Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1
Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1
What's Happening Now

The Blog

First, Thank you to all who voted for me, donated,  followed the facebook page or reached out to me in one way or another.  This will be kind of long, so if you want the ballot stuff and the plan forward scroll to the bottom…

So this is the end of the campaign for the Democratic nomination this year, but not the end of activity.  I got into this race for 3 reasons— first I was and have been offended by what has happened to this country.  I wanted a real candidate for Congress to call Donald Trump what he is— a traitor, and the Republican party for what they are–complicit in treason.  Secondly, I believe that the machine has to have a challenger every year until it gets beaten.    I have some real problems with the corruption and lack of ethics in the Norcross organization, and true to form, they didn’t disappoint in this past election.  Lastly, and most importantly, I felt (and still feel) like I have something to say and real ideas about what should be happening to improve our country.

I still believe that Fair Play, Compassion, and the Common Good exemplifies everything good that the Democratic party (and liberalism in America) has accomplished.  I think those are maxims that people will understand and trust when asked what we stand for.  I also believe that voting rights and fair representation are the most important issues we have to tackle in America.  If our right to vote is compromised, if citizens are disenfranchised from the process, or if the process isn’t fair; we will never be able to fight climate change, get for Medicare for all, get for equal rights and equal pay, stop institutional racism, or end the drug war and close for-profit prisons.   This is key, and this issue is why I am mad at myself for not pushing harder for the last few weeks.

I made several mistakes, in terms of timing and effort.  I took too long to decide that I wanted to run.  When I did, I was under the radar for a couple of months because I wanted to have my positions clearly articulated, in case any one asked.  I wanted to have an operational website, a legitimate bank account, and federal registration.  Once I finally had that, I was getting pretty close to the deadline to submit signatures and my time was spent (mostly biking around Collingswood) doing just that.  My signatures were turned in on the deadline day.  During that period, and shortly afterward I had a couple of engagements where I spoke to people and met people, but not enough.

In retrospect that work should have been done many months beforehand to lay a groundwork of contacts.  On the other hand, I didn’t want to engage these groups without having a philosophy and positions laid out, so that was a bit of a Catch-22.    In those last weeks I didn’t push hard enough to ask for speaking appearances.  In all honesty, beyond a few groups, I wasn’t sure whom I _should_ ask.    I fully admit that I got kind of discouraged at the end, I was maintaining a full time job (I’m an IT Director), trying to be a present Dad (also helping to coach my son’s travel soccer team) and fighting some health issues (hearing loss and tinnitus).  As this was almost solely a one man operation—other than friends and family whom occasionally proofread for me, and one very good friend (ask me if you need great design work) who took my website and made it look top-notch—I started to feel like there wasn’t much point in pushing that hard near the end.  I know this would have been different if there was a team, because if nothing else I would have had an obligation to others working for the same goal.  That is what was needed from day one, but I didn’t know how to ask or how to find people that believed in what I was pushing for.

I also know that I could not work full-time and do this again.  At the very least I’d have to cut work to part time—and I would willingly do it— but not without an organization.   One person cannot beat the machine.  A team is required, not just for sharing labor and calling or writing people, but also for brainstorming and the sharing of ideas and formulating strategy.   I know the machine is beatable.  Am I someone who could be the face of the opposition to do that?  With the right people involved, I believe so.  To quote the Shawshank Redemption— “Pressure and Time”.  It doesn’t have to be 19 years, but it has to be at least one year, and with the pressure of a lot of minds and a slate of freeholder candidates. 

So how do I see my performance in this?  Well, yes, Don Norcross got 84% of the vote.  I got 10%.  However if you look at the graphic of the ballots an interesting factor comes into play.  (Note: I was supposed to be bracketed with Lisa McCormick.  See image.).  In Camden County, I got 6.6% of the vote.  In Gloucester County I got 15.99%.  In the part of Burlington County that is District 1 I got almost 25%.  (Scot John Tomaszewski received 6% in all 3 locations).  Perhaps I am being naive, but I have to believe that location on the ballot counted for something.  I would hazard that in my case it made cost me 9% in Camden county—  which probably would have pushed me up to 15-16%.  Hypothetical, I know, but worthy of consideration.  Considering I spent about $500 on the campaign, and received less than that, I didn’t do too badly—not to mention there was a second opposition candidate.  The Norcross machine sent out as many glossy fliers as it did 2 years ago, and he was probably on TV more.  Reality check— he’s not as progressive as he claims to be, and his brother the Trump buddy controls the organization that gets him money, endorsements, and votes.

So about that ballot…

My last Facebook post shared a post from the Cherry Hill United Group about the “phantom” freeholder candidates in Camden County (5 slates I believe, in addition to the official machine bots).  I absolutely believe (as it is documented thoroughly) the credibility of the reporting.  The readers should be aware that running these “phantom” slates has a dual nefarious purpose.  The purpose that I felt, and Alex Law managed to avoid by getting a slate of freeholder candidates to bracket with, is that a Congressional Candidate NOT bracketed with freeholders gets pushed to the extreme edge of the ballot in Camden County.  This bit of crookedness is by design.  It happened in 2014, when there were two other candidates opposing Don Norcross to fight for Rob Andrews’ old seat.  The Camden County Board of Elections will quote New Jersey Revised Statute 19:23-24 (Primary election ballots; position) to say that this allows them to arrange the ballot this way because of their “interpretation”.  But screwing potential Congressional challengers to the machine is only half of the mischief.  In certain years, Progressive groups have put together slates to challenge the machine.  This allows one phantom slate to be something like “True Progressives of SJ”  and another to be “Real NJ Progressives”  or “Shiny Happy Progressives”.  You get the idea.  The aim is to muddy the waters and sow confusion.  If Joe Progressive knows he wants to vote against the machine and doesn’t know much else, which does he choose?  You would think that an organization this powerful wouldn’t have to resort to unethical crap like this, but then if you thought that you probably haven’t lived in Camden County very long.

So what to do…

Well, in the spirit of supporting voting rights and fairness, we are going to start in NJ.  I’ve registered a new domain name, fixnjvoting.org to help make better laws regarding voting and representation.  I think a good start would be asking all state legislators to amend New Jersey Revised Statute 19:23-24 to state unambiguously that candidates for the same office should appear on the same section of the ballot.  Let’s see who opposes the idea.  Hopefully we can build a website that will address not just ballot issues, but any other voting or districting issues— like perhaps mandating open-source machines to be used in the state (until federal law can take over).   We aren’t as bad as other states, but there is no reason we can’t be better.

As for District 1—  We need slates of progressive Freeholders to run regardless of whether or not the law gets changed.  We need to force their hand on the ballots and more importantly, we need to elect non-machine people to ALL positions of government.  Maybe you need to think about running.

As for me, I’m going to keep a chip on my shoulder for a while.  Rob4nj.com will probably stay up in an amended not-a-candidate-for-anything-right-now form for the next 7 months.  After that, who knows?  Feel free to stay in contact with me there, through email and on the upcoming site.  Thanks again for the support.  

 

Briefly, I thank you all for your support, a larger thank you will follow. I will have an official statement about the campaign, the workings of the Camden County Board of Elections, and future plans this evening. This is not a coda.

I realize this candidacy hasn’t been very present.  There haven’t been mailers, and very few calls.  There has just been me speaking at a few places, writing letters, and maintaining an online presence.   In reality, the lack of zeal and continual posts are largely because I refuse to let the campaign run my life.  I am sure I would feel and act differently if there were an army of volunteers behind me making calls and writing letters, but there aren’t, and that is reality.  Because of the long shot nature of this bid–which really requires a freak lightning hit to be successful this year– it is insane to penalize my family, work, health,  and other obligations more than I already have.  So I’ve slowed down.

So why should you vote for me?  The first answer is because I am sane.  I have my priorities right.  The second is that I am in this for the long haul.  My pet issue–protecting voting rights for all Americans–is the only thing that can keep a tragedy like the one we have going on today from happening again.  If all people are able to vote freely and without restrictions or obstacles, good ideas will usually win.   But we can’t get to across town to fight the fire until we fix the truck.

I would be at minimum an above average Congressperson.  I understand how Congress works. I know what I don’t know, but know the right people to ask.  I would be able to set up an office that would meet the needs of  this district and would be fearless in defending the interests of all Americans.  Most importantly though, I am beholden to no one.  No one controls me.  This is why my candidacy is a long shot, but also why it is such a good thing.

I am far from a perfect person.  I have made mistakes in life, but have learned from those mistakes.  I have also learned that we all have a duty to speak up.  I chose to run because I thought what needed to be said needed amplification.  There are core truths here.  We must fix voting in America.  It is the cornerstone of our society.  Without it we are just another sad country controlled by the selfish and dishonest.  We must also call out not just Donald Trump, but the entire Republican Party that has covered enthusiastically for his crimes.  Trump is a symptom.  Racism, misogyny, xenophobia, greed, and outright malice are the diseases, and one political party has embraced those sins totally and completely.

What I am saying is not comfortable.  People have labeled it divisive.  I don’t care.  It is the unvarnished truth.  If you want someone who will dance around the elephant in the room, I am not your guy.  I’m not a pretend antagonist, I’m the real deal.

People often say they don’t know what the Democratic Party stands for– I can sum it up for you.  At its best, the Democratic Party stands for Fair Play, Compassion, and the Common Good.  All good ideas that have been implemented, (like medicare, social security, weekends, and environmental protections) and those that are still awaiting their turns (like an end to sexism and racism, medicare for all, better environmental protections, fair tax rates, and fair voting) can be traced to those core principles.

Please vote for me on June 5th.  I promise I will not let you down.

So a couple of weeks ago I was invited to take part in fireside chat (basically a video conference) with Lisa McCormick, who is running for Senate in NJ against Bob Menendez) and Tanzie Youngblood, who is running as the progressive alternative in NJ District 2.

The forum was sponsored by a group called CFAR 2018— with the unfortunate full name of Contract For American Renewal– those of you who were politically active in 1994 will know why this sounds bad, but I digress.  So the point of this group is that they have this contract that they want candidates to sign off on, most of which is pretty boilerplate progressive stuff which I agree with.  There are some things I don’t go along with– restricting the military to defensive use only, getting out of all trade compacts (which I think has to be handled on a case by case basis, and requires nuance) but again, it’s mostly a pretty liberal line.  Then there is the added language– this is a legal contract.  If you do not vote for these measures within 18 months of being elected you agree to resign and refund all campaign donations.  OK… probably absolutely unenforceable, but weird nonetheless.  Still, they appeared to be endorsing a national slate of candidates and maybe there is some good exposure to be had.  I certainly wasn’t going to commit to anything, but again, exposure is good.

I didn’t talk much at the beginning of the forum. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to be asked things directly and that I would have to jump in.  The beginning was largely focused on what it’s like running as an outsider, and the like.  Eventually (after Tanzie retired for the night) I got in some things about my pet issue, voting in America and then it took a weird turn.  Those of you who know me, or know of me are aware that I am as anti-Trump as one can get.  I let slip (intentionally) that one reason I was running is that I wanted some candidate running for national office to say that Trump was a traitor.  That seemed to strike an nerve with the hosts. “Do you have any proof of that”  which led to “there is no proof of collusion with Russia”  and “if we talk about Trump, we have to talk about Hillary”.

Now I understand reticence to use the word traitor.  It’s a strong word. It’s true, but still accusatory.  But the no proof of collusion statement, and especially the Hillary remark also crept in.  Then the conversation began to turn a bit more heated.  The hosts wanted to talk about the Democratic party and how corrupt it was.  By this time Lisa McCormick retired from the conversation and her husband and campaign director Jim Devine came on.  Jim did his best to guide the conversation back to progressive talk –largely agreeing with me on Trump and the Republican party and saying that while the Democratic party had corrupt elements, it was in no way like what the Republican party has become.  It was obvious that there was  disconnect, but we all reined it in on positive notes and said good night.

So a little about me and the Democratic Party.  I am a Democrat and I believe in the ideals of the party.  I am running against a sitting Democrat who is the pawn of the most powerful and corrupt regional machine in the country.  I do NOT however believe the entire party is bad or corrupt.  To be sure, there are corrupt and heavy-handed corporatist elements to the Democratic Party.  There are also a lot of good people involved in it and it is the only defense we have keeping the country from becoming a fascist state.  Full stop.

I have no dislike for Hillary Clinton.  I disagreed with her Iraq war vote, but I largely feel she was as qualified a person as there has ever been to be President of the United States.  I have no dislike for Bernie Sanders.  I liked his economic positions more than Hillary’s even as I thought she would be a more effective President.  I voted for Bernie in the end (knowing that by the time of NJ primary it was effectively over) because a friend of mine would have been a Bernie delegate.  I think the animosity between the two factions has been tragically damaging not just to the party but the country.  The only people I have a problem with in all of this are those who abdicated their responsibility to America and voted for Jill Stein or Trump.

Fast forward to this past Thursday night.

I got a call from Jim Devine (who was the one who told me about the first event) and he mentioned that if I was available I could do most of talking tonight.  OK.  I like talking.  I came on and Lisa wasn’t available yet (she actually never made it on– another interview was going on) so it was me and Jim and the CFAR people.  We started off nicely, I talked about how it is important that we have the option to use the Military for humanitarian purposes. We talked about voting again.  They really want open primary voting– I said I’m OK with parties getting to restrict voting to club members.  We talked about how in NJ if you are unaffiliated you can immediately declare, but if you are in a party you have to wait 50 days to change.  I said that sounds fair, right?  Hosts kind of went along.  Hosts then wanted to talk about how the nomination was stolen from Bernie (ed. note– again, I like the guy, but 100s of delegates and millions of votes say otherwise).  More stuff about the Democratic Party.  Hmm  the Democratic party really is the enemy to these guys.  OK,  lets take this in another direction.  I mention that in my case I AM running against an insider specifically because  the controller of the machine that runs him is in bed with Trump.  Then the defense mechanisms start.

“We can’t just overturn a legitimate election.”    I point out that this assumes the election was ever legitimate.

“If Hillary won we’d be bombing Syria already”.  Oh really?

A ton of back and forth follows about collusion, with the hosts insisting IT HAS BEEN TWO YEARS and there is no proof.  Jim Devine, to his credit, pretty much agrees with me and starts itemizing all the guys who are under investigation or are co-operating with the Mueller investigation.

Then Mueller is castigated.  They don’t like Mueller.

I ask at one point flat out if they are pro-Trump.  They kind of laugh… “oh no, we get that a lot.  We just…”

Later I ask if Putin really cares about the American people.  Response: “I don’t think he wants war anymore than any one else”

Jim says at one point that we would obviously be better off under Hillary.  The hosts don’t like this.  “How?”  Jim rattles off  healthcare stuff, taxes, we’d still be in the Paris accords, etc.  Host:  “I don’t agree with the Paris accords!”.  My jaw drops.  Every country in the world is signed off on this!  What’s your problem with it?  “It doesn’t take into account deforestation.”  OK.  A measure that the entire world agrees with doesn’t deal with your pet issue so you are willing to throw out the entire good?”.  The creepy feeling I had the first time  has been much more pronounced this second time, and now it is reaching full on paranoia.  It’s getting late and we agree to cut off, and I say something civil about we’re all in this together, if we agree on 80% of things we should be able to work things out and make things a better place and eventually we say good night.

The next day I’m bothered, and I talk to my wife, a couple of friends and my oldest daughter about this.  I think this group is a Russian front.  I feel like an alarmist, then I do some research.  I ran an Internet whois command on cfar2018.com.  Registrar is John D Rachel.  Country of registration,  Japan.  Say what?

I go to the CFAR website and check “About us”.  There are the two hosts and John D Rachel, book author and creator of the contract.  After leaving America in 2006, he visited 34 countries before settling in Japan.  Why the f— is he creating conditions for running for Congress in a country he doesn’t even reside in?   Amazon search of his books reveals he has written for Greenville Post and ..the Russia Insider??

From Wikipedia entry on the Russia Insider–

The website has been criticized for its pro-Russian stance, and considered a “pro-Kremlin propaganda site” by Newsweek,[5] BBC News[14] and Slate,[15] among others. It is considered by the Euractiv website to be alongside “several highly visible partisan outlets such as RTRuptly and Sputnik“.[9]

And ad some anti-semitic editorial content for good measure…
In conclusion, if you think that Russians aren’t trying to interfere in our elections, I just gave you a first hand account.  Putin wants to destroy the Democratic party, because that is what threatens his puppet.

The power of “Not Possible” is the addition of the word “yet”. A proposal may initially fail. In some cases, we may know for certain that it will not gain necessary support. But it is important to bring that idea up anyway, because otherwise it is never considered.  To this end we need to talk about problems with voting in America.

The biggest failing of our current system is inherent unfairness in representation.  Much of this happens through Congressional Acts that were written for different ages, but the immediately addressable aspects concern vote suppression and obstacles. The latter are more visible, and more easily addressed*, through some very specific actions that do not change the structure of our government. To wit:

  • Voting should be easier.  Same day registration should be allowed for general elections and measures outside of party primaries.  (NJ took a big step forward in this regard.  We need the whole country there.) Voting by mail should be universally allowed.  It should be easy to get State or National issued ID for voting, and provisional ballots should always be provided in case of disputes.  Most importantly, the general election should be a national holiday — preferably in the middle of the week.
  • Voting should be less susceptible to corruption and shenanigans.  A national system of voting should be introduced with open source software and a paper trail that can be created on demand.  We can ensure privacy and guarantee a vote is counted at the same time.  We can make sure recounts are fair and that data does not get wiped away.  We also must mandate that populations are guaranteed  sufficient voting machines for their density.  There can be no more episodes of inner cities having much fewer voting machines in their precincts than the less-populated suburban areas do.  This must be mandated by law.
  • Voter intimidation should be treated as a serious crime.  One shouldn’t be allowed to approach voters and tell them that their vote is potentially illegal and/or threaten them with prosecution.
  • Time served restores voting rights. If someone has paid their debt to society, they should be allowed to rejoin and take part.
  • The electoral college should be abolished in favor of a popular vote, optimally with preferential voting.

All of these concepts except abolishing the electoral college could be included in single bills or in an omnibus Voting Rights of 2019 Act.  These should be pushed even if they fail, because those that vote against (or more likely, refuse to consider) these measures can be singled out as those opposing fairness in representation. It’s not an issue unless we make it an issue.

The greater problem we face in America is systemic.  A bias against denser areas is built into our laws.  While gerrymandering is a problem and needs to be countered, there will, under our present districting laws, always be a problem with the voting strength of urban areas being too concentrated.  Combine this with the fact that our House of Representatives, has been capped at 435 since 1911.  Less densely populated states are always guaranteed a minimum of one representative and two senators (meaning 3 electoral votes), while states growing at a faster rate have their ceilings capped, meaning that the small states hold greater and greater power as our population grows.  This leads to a permanent tyranny of the minority.  Population centers (meaning cities) have more people.  They should have more power.  Those in favor of status quo will argue this results in the cities having the final say.  So what?  Civilization is cities.  Check out this video:  Why Cities Exist .  This is the natural order of human being interaction, to devalue the rule of the most people is inherently un-democratic.

So we have two issues we need to address.  The first is unfairness in distribution, the second is a ceiling that always favors less densely populated states.  Both of these problems can be fixed by repealing Congressional acts that had little foresight.  Overturning H.R. 2508, Uniform Congressional District Act of 1967 would allow states to combat gerrymandering if it were accompanied by an act mandating a certain number of at-large seats either statewide or in mega districts. While this act originally was meant to combat minority votes being disenfranchised by a slate of majority candidates, this is drawback is negated through the introduction of preferential voting. (See also this from Fair Vote and this from The Hill.) We would end up with a wider spectrum political positions among winners, as well as more representation for those with minority opinions in their immediate locales.

The other no-brainer is repealing the Reapportionment Act of 1929, which was a continuation of the Apportionment Act of 1911. This would allow us to implement the Wyoming Rule, which is proposes that the representative to population ratio should be based on the smallest state. This would increase California’s share but also Texas. It would also make the discrepancy between the states with the least representation per population and the most representation a slight bit more fair. As part of this arrangement Puerto Rico and Washington DC should be offered full statehood. In the past arguments against increasing the house size have included of all things the capacity of the current building’s chamber. I would think that a country as great as ours could figure out a way to make the physical chambers larger for the greater good.

Now obviously, many congresspersons would not want these changes because their comfortable districts may be threatened. I say this; If you are against the greater good and greater fairness for the electorate, you don’t deserve your office.

*Assuming a bunch of corrupt republicans lose their jobs in November 2018…

..while the house has been burning?

Well, a lot of administrivia, forms, registrations, etc. Bank account comes online this early next week. On that day, an ActBlue will be made live, the donate page will be open and I will send my registered letters to various members of the press. Now comes the time when I need to gather signatures.

Granted there were some days I took off because I work for a living, and have a family. I also have to occasionally suspend belief, because an activity like this borders on the insane. But the goal lives on, within reach. In this case the metaphor will be reversed — this is a sprint, not a marathon. That is really the only way the long shot works. You never see it coming.

or so I hope. 😉

So a lot of people, including some I respect and truly admire say you have to stand for something, not just be against something. I agree. Look, my liberal bona fides are pretty documented. I also think I have some creative solutions to offer especially in terms of voting. I stand unapologetically for universal healthcare. I believe I have concrete (though tough to pass now, for sure) solutions at improving voting and representation in America. I believe in total equality of the sexes, and I believe in taxing the rich more. There are a lot of things to vote upon and propose– and I will continue to do so.

But right now, until Trump and Pence are removed and every Republican in national office who knowingly supported a traitor to our highest office is punished with at least a loss of power, these goals are moot. The house is burning. The fire must be extinguished with extreme prejudice and ruthlessness. The policies are vile. The crimes that brought us the policies are somehow even worse. I don’t think most Americans (save the whack-job evangelicals who believe in alpha-male anointed kings to lead) want to serve Putin. Right now we are disgraced. We must save our national soul.

I’m sure there has been a more dishonest, disingenuous, despicable politician in American History then Mitch McConnell, but I can’t really think of any.

have condemned Trump’s “shithole” remarks?

Chirp.  Chirp…

As Josh Marshall at TPM says, The Only News Out of The Simpson Testimony is Republican Disgrace.  Give it a read.  Nothing new here.  The GOP tries to make the guy who uncovered malfeasance the criminal.  Truly a party with no soul or redeeming features.

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