Last week was quite a rage-inducing one for me. From Donald Trump and his birther crusade to the mess happening down in Florida (what IS it with that state?), the political gods have been conspiring to aggravate me. And you should be aggravated, too. Let me share my pain with you.
Donald Trump. Where to even begin? I guess I should start with the fact that I used to love Donald Trump. And by love, I mean I always found him to be a very humorous, self-important clown. I grew up in New Jersey, right outside of NYC, so I remember his rise, his fall, his rise again, his ridiculous book titles, and of course his marital soap operas (team Ivana!). But I always chuckled because no matter how “down” he was, he always proclaimed himself to be on top. In addition to that, I think I might be one of the 10 people who still watch The Apprentice.
And that’s what makes his recent political pronouncements especially annoying to me. Here’s a man who for months has questioned the legitimacy of our President, questioning his place of birth. Trump lumped himself in with the most extreme, racist parts of the Republican Party and he seemed right at home with it. So at home that even after Obama released his long-form birth certificate, like Trump demanded, Trump as recently as last week still questioned his citizenship.
All this could just be considered a silly sideshow carnival, except for the fact that Willard Mitt Romney is appearing with Trump at fundraisers and using him to raise money. Now look, you can’t control all the stupid things your supporters might say, but you sure as heck can decide NOT to do a fundraiser with them and stand on stage next to them. The way I see it, Romney is A-OK with Donald Trump’s birtherism and is more afraid of upsetting his base than standing up for what’s right and publicly condemning the ridiculous nonsense he says.
Will he have to pay a price for that? I don’t know. It’s the same question I asked myself about what’s going on in Florida; have you heard about it? You are forgiven if you have not. Outside of a few outlets, including my colleagues at Think Progress, most media is focused on the day-to-day election horse race. But what’s going on in Florida has the most impact on the election — because it could very well determine the outcome.
While we were all sleeping or listening to Trump bloviate, Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott has been purging people from the voting rolls. Does that sound familiar? It should, because in 2000, the same thing happened when upwards of 7,000 eligible voters were wiped from the voting rolls. Keep in mind that the election between Bush and Gore came down to 537 votes in Florida. So in a case of “if it worked once, it can work again,” Florida’s statewide election officials are trying remove thousands of voters from the polls under the guise of removing non-citizens. Except, oops, hundreds of people they claim are not citizens actually are, including a 91- year-old WWII vet (thanks for your service, now let me kick you off the voting rolls). And what a coincidence — the majority of people being kicked off are African-American or Hispanic. And just who do those groups tend to vote for?
Is Rick Scott’s ultimate goal to put Romney into office? Or is this more about 2014, when he’s up for re-election (he’s not very popular right now)? Doesn’t matter; the effect is the same. By actively trying to prevent thousands of people to vote so close to November, if left unchecked, this could very well swing the balance of the election. Thank goodness the Department of Justice ordered that the state stop purging its voter rolls while it reviews what’s going on.
So if you don’t live in Florida, why is this important? Because many pundits think that as goes Florida, so goes the nation this election. But also because it could happen in your state too. As I wrote before, lots of states have already enacted restrictive voter ID laws and are possibly planning to start purging voting rolls as well. It’s important to be vigilant and be aware of what’s happening around you. There are forces out there that would like nothing more than to cause confusion on Election Day in November. Don’t let it happen to you.
Daniella Gibbs Léger, a former special assistant to President Obama, is the Vice President for American Values and New Communities at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter @dgibber123