This is in response to the “hodge-podge of facts” guest column that appeared recently in the Post-Register and at the invitation of my sister, Quincy resident Wendy Sauber. This is also in memory of our mother, Isabelle Henson, an immigrant who recently passed-away, still in possession of her Green Card. She taught us the value of hard work and the difference between right and wrong, while providing an example of love and acceptance, traits that we, her children, cherish. I’m writing as we commemorate Patriot Day, Sept. 11.
Also, since we’re at the time of what would have been—were it not for the COVID-19 health crisis—the 50th anniversary reunion of my Quincy High School graduating class, I’m motivated to write in honor of and appreciation for the teachers who offered me and my classmates an outstanding and well-rounded public school education. Most of us had our favorite teachers, so I’d like to recognize a few. These include: Charles “Mac” McConnell, the band instructor who reinforced my sense of pride in community; Harry Raab and Bob “Woody” Woodworth, the P.E. instructors and coaches who impressed upon me the value of both self-discipline and teamwork; Stella Vann, the math teacher who introduced me to logic and deductive reasoning; Ben Carrow, the biology teacher who provided me a model for thoughtfulness, humility and kindness; Lyle Goble, the social studies teacher who instilled in me the concept of critical thinking; and Margaret Morrison, the language instructor who invited me to see the world from a different cultural perspective and who showed me the importance of the written word. These teachers and many others set me on a path of achievement while pursuing joy in life.
This is why I am bewildered to find out that Mr. Needens, writer of the “hodge-podge,” is only two years younger than me and was therefore a contemporary at Quincy High School. It’s curious that two boys who attended the same small-town high school would end up, in our older years, with such a different skill-set and outlook. I read his words and have to think that, possibly, we didn’t have the same teachers or perhaps he simply has had the misfortune of being sucked into the maelstrom of the extremist right-wing media and cyber world, also known as an “echo chamber.” I don’t need to spend time pondering this, but I must refute some of his “facts.”
I’d like to begin, as Mr. Needens did, by playing with numbers—the easy stuff. He offered a curious selection of statistics regarding voter registration and voting records collected from various jurisdictions and sources. The “facts” he presented were apparently copied from comments made by a far-right ideology from Alabama Representative Gary Palmer, during a Congressional inquiry about the Trump Administration’s obvious attempts to disrupt the U.S. Postal Service in order to discourage voting by mail. The congressman was throwing out all kinds of numbers about unusual voter registration records with the intent to confuse people, to make them suspicious about the integrity of our elections and to distract from what really matters in any election—the right of us Citizens to have unencumbered ability to safely and securely cast our vote, whether voting in-person or by mail.
While I give Mr. Needens credit for citing his sources, I must find fault with his lack of objective analysis. To be sure, there are numerous jurisdictions that have “ineligible” or “extra” voters, as he describes them. But that doesn’t mean there is a widespread conspiracy by any group or efforts by individuals to commit voter fraud. In fact, the vast majority of voters who lose eligibility are people who have either died, moved to another county or have failed to vote in the most recent election cycles. That they’re still on a county’s voter rolls is most likely due to inept or overwhelmed administrators in county elections offices who don’t have the funding or staffing to keep the voter rolls up-to-date. Needens also claims that the Obama-Biden Administration “chose to ignore” and “did not perform a single enforcement action” of the National Voter Registration Act. A quick look at the U.S. Department of Justice website shows that this claim is untrue. In a matter of minutes, one can find at least five enforcement actions or settlements of the Act during the Obama administration.
On the other hand, in just the past few days, I’ve come across two relevant facts about voter fraud. The first is provided by a well-known Republican election attorney named Ben Ginsberg, who referred to the findings of a study by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Since the Foundation’s study began in 2016, it has verified only 1285 proven instances of voter fraud in all of the elections held throughout the United States. Think about it, this includes every municipal, county, state and federal election in which tens of millions of ballots were submitted—135 million in just the last presidential election. The second comes from our (Republican) Washington Secretary of State, Kim Wyman, who oversees our state’s vote-by-mail process. In the 2018 general election, for which 3,133,462 ballots were counted, there were 142 people suspected of double-voting or voting on behalf of a previous household resident (and whose ballots were disqualified). That equals about 0.0045 percent of the total vote. Clearly, voting by mail, and voter fraud in general, is not the ominous threat to the integrity of our elections that Donald Trump and his sycophants claim. More significantly, Trump has recently been advising his supporters to vote by mail and again vote in-person, which is, in fact, encouraging them to commit voter fraud.
This leads to my second rebuttal, regarding Mr. Needens’ claim that Kamala Harris is ineligible to hold the office of Vice President. He argues that because her father is from Jamaica and her mother from India, and because they were not “lawful permanent residents” at the time of her birth in Oakland, Calif., she cannot be a United States citizen. In fact, her parents were both graduate students at the University of California when Kamala was born in 1964. They were both in this country with U.S. Government-issued student visas. Therefore, they were very much “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” so she is in fact a natural-born Citizen. It’s telling that Mr. Needens, in presenting his argument, would cite the opinion of John Eastman, an elitist legal scholar and religious extremist. There’s a reason that, with the exception of Mr. Eastman’s recent opinion piece published in Newsweek, the “mainstream media has said nothing” to question Kamala Harris’ eligibility for public office. As with the “birther” claims that questioned the citizenship of President Obama, there’s simply no factual, legal evidence in dispute, just a bunch of theoretical nonsense from a pseudo-intellectual.
Lastly and most importantly, I must address the racist nature of some of Mr. Needens’ comments. For him to imply that such accomplished and admired people as Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan would not have achieved their successes if it weren’t for “the help and support of white people” is to deny their intelligence, professional skills, self-discipline and dedication to their work. These are character traits that we are taught to admire in all individuals, no matter the color of their skin. To express disdain toward them for donating some of their hard-earned wealth in support of a cause that’s dear to their hearts is just plain resentful and mean. Black Lives Matter is both an organization and a cause taken up by brave and committed citizens who believe in the very American pursuit of justice. To blame Black Lives Matter for the violence and destructive actions of a small number of extremists is both unfair and a denial of reality. Black Lives Matter is a cause that exists to confront violent racial prejudice and to achieve equal treatment under our laws. Mr. Needens’ assumption that this cause is out to “shame” white people is not based in fact and exposes the perception of a man who thinks or feels shamefully about those who are different.
In conclusion, I’d like to circle back to a review of numbers… The first and most significant number confronting us right now is the 194,000-and growing count of residents of the United States who have died with COVID-19 in the past six months. Most of these fellow Americans didn’t need to die, if it weren’t for the incompetent and deceitful leadership of Donald Trump. Number two is the 20,000-plus outright lies and misleading statements (per the Washington Post fact check) Mr. Trump has made since taking office, including all of his deceptive comments about the coronavirus and COVID-19 and his absurd attempts to cover-up the deception. (Sure, he was worried about a “panic”—in the stock market and by his billionaire buddies on Wall Street.) Finally, we arrive to the countdown numbers 47, 46 and 45: the first being the number of days between now and Election Day, Nov. 3; with number 46 representing the numeric designation for the presidential successor to number 45—Donald Trump, the con man who has overseen the most dishonest, dysfunctional and morally corrupt administration in American history. He’s a sadly maladjusted child not worthy of any office that requires trust.
As an American patriot, I imagine that the margin of victory for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be so overwhelming that we can quickly recover from the “dystrumpian” nightmare we currently survive—a hodge-podge of suffering, injustice, deception and division. When that happens, I humbly and respectfully hope that at least some of my fellow Quincy High School alumni will join with me, along with other former and current republicans, democrats and independents, in proclamations of rejoice and jubilation, in pursuit of the common good and for the healing that we all need and rightfully deserve.
Randy Henson (Seattle—Quincy High School, Class of 1970)
With advice from the big sister, Wendy Sauber (Quincy—Quincy High School, Class of 1966)
In community with: Cheikh Diouf (Quincy—Citizen of the United States of America May 26 2006); Sally Curran (Quincy); Lyle Goble (Scottsdale, Arizona); Esther Albright-Nolan (Moses Lake—QHS 1966); Katherine Graham Downing (Ephrata—QHS 1967); Susan Greenwalt Wilson (Eugene, Oregon—QHS 1966); Kylene Kulm (Quincy—QHS 1966); Lauri Larson Leedy (Ephrata—QHS 1967); Michael Newton (Wenatchee—QHS 1967); Dan & Ann McConnell (Cashmere—QHS 1966 & 1968); MariaLuz Oppen (Quincy—QHS 1966); Dora Sanchez-Trevino (Quincy—QHS 1965); Brad Sauber (Seattle—QHS 1988); Mark Weber (Tuscon, Arizona—QHS 1977); Stephanie Weber (Kirkland—QHS 1966); Sybil Weber (Vashon—QHS 1966); Tom Wells (Reardon—QHS 1965)