Voting Rights: Legislating a Lie

by Ben Carter in


Last month, Donald Trump claimed in a tweet that “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Politifact immediately rated this claim a “Pants on Fire” level of lie. Election experts all agree: the amount of voter fraud in American elections is vanishingly low. 

Nevertheless, we must treat these unserious claims from the President-Elect seriously for two reasons. First, though millions more Americans would prefer Hillary Clinton to be President, Donald Trump will be President. So, every foolish, dangerous, and demonstrably false thing he says must be taken seriously. But, second, and more importantly, Donald Trump’s claim of widespread voter fraud is part of the GOP’s larger strategy of actually rigging elections through voter suppression. 

Here’s how it works: you convince voters that voter fraud is a problem (it isn’t) and use that nonexistent “fraud” to pass laws that make it difficult for college students, elderly people, and poor people to register to vote. Combine difficulty registering to vote with a reduction in polling places and restrictions on early voting (Kentucky doesn’t even have no-excuse early voting) and you have a Republican recipe for making sure “their” voters are the most likely to get to the polls. 

So, while voter fraud doesn’t exist, voter suppression certainly does and it’s coming to Kentucky and Washington, DC. Here’s what it will look like: 

  • Repealing the motor voter law (this allows people to register to vote at their motor vehicle departments)
  • Requiring ID in all federal elections
  • Requiring a birth certificate or passport to register to vote
  • Restricting the time and place for people to vote

Again, all of this will happen based on—forgive the easy pun—Trumped-up allegations of nonexistent voter fraud. 

Instead of making it more difficult and expensive to register to vote and more time-consuming and inconvenient to cast a ballot, we can instead insist that our policymakers pass laws making it easier for everyone to participate in our democratic process. Kentucky once led the country in election reform, adopting one of the first computerized voter databases in the nation. We can do it again. Here are three things that our representatives could do this year to expand rather than restrict voting rights in Kentucky: 

First, Kentucky should adopt universal vote-by-mail (UVBM). Three states—Oregon, Colorado, and Washington—already conduct all of their elections by mail-in ballot. For the state, there are a number of benefits. UVBM is safer and more secure than having polling places. It also creates a verifiable paper trail. It’s also less expensive while making it easier for state officials to maintain the voter roll. For voters, it’s more convenient. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that voter turnout increases when you allow people to vote from the comfort of their kitchen tables.

 Me, far too excited to vote given that I was forced to show up at a certain place on a certain date as though the USPS doesn't exist and UVBM doesn't work already in three states. Also, my kid. 

Me, far too excited to vote given that I was forced to show up at a certain place on a certain date as though the USPS doesn't exist and UVBM doesn't work already in three states. Also, my kid. 

Second, if we cannot pass UVBM, our legislators can repeal the restrictions on absentee voting to allow everyone to vote within a couple weeks of the election if they want to. 

Finally, Governor Bevin should honor his commitment to the automatic restoration of voting rights for former felons. Kentucky is one of three states that does not automatically restore voting rights to citizens who have served their time. Currently, more than 250,000 Kentuckians cannot vote because of this prohibition. Governor Bevin has claimed to support restoring voting rights, but has actually processed exactly zero citizens’ applications to vote again. 

Unfortunately, voting rights restrictions are likely to be coming to Kentucky. If not from Washington, then from Frankfort. As a community, we should be deeply suspicious of a party’spolicies and commitment to participatory democracy when that party a) lies to b) justify unnecessary legislation that c) makes it more difficult for people to vote. These are the actions of a party that knows it cannot win when everyone votes. 

As citizens, we must reject the leaders who enact policies that erode the very foundations of our democracy. Restrictions on voting distort our representation and damage our republic. This damage, once done, will be hard to undo. We cannot allow it in Kentucky and, indeed, can do more to make it easier, more secure, and less expensive for everyone to participate in our democracy.


For Kentucky Democrats, the Only Way to Win is to Lose

by Ben Carter in


It’s a tough time to be a Kentucky Democrat. We’ve lost the state House of Representatives—badly and for the first time more than a century. Just look at this .gif of the Eastern Kentucky vote in 2008, 2012, and 2016. 

 I’m from Greenup County and a Democrat, so this red wave hurts both my head and heart. Just watch this .gif for a moment and let that wave wash over your retinas. Time to think about some stuff. Photo courtesy of  @MetricMaps , who you should definitely follow on Twitter. 

I’m from Greenup County and a Democrat, so this red wave hurts both my head and heart. Just watch this .gif for a moment and let that wave wash over your retinas. Time to think about some stuff. Photo courtesy of @MetricMaps, who you should definitely follow on Twitter. 

Stark.

We have, as a national party, made ideological commitments to a multiracial, inclusive politics that has not translated well to a pretty rural, mostly white, mostly Christian Kentucky. And, by “not translated well” I mean, “Holy smokes, that was brutal.”

Meanwhile, our commitments to equality based on race, sexual orientation, gender, and national origin are non-negotiable. Let me put it this way: there will never be a moment that the KKK plans a celebration parade for a Democrat if I have anything to say about what being a Democrat means. 

With a national party building a young, multiracial, multiethnic, cosmopolitan coalition of voters, Kentucky Democrats find ourselves in what Ulysses McGill might call a “tight spot.” 

So, what are Kentucky Democrats to do? This is what we do. Here is my four-step plan to fight. 

STEP 1: LOSE

You guys, we are going to lose so hard. I mean, we already lost hard, but we are going to keep losing hard. We are going to lose more going forward than we have in the past. In Kentucky, the way to win is to challenge every state House seat, every state Senate seat, every Congressional seat, every statewide office every time. We run everywhere. Every time. Again and again. And we're going to lose terribly. It's going to be painful, occasionally embarrassing, and seemingly futile. 

And yet, these losing campaigns and candidates are our only hope. These fearless losers will be the ones showing up knowing they’re going to lose and fighting anyway. They will be the ones having tough conversations with neighbors and church members about their values, illustrating in word and action how their Christian faith informs their commitment to Democratic principles.

Step 2: Run Everywhere, Every time. 

In Kentucky, the way to win is to challenge every state House seat, every state Senate seat, every Congressional seat, every statewide office every time. We run everywhere. Every time. Again and again. This year, two Republican congressmen ran unopposed. In 100 state House races, 64 were contested and 11 Democrats ran unopposed while 25 Republicans ran unopposed. (You can see the full results here. Pay special attention to those House races where Republicans ran unopposed. Do you live there? This essay is especially for you.) 

We have to begin to compete everywhere. Every race that is unopposed is a race in which voters are hearing no counterargument, engaging in no conversation. No one is offering those voters a separate vision of how we can move forward as a Commonwealth and nation than the one offered by the unopposed Republican.

For the national party, waiting for the demographics to catch up with your ideological commitments may be a winning strategy. In Kentucky, we can take no comfort in demographics. Our mostly white, mostly Christian neighbors are mostly going to get older. Heck, unlike most states, we can’t even count on our millennials to vote Democrat. 

 Source: https://mic.com/articles/157558/here-s-what-the-electoral-college-map-would-look-like-if-only-millennials-voted#.K6LJtiJzO

Source: https://mic.com/articles/157558/here-s-what-the-electoral-college-map-would-look-like-if-only-millennials-voted#.K6LJtiJzO

And, even if we could count on demographics, that’s still not the way to win. The way to win is to engage with our neighbors. To keep talking, advocating, listening, learning, shaking hands, building trust, and being helpful. We keep showing up. We fight everywhere for the hearts and confidence and votes of our neighbors. Not because we can win this next election or the one after that, but because we owe it to our neighbors to fight and our vision of the future compels it.

Though we may not intend it, when the Democratic Party fails to contest a race, we risk communicating to voters that we do not believe they or their votes are worth fighting for. That’s the wrong message to send to big chunks of our state for two reasons: 1) it’s not true, of course, and 2) it’s bad politics. 

As Democrats, we support raising the minimum wage, higher taxes on corporations, and paid sick-leave for all workers. We know that workers benefit in higher wages and safer workplaces when they are represented by unions and believe that any worker who benefits from union negotiations ought to also pay dues to the benefit negotiating those better wages and better working conditions. Let's take our case to our neighbors everywhere across Kentucky. 

As Democrats, we are proud of our President, Democrats in Congress and former Governor Steve Beshear for expanding access to affordable healthcare to tens of thousands of Kentuckians who desperately needed it. The Affordable Care Act has been a tremendous benefit to Kentucky and Kentuckians. But, our work is not over! Still more people need coverage and we are committed to reducing cost and expanding coverage.  

Step 3: Keep Losing

In case it’s not clear: I understand that the 25 people who could have run against these unchallenged Republicans would have lost. Badly.

So badly.

And, wow, the two Democrats that could have run against Brett Guthrie and Hal Rogers? Incinerated. Dust. 

We don't have any other choice but to fight and lose. We need candidates willing to stand up across Kentucky and say that the values they learned in Sunday School—inclusion, fair play, welcoming the stranger, caring for the needy—are the same values that inform their position on making taxes less regressive, ensuring that everyone that works makes a living wage, negotiating a path to citizenship for undocumented workers in Kentucky, expanding access to affordable healthcare to everyone. 

Look, I understand that for some voters are never going to be for you if you’re not in favor of banning access to safe abortions and banning gay marriage. But, I don’t think that’s most voters. I especially don’t think that’s most voters after we’ve shown them our hearts and guts in race after race. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Democratic Party’s (non-negotiable) positions on these two issues will doom Kentucky Democrats to a century in the minority in Frankfort. I don’t think so, but maybe. 

What I think is more likely is that authentic candidates unwilling to compromise on core Democratic principles will begin to rebuild Democratic power slowly, one campaign at a time. This progress will be painfully slow for many Kentuckians who will be hurt by Republicans’ efforts to weaken unions, restrict voting rights, reduce state revenues by cutting taxes on the wealthy, roll back protections for the LGBTQ community, privatize public education, and limit Kentuckians’ access to trial by jury. But, we will make progress. 

I want to be super-clear on this: I don't think voters who vote "against their self-interest" are to blame. Part of a commitment to democracy is a belief that all voters are smart enough to decide what's important to them and what's in their best interest. I don't think voters who voted for Trump are bigots or racists or Islamaphobes (unless, of course, they are). Voters don't owe the Democratic Party anything and in places in the state where we ceded a full 25% of the House races without opposition, I understand the sentiment that Democrats have abandoned those places and don't care. Democrats have lost the credibility to cry, "But they're voting against their self-interest!" when across large swaths of the Commonwealth we've played virtually no role in helping to frame our neighbors' "self-interest" within a larger web of policy considerations.  

I am convinced: there is nothing about the Democratic Party’s national commitments and platform that prevents Democrats from winning in mostly rural, mostly white, mostly Christian Kentucky. By showing up, listening, learning, advocating, and arguing—even where we’re going to lose, heck, especially where we’re going to lose—Democrats will win in Kentucky again.    

Step Four: Organize and Train

This is going to be a long, long slog and to do it the Kentucky Democratic Party must commit to building an infrastructure to train candidates, amateur campaign managers, and volunteer campaign workers. Democratic grassroots in Kentucky are energized today like they haven't been in years. We understand: there is no one coming. It is up to us. The KDP must harness that grassroots energy and give its activists the tools they need to organize, fund, and execute campaigns across the state. 

We have already seen the success that organizations like Emerge Kentucky and Wellstone Action have had in training future candidates to run for office.

One recent graduate of the Emerge Kentucky program, McKenzie Cantrell, narrowly defeated a party-switching incumbent (who was well-supported by independent PAC spending) to return a Kentucky House seat to the Democrats earlier this month. Without Emerge Kentucky, I’m not sure McKenzie becomes Rep. Cantrell. (By the way, ladies, the deadline to apply for Emerge Kentucky's next training has been extended to December 1.)

Training people to run for office and run campaigns and organize communities works. Leadership, public speaking, campaigning, tweeting are not God-given gifts like height or 20/20 vision. They’re skills that can be learned, honed. Because we are going to run candidates everywhere, every time, the Kentucky Democratic Party owes its candidates and organizers this training. Not once candidates win a primary. Now. Before they run. While they run against other Democrats. All the time. All over the state. This is the work of the Kentucky Democratic Party.

Slowly, we will begin winning. It may be a surprise in a rural district from an especially strong candidate. Or, we may pick up a suburban district in northern Kentucky after a few swipes at it. But, slowly, we will begin to win.

Ironically, it may be a statewide office that we win first with the help of a bunch of losers at the bottom of a ticket. While coattails at the top of a ticket matter, people forget that having strong candidates at the bottom of a ticket can drive voters who otherwise may not have voted at all or may have otherwise voted for the other party to the polls. I’m not fancy enough to know what the opposite of coattails are, but they exist and—with the help of Kentucky Democrats in larger cities—these losers with reverse coattails may elect a Democratic governor in 2019 or a Democratic Senator in 2020. 

It probably won’t happen that fast, though, folks. We need to be real about where we are: this is a decade-long project and just a ton of hard work and losing. For a long time, we’re going to have to run in a way that says, “This is not about winning. This is about fighting.” Of course, I happen to believe that once Democrats stop caring about whether they win or lose, they will run the kinds of campaigns that will eventually win. 

Winning by losing. In a state where many of us worship a God whose death vouchsafed eternal life, it’s a strategy so crazy it just might work. 

Action Item: 

Share this post with someone you know who would make a good candidate for public office in Kentucky, some loser who loves a good fight. Tell them why you think they would make a good candidate, and, tell them you'll help. Tell them losing is okay: it's all part of the plan.


I'm Asking for Money for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, People.

by Ben Carter in


I’m writing today to raise money for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. I have set a goal of raising $1,787 for KFTC. Why $1,787? Two reasons: 1) that seems like an achievable goal and 2) 1787 is the year we got our Constitution. Just after the ink was dry on the final version of the Constitution, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the convention had created.

“A republic, if you can keep it,” he responded. 

Click here to stop reading and just give $25 bucks to KFTC. 

Following the truly frightening election of an authoritarian bully two weeks ago, progressives, activists, Democrats, and even people who normally don’t pay much attention to politics are mobilized and motivated like I’ve never seen before. The energy—driven by fear of what’s to come and the discovery that in 2016 there is so much work yet to be done—is palpable and everywhere. Will we keep our republic? Will we be enough for this moment and worthy of our forebears?

New leaders and new organizations will emerge from this energy, especially aided by our ability to organize so much and so well online. This is good stuff. Great stuff. Go get ‘em, everyone. 

But, [whispers]: KFTC has been organizing in communities across Kentucky for thirty-five years, y’all. 

In these dizzying, disorienting days in which we find ourselves having to prepare for a Trump Administration, people have a natural inclination to start something new. Let me just suggest this: KFTC has a time-tested structure into which you can pour your energy and enthusiasm. KFTC has local knowledge and a preexisting network of alliances, allies, and members to welcome you and your energy and enhance your work. 

If you are looking to do something, to get involved, you could do far worse than showing up at your local KFTC meeting next month. 

Right now, they are working on the following issues:

  • Coal and Water
  • Economic Justice
  • New Energy & Transition
  • Voting Rights

And, here’s the thing: KFTC's mission and issues are driven by what their members want to work on. So, if you have an issue you care deeply about, getting other KFTC members to care about it means that KFTC as an organization cares about it. Recently, the Bowling Green chapter has done tremendously good work on advocating for reforms to landlord-tenant law in their community

Each year, KFTC hosts the Smoketown Getdown two blocks from the global headquarters of Ben Carter Law, PLLC. We show up to the Getdown with a bubble table because that's how we do. 

Here in Louisville, the Jefferson County chapter of KFTC is organizing awesome events like this one coming up about community land trusts. If executed well, a community land trust in a neighborhood like Smoketown could build wealth among the working families and preserve affordable housing in the neighborhood in perpetuity. Sounds awesome, right? That kind of project only gets off the ground with the attention and energy of an organization like KFTC.  

Why are you still reading and not clicking here to give $25 to KFTC? 

Restoration of voting rights for former felons is so important to me. And, KFTC has been working on this issue for more than a decade, making slow, incremental, hard-fought progress across Kentucky and in Frankfort. It’s not a sexy issue and the 250,000 people affected by disenfranchisement literally have no political power. Without the leadership of KFTC and the long attention to this issue by KFTC members, this issue wouldn’t be on anyone’s political radar. Full stop. 

Most people don’t know this, but when I was in law school, I had a radio show on UK’s student run station, WRFL. The BlueGrassRoots Radio Review was truly terrible. But, KFTC came on the show anyway and talked about restoration of voting rights for former felons way back then. Here’s that interview: 

I have to say, relistening to (parts of) that interview before posting it made me a little sad. That was 10 years ago and we are still working on restoring voting rights for former felons in Kentucky. Check that: Kentuckians for the Commonwealth is still working on restoration of voting rights. Even though I claim that this issue is "so important to me," I haven't done any work on that issue for almost eight years. Which is, to my mind, Exhibit A for why KFTC is important. Without organizations like KFTC with the will and skill to endure and continue to fight, politicians and policymakers can just try to run out the clock or grind grassroots organizations down with delay. But, KFTC is not going anywhere and while policymakers may delay, KFTC will be back next year, too. My energy and enthusiasm comes and goes. KFTC presses on. 

When Benjamin Franklin said, “A republic, if you can keep it,” I don't think he was referring to keeping the republic safe from foreign invaders. Instead, I think he meant that keeping a republic will require vigilance by and the active engagement of all its citizens. We must be worthy of a republic. We must, generation after generation, earn a republic.

At KFTC, you will find an organization of vigilant, engaged citizens ready to harness your energy and work alongside you toward a better, fairer, more prosperous Kentucky. You will find an organization through which you can earn your republic. 

Join something new if you want. Start something new if you must. But, first, support the work of the longtime organizers in our Commonwealth. 

Good job, you made it to the end!

Now, click here to donate $25 to KFTC.

Now. 


Holy 💩, I Need a 💒

by Ben Carter in


On Wednesday morning, some of the first people I sent texts to were Geoff and Derek, friends I’ve made through Douglass Boulevard Christian Church

“I have always viewed DBCC as an important presence in our community and an important voice in the conversation,” I said. “Now, 'important' has changed to 'necessary.' We have a lot of work to do.”

I said that on our Slack channel, because, you know, we fancy. 

Since then, a few of my friends have expressed a desire to connect or reconnect with a faith community after the election. And, at church this morning, I noticed a dramatic increase in visitors (from our usual 2-3 to 9 or 10; so, dramatic for us). 

I think there are three things (at least) animating this interest in faith communities despite the reality that Americans are not really "joiners" anymore. We keep our social commitments loose and the number of groups who can lay claim to our precious free time pretty low, but still...let's talk about faith with the orange visage of Donald Trump on the horizon rising like a terrible tropical sun. 

First, it is disorienting and scary to see your friends and neighbors be willing to elevate “economic issues” above things like, say, basic human decency, not watering the seeds of hate in our country, and not grabbing women by their pussies. “But, wait,” we are thinking, “I thought religious freedom and racial equality and not committing sexual assault were things everybody has agreed on for decades.” Apparently not. Or, at least, we learned Tuesday that huge numbers of Americans (like, tens of millions!) are willing to tolerate a little wink-and-nod racism and a lot of fearmongering about Mexicans and Muslims and refugees if we think America isn’t winning anymore or enough. 

I think it's natural to want to orient ourselves in anticipation of President Trump. And, for centuries and for many of us as kids, church was where we have gone to get moral guidance and clarity. Not to mention providing a community of people who can hold us up and hold us accountable and be our friends. (Meanwhile, many people at my church were hurt by the faith traditions in which they were raised, so I don't want to ignore the very real fact that "church" has also been a source of hurt rather than solace in for many.)

Many of us feel like we are on the precipice of a long national gaslighting. We are already being told, “[Insert one of a dozen odious, cruel, or unconstitutional policy proposals] will never happen.” “He didn’t really say that.” “He didn’t really mean that.” “Now is the time to come together.” 

Listen: I’m never, ever going to “come together” with the KKK. And, I’m not going to support a President who still—stillhasn’t denounced the hundreds of acts of violence and intimidation that have been perpetrated in his name since his victory on Tuesday night. 

People: this is just gaslighting. 

And, when we're being gaslit by the soon-to-be Commander-in-Chief, I think it is natural to want to gather with other people and be like, “I’m not crazy, right? Like, it is still important to show compassion for the dispossessed and to try to heal the hurting, right?”  Like, "Donald Trump totally said he wanted more countries, not fewer, to have nukes, right?"

RIGHT. 

Second, I think there is a growing realization in the wake of Donald Trump’s candidacy, hurtful, divisive statements, irresponsible silences, and his ultimate election that, “OMG, we have so much work to do.” And, combined with that first realization is its corollary impulse: “I don’t want to work alone.” I know this is how I feel about it, for sure. DBCC gives me events to go to, actions I can take toward living a life of faith and conviction.

As I said in the only sermon I’ve had the chance to give

This faith community gives me, us, the foundation and opportunity to start doing something—anything—toward living a faithful life. And, more importantly for me, gives me role models to emulate, people every day modeling what faith—an active faith, a heroic faith, not some middling, weak sauce faith; what a courageous faith—looks like in the world.

When I come to church, when I go to events, when I read the emails, here’s what I see: people working to expand access to healthy, local foods, people welcoming the outsider in. Since I have been here, this church has been an example in Louisville and around the nation of a community that says, “There is no them and us, in and out, cools, dorks, your side, my side. There is only we, us, together.”

Most recently, you all have worked to make a home and a welcome for Syrian refugees and for a lesbian couple outed against their will who can’t safely return to their home country anymore. Think about that. You have made a home for two families who had no home and a welcome in a foreign land to people who have lost everything.

I see our choir providing encouragement, comfort, solace, and beauty with a song. People performing thousands of selfless acts each year to make this campus nicer, more efficient; people working to make our community fairer, greener; to make sure everyone has access to the same opportunities, the same justice. I see people visiting the sick, the lonely, the inconvenient.

Sometimes, there’s a church. I won’t say a heroic church, because what’s a hero? But, sometimes there’s a church that opens its doors wide and says, “Come inside. Those weights look heavy. We’ll take those for you. Welcome.”

Church, after Tuesday, seems not just important, but necessary to many of us and ¿maybe? relevant and potentially useful once again for many more.

Third, and I have the least to say about this, I think when people are feeling out of control, it is comforting to believe that there is a Larger Plan™️ being executed by a Higher Power. As I have said before, this kind of faith is hard for me, but I think it is part of the renewed interest for some people in finding a faith community.  

Now that I’ve outlined why people might be interested in engaging or re-engaging with a faith community, I want to be clear about something: I’m not writing this essay to invite you to Douglass Boulevard Christian Church or suggest that DBCC is right for you, specifically. (Though you are invited, of course.)

Most of the people reading this aren’t in Louisville (though we do have a podcast of the sermons 😉 and the one from today is a great place to start) and there are other options for those who are. Sarah goes to St. William Church, a #hyperlegit Catholic Church in Old Louisville. I have friends at Highland Pres and Highland Baptist and know them to be welcoming, compassionate communities of faith that act on their faith and conviction, too. And, though I've never heard him preach, Rev. Bruce Williams of Bates Memorial gave a speech earlier this year that I will never, ever forget. 

Instead, this is just to say that Donald Trump’s election to be President of the United States is baffling and frightening thing. On Wednesday morning, I was glad as hell to have a church community to reach out to, to SMDH alongside, and who I knew would double-down on its commitments to the poor, the marginalized, the fearful and oppressed.

This is just to say that all across the country there are churches and mosques and synagogues and meditation centers working damn hard to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. That is, places of worship who are doing their best to deliver justice to the oppressed, comfort those in pain, feed those who are hungry. Places of welcome. Places that are way less concerned about "saving your soul" than they are figuring out how the refugee family is going to get to their doctors' appointments on Friday. 

If you are feeling an impulse toward connecting with a community of faith, you might be surprised in 2016 by what you find. (At DBCC, you’ll find at least one member who cusses more than he probably should.)

If the Jesus that resonates with you is the one who told the parable of the Good Samaritan, the one who turned over the moneychangers’ tables in the temple, the one who told his followers to invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind to dinner, well, you’re not alone.

There are, literally, every day, people being beaten in the streets by Trump-inspired thugs. There are still moneychangers’ tables that need upending. And, there people waiting for invitations to dinner all around us. 

Our neighbors' wounds won’t bind themselves. We are the Samaritans they have been waiting for. The tables are too heavy for just one person. And—let’s be real—I’m a terrible cook.

These communities of faith need you to help them do their urgent work of loving the forgotten and welcoming the disregarded just as you might be thinking that you need them. 

There’s plenty of work to be done. Joyfully and together.  

 Here is a gratuitous pic of my beautiful family. 

Here is a gratuitous pic of my beautiful family. 


Fuck no, I'm not going to "give Donald Trump a chance."

by Ben Carter in


I got a call yesterday from a family member and knew I would have to talk politics. 

In the wake of Trump’s victory in the electoral college, I have been doing my very best not to think of my Trump-supporting family members because I want to continue loving them and yet their support of Trump makes that very difficult. Truly, I would have a hard time writing a character who stands more fully for the things that I stand against.

By now, the extensive list of well-fitting descriptions of Trump should have been set to a musical jingle long ago like the McDonald’s “Menu Song”: racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, autocratic, incoherent, privileged, sexist, bigoted, uncurious, flimflamming, abusive, fear-driven, inciting, dog whistling, divisive, spiteful, petty, bullying.

So, 48 hours after electing one of the most loathsome, craven, disgraceful people I've ever had to pay attention to, I'm finding it hard to feel loving towards my wonderful, kind, Christian, compassionate Trump-supporting family members. 

“Well, I hope you can give him a chance,” said the family member.
“Nope.”
 “He at least deserves for you to give him a chance.”
“Nope.”

Fuck, no, I’m not giving Donald Trump a chance. 

Donald Trump promised to ban an entire religion from entering the United States. That’s scaredy-cat conduct not befitting a grown man, much less the President. Not to mention that banning an entire religion is basically the most Un-American thing you could possibly do. For the Muslims in America? No worries: just be forced to register. Totally unconstitutional. 

Donald Trump promised to deport up to 6,500,000 people who are living and working in our country with their families. He promised to use the power of the United States government to divide families, tear children out of the arms of their mothers and fathers. While lawful, this proposal is absolutely Un-Christian and no person who feels any bonds of familial affection would ever propose it as a legitimate solution to the challenges facing immigrant families.

He has promised to torture our enemies, despite his understanding that this is a war crime under international law. Instead, he claims that “we have to play the game the way they’re [ISIS] playing the game.”

What. In. The. Everloving. Fuck. 

During his entire campaign, including how he talks about immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, Donald Trump has stoked fear of the Other in an effort to divide our country and provide scapegoats to hard-pressed voters to blame for their troubles. This is nowhere more obvious than in his portrayal of the “inner cities” of America as postapocalyptic hellscapes overrun by violence

This is just the beginning and is to say nothing of Trump and women. But, I’m not going to make this into a catalog of Donald Trump’s outrageous, unthinking, unfeeling, unAmerican statements and plans. As I will explain below, I’ve got fucking work to do, and you can find that sort of catalog elsewhere.

“Well…” you say, “he didn’t really mean those things. He doesn’t actually plan to ban Muslims or commit war crimes.” 

THAT’S EVEN WORSE, MOTHERFUCKER. 

If Donald Trump didn’t mean that shit, but just said it to get elected… Why in the world would I give that guy a chance?

Here’s the thing: there’s never been a more flip-floppity blowhard than Donald Trump. Beyond taking him at his word regarding the statements above, who knows what that dude actually believes or plans to do, if anything? But, the one thing that has been steadfast and unchanging about Trump’s politics through the decades in which he’s inflicted his gasbaggery on America is this: authoritarianism. Whether Democrat, Republican, or independent, whether pro-choice or anti-choice, pro-Iraq War or anti-Iraq War, Donald Trump’s core political instinct is authoritarian. It is his only political position. 

And, now he’s President. With a GOP-controlled Congress. And a goddamned Supreme Court nomination on the “Welcome” mat at the White House because of the nihilism and willingness of Republican Senators to destroy institutional norms and imperil our democracy paid huge dividends (yay!). And an army of alt-Right, white supremacist dogs across the nation already biting our neighbors, colleagues, and friends. They’ve heard the whistles. They know what to do. Now is the time for action

We are still waiting for Donald Trump to denounce and condemn the acts of violence being perpetrated in his name. Instead, we get tweets from the President-Elect claiming protests are "unfair".  

So, no. I’m not going to “give him a chance.” Donald Trump’s success in the primary and his nomination by the GOP was an opportunity for everyone to say, “Wow, looks like our democracy might be more fragile than we thought.” His election to the Presidency puts that democracy on a razor’s edge. Trump’s thuggishness and obvious admiration for authoritarians, his hard-core supporters’ brutality, and the willingness of Republicans I otherwise know to be decent, Christian people who love their families and work hard to fall in line behind Trump all combine to form a terrifying threat to our republic. 

The moment we give Donald Trump a “chance” is the moment we lose. How much will we lose? Which one of our freedoms will go first? Which ones will remain after Trump is gone? 

Which rights are luxuries?

Which one of our friends will be  injured or dead when Trump-empowered thugs come to terrorize our communities?

So, fuck no, I’m not giving Donald Trump a chance. 

Maybe you are saying now, "But, Ben, doesn't not giving Donald Trump a chance make us as bad as Republicans who just delayed and obstructed for eight years?"

No. No it doesn't.

Why? Because Donald Trump is no Barack Obama. If you can't appreciate the difference between the two men, I need you to stop reading. This essay is not for you. 

Before Donald Trump was elected, I was a husband and dad who worked as an attorney protecting homeowners from foreclosure, trying to prevent tenants from getting evicted, and trying to stop creditors from abusing poor people. I’m still going to be a husband, dad, and lawyer, but now the work I have to do—the work we all have to do—is not giving Donald Trump a single chance. 

What that work looks like is going to be different for each person, of course.

 Photo Credit:  Pabak Sarkar

Photo Credit: Pabak Sarkar

For me, it will mean more writing, more reading, and a hell of a lot more meetings. Union meetings. Community meetings. Church meetings. Political meetings. Rallys. Protests. Vigils. Trips to Frankfort. Trips to Washington. Trips across Kentucky for more meetings. Goddamn, it's going to be so much work not giving this guy a single fucking chance. And, what’s worse, is that I’m going to have to somehow summon some kindness, empathy, compassion, grit, faith, and honesty. It would be so much easier to be fueled by anger and fear, but we know that any work worth doing is worth doing with love, hanging taut between patience and urgency. 

Since Tuesday, I have been reading and listening and talking to try to prepare for the fight ahead. I'm know that nothing I've said here is particularly ground-breaking or original. But, I need to say it, publicly, because I need for my friends, family, and allies to know that I am going to resist Donald Trump's America—as I told my Trump-supporting family member—"with every fiber of my being." 

For me and for the majority of people who voted on Tuesday, Donald Trump has already had enough chances. Time and again, he blew them and disqualified himself long, long ago. 

He’s out of chances and he’s not even in office. Sad. 


How Democrats Win the Senate Next Year in Kentucky

by Ben Carter in


It started innocently enough. After reading that Rand Paul’s new book had only sold 500 copies and frustrated with the recent defeats of the Kentucky Democratic Party’s candidates, I tweeted a couple weeks ago: 

After sending the tweet, the idea sort of stuck around, though. I started thinking, “You know, it’s not the craziest idea ever. I mean, it’s not crazy like balancing the budget on the backs of poor people.”

A young person, running with a populist message, hellbent on inspiring and organizing Kentucky’s Democratic base to vote and encourage others to vote—that might just work. Matt Bevin may just ruin the Republican brand in time for the November election. Hillary at the top of the ticket and more people voting in 2016 helps the Democratic candidate, as well. And, the longer Rand Paul stays in this crazy Republican primary, the longer he is ignoring Kentucky and saying unhelpful, callous things in a futile effort to stay competitive. 

So, I thought about it. I talked with some people about it. The more I thought about it and the more I talked about it, the more two things became clear: 1) this race is winnable by the right candidate and 2) the timing just couldn’t be worse for me to run. 

I have a number of reasons for wanting to run. But, I have three excellent reasons not to. 

will&sarah
ben&josh&vickie

Ultimately, the people I talked with who knew best were able to get through my thick skull something I didn’t want to but needed to hear: running would mean being a candidate first and a father, husband, and lawyer second. That’s not a sacrifice I’m willing to make. 

But, I did get far enough in the process to write an announcement speech last Saturday morning. I am sharing it with you because I hope we can create the space in Kentucky for a candidate to say these kinds of things and run this kind of campaign. I think it’s the only kind of campaign that has a chance of winning because to win we must honor the Democratic Party’s roots in the hard, frustrating work of organizing and speak authentically on the core issues that motivate Democrats to organize and vote. 


Thank you for joining me this morning. I’m launching my campaign for United States Senate today because I believe Kentucky deserves a Senator whose primary mission is improving the financial security of Kentucky’s working families. As an attorney, I work every day with poor and struggling middle class families. Homeowners facing foreclosure, tenants facing eviction, debtors facing abusive debt collectors, moms and dads facing bankruptcy because of medical bills, young people wondering how they’re going to get to a job interview because the lemon a car dealer just sold them won’t start. College graduates wondering what to do about student loan debt. 

Everywhere, everyday, too many Kentuckians are wondering how they're going to make it to the next payday, whether today is the day that it all falls apart. 

This wasn’t my reality growing up. I hit the lottery: two loving parents in a financially secure home. My mom stayed at home with my sister and me and helped us every step of our journey. My dad is still the hardest-working person I know despite the fact that he recently retired from a job helping to run a coal business. Growing up, I had every single opportunity that love or money could buy. In many ways, the fact that we talk about “hitting the lottery” when talking about what families we’re born into is why I’m running: opportunity in America shouldn’t be available only to the lucky kids. It’s our responsibility as Americans to create systems and programs that ensure that every kid has the same chance to succeed. That’s what living in a meritocracy is. 

For many of us, ensuring that every child grows up safe and with an opportunity to succeed is motivated by our faith. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists all agree: caring for the poor, insisting on compassionate treatment of all people, protecting the elderly, the vulnerable, standing in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed, welcoming the outsider—these are compelled by our faith. You don’t have to have faith for these to be your values, but if you do have faith, I don’t understand how they’re not your values. 

If I’m in town, I’m in the pews of Douglass Boulevard Christian Church. My faith is part of who I am and without a doubt informs the work I do and the work I will do as a Senator. I don’t begrudge anyone whose politics is influenced by their faith. Religions help us understand and negotiate how we live in community with one another, about how we live out our shared commitments to each other. And, as a government by the people, our government is how we live out those commitments to one another. 

So, it is natural that our religious beliefs and worldviews should inform our politics. But, it’s not enough to simply have faith. In America in 2015, you’ve got to have facts, too. You can’t say, “I don’t believe in climate change because I’m not a scientist and God said after the flood that he’d never destroy the world again.” The facts suggest that human pollution is altering the climate of our planet. And, I believe being good stewards of our land, air, and water is a Biblical imperative.  

If you want to know where I stand on issues, ask yourself what would help working families, poor kids, vulnerable senior citizens, the downtrodden, and the forgotten. It is our responsibility to provide basic health care for all people. To insure that people have the opportunity to work safely and for a wages that allow them to provide the basic needs to their families. To build affordable housing for every person and every family. To build an affordable educational system accessible to every young person. To protect refugees and welcome immigrants. To ensure that people can age with dignity. 

On these issues, Democrats have a lot to be proud of. We have created 8.3 million new jobs during the Obama administration. Under Bush, the economy lost 463,000 jobs in eight years. Unemployment has declined from reduced unemployment from 10% to 5%. Together, Democrats in Kentucky like Steve Beshear and in Washington have expanded affordable health care access to more than 500,000 Kentuckians. All while being fought every step of the way by a know-nothing, do-nothing Republican Congress. 

Did I vote for Obama? Hell yes, I did. Twice. And, I’d do it a third time if I could. 

Nevertheless, the election results earlier this month demonstrate that Democrats have a real problem in Kentucky. The motivating theory of this campaign is that Democrats have a lot of work to do in living rooms, fellowship halls, coffee shops, bars, and on doorsteps across the Commonwealth to listen, persuade, and motivate. Now is not the time to rest. Now is the time to organize. Our odds are long and our time is short, but the stakes for Kentucky’s working families are too high to not do the work. Our campaign will build an organization—rooted in every single county in Kentucky—with one goal: training and empowering our friends, neighbors, and family to get their friends, neighbors, and families to the polls on November 8th, 2016. If we can’t energize the people who didn’t vote in this last election to vote for us in 2016, we won’t win. We need them to vote. To vote for a future that is possible, but only if we organize for it, work for it, and insist upon it.

When Democrats get to work, people get to work. When Democrats tell their story, the stories of working families have better endings. Please go to my website: sign up, donate, and share this with your friends. The work begins today. Right now. 


Obviously, my work on a Senate campaign does not begin today. I'm a little sad that I don't get to give this speech and run this campaign—we would have had a lot of fun in this fight. It's easy to not be too sad, though, knowing I made the right decision for my family and my law practice. 

But, I hope to get to work on a campaign that shares the values articulated in this speech and that will speak unapologetically to Kentucky's voters about the Democratic Party's unparalleled record of creating economic security for Kentucky's families and representing the best of human nature: compassion, courage, generosity, and empathy.