nice day. Lamont McClure won the key areas, and John Brown had a chance. Unions, activists, and candidates alike did a lot of door knocking and calling into Palmer in particular. It paid off.
- Taxes aren’t popular, and we didn’t embrace them. Look at the campaigns of both Armstrong and McClure, and look specifically at what they put on those walk pieces and mailers. Neither guy ever voted for a tax increase in office. Both told the public so. Both won. Obviously Democrats are the party of government solving problems, as opposed to doing nothing like the GOP wants, but Democrats cannot be the party of higher taxes and win here. It just won’t sell. Fiscal responsibility, being good stewards of the public bill, matters a lot to these voters.
- Ed Pawlowski embraced “identity politics” in government, and the campaign, and it saved him. Look where Pawlowski won in Allentown. Look where he lost. He won wards with high numbers of Syrians, African-Americans, and Latinos. He lost white wards. Non-white voters stuck by him, despite the indictments, because they believe his agenda and re-development of downtown has been good for them, and they want to see it continue. Had Pawlowski rejected identity politics, and not cultivated the relationships he has with these communities, he would have lost. Period.
- Negative and Comparative ads work, if you have the money to drive them. Much was made in some “inside ball” circles about the difference in tone between the two County Executive races, and a lot of people in Northampton County were nervous at it. There was no reason to be. Lamont McClure was challenging an incumbent Executive, and he stuck his record to him. He did so repeatedly, in mailer after mailer, and in his TV ad. It worked- he won a commanding 8% win in a county that Donald Trump won in 2016. By comparison, Phil Armstrong never dropped a single negative campaign mailer or ad against Brad Osborne in Lehigh County, nor did Osborne in return. Armstrong won the open-seat race by a surprising 5%. Armstrong did not have the same size campaign war chest, and had he dropped one negative mailer, with no follow-up, it would have backfired. Open races are different than challenge races, and Osborne is a different candidate than Brown. The big key here was that McClure was able to drive a narrative of negative, so it worked. Armstrong had the resources to drive a narrative based on his own common sense record, and since his opponent never went negative at him, it also worked.
- Women. Dr. Paige Van Wirt (sp?) got about 1,700 write-in votes in Bethlehem. Democratic women lead the way in the judicial races in both counties. Three women won brand new Council/Commissioner races in the two counties. Women did a lot of winning in the Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, because women voters came out and made their voices heard. If you’re a male candidate for public office in 2018, my suggestion is that you talk to women- tell them why they should support you. If not, you’ll lose.
- Activism. If I had to pick two groups as MVP’s of the election, I’d have to pick Lehigh Valley for All and the East Penn Democrats. These two clubs, both of which not officially the party, but mostly supportive of it, knocked on thousands of doors, staffed polls, and actively engaged up and down the ballot- maximizing the victories. As a manager, sometimes outside groups drive you nuts, because you can’t really “control” them, but the work these groups did was critical.
- Labor. Bodies on the street, financial contributions, sign distribution, and just advising the candidates- they did it all. The Lehigh Valley Labor Council, the Building Trades, and so many of their members took an active role in these campaigns. We would not have won without them, in fact we would have been crushed.
- Turnout Matters, so does Persuasion. Now for the thing that many people aren’t going to want to believe, but need to- Republicans got more votes than they did in 2013. John Brown received more votes in 2017 than he did in 2013, even though he lost this time. Brad Osborne received more votes than Scott Ott four years ago, and he still lost. I would not blow my entire campaign budget on field, for obvious reasons, but I don’t think a Democrat can win in this area without some investment in turning out voters- in the right places. In neither county did we just go knock everywhere our hearts desired. We hit the communities we knew could swing either way for weeks. We hit the communities we knew we would win very hard at the end of the election. We won the swing voters, and we won the turnout battle. We won the elections too. Last year, the biggest mistake the Hillary Clinton campaign made was assuming the only thing that mattered was turning out our base vote. You can’t win that way, I don’t care what your algorithm tells you.
- Coordination matters. DNC member and Lehigh County resident Murat Guzel pulled together a meeting, about a month before the election, and charged several of us with coordinating the Democratic ticket’s “GOTV” efforts. It was a little bit like herding cats, but we managed to basically divide up the turf for each group in the coalition, and the efforts won us a lot of elections. Left all on our own, I don’t believe we would have won as much as we did.
- Talk about things they care about. Both Democratic County Executive-Elects talked about open space, human services, and elder care- and they won. These are things that fit well within our Democratic values, and we made our case to the public and won. Here’s the truth- Democrats shouldn’t abandon our values, per se, but we should talk about the values we hold that are relevant to the people voting in the election. Green space is relevant to suburban voters, it’s part of why they’re there. Schools are relevant to suburban voters, it’s part of why they’re there. Retirement security and caring for our seniors is relevant to suburban voters, it’s part of why they’re there. We can and should hold our values dear, but we should also not get caught up in a one-size-fits-all trap, where we aren’t addressing the relevant needs of voters in any given area.
- Run the tough races. Democrats beat four people who have been on Northampton County Council on Tuesday, and very nearly beat the fifth (we should have). We won races in places we lost substantially last year. Shoaib Chaudhary and Bob Elbich took on very well known, well liked individuals in Lehigh County District races, and while they didn’t win, they improved Democratic performance in those areas, which greatly helped the rest of the ticket. If no one ran in Upper Milford, South Whitehall, or North Whitehall, we wouldn’t have won those races. Same in Lower Saucon and Bangor. Run the tough races, people appreciate guts.
By Barbara Diamond
Recent cases of corruption in Allentown and Philadelphia had some Bethlehem residents wondering if our city’s ethics code was sufficient to protect us. The answer, as we discovered, was NO. Bethlehem’s current code of ethics was passed by resolution in 1991. It is simply a one page document with bullet points recommending proper behavior such as avoiding conflicts of interest, the appearance of impropriety, and treating the public with respect. Cities large and small have moved beyond this simple code to embrace a much more robust “ethics program” passed by ordinance that includes requirements of conduct such as prohibiting gifts, hiring relatives, “the revolving door”, etc.; training and ongoing advising for officials, enhanced financial disclosures and oversight by an independent, volunteer, non-partisan board of ethics. These are the essential elements of a strong program, the central purpose of which is to assist officials in their duty to serve the public and preserve the public’s trust.
For over a year a group of concerned citizens, Bethlehem for Good Government, including Council members Olga Negron and Michael Colon, investigated and developed a draft ordinance for an ethics program. The ordinance incorporates best practices and is similar to programs in neighboring cities. In fact, this initiative was recently recognized by Pennsylvania’s League of Women Voters as a potential model for communities across the state.
In response, some on city council want to take a piecemeal, watered-down approach. This is not adequate. The public needs to be assured that their representatives are not being influenced by gifts, campaign contributions or promises of future employment. Nothing short of a comprehensive program will do. If you want to see this enacted, please email Bethlehem City Council c/o email@example.com and urge them to pass the ordinance submitted by Council members Negron and Colon.
By Thomas H. Pritchett
Recently, the argument is being made that the U.S. should take no action on climate change because of the uncertainty in the science. Although, multiple lobbyists and politicians have been heard to make this argument, it was probably best articulated by Bret Stephens in his April 28 opinion in the New York Times. . I would like to address that argument here.
Yes, there is indeed still considerable uncertainty in science on climate change, particularly in terms of the prediction of ultimate impacts. But here is what is not uncertain: 1) the Earth is absorbing more heat from the Sun than it radiating back into space; 2) the primary cause of this energy imbalance is the increased levels of greenhouse gasses with the primary source of these gasses being the increased use of fossil fuels by mankind; 3) this imbalance has resulted in the warming of our oceans (over 90% of the excess heat is being trapped here) and freshwater lakes worldwide, the increase of average world air temperatures in the lower troposphere (the air we breathe), and the increased melting of ice sheets and glaciers; and 4) this changing of the energy balance between the oceans and the atmosphere is having effects on our overall climate. In addition, the increase in carbon dioxide concentrations in the air have resulted directly in increasing the acidity of the oceans. These are givens that the vast majority of climate scientists, as well as the National Academy of Sciences of almost, if not, all every major industrialized country agree upon. In fact, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences has specifically affirmed the first two givens twice in detailed reports with the first being as early as 1979.
There is very little uncertainty on whether or not the above are happening, but there is indeed uncertainty in scale, magnitude or amount, that each is occurring. There is also uncertainty in just how long the lag time is in our climate system (i.e., if our carbon emissions magically dropped to zero overnight, how long it would take before the Earth warmed to the point that it was now radiating back to space as much energy it was receiving from the Sun and the Earth stopped warming). Most scientists believe this lag time could range from just a few decades to a century or longer. In addition, there is scientific uncertainty in how long it would take the greenhouse gas levels to return to what they were at the middle of the 20th Century and our climate to respond accordingly after our emissions did drop to zero. Again, the ranges predicted by scientists range from several centuries to up a few thousand years.
And yes, scientists are uncertain when they predict the impacts of our warming climate and our oceans becoming more acidic. However, this uncertainty cuts both ways. When scientists make predictions about the effects of global warming on climate, sea level rises and ecosystem disruptions, they tend to use conservative assumptions in their models and will usually throw out the more extreme modeled results. Similarly, the scientists ignore any feedback mechanisms that can either accelerate the warming or, with glaciers, the melting processes unless those mechanisms are already known to be occurring and are understood enough to be well modeled. In the case of the IPCC, even then these feedback are often ignored. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that the uncertainty is not that the scientists are over-exaggerating the danger but that they are grossly underestimating it – simply because their models cannot extrapolate into climatic regions for which we have no modern, prior data. Furthermore, the study of the Earth’s climate well before man tends to support the idea that our current models are underestimating impacts. This is why some of the most outspoken climate scientists, such as Dr. James Hansen, are those who have devoted most of the scholarly research in the study of climate tens of thousands to hundreds of millions in the past.
Therefore, my message to those who like to cite the uncertainty in the science of climate change, I would like to remind them that this uncertainty cuts both ways. Yes, the scientists could very well be over-estimating the impacts but there is also the very real possibility that they could be instead severely underestimating the situation. Considering the lag time in the response of our climate to whatever actions we take and the essentially irreversible nature of these changes within in the lifetime of our grandchildren and their children, can we afford to take the chance of assuming the uncertainty is that scientists have over-estimated the dangers?
Thomas H. Pritchett
Department of Chemical & Physical Sciences
Cedar Crest College
By Kim Shively
At his rally in Harrisburg on April 29, President Trump promised to restore manufacturing jobs and reinvigorate the coal industry—promises met with cheers and chants from his supporters. Many Pennsylvanians crave jobs that pay a livable wage and offer real benefits, jobs where a single wage-earner can support a family in reasonable comfort. But Trump’s promises are empty. The manufacturing and mining jobs that formed the backbone of employment in Pennsylvania decades ago are not coming back. The reason for this is not that “foreigners” stole the jobs or immigrants drove down wages, though Trump has made a career out of blaming poor, often brown, people for the loss of manufacturing jobs. The primary reason manufacturing jobs are not coming back to America is mechanization. That is, robots took those jobs. And robots are cheap: they don’t need a livable wage or medical benefits or pensions or safe working conditions. They don’t even need bathroom breaks. How can a worker compete?
Similarly, jobs in the coal industry are not coming back, not because of environmental regulations, but because other sources of energy are much cheaper and easier to get. Natural gas from fracking has become a mainstay of American energy production. Natural gas is more accessible than coal, cleaner to use, and its extraction is largely mechanized, too. Coal cannot compete against it. In other words, there is no going back to the imagined past of secure jobs in manufacturing and mining.
What, then, can our society do for the working class? Like Trump and his supporters, we should look to history for an answer, but not the rose-tinted portrait of an American industrial paradise that Trump regularly evokes. We need to look further back in history to the time when manufacturing and mining jobs did not provide a stable path to economic security, and then we need to learn from the struggles that occurred to make those jobs better paying and more secure. In the early days of the industrial revolution in the United States, workers’ wages were extraordinarily low, lack of regulations made these jobs unsafe, unhealthy, and allowed owners to exploit their workers, many of whom were children. Workers’ unions struggled for decades in the 19th century for an eight-hour work day/40-hour work week; the United Mine Workers didn’t achieve an eight-hour work day until 1898. Even then, laborers could work even more than 40-hours a week without making enough to live on. It wasn’t until 1938 with the Fair Labor Standards Act that many of these harmful practices ended. We who want to improve the lives of working Americans need to re-ignite the efforts of our forbearers who fought to guarantee reasonable working hours, decent wages, and safe working environments.
As it is now, wages have not kept up with inflation, especially for those working in the lowest paid jobs. Someone earning minimum wage in a full-time job in Pennsylvania (with no vacation, no sick days), makes only enough to climb slightly above the official poverty line. Even those earning 50% above minimum wage live paycheck to paycheck in order to provide even basic necessities for themselves and their families. That is, today’s low-wage employees are in a similar situation to workers in manufacturing and mining before 1938. It was primarily the organizing and protest of the workers themselves—a long and often painful process—that brought about the job security, healthy working conditions, and livable wages that factory and mining workforce took for granted in the 1950s and 1960s.
So rather than spending time and energy trying to resurrect jobs that are long dead, we can best serve the working class by introducing policies that would provide some degree of economic security in the jobs that are already available. These policies include a higher minimum wage, universal health care, more robust social support programs that assist working parents, to name a few. This is a more realistic and sustainable path to creating the kind of jobs that can truly sustain our working families and communities.
By Courtney Tobin
This Thursday, the National Day of Prayer, Donald Trump is reportedly going to sign an executive order to protect so-called religious freedom, according to Politico. Because executive orders are at the sole discretion of the president (within certain constitutional boundaries), the administration need not report on the exact language of the order ahead of time, and we will not be able to read a definitive copy of what he signs until it is entered into the Federal Register, possibly early next week.
And yet, news organization of varying levels of credibility have been writing about this all day, with headlines ranging from the detached (“Republicans in Congress push for religious liberty executive order,” – USA Today) to the terrifying (“Trump Reportedly Will Issue ‘License to Discriminate’ Order Thursday” – The Advocate). All of their reporting is based off a 2-month-old version of the Executive Order, which is almost certainly not the one which will be signed.
The original draft of the Executive Order, which was leaked in full to The Nation in February, specifically protects the tax-exempt status of a very select group of religious organizations:
(e) The Secretary of the Treasury shall ensure that the Department of the Treasury shall not impose any tax or tax penalty, delay or deny tax-exempt status, or disallow tax deductions for contributions made under 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3), or otherwise make unavailable or deny any tax benefits to any person, church, synagogue, house of worship or other religious organization…
(2) on the basis that such person or organization believes, speaks, or acts (or declines to act) in accordance with the belief that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, sexual relations are properly reserved for such a marriage, male and female and their equivalents refer to an individual’s immutable biological sex as objectively determined by anatomy, physiology, or genetics at or before birth, and that human life begins at conception and merits protection at all stages of life.
This language, if kept in the current Executive Order, clearly favors the religious groups aligned with Trump’s party. Would religious groups which value bodily autonomy and the life of a mother over the life of a fetus be similarly protected? Or groups which believe that one’s personal identity is not merely a reflection of their body and genetics, but a complex combination of one’s body, mind and soul? What about those who believe sex is sacred, but not necessarily something to be reserved for marriage?
(Never mind some the LGBTQ community whose very lives do not conform to some of the beliefs codified in the bill. Are our religious beliefs also protected, diverse though they are? What about our freedom to live our lives without fear?)
Should we be asking these questions at all yet? Our president is notably quixotic, known to bend to the loudest voice in the room before declaring the idea both beautiful and his own. Without up-to-date knowledge or clear information from the administration on the Executive Order, it’s impossible to tell how close this order will be to the original.
Also, as those more eloquent than I have pointed out, this language violates the Establishment Clause of the Constitution, and would likely be thrown out if bought before a court. If included, it will is not likely to have the sweeping “protective” effect it is written to provide.
Instead, it will ignite another fight between the Right and the Left of this country, feeding the false dichotomy of “religious freedom” and “Women’s and LGBTQ rights.” Liberals, whether we are religious or otherwise, will fight against it, while conservatives will decry activist judges who stop the Order – and all the while, we will be pulled away from the real problems of economic inequity, unemployment, health care, and dozens of other issues where we may find solutions – or at least some middle ground. Even if this exact language isn’t in the order, a watered down version of it will have the same affect.
This seems to be the pattern of the Trump Administration: sow confusion, breed animosity, fail to effect change, repeat. Keeping the country divided helps them to win elections, as toxic as that environment is for the rest of us. Giving us things to fight about distracts us from concentrating on the fact that they are completely failing to govern – or worse, the foreign and domestic disasters they court.
The only way to fight it is to combat misinformation, find middle ground, and most importantly, don’t panic. Don’t run from the system in disgust and apathy. Stay informed, stay involved, and vote.
By Kim Shively
Many people have supported Trump’s bombing of the airfield in Syria in response to President Bashar Al-Assad’s use chemical weapons against his own population. Even people I consider to be my political “heroes”—people such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders—failed to oppose Trump’s action. I can certainly understand the desire to respond forcefully to the suffering that Assad has inflicted on his own people. The images of dying men, women, and children were terrible to bear and stirred our deepest sympathies. However, Trump’s approach to the problem of Syria is reckless and impulsive and may make things worse for the very people he claims to care so much about. What I would like to do here is lay out why Trump’s actions were useless at best, destructive at worst.
First of all, the bombing of the Syrian airbase with the goal of weakening Assad was a knee-jerk reaction to events without any reference to long-term effects. Trump needs to consider the fact that the removal of Assad would only strengthen ISIS. Indeed, Assad is probably one of the strongest forces against ISIS in the region, whether we like it or not. Certainly, ISIS is cruel to its enemies, and it is tragic that so many innocent Syrians are caught between these the rock of Assad and the hard place of ISIS. But what should be clear is that removing Assad without clear plans for the aftermath will not save anyone. This is why President Obama—who also wanted to get rid of Assad—was reluctant to strike directly against him. A world without Assad might be as bad, or even worse, than a world with him. Any feasible response to regime change in Syrian would have to make sure that all the stakeholders (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, the European Union, along with the US) can chart a road toward stability.
Secondly, the suffering of the Syrian people has been going on for years, and Trump in his previous statements, has shown absolutely no compassion for Syrian suffering. Perhaps this attack is different. Perhaps there is something special about the suffering associated with chemical weapons. But the hundreds of thousands of Syrians (about 450,000 so far) who were killed with bombs, guns, rockets, and starvation never seemed to arouse Trump’s compassion. Since taking office, Trump has twice proposed bans that would keep out the very Syrians he now wants to save through bombing.
The fact that Trump suddenly found compassion for the suffering Syrians should lead us to ask what is this military strike really all about. Who benefits? Trump’s sudden change of heart suggests that the airstrike was a diversionary tactic from the investigations pertaining to the Trump campaign’s connections to Russia and the failures of the Trump administration. That is, this (ineffective) attack on the Syrian airbase comes across as a way to create an image of a decisive, muscular Trump, whose administration has so far been fraught with chaos and accusations of corruption.
Finally, we’ve already seen this movie. After September 11, 2001, George W. Bush suddenly decided that regime change in Iraq was necessary, purportedly because Saddam Hussein was a threat to his own people and to others in the region. Namely, Bush thought the world would be a better place without Hussein. But the removal of Hussein without a long-term strategic plan led to more than a decade of chaos and bloodletting that gave rise to ISIS. Do we really want to go there again? Has Trump, who has such a poor grasp of foreign affairs, willing to think through the implication of his actions rather than give in to his impulses? So far, there is no sign.