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The road to the presidency is looooong.

Democracy in America takes a long time to blossom. We still have a couple of months till the first primary, and there are 14 candidates still running for president on the Republican side along with five in the Democratic primary. And last night, on Oct. 28, 2015, the Republican Party held its third big debate out of 12 total debates in sunny Boulder, Colorado.

If you missed it, I thought maybe you could use an overview of the most interesting moments.


Because I'm classy that way. (And my boss says we should try to find the good in everyone, even if we disagree on the issues.)

1. To start, Carly Fiorina shut down a ridiculous double standard about female candidates. With jokes.

Female candidates often get unfairly judged for not being feminine enough. So when CNBC asked her what her biggest weakness is, she went ahead and cracked a joke about it.

Stop telling Carly Fiorina to smile. All debate GIFs via CNBC.

2. The debate you probably didn't see was often more interesting than the main one.

Earlier in the night, the four candidates who didn't make the cut to the top 10 on the main stage had an undercard debate. And a couple of them were pretty blunt about where they stood on science — specifically the science of climate change — being real.

3. We learned some surprising things about the French workweek.

The debate moderators and Jeb Bush went on the attack against Marco Rubio for not showing up to vote in the Senate as much as he should.

Rubio pointed out that even President Obama missed a lot of votes while running for president (Obama missed 26% in 2007 and 64% in 2008), and for a good reason: because running for president is a full-time job.

Then Jeb was totally like, "I mean, literally, the Senate — what is it, like a French workweek? You get, like, three days where you have to show up?" (Sick burn, bro.)

I presumed Jeb was exaggerating a little about the French workweek. I thought the French workweek was shorter too. Both Jeb and I were wrong.

A French child celebrates France's thoughtful labor laws. GIF from "Les Misérables."

I looked into the French workweek, and it turns out the whole stereotype of French people being lazy is a completely cartoonish myth. According to the BBC, France requires overtime pay when you get to 35 hours, instead of 40. And workers often work longer than the minimum. They get rewarded with "rest days" when they have to put in those longer hours (each company is different, but they average about nine rest days a year.) We could use that here in the U.S. — just sayin'. But I digress...

4. Lots of people thought the CNBC moderators could have done better.

There was lots of criticism from both sides for how the debate moderators handled the questions. At first, the questions seemed tough but fair. But upon a second review, there were a lot of "gotcha" questions that seemed petty and basically asked: "Your opponent did this thing one time — explain how awful they are." At one point, the audience actually booed a vapid follow-up question asked to Ben Carson, and I booed along with them.

5. Was a fantasy football chat the best use of our nation's time here? Chris Christie didn't think so.

Christie was as tired of getting absurd questions from the media as the rest of America was. After Jeb was asked if the federal government should regulate fantasy football, Christie chimed in:

6. But one moderator stood up for actual facts: Becky Quick.

Quick was speedy with the whole accountability and fact-checking thing. And she did a thing that never happens in any debate, regardless of party (and usually regardless of what channel it's on): She pushed back when a candidate didn't answer a question and fact-checked him. At one point, she said to Donald Trump: "You had talked a little bit about Marco Rubio. I think you called him Mark Zuckerberg's personal senator because he was in favor of the H1B [work visas]."

To which he responded:

In the moment, she apologized. But 20 minutes later, after double-checking, she brought it back up.

Seriously, it's directly from his website.

Well played, Quick. Well played. More please.

Speaking of Trump...

7. Donald Trump can be divisive, but last night he said one thing most of us can agree with.

This is rare for me, but regardless of your political beliefs or where you stand on Trump, he said something I'm pretty sure 99% of Americans can get behind: He went off on Super PACs.

He went on to say, "And you better get rid of them because they are causing a lot of bad decisions to be made by some very good people." And he's right. They are really bad.

Does this mean I think Trump will Make America Great Again?™ No.

America already is a great place, with a lot of huge systemic problems that need lots of serious, hard, and nuanced work to fix. His hat isn't going to solve them.

But it does mean that I agree with Trump's assessment on Super PACs being a detriment to society (along with most money in politics, but again I digress.)

What's important is that we hear everyone out on the issues. Because we often ignore what candidates are saying about the issues when we don't like the messenger.

There's value to recognizing when someone you disagree with is on the same page as you about something

I'm not trying to be naive here. I know politics can be a dogfight and just how partisan things have gotten in America. I also know how politicians and the media often go straight for the easy dig, oversimplify things, and turn political races into petty high school brawls.

The whole setup of politics is kind of like rooting for a sports team. You're not going to cheer the Patriots if you're a Jets fan (poor, poor Jets fans). And I wouldn't expect you to cheer for Rubio if you're a Trump supporter. And I definitely wouldn't presume you'd pat Ben Carson on the back if you love Hillary Clinton.

However, there's value to recognizing when someone you disagree with is on the same page as you about something. Remembering they are humans helps keep the conversation civil while we're taking our own stands. And yeah, it's OK to stand up and quietly nod in agreement, even if you sit down and go back to being a Jets fan.

My sympathies to any Jets fans.

Obviously, being a fan of one sport over another doesn't determine whether my family will have access to health care or how much I pay in taxes. My Denver Broncos won't be starting a Super PAC and running ads about how my senator is a cartoonishly evil super-villain who hates freedom and/or wants the terrorists to win.

The reality is that all the candidates on stage last night said things you or I might fundamentally disagree with. According to FactCheck.org and multiple other sources, many of the things they said weren't based in fact. But even when you don't like the messenger, it's important to listen to the message because the politicians are far less important than the issues facing America today. They won't fix themselves.

Even when you don't like the messenger, it's important to listen to the message.

The media, the candidates, and the system are all set up to hold no one accountable, to encourage partisanship, to get us all to yell past each other. So it's up to you and me to analyze ideas on their merits, to not fall for anyone's tricks or "gotcha" questions, to be diligent about facts, and to not be automatically dismissive of people we disagree with.

Baby steps to democracy.

True
League of Conservation Voters

Mommy, where do bills come from?

According to "Schoolhouse Rock," it's a whole bunch of boring bureaucratic nonsense set to music, which, well, half of that's right, anyway.

But even with the tedious waiting process, the song still presents a highly idealistic version of the lawmaking process, one where well-informed citizens reach out directly to their state representatives, who act in the best interests of their tax-paying constituents and aim to enact laws that work on their behalf.


Sadly, the groovy melodies aren't the most misleading part of that musical masterpiece.


GIF via "Schoolhouse Rock."

In reality, lawmaking is more like a corporate Mad Libs game, thanks to ALEC.

ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council, which describes itself as a nonprofit organization that advocates in the interest of limited government, free markets, and the "Jeffersonian ideal" of Federalism.

That's the 501(c)3 application way of saying "impossibly wealthy lobbying cabal disguised as a tax-exempt write-off through which corporations can control politicians with pre-written bills."

I would clarify that ALEC is not actually a person, but that whole Citizens United thing (in which they had a hand) made that point moot.


GIFset via "Last Week Tonight."


ALEC's main function is to write business-friendly (read: corporate-profit-positive) "model" bills with a few blanks left for legislators to fill-in themselves.

GIFset via "Last Week Tonight."

It sounds too absurd to be true, right? And yet, here's the actual closing passage from ALEC's "Electricity Freedom Act" model bill:


That's a fancified legalese way of saying that the government needs to protect consumers from ... not ... paying ... electric companies? Something? Who cares when all ya gotta do is fill the state in and sign your name?

(Also, that whole "limited governments and free market" agenda kinda falls apart when you're trying to pass anti-green-energy laws but the market has clearly spoken in favor of clean energy over the services offered by antiquated corporate powerhouses.)

Actual real-life congressmen have used actual real-life ALEC bills passed off as actual real-life legislation.

Here's Wyoming state Rep. Nathan Winters (R), a proud ALEC member, sharing his experience in a video that ALEC made themselves:

GIF via ALEC.

To be clear, Winters is an elected official, and he basically just admitted to cheating on a public policy test.

But he's not just peering over the shoulder over the nerdy kid at the front of the class (honestly, that'd be preferable because then he'd at least be getting information from actual scientists). He's going straight to the Koch Brothers and countless powerful and/or climate-change-denying corporations and asking them to tell him what to think.

And then there's this fun exchange between Reps. Joe Atkins (D-Minnesota) and Steve Gottwalt (R-Minnesota):


GIFset via "Last Week Tonight."

Oops.

They've also got their hands in the prison-industrial complex, voter disenfranchisement, privatizing education, undermining consumer protections in the Affordable Care Act, "stand your ground" laws, pollution and anti-environmental initiatives, and the so-called "Death Star" bill that wasn't actually like this but basically did this to minority, LGBTQ, and overall workers' rights:


Emperor Palpatine GIF from "Return of the Jedi."

And ALEC's next trick? Taking legal action against the sun (and destroying the environment along the way).

At their annual meeting in July 2015, ALEC members gathered to discuss their most recent working draft of the deceptively-titled Environmental Impact Litigation Act, which is intended for state legislators to help crush Obama's new Clean Power Plan.

Coincidentally, the top sponsors of that conference included ExxonMobil, American Electric Power, Balanced Energy for Texas, and American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, none of whom could possibly have had any ulterior motives in crafting laws relating to energy.

In addition to the classic fill-in-the-blank parts, the Environmental Impact Litigation Act included a number of other incredible passages, like that whole part about the unfair political and economic overreach of ... the sun.


#SunPrivilege

Yes. According to ALEC, the sun has an unfair and illegal monopoly on solar power.

But remember, this is about consumer rights ... right?! ALEC is standing up for the people, who deserve the freedom to spend more of their own hard-earned money to constantly upgrade equipment and pay additional fees to mediating companies even when they generate their own power from natural resources. This is America, dammit!


"purchasers of solar power" smdh

"Without the option of excessive unnecessary upgrades, power companies will be FORCED to offer long-term leases on equipment instead of outright ownership! You don't want THAT on your shoulders, do ya?"

ALEC's tendrils might reach far and wide — but there's still a chance to stop them.

Recently, several big energy companies including BP and Shell have publicly parted ways with ALEC. That's right — the people responsible for that disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the company that still insists on forging ahead with Arctic Drilling both think ALEC is too evil for them. Let that settle in for a second.

Yes, ALEC is big, rich, and influential to an almost-cartoonish-but-actually-frighteningly-real degree. But you and I have still have the power to vote with both our wallets and our polls.

We can tell pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer to stop supporting ALEC and urge our own state legislators to take action against ALEC and cut all ties with corporations that still affiliate them — and we can stop supporting those corporations ourselves.

Let's make our message clear: America doesn't stand for greed.


GIF from "Parks and Recreation."

Jason Fong, a high school student in California, has been an American citizen all his life. His grandfather emigrated from China to Cuba and then to New York City in the 1940s. His mother is from Korea.


That's his Asian-American story. And it's the kind of not-so-easy to summarize story that's often erased from political discussions. That's especially the case when politicians like Donald Trump and Jeb Bush use the pejorative term “anchor babies" — usually implying that non-citizens come to the U.S. to give birth in order to take advantage of public benefits in the country.

That's why 15-year-old Fong, after hearing Jeb Bush's comments about the "problems" stemming from "Asian people coming into our country" (back when Bush was a presidential candidate), decided to help illuminate what "our country" really looks like for Asian-Americans.

He started the viral hashtag #MyAsianAmericanStory as a way for Asian-Americans to contribute the stories and histories that mainstream politicians too often ignore.

...and so has discrimination.

Did you know that the first immigration restriction in America targeted Asian immigrants? The Page Law of 1875 attempted to stop Asian immigration based on the idea that Asians were "undesirable" and that Asian women were prostitutes. Other anti-immigration laws were targeted at Asians, too, including the Chinese Exclusion Act that followed in later years.


In 1942, more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans were rounded up and placed in camps. Japanese internment was a horrifying and humiliating experience for the families who were forcibly removed from their communities. It also created long-lasting economic consequences for the people who lost their jobs, businesses, and livelihoods while in the camps.

Even though our families and communities have been a part of this country for forever, the stereotypes just don't seem to quit.


No matter how well we speak English, Asian-Americans often face the challenge of being seen as Other — never completely part of American culture.

Lucy Liu has had enough. GIF via "Elementary."

But understanding our stories give us strength...

Our personal histories are deeply tied to our political histories. And our political histories demonstrate how resilient our communities can be.

...and sharing them makes us grow stronger.


It's not every day that we see our real stories reflected in the media. Thank you, Jason Fong, for the opportunity to share our unique histories with each other and with the world.

More

LGBT people are calling on Beyonce to be a hero and save her hometown.

There's only one person who can stand up for truth, justice, and the American Bey.

A long time ago, in May 2014, a HERO came to Houston, Texas.

HERO was perhaps better known as the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, and it banned anti-LGBT discrimination in Houston.

Prior to that, Houston was the largest city in the U.S. without a non-discrimination ordinance inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Passing HERO was a big deal for LGBT individuals, who before the ordinance had to worry about whether or not they'd be denied housing, employment, or service at a local business just because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.


This was huge news. Yay, Houston!

But like all good stories, the one has some major conflict. Photo via Thinkstock.

But some homophobic Houstonians wanted to put an end to HERO, and like any villain, they hatched a plan.

Soon after the bill passed, those who opposed the bill began work on collecting roughly 20,000 signatures they'd need to put the law up for a public vote. They had 30 days to do so, but they came up hundreds of signatures short.


End of story, right? Wrong.

Last month, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the public should be able to vote on HERO anyway.

"The legislative power reserved to the people is not being honored," reads the court's ruling. "Any enforcement of the ordinance shall be suspended, and the City Council shall reconsider the ordinance. If the City Council does not repeal the ordinance by August 24, 2015, then by that date the City Council must order that the ordinance be put to popular vote during the November 2015 election."

With rights of the city's 2.2 million residents on the line, it was time to ask for the help of a hometown hero: Beyoncé.

LGBT activist Carlos Maza lit the Beyoncé-signal, calling on her to use her star power to save HERO.

HERO needs a heroine, and her name is Beyoncé.

OK, so no, this isn't actually a Beyoncé-signal, it's a picture from the Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show in 2013, but you get the point. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

In a Huffington Post blog, Maza pleads with the singer to once again wade into the political realm and voice her support for LGBT rights:

"Houston is in for a nasty, dishonest and divisive campaign to repeal HERO and legalize discrimination against LGBT Houstonians. These kinds of campaigns don't usually end well for LGBT people: they're dehumanizing, traumatic and usually result in LGBT people losing their basic civil rights.

But that could change if the world's proudest and most famous Houstonian decides to stand up for her LGBT fans and speak out in favor of keeping HERO. With a single post to her over forty million Instagram followers, Beyoncé could change the debate over Houston's Equal Rights Ordinance and mobilize support for protecting LGBT Houstonians from discrimination."

The #BeyBeAHERO movement was born.

"Beyoncé is the world's most famous Houstonian, and she's always been a true ally to her LGBT fans," Maza told me about why he chose to put a focus on Houston and drafting Beyoncé to the cause. "The LGBT community in Houston really needs her help now, and I think this is a really great opportunity for Bey to do a lot of good for her hometown."

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

While she hasn't (yet) responded to the #BeyBeAHERO calls, we do know that Beyoncé supports LGBT rights.

ln a 2014 interview with OUT Magazine, Beyoncé was asked about her lyrics and large LGBT fanbase:

"[W]hat I'm really referring to, and hoping for, is human rights and equality, not just that between a woman and a man. So I'm very happy if my words can ever inspire or empower someone who considers themselves an oppressed minority. ... We are all the same and we all want the same things: the right to be happy, to be just who we want to be and to love who we want to love."

And last month, she posted a short video to her Instagram and YouTube pages in support of the June Supreme Court ruling on marriage to the tune of her song "7/11."

GIFs via Beyonce.com.

Will Beyoncé help save the rights of LGBT Houstonians? Will the rights of 2.2 million people fall by the wayside? Tune into #BeyBeAHERO to find out!