state of the union

Ensuring that Desiline Victor, and all Americans, Get to Have Their Say at the Polls

In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama used his bully pulpit to ensure that the critically important issue of voting rights is securely on the agenda in 2013. Calling it “our most fundamental right as citizens,” the President announced the formation of a non-partisan commission focused on improving our country’s system of voting.

One woman who was undoubtedly pleased to hear this news was 102-year-old Desiline Victor of Miami, seated in the House visitors’ gallery, who had waited in line for hours to cast a ballot in November’s election.  President Obama noted that the country should follow her determined example: “As time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say,” he said.

After all, that is the issue at the core of a working democracy: whether folks get to have their say. 

Leading up to the election, our affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s leadership programs witnessed and stood up to efforts across the country – ranging from unnecessary registration obstacles to early voting restrictions – to suppress the votes of those who have traditionally been disenfranchised: communities of color, low-income communities, and youth.  In the past two years alone, more than 65 suppressive voter ID bills were introduced in 34 states.

That’s why it is important that President Obama made it clear last night that he is serious about addressing the problems in our election system.  With increased access to early voting and an end to discriminatory voter ID laws, we can ensure that all Americans “get to have their say” at the polls.

PFAW

Those Who Threaten the President’s Life Are Not Welcome at the State of the Union

An Open Letter to Speaker John Boehner


Dear Speaker Boehner:

In the wake of a year teeming with incidents of heartbreaking gun violence, it came as quite a shock to see Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX) announce yesterday that he is “excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House Chamber” for President Obama’s State of the Union address. 

This so-called “patriot” has repeatedly threatened the life of the president. 

With a gun in each hand, Ted Nugent once publicly called Obama a “piece of shit,” saying he “told him [Obama] to suck on my machine gun” and suggested that Hillary Clinton “might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch.”  In the same incident, he also threatened Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein with gun violence. 

At an NRA event last year, Nugent infamously warned that he would “either be dead or in jail by this time next year” if President Obama were re-elected.  After People For the American Way’s Right Wing Watch publicized the video of his comments, the Secret Service began an investigation of Nugent. 

The First Amendment protects Ted Nugent’s rights to say offensive things, but that right does not extend to making threats of violence against public officials. And it certainly does not give Nugent a “right” to be granted a privileged position of honor as a guest of the House of Representatives at the President’s State of the Union address.

So today we are calling on you, as Speaker of the House, to disinvite Nugent from attending the State of the Union address. This is not a question of civility; it is a question of whether or not to tolerate violent threats.  We cannot invite those who openly threaten the life of the president to be part of this celebrated tradition.  Allowing Nugent into the House chamber for the address will send a clear message of condoning such threats.

In a country still reeling from recent shooting sprees and striving to find ways to reduce gun violence, it is unconscionable to invite to the State of the Union address a man who has repeatedly threatened to kill our nation’s president. 

Michael Keegan
President, People For the American Way

PFAW Praises President's Call for End to Nominations Obstruction

In his State of the Union address tonight, President Obama called for an end to the unprecedented obstruction of judicial and executive branch nominees.

Editorial Memorandum: Judicial Nominees and the State of the Union

To: Interested Parties
From: Marge Baker, People For the American Way
Re: Judicial Nominees and the State of the Union
Date: January 25, 2011

While it’s not clear exactly which Supreme Court Justices will attend President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight, it is clear that at least some of the Court’s conservative members agree with the President on one pressing issue: the need to hasten the confirmation of judges to the federal bench.

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