Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Primary Results

We didn’t have a primary here in Florida, but they did in places like Pennsylvania and North Carolina.  The focus was on those two states because of Trump’s support of several candidates.  The results are a mixed bag for both Democrats and Republicans, but to me the best news is that freshman Rep Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) got his hat handed to him, losing his primary.  Now he can sign up for a job at Fox.

Scandal-plagued Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) has lost in the Republican primary to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who had the backing of establishment Republicans. GOP leaders in the state, including Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), had grown tired of Cawthorn, who was chastised for questionable statements about invitations to an “orgy” and cocaine use by senior Republicans, traffic violations and weapons offenses. In the campaign’s closing days, Cawthorn did get the endorsement of former president Donald Trump, but it wasn’t enough.

In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the burly, 6-foot-8 liberal with a shaved head, won the Democratic nomination for Senate and will face the winner of a GOP primary that’s still too close to call. The primary win came on the same day that Fetterman had a pacemaker implanted after suffering a stroke last week. On the Republican side, former president Donald Trump is all-in for celebrity-turned-politician Mehmet Oz, who faces insurgent conservative candidate Kathy Barnette and businessman David McCormick.


Doug Mastriano, a Trump-endorsed Pennsylvania state senator who led the effort to overturn the 2020 results in the swing state, is projected to win the Republican nomination for governor, according to the Associated Press.

Mastriano participated in the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, the day a pro-Trump mob overran the U.S. Capitol in a violent insurrection. Video apparently shows that Mastriano “took part in the January 6 insurrection” by crossing police lines and breached barricades at the Capitol.Mastriano has said he did not enter the Capitol that day and he has not been charged with a crime, though he was subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 committee.

Mastriano has modeled himself after Trump in many ways, continuing to baselessly challenge the integrity of the country’s elections and verbally attacking the media. Over the weekend, he blocked journalists from covering one of his rallies in Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro won the Democratic nomination for governor. He ran unopposed.

Shapiro, a former state lawmaker and county commissioner, will lead the Democrats’ fight in November to keep the governor’s mansion against the winner of the Republican’s tight primary. Eight candidates are facing off in that race, with state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who has Trump’s endorsement in the race, leading the pack.

Mastriano is known for leading efforts to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. According to a Senate Judiciary Committee report, he “raised a litany of false and debunked claims of widespread election fraud,” by holding hearings on the subject and communicating with the Justice Department.

Shapiro, meanwhile, is known for producing a grand jury report in 2018 into child sexual abuse among Pennsylvania’s Catholic churches.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, is term-limited and set to leave office early next year. He handily won the 2018 election by over 800,000 votes against then-state Sen. Scott Wagner (R).

So, the Republicans have set the table with a full buffet of crazy.  That may sound like it would be easy for the Democrats to sweep them away, but then we thought the same thing in 2016 when the GOP went with Trump.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Draw Your Own Conclusion

If there was ever a glimmer of hope that Florida’s redistricting would actually represent the population, forget it.  From TPM:

For months, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has pressured the state’s Republican-majority legislature to eliminate a plurality-Black congressional district in the state.

And on Monday, Republicans in the legislature rolled over for the governor, saying that they would do whatever he wished — even letting his office take the highly unusual step of drawing the map himself.

No, really: The legislature, after having its first proposed congressional map vetoed by DeSantis, was set to begin a special session next week to take another stab at the congressional districts.

But then, Republican leaders announced they would just do whatever DeSantis wanted.

“At this time, Legislative reapportionment staff is not drafting or producing a map for introduction during the Special Session,” the state Senate president and House speaker said in a memo.

“We are awaiting a communication from the Governor’s Office with a map that he will support. Our intention is to provide the Governor’s Office opportunities to present that information before House and Senate redistricting committees.”

So what does the governor want? He’s said it himself: The elimination of a plurality-Black district in North Florida.

If they had their way — and they will do everything to ensure that they get it — there would be no majority minority districts in the state at all because, well, you know how those people vote.

The new map will be challenged in court, which means that it will go to a federal court and work its way up to the Supreme Court where, with its 6-3 right-wing majority, will have the chance once and for all to finally overturn the last vestiges of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  And Ron DeSantis will be leading the charge as the named defendant in the lawsuit and he’ll wear that as a badge of honor as he runs for president of MAGA-world, proving once again that of course the country should be run by white Christian men.  God said so.

Meanwhile, back here in Florida, the districts that are already tilted for the GOP will still be in place in the 2022 and 2024 elections because the lawsuits will still be in court.  So DeSantis will have gotten what he wants without actually having to do anything.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Happy Friday

A federal judge has ruled that a lot of Florida’s Jim Crow 2.0 voting law is unconstitutional.

In a sweeping 288-page order declaring the right to vote “under siege,” U.S. District Judge Mark Walker on Thursday forbade lawmakers from passing future laws involving drop boxes, third-party voter registration or efforts to limit “line warming” activities at polling sites without the court’s approval for the next 10 years.

All three provisions were part of Senate Bill 90, passed by lawmakers and signed by DeSantis last year.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit has been filed in federal court challenging DeSantis’s “don’t say gay” law.

Three days after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure, LGBTQ-advocacy groups, parents, students and a teacher filed a federal lawsuit Thursday challenging a new law that includes barring instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in early school grades.

The lawsuit, filed in the federal Northern District of Florida, seeks to block Florida from moving forward with the law, which is set to take effect July 1. While DeSantis and Republican lawmakers titled the bill the “Parental Rights in Education,” critics dubbed it the “don’t say gay” bill.

DeSantis, the State Board of Education, the state Department of Education and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran are named as defendants, along with the school boards in Manatee, Sarasota, Miami-Dade, St. Johns and Jackson counties.

See you in court, Ron.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Whose Side Are You On

I watched President Biden’s speech on the voting rights bills and the filibuster from Atlanta yesterday.  It was what we needed to hear from him and his administration.  I’m not sure it will move the opponents, but at the least he framed the argument in a way that’s going to make them hard to defend themselves.

“I ask every elected official in America: How do you want to be remembered?” Mr. Biden said.

“Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?” he asked, drawing a sharp line between men who fought for civil rights and others who fought to deny them, comparisons that at moments drew gasps from the crowd.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell, and if Mitch McConnell and his gang are intent on blocking the Freedom to Vote and the John Lewis Voting Rights bills, they’ve just handed the scripts of every 2022 midterm election campaign ad over to the DNC and see how they run with it.

Thursday, October 21, 2021


As expected, not one Republican voted to allow the voting rights bill come up for debate in the Senate.

Democrats’ months-long drive for muscular new federal voting rights legislation hit a new roadblock Wednesday, with options for progress dwindling as Senate Republicans remained united in blocking debate on the issue.

Outwardly, key lawmakers and advocates have continued to elevate the political stakes, calling federal legislation essential to protecting American democracy from the efforts of Republican state legislatures and election officials to restrict voting access following former president Donald Trump’s false claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

“If there’s anything worthy of the Senate’s attention, if there’s any issue that merits debate on this floor, it’s protecting our democracy from the forces that are trying to unravel it from the inside out,” Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday.

But the realities of the Senate — with a razor-thin Democratic majority and a united Republican minority empowered by the long-standing filibuster rule requiring a 60-vote supermajority to advance most legislation — continue to make progress difficult and wholly dependent on the willingness of key Democratic senators to change their views on modifying the Senate’s rules.

Wednesday’s vote, which would have paved the way for a floor debate on voting rights, failed 51 to 49, with 60 votes needed to advance the legislation. For procedural reasons, Schumer joined all 50 Republicans in voting no.

The vote was meant, in part, to demonstrate the depth of the Republican opposition to one of the holdouts over changing the filibuster rule, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), who played a leading role in crafting a narrower alternative to the sprawling bill that Senate Republicans blocked in June.

Charlie Pierce:

On Tuesday night, independent Senator Angus King of Maine took to the floor of the Senate to plead for the voting-rights bill. King, who in the shebeen is known as The Mustache of Righteousness, put the issue into stark relief.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that we are at a hinge of history, that circumstances have thrust us—those of us in this body—into a moment when the fate of the American experiment hangs in the balance. We are the heirs—and trustees—of a tradition that goes back to Jefferson and Lincoln, to Webster, Madison, Margaret Chase Smith, and, yes, our friend John McCain. All were partisans in one way or the other, but all shared an overriding commitment to the idea that animates the American experiment, the idea that our government is of, by, and for the people, all the people. Now is the moment to reach beyond region, beyond party, beyond self, to save and reinvigorate the sputtering flame of that idea.

Yes, democracy is an anomaly in world history and what we have is fragile; it rests upon the Constitution and laws to be sure, but it rests even more so on the trust our people place in our democratic system—and in us.

Listening to King, I thought I was listening to the aging Rep. John Quincy Adams, railing against the “gag rule” that prevented the House of Representatives from hearing petitions that mentioned slavery. Bad things result when legislatures in a republic deem issues too dangerous to talk about.

Make no mistake. There is no point in investigating—or even condemning—the events of January 6, or the Big Lie, if you’re not willing to confront the greater threat to democracy being mounted in dozens of states. This effort inevitably will result in a Trumpian president who will not trip over his own shoelaces. But the Republicans in the Senate, the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body, chose not even to debate the issue. They’re all still in the storage closet, patting each other on the back.

So the next step has to be a change in the Senate rules to modify the filibuster. That would pave the way to pass the bill, but it comes with the real danger that when the Republicans inevitably regain the majority, they will whoop through all sorts of mischief should the shit really hit the fan and we get a Trump-like president who can actually speak in full sentences. Not to put too cynical point on it, I wonder if perhaps the Republicans are doing this on purpose, not for the sake of denying voting rights to minorities (that’s just icing on the cake), but to lure the Democrats into changing the filibuster. Is it worth it?

Frankly, yes it is. Democracy is not something to be left in the hands of ten senators.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Nothing Else Matters

Charles M. Blow in the New York Times on the importance of passing the voting rights bill.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, has indicated that he plans to schedule a vote for Wednesday to open debate on a new voting rights bill, the Freedom to Vote Act.

The bill would set national standards for early voting, expand voting by mail, allow the use of more forms of voter identification, make Election Day a federal holiday and institute measures to counter voter suppression tactics. It would also automate voter registration, force states to give voters the option to register on Election Day and offer safeguards against voter purges. Finally, it would overhaul portions of the campaign finance system, prohibit partisan gerrymandering and prevent the politicized removal of election officials, among other changes.

This is a compromise bill, but it is still a good bill that would go a long way toward protecting the country’s electoral system and preventing Republicans around the country from instituting a new electoral Jim Crow.

Even if all 50 Democrats in the Senate support the bill, they still need ten Republicans to back it. With the Trump mindset that more people voting is bad for the GOP, the chances are that they will not find those ten votes. (Historic note: the last time the voting rights act was up for renewal, it passed 98-0.)

Donald Trump and the Republican officials enthralled and entranced by him have elevated the lie of election fraud to such a degree that many Republican voters consider it one of their top priorities, which in turn gives Republican officials cover to unleash their oppression.

At an Iowa rally last week, Trump said of his election lie: “And I’m telling you, the single biggest issue, as bad as the border is, it’s horrible, horrible what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country. As bad as that is, the single biggest issue, the issue that gets the most, the most pull, the most respect, the biggest cheers is talking about the election fraud of 2020 presidential election. Nobody’s ever seen anything like it.”

That last line may well be true.


For Democrats, this voting rights bill is a top priority, but from now until something is passed, it should be the only priority. In another time, I would think that the infrastructure and reconciliation bills should take precedence. It’s impossible to argue that we don’t need those things. It is also impossible to argue that many of the provisions would not disproportionately benefit poor people and Black and Hispanic people.

But even if you have glistening infrastructure in a fascist state, you are still in a fascist state. If you get two years of community college free in a fascist state, you are still in a fascist state. If more people get broadband access, more people will be able to search for what it means to live in a fascist state.

Protecting ballot access is the only thing that matters right now.

It may be the last thing that matters.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Happy Friday

Well, this went sideways for Trump and his minions:

PHOENIX — After months of delays and blistering criticism, a review of the 2020 election in Arizona’s largest county, ordered up and financed by Republicans, has failed to show that former President Donald J. Trump was cheated of victory, according to draft versions of the report.

In fact, the draft report from the company Cyber Ninjas found just the opposite: It tallied 99 additional votes for President Biden and 261 fewer votes for Mr. Trump in Maricopa County, the fast-growing region that includes Phoenix.

The full review is set to be released on Friday, but draft versions circulating through Arizona political circles were obtained by The New York Times from a Republican and a Democrat.

Late on Thursday night, Maricopa County, whose Republican leaders have derided the review, got a jump on the official release by tweeting out its conclusions.

“The county’s canvass of the 2020 General Election was accurate and the candidates certified as the winners did, in fact, win,” the county said on Twitter. It then criticized the review as “littered with errors and faulty conclusions.”

TL;DR: Biden got more votes than originally reported.

It makes me wonder if they’re going to insist on further audits in Pennsylvania and Texas.

Tropical Update: TS Sam is moving to the northwest, but at this point it doesn’t look like it’s going to come near populated land.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sunday Reading

We Are All Connected — Vanessa Garcia, Miami-born and raised Cuban-American playwright and writer, on what we all have in common.

Last night I woke up from a dream.

In the dream I was standing in front of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the leaders of the San Isidro Movement – the movement of artists and Cuban citizens on the island, which has been one of the sparks in the engine that gave rise to this moment in Cuban history. This moment when the Cuban people have begun to take back their voice. When they have bravely taken to the street, despite all odds, risking their lives in order to break the shackles of a 62-year-old dictatorship. Luis Manuel is currently missing, disappeared by the State.

In my dream, however, I was face to face with him, and we were standing on water, several feet apart. From my chest to his there was a twisted root connecting us, heart to heart. It was thorny in places, touched with blood. In other spots, it was beginning to bloom with tiny orange Flamboyant buds. In other sections it was metal, but those parts glowed with a light that was trying to heal the rust. And we, Luis Manuel and I, were looking face to face at each other and I felt as though my heart, which was being tugged by its very root, was going to come out of my chest. But it didn’t come out of my chest, it gripped harder, vibrated inside me. It connected us.

Estamos conectados,” is how Luis Manuel ends many of his social media videos, speaking to the people on the island. And I feel that connection outside the island too in our Diaspora.

Alongside this powerful dream I had, we have also all awoken from a nightmare in which Cuba was a place people went to for fun in the sun while a dictatorship brutally pushed its people to their knees behind closed doors.

A nightmare in which no one heard our voices on this side of the ocean or the other. Not the voices inside Cuba; not the Cassandras of the Diaspora.

We are the children of men and women who threw themselves to the sea. Some whose bodies sunk to the bottom of raging oceans as they tried to cross in makeshift rafts of rubber, shards of canvas.

We are the children of people who cheered: “Next year in Cuba,” until the phrase scraped their throats raw. Until they lost the hope. We carry their voice within us, and we project it to the world now.

We are the people who fled in 1959, 1961, 1974, 1980, 1994, 2014, and yesterday.

We are the people that have had to watch American students wear Che and Fidel on their chests, their images, to us, equal to the dagger of a white pointed hat alongside a cross on fire.

We have sent our family money directly; we have fed our people when the government starved it. We have never embargoed the people; we have only embargoed the government.

The Cuban regime made itself fat on deals with foreign companies as the Cuban people starved. The Cuban regime has blamed the American embargo, when it is the regime itself that has been the blockade. As the Cuban rapper, David D Omni, sings to the regime: “el bloqueo aquí eres tu que no quieres dar la luz,” the blockade here is you, who does not want to give the light.

What we have known for generations, the world knows now – or is, rather, only beginning to know. There are many stories to tell, to carry toward the light.

There is work to do. This is only the beginning.

This past Saturday, July 17th, Willy Chirino spoke to the Cuban American people in front of the freedom tower and quoted Jose Martí, our patriot poet. He said: “When we’re talking about freedom, everything must go to the fire, even the arts, in order to feed the flame.”

No matter what that vibrating root between us and our people feels like right now, how much it hurts – because of how much it hurts – we cannot let go. We must keep the flame alive.

We are a chain of people standing on water and we cannot let go of each other or we will sink to the bottom of the sea, without ever seeing our connective roots blare their glorious bloom.

There is not a single second in which we can turn against each other right now. It doesn’t matter who voted for who in the last election. It doesn’t matter if we have small differences of opinion. We must all join forces under our singular cause: to bring down the tyranny of Cuba, once and for all. It’s time that the people of Cuba take their voice back. They have suffered for it, they are dying in the streets for it, slaughtered by their own government for it. It is our job to amplify their messages and fight alongside them; educate the world into action — peacefully.

The regime will play its game. But it is an old game, and we know it all too well. Let’s play it better. Let’s show the world the regime’s cards, the decks they’ve stacked, the dominoes they’ve locked.

I have a new dream now. In which we are all— the generations torn apart — standing and embracing on the soil of a free Cuba.

We are all connected.

Why Republicans Hate Voting Rights — Elie Mystal in The Nation.

Utah Senator Mike Lee, a raving hypocrite who abandoned his stated principles to play lackey to Donald Trump, is fond of saying, “We’re not a democracy.” Lee thinks that’s a good thing. He’s written: “Democracy isn’t the objective: liberty, peace, and prospefity [sic] are.” When Lee says these things, he’s not merely playing the role of an overzealous high school social studies teacher trying to use “cool facts” to deflect the hail of spitballs. He’s also channeling the deepest fears of the slavers and colonists who wrote the Constitution. Those guys understood, as Lee does, that a true democracy, in which everybody gets to vote and participate in self-government, would be a threat to white male hegemony in the New World.

They’re not wrong. The founders and Lee and Jefferson Davis and Ron DeSantis—and all the other white guys who have stood against the right to vote throughout American history—are correct in their assessment that universal suffrage and equal representation are the surest ways to end white male political supremacy.

That is why the “right to vote” is not spelled out in the Constitution, and why voting rights are under near-constant attack by conservative forces. It’s almost certainly why Lee thought that HR 1, the bill designed to restore and secure voting rights, was “written in hell by the devil himself.”

It’s no accident that the current assault on voting rights started not with the failed reelection of Donald Trump but with the successful election of Barack Obama. After the 2010 midterm elections and the new US census that followed, Republicans promptly used the gains they’d made to go on a gerrymandering rampage. Their allies on the Supreme Court then used two cases—Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee (2021)—to effectively neuter the Voting Rights Act.

Those moves set the stage for the legislative attacks on democracy that white conservatives have launched this year. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 17 states have enacted 28 new laws to restrict voting access. A total of 48 states have proposed a staggering 389 voter restriction bills, which run the gamut from obtuse (requiring notaries to sign absentee ballots), to cruel (denying water to voters waiting in line), to downright racist (excluding from early voting the times Black people get out of church).

The GOP’s current eruption of voter suppression is unrelenting and ferocious, but it’s not a new phenomenon and should not have been unexpected. Everybody knows that voting rights were initially restricted to wealthy white males and only grudgingly doled out to additional humans after war, outrage, or mass grassroots movements.

The solution to these cyclical outbursts has never been incremental change. Radical legislative interventions (the Voting Rights Act), new constitutional protections (the 15th and 19th amendments), and a judiciary willing to uphold them (Earl Warren protected the voting rights John Roberts is now destroying) have been some of the ways people have fought to limit the antidemocratic instincts of the white men in power.

But the current Democratic Party can’t take such bold action. Even though the mass of the party’s Congress members are willing to do whatever it takes, including nuking the filibuster, to ensure that Jim Crow–style voter restrictions never come back, they are all too easily hamstrung by a few timid white senators who seem to think that full and equal access to the rights of citizenship is just one option among many and that basic democratic rights should be put on the bargaining block in the name of bipartisanship.

There are too many people who seem to be willing to give the Biden administration and the national Democratic party a pass if it can’t convince Joe Manchin (and the cabal of spineless Democratic Senators he speaks for) to do the right thing. Given the stakes—the existence of democratic self-government—I don’t think the president can just throw up his hands and say “Welp, I tried.” Nobody looks back on Rutherford B. Hayes, who presided over the end of Reconstruction and the institution of Jim Crow, and says “good effort.” Texas Democrats are fleeing their state in an ultimately futile effort to stop new voter suppression laws; I think it’s fair to expect more than a speech (not even in prime time from the Oval Office but on a random afternoon) from President Biden.

In this speech, Biden was reduced to making a moral appeal to the bigots in the minority. “We will be asking my Republican friends—in Congress, in states, in cities, in counties—to stand up, for God’s sake, and help prevent this concerted effort to undermine our elections and the sacred right to vote,” Biden said, adding: “Have you no shame?”

If that’s all he’s got, we’re going to lose. Because conservative white people have no shame. They’ve never had any. Throughout American history, they have shamelessly regarded the right to vote as the ultimate white privilege.

We are not a democracy. The question has always been whether enough white people even want one.

Doonesbury — So Wily.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Texas Exodus

From the BBC:

Democratic politicians in Texas have left their state en masse in an effort to prevent Republicans there from passing a law to tighten voting rules.

The move will temporarily paralyse the state’s House of Representatives, which requires at least two-thirds of the 150 members be present for a vote.

At least 50 House Democrats boarded two private jets from Austin to Washington DC on Monday.

The move comes amid a wave of voting restrictions in Republican-led states.

Republicans argue the measures are essential for election security but Democrats see them as an attack on the right to vote.

The bill in Texas would ban 24-hour polling places and expand the authority of partisan poll watchers. A first vote is planned later this week.

The House lawmakers took off on Monday afternoon. When they landed in Washington DC, the Democrats said they would not return until the 30-day special session had ended next month.

Under Texas House rules, absent politicians can be arrested and returned to the house floor. But the authority responsible does not have jurisdiction outside Texas.

The plan is to lobby Congress to pass the federal voting rights bills.

Speaking to reporters at Dulles International Airport, Texas Democratic leaders vowed to stay away from the state until Aug. 7, when the 30-day special session would end.

“We are determined to kill this bill,” House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner said.

In a statement, Turner and other leaders also pledged to pressure Congress to pass new federal voting protections.

“We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” Turner and four other top Democrats said in the statement. “We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”

The move came a day before President Biden travels to Philadelphia to pitch his administration’s efforts to protect voting rights amid escalating tensions with civil rights leaders concerned about a nationwide push for new restrictions by Republican leaders — and about stalled efforts to pass federal legislation.

This may be the only way to kill off these Jim Crow 2.0 laws. Now it’s up to Congress. I’m not holding my breath.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Not Open For Debate

Charles P. Pierce:

Tuesday began on Monday night, when a spectacularly wrongheaded defense of the Senate filibuster by flea-on-a-griddle Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona went up on the Washington Post’s website. I think this was my favorite part.

To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act (voting-rights legislation I support and have co-sponsored), I would ask: Would it be good for our country if we did, only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced by a nationwide voter-ID law or restrictions on voting by mail in federal elections, over the objections of the minority?

Holy Jesus, if a staffer wrote this, fire the staffer. If the senator herself wrote it, have her lie down for an hour in a cool, dark place. What does she think is going on in the states right now? (Hundreds of laws in dozens of states.) Stopping a well-organized effort by gerrymandered state legislatures to suppress the franchise of voters they find inconvenient is exactly what the FTPA was designed to do. (It also regulates campaign finance, and I will go to my grave believing that those provisions were the real reason why Sinema, Manchin, and other unnamed Democratic senators lined up in defense of the filibuster, which is a way of killing the bill indirectly.) Perhaps Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC Monday night had the kindest evaluation of Sinema’s column: that it was clearly written in the context of a Senate that hasn’t existed for at least a couple of decades. I’d have said 30 years, but that’s just me.

Then things died down for a while. I came back to the C-SPAN feed just in time to hear John Thune, Republican of South Dakota, lie his ass off about how the filibuster was in the spirit of checks and balances envisioned by the Founders. (The Founders said nothing about the filibuster. It was created by accident in 1789 because Vice President Aaron Burr was distracted, perhaps by dreams of empire or perhaps by that afternoon’s pistol practice, and jacked with the Senate rules in such a way that filibusters became possible.) Thune also praised the “common sense reforms” present in all those new laws. Thune represents a state in which voter suppression most recently ratfcked a referendum legalizing marijuana.
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Then the Senate turned to a couple of administration nominations: Christopher Fonzone to be general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence, and Kiran Aruja to run the Office of Personnel Management.

These two nominations gave Senators Tom Cotton and Josh Hawley a chance to beat on their little tin drums. Cotton, the bobble-throated slapdick from Arkansas, got some nifty red-baiting in on Fonzone, who did legal work with Chinese tech colossus Huawei. (He also got to toss a drive-by elbow at LeBron James.) And Hawley, apparently rehearsing his speech accepting the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, got to froth heavily on Aruja’s alleged allegiance to…wait for it…Critical Race Theory. From the Post:

But it was critical race theory that moved center stage as Hawley targeted Ahuja’s leadership of Philanthropy Northwest, the umbrella group connecting charities in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. The senator focused on her support for Ibram X. Kendi, a professor at Boston University whose writings about racial equity have come under fire from conservatives — and said he worried that Ahuja would weave the language of critical race theory into federal directives.

The Post, alas, is being very childlike here. Hawley was merely engaging in the most recent iteration of Lee Atwater’s infamous declension of racial rhetoric. And to hear Josh Hawley, who cheered on the insurrectionists on January 6 and who led the charge to overturn a fairly run election, bloviate against “divisiveness” and champion “unity” is to discover whole new vistas of projectile vomiting.

Anyway, the whole exercise was an infuriating kabuki. All of the voices opposing the bill weren’t even opposing the bill. They were opposing debating the bill, because there weren’t anywhere close to 60 votes to achieve cloture to bring the bill to the floor for actual debate. But everybody got a chance to front for their point of view.

There is yet time to halt this head-on rush to the destruction of the basic rights of the individual states and the liberties of the American people to satisfy the demands, the clamor, and the expediency of the day. Never in my more than 40 years in Congress have I seen a measure come before this body that has had such built-in potential for the destruction of our constitutional system and the breakdown of law and order as the pending bill.

Oh, sorry. That was Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, talking about the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Lee Atwater taught an important lesson, and his heirs have learned well.

The Republicans don’t want to even debate the bill because there is the slightest chance that one or two of their party might actually believe in democracy and the right to vote. Can’t take that chance.

The faintest glimmering hope that democracy will not die in this darkness is that the Democrats will make as much noise as possible through campaign ads and organized efforts to rout out the GOP in the mid-terms. But that relies on the DNC and the state parties having their collective shit together, and if history is any guide, that’s a faint hope.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Dear Joe Manchin

A letter from Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Dear Sen. Joe Manchin:

It has only been 56 years.

As Americans, we are pleased to call ourselves one of the world’s oldest democracies. We are actually one of the world’s newest. Democracy, after all, is government shaped by the will of the people. But until 1920, roughly half the people were not allowed to vote, disqualified by dint of gender. And until 1965 — 56 years ago — roughly 10 percent were restricted by color of skin.

So American democracy is not even as old as you are. Its newness — its recentness — is invoked here to help you understand the trepidation with which some of us regard the dozens of bills being pondered and passed in Republican-led statehouses across the country with the intention and certain effect of keeping us from voting. As part of a demographic whose access to that right has never been impeded, perhaps you find it difficult to appreciate the profound distress and sense of historical déjà vu some of us are now processing.

To say nothing of our equally profound disappointment in those who could defend us choosing instead to let us down, failing to meet the moment with the urgency it requires. Sadly, that’s a category into which you fall.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our American democracy,” you wrote in a Sunday op-ed in the Charleston Gazette-Mail of West Virginia. You then spent a thousand words explaining why you will not protect this right by supporting the For The People Act, which would end partisan gerrymandering, punish those who try to intimidate voters and streamline voter registration, among other urgently needed reforms. Your argument boils down to: I won’t vote for the bill because it doesn’t have bipartisan support. You lodge no other complaint against it.

But your reasoning is nonsensical. Would you decline to support a For The Chickens Act solely because the foxes refused to sign on?

Yes, you did signal a willingness to vote for a companion bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would repair the Voting Rights Act that was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. But even here, your support is conditioned upon Republican buy-in; you have flatly ruled out ending — or even carving out a one-time exemption from — the filibuster, a parliamentary procedure that allows a minority party to block legislation the majority approves.

There has been much speculation on why you’re doing this. Some say you enjoy the attention. Some say you’re not very smart. But the scariest idea is that you are sincere, that you truly believe this radical (and unrequited) commitment to bipartisanship is what’s best. It’s entirely possible, however, to be sincere and yet, sincerely wrong.

And you are. In effect, you ask those of us who face the loss of our voting rights to trust you as you wager those rights on Republican integrity and good faith. But as recent years have proven ad nauseam, those are qualities your colleagues have in vanishingly short supply.
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Moreover, if America is what America says, then my ballot is not yours to gamble with. Bipartisanship is very important, yes, but the right to vote is sacred — “fundamental,” to use your word. When you prioritize the former above the latter, you echo all the other times this country has made us the fulcrum of its moral compromises, deemed something else to be of more importance than our rights as human beings.

Sir, the error you are making is seismic and potentially tragic. Reconsider, please.

Unfortunately, it’s more important to Mr. Manchin to cling to his job than it is to respect the fundamental right to vote him in or out of office.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Corporations Are Voters, Too

From the Washington Post:

More than 100 chief executives and corporate leaders gathered online Saturday to discuss taking new action to combat the controversial state voting bills being considered across the country, including the one recently signed into law in Georgia.

Executives from major airlines, retailers and manufacturers — plus at least one NFL owner — talked about potential ways to show they opposed the legislation, including by halting donations to politicians who support the bills and even delaying investments in states that pass the restrictive measures, according to four people who were on the call, including one of the organizers, Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, a Yale management professor.

While no final steps were agreed upon, the meeting represents an aggressive dialing up of corporate America’s stand against controversial voting measures nationwide, a sign that their opposition to the laws didn’t end with the fight against the Georgia legislation passed in March.

Marches to the capitol building get attention from cable news, but ignored inside the building itself. But when corporations start talking about withholding donations to candidates and campaigns, ears perk up.

Republicans will carry on about “cancel culture,” and Mitch McConnell can tell the companies to “stay out of politics” (as long as the checks he gets from them clear, that is), but they’re counting on the short-term memory of the voters and their blatant hypocrisy about boycotts.

It also came just days after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned that firms should “stay out of politics” — echoing a view shared by many conservative politicians and setting up the potential for additional conflict between Republican leaders and the heads of some of America’s largest firms. This month, former president Donald Trump called for conservatives to boycott Coca-Cola, Major League Baseball, Delta Air Lines, Citigroup, ViacomCBS, UPS and other companies after they opposed the law in Georgia that critics say will make it more difficult for poorer voters and voters of color to cast ballots. Baseball officials decided to move the All-Star Game this summer from Georgia to Colorado because of the voting bill.

The bottom line is that it’s the bottom line on both sides. Republicans rely on big-money donors to keep them in the lifestyle (if not the job) they’ve grown accustomed to, but corporations such as Coca-Cola and CBS know that their customers can be persuaded to buy Pepsi and watch ABC if they don’t stand up for basic civil rights.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Thursday, March 4, 2021

It’s Called Compromise

Via the Washington Post:

President Biden has agreed to narrow eligibility for a new round of $1,400 stimulus payments in his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill, a concession to moderate Senate Democrats as party leaders moved Wednesday to lock down support and finalize the sweeping legislation.

Under the new structure, the checks would phase out faster for those at higher income levels compared with the way the direct payments were structured in Biden’s initial proposal and the version of the bill passed by the House on Saturday.

The change came as the Senate prepared to take an initial procedural vote to move forward on the bill as early as Thursday. Biden and Senate Democratic leaders were scrambling to keep their caucus united since they cannot lose a single Democrat in the 50-50 Senate if Republicans unite against the legislation.


Still, liberal lawmakers bristled at the new changes. House liberals have suggested it could be difficult for them to approve the package if it’s watered down significantly in the Senate. Presuming the Senate passes the package later this week, it still would have to go back to the House for final approval.

“I don’t understand the political or economic wisdom in allowing Trump to give more people relief checks than a Democratic administration,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. “People went far too long without relief last year — if anything we should be more generous, not more stingy. It’s also an insensitive compromise for the roughly 80 percent of Americans that live in urban areas, which are known for higher costs of living.”

Biden acknowledged in his comments to House Democrats that “I know we’re all making some small compromises,” but he argued that staying united to pass the relief bill, his first major piece of legislation, would help restore the public’s faith in government and open the door to further successes.

“It’s a show of strength,” Biden said. “We know how much we have to do but it all starts here, it starts by bringing this home.”

Anyone who thought that the bill would sail through Congress untouched doesn’t understand the basics of how our system works. Yes, it would be nice to get everything you want, but it wasn’t going to happen. Even if the Democrats had more than 60 votes lined up to pass their laws, there would still be changes. For whatever reason, be it

This is one of the most maddening things about some of our progressive true believers: it doesn’t make them a whole lot different than their opposite numbers on the right. “All or nuthin’!”

Our history is replete with compromises. Some were reasonable, some were tragic, but unless you want a dictator who rules by edicts and fiat, it’s how it works.

At least this bill has a very good chance of passing. I don’t hold out the same hope for HR 1, the Voting Rights act.

The House late Wednesday night passed expansive legislation to create uniform national voting standards, overhaul campaign finance laws and outlaw partisan redistricting, advancing a centerpiece of the Democratic voting rights agenda amid fierce Republican attacks that threaten to stop it cold in the Senate.

The bill, titled the “For the People Act,” was given the symbolic designation of H.R. 1 by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and it largely mirrors a bill passed two years ago in the early weeks of the House Democratic majority.

This year, however, the bill has taken on additional significance because of the new Democratic majority in the Senate and President Biden’s November win, as well as the efforts underway in dozens of Republican-controlled state legislatures to roll back voting access in reaction to former president Donald Trump’s loss and his subsequent campaign to question the election results.

Democrat after Democrat said this week that the GOP’s state-level efforts made it more important than ever to act at the federal level to preserve expansive voting laws. Many invoked the gains won in the 1960s civil rights movement by activists including John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat who died of cancer last year.


The bill has become a lightning rod for Republican opposition, spurring claims that it is a partisan attempt to rewrite federal election laws in Democrats’ favor. No Republicans voted for the bill in 2019 or Wednesday night, when it was approved 220 to 210.

“It is not designed to protect Americans’ vote — it is designed to put a thumb on the scale in every election in America, so that Democrats can turn a temporary majority into permanent control,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said during floor debate Tuesday. “It is an unparalleled political grab.”

The Republicans’ main objection to the bill is that it would allow minorities and poor people to vote. As they have proven time and again for the last fifty years, the GOP loses when all the voters vote, so the only recourse they have is Jim Crow and insurrection.

The bill will not pass the Senate in any form as long as there is the filibuster, and a lot of states run by Republicans are frantically passing draconian laws to hobble the voting system. In Georgia, for example, a provision of their new law makes it a misdemeanor to give food and water to voters standing in line. The only ancillary benefit to its defeat is that it will provide footage for campaign ads.

I don’t think that’s what John Lewis had in mind when he marched across the Edmund Pettis bridge. But I’m pretty sure he would have tried to work with the Republicans to get something done.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Toad Of Toad Hall

We expect a lot of Republicans, for whatever reason, to suck up to Trump.  Fear, mainly, of his thumbs on his Twitter account, or how he can stir up the knuckle-draggers with semi-automatics in cammie-jammies chanting “look out, here comes the master race” trying to take over the state house.  Or, true to their nature, they’re in it for their own self-preservation as opposed to doing what’s right for the country.  And in the aftermath of Joe Biden’s win by Trump’s own definition of a landslide (306 electoral votes), they’re trying to undermine the various recounts going on, including the laborious hand-job in Georgia.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Monday that he has come under increasing pressure in recent days from fellow Republicans, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who he said questioned the validity of legally cast absentee ballots, in an effort to reverse President Trump’s narrow loss in the state.

In a wide-ranging interview about the election, Raffensperger expressed exasperation over a string of baseless allegations coming from Trump and his allies about the integrity of the Georgia results, including claims that Dominion Voting Systems, the Colorado-based manufacturer of Georgia’s voting machines, is a “leftist” company with ties to Venezuela that engineered thousands of Trump votes to be left out of the count.

The atmosphere has grown so contentious, Raffensperger said, that he and his wife, Tricia, have received death threats in recent days, including a text to him that read: “You better not botch this recount. Your life depends on it.”

“Other than getting you angry, it’s also very disillusioning,” Raffensperger said of the threats, “particularly when it comes from people on my side of the aisle. Everyone that is working on this needs to elevate their speech. We need to be thoughtful and careful about what we say.” He said he reported the threats to state authorities.

The pressure on Raffensperger, who has bucked his party in defending the state’s voting process, comes as Georgia is in the midst of a laborious hand recount of about 5 million ballots. President-elect Joe Biden has a 14,000-vote lead in the initial count.

It’s no surprise that Lindsey Graham would be doing Trump’s bidding because when it comes to being a toady, he has no peer. In this case, his sycophancy borders on the criminal.

In the interview, Raffensperger also said he spoke on Friday to Graham, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has echoed Trump’s unfounded claims about voting irregularities.

In their conversation, Graham questioned Raffensperger about the state’s signature-matching law and whether political bias could have prompted poll workers to accept ballots with nonmatching signatures, according to Raffensperger. Graham also asked whether Raffensperger had the power to toss all mail ballots in counties found to have higher rates of nonmatching signatures, Raffensperger said.

Raffensperger said he was stunned that Graham appeared to suggest that he find a way to toss legally cast ballots. Absent court intervention, Raffensperger doesn’t have the power to do what Graham suggested because counties administer elections in Georgia.

“It sure looked like he was wanting to go down that road,” Raffensperger said.

In an interview on Capitol Hill on Monday evening, Graham denied that he had suggested that Raffensperger toss legal ballots, calling that characterization “ridiculous.”

But he said he did seek out the secretary of state to understand the state’s signature-matching requirements. Graham said he contacted Raffensperger on his own and was not asked to do so by Trump.

Uh-huh. And chickens have gingivitis.

This is yet another statement in the basic article of faith of the Republican Party: No Democrat is ever elected fairly to office because a lot of Democrats are people of color and therefore are not legitimate voters.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Sunday Reading

Learning From Mom — Sue Halpern in The New Yorker about what she learned about voting from her mother (and it sounds very familiar).

Five years ago, when my mother was in her late eighties, she volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign. Most days, she drove twenty minutes to an office park in Virginia Beach and made phone calls for four or five hours at a stretch. Hillary was her candidate—not because she was a woman on track to make history (my mother isn’t sentimental that way) but because years before, when Clinton was considering a run for the Senate, my mother heard her speak at a fund-raising dinner and was impressed by her intelligence, humor, and, yes, warmth. My husband, a 2016 Bernie surrogate, could not persuade her to change her allegiance. She was “all in for Hillary.”

The 2016 campaign marked a turning point for my mother: it was the first in decades in which she did not go door to door, urging strangers to vote for whichever candidate she happened to be supporting. (One year, that candidate was my uncle, a progressive Democrat, who was running a quixotic campaign for Congress in a conservative Republican district in New York. Needless to say, he lost.) She said she was finally too old to be a door knocker, a task that she was very good at because, over the years, she had acquired the ability to talk to anyone, anywhere. Still, her biggest campaign triumph was pulling up at a rally in suburban Connecticut, where we lived at the time, with a huge Jimmy Carter sign atop her Oldsmobile 88, and getting a shout-out from the actor Paul Newman. This was in 1976. It probably kept her campaigning for the next forty years.

Both my parents were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, members of a local activist group pushing for reforms in the Party, but they recognized that American democracy did not work without a loyal opposition, and they sometimes voted for Republicans. The polarization that now characterizes our shared political life had not yet taken hold, and the concept of a moderate Republican was not anathema to either the Republican Party or liberal Democrats. Our corner of Connecticut was represented—and represented well—by two such Republicans, Lowell Weicker, in the Senate, and Stewart McKinney, in the House. They, and their fellow-travellers, had some gravitational pull in their party, and that was a good thing.

When I turned eighteen, I registered to vote as a Democrat. Then I wrote to Representative McKinney and told him I’d done that, and asked for a summer job. He brought me on as an assistant to his press secretary. And, although that experience cured me of any desire to work on the Hill, it was a hands-on education in the political give-and-take necessary to meet the needs of constituents. Today, as we watch Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of Joe Biden’s victory and encourage spurious claims of voter fraud; when we hear reports that McConnell, if he retains his leadership position, will block Biden’s Cabinet appointees if he deems them too radical; and when only four sitting Republican senators have reached across the aisle to congratulate the President-elect, we are seeing irrefutable evidence that McConnell’s Republican Party has little interest in governing. It is difficult to see how a two-party system works when the animating ideology of one of them is nihilism. Actually, that’s not true. We have empirical evidence from the past four years: it works nominally, but that is all. Unfortunately, democratic norms are not automatically revived by the election of a Democratic President, though it’s a start.

On November 8, 2016, my mother went to the Clinton campaign office for her last shift. The Times she read that day with her morning coffee calculated that Hillary had an eighty-five-per-cent chance of winning the Presidency. (The paper likened her chance of losing to an N.F.L. kicker missing a thirty-seven-yard field goal.) Everyone in the office was giddy, my mother told me when she got home that afternoon. The young people she’d worked alongside for months urged her to come back that evening for a watch party and victory celebration. “I’m not going,” she said. “He’s going to win.” At the time, I thought that she was hedging her bets so as not to jinx it. But, for months, she’d been telling me that most of the young and middle-aged women she was calling (and who she assumed were white) told her that they were voting for Trump, or at least that they would not be voting for Clinton. “I don’t get it,” she often said, but, on the night that those sentiments mattered, she did get it. She stayed home, and watched Trump glide into office.

My mother is a first-generation American. Both her parents came to this country from Europe, at the turn of the last century. She was born a year before the Great Depression and came of age during the Second World War. Hers was the generation that planted victory gardens, bought war bonds, and sent loved ones abroad to fight Nazism and fascism. They had a more visceral understanding of what was at stake in 2020 than many of us did. They had seen men like Trump before. The idea that their lives would be bookended by racist, authoritarian strongmen was almost unbearable. (Though Trump still carried seniors nationally, a post-election report from the Brookings Institution notes that there was “less Republican support among older segments of the population” than in 2016; among white people aged forty-five to sixty-four, support for Trump fell nine percentage points from 2016. There were no exit polls of nonagenarians, as far as I can tell.)

The pandemic—and Trump’s politicization of public health—meant that we could not be with my mother to celebrate her birthday, and that she could not attend her granddaughter’s wedding. Her book group went on hiatus, her mah-jongg crew was sidelined, and the municipal gym where she walked the track most mornings shut down. The isolation has been extreme, but she’s not complaining, nor are her friends. I suspect that their youth prepared them for behaving in the public interest. Their generation may be the last with a lived experience of comity, though the mutual-aid groups spawned by the pandemic may yet turn out to be instructive to the rest of us. When I posted, on Twitter, that my ninety-two-year-old mother had waited two hours to cast a ballot during Virginia’s early voting, the tweet received more than forty-four thousand likes. The overriding comments were of thanks.

Many people cast this election as the most consequential of their lives. They said that they were voting for the future—for their children and grandchildren, for the health of the planet, for the survival of democracy. But, for those of us with relatives and friends of a certain age, we were also voting for them.

Georgia On My Mind — John Nichols and Joan Walsh in The Nation on the January run-off elections that could determine the future of Joe Biden’s presidency.

As he prepared to claim the presidential victory he secured by more than 4 million votes, Joe Biden said, “What is becoming clearer each hour is that record numbers of Americans—from all races, faiths, regions—chose change over more of the same.” But his ability to deliver that change is still to be determined by the voters of Georgia.

Because the Democrats did not gain control of the US Senate on November 3, the defining moment for Biden’s presidency will come January 5, when a pair of runoff elections in Georgia could displace GOP incumbents and position Vice President–elect Kamala Harris to end Republican Mitch McConnell’s destructive tenure as Senate majority leader.

The Georgia runoffs give the Democrats a rare opportunity to finish the essential work of elections in which they fell short. The 2020 fight was always about more than defeating Donald Trump. McConnell had to be displaced, or Biden would serve as a virtual lame duck struggling to achieve incremental change with executive orders, tepid appointments, and a constrained agenda.

While Biden prevailed, the bid for Senate control stumbled. Instead of the net gain of four seats that they needed, Democrats beat Republican incumbents only in Arizona and Colorado, while Democratic Senator Doug Jones lost in Alabama. So many vulnerable Republican incumbents survived that it looked as if McConnell and the GOP could hang on to power with a 52-48 advantage.

There was plenty of blame to go around for what was clearly a disappointing result. Progressives complained that Biden ran a campaign so narrowly focused on upending Trump that it never developed the urgent issue agenda that could inspire full-ticket Democratic voting. But it was not just that. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee put their thumbs on the scales for uninspired centrists who then disappointed. The most frustrating example was in the race against McConnell in Kentucky, where DC insiders favored Amy McGrath in the primary over Charles Booker, a legislator who had a far better plan for building an urban-rural Hood to the Holler movement in the state. Nearly $90 million was poured into McGrath’s campaign, yet she won just over 38 percent of the vote—not even 3 percentage points better than Tennessee progressive Marquita Bradshaw, whose insurgent Senate bid got little attention from DC Democrats.

Democratic strategists must get better at mounting coherent national campaigns that develop an issue-driven identity for the party. They must also learn to respect the wisdom of grassroots Democrats in the states rather than impose candidates from above. But political blame laying is of value only if it provides lessons for getting it right the next time. Luckily for the Democrats, the next time is now.

Georgia can prevent McConnell from becoming the grim reaper of Biden’s presidency. That’s because, unlike most states, Georgia holds runoff elections when no candidate receives a majority of the votes in the initial balloting. The state held two Senate contests this year: a regular race for the seat held by Republican incumbent David Perdue and a special election for the seat held by Kelly Loeffler, an extreme right-wing Republican who was appointed in 2019. It was immediately clear that the Rev. Raphael Warnock had finished ahead of Loeffler in a multicandidate contest and would face her again in a runoff. In Perdue’s race, the initial count had him finishing above the 50 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff with Democrat Jon Ossoff. But things turned Ossoff’s way in the same tabulation of absentee ballots that put Biden ahead in the state. Perdue dropped to 49.7 percent, and the Democrat declared, “We have all the momentum.” There are still hurdles for Ossoff. Perdue is likely to demand a recount in the hope of clawing his way over the 50 percent threshold. But recounts rarely work.

So this is the time for everyone who wants to see a successful Biden presidency to go all in for Warnock and Ossoff. Georgia is deep into a process of political transformation, thanks to demographic shifts and the remarkable voter mobilization work of Stacey Abrams and a new generation of multiracial, multiethnic grassroots activists.

Warnock and Ossoff are different candidates who have run distinct campaigns. Yet it’s likely they will rise or fall together in what could well be the most expensive Senate competition in American history. Loeffler is reputedly the richest politician on Capitol Hill, Perdue is a multimillionaire, and McConnell will steer every special-interest dollar he can find into Georgia. That money will fund vicious campaigning. In the run-up to the November elections, Perdue mounted attacks on Ossoff, who is Jewish, that were widely condemned as anti-Semitic. Loeffler is already signaling that she’ll attack Warnock, who is running to become Georgia’s first Black senator, for what she labels “his radical policies and his agenda.”

But these Democrats bring strengths to the competition. Ossoff, who built name recognition and fundraising prowess with a high-profile 2017 bid in suburban Atlanta’s Sixth Congressional District, shredded Perdue in a late-October debate. Ossoff still has high support in the Sixth, where he narrowly lost in 2017 but African-American gun-control activist Lucy McBath won in 2018 and 2020. Warnock, the senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., finished ahead of Loeffler, thanks to an urban-rural coalition with a proven capacity to mobilize voters. Former president Barack Obama has already campaigned for the Georgia Democrats, reminding an Atlanta crowd just before the November 3 elections, “You’ve got the chance to flip two Senate seats.”

Abrams agrees. She dismisses the notion that runoffs disadvantage Democrats just because the big top-of-the-ticket races are settled. “We will have the investment and the resources that have never followed our runoffs in Georgia for Democrats,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. Ossoff and Warnock “are going to make certain that Joe Biden has the leadership, the support, and the congressional mandate that he needs to move this country forward.”

Ossoff told The Nation recently that his mentor Representative John Lewis, who died in July, urged him to work to revive the Black-Jewish electoral coalition that made major gains in Georgia in the 1960s and ’70s. Ossoff and Warnock, running as a ticket, could be precisely the team the Democrats need in 2021—working to win two races in Georgia and prevent McConnell from obstructing another Democratic presidency.

Doonesbury — Art Smart.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

If The Election Were Held Today…

To quote Joe Biden, guess what: it is.  This is it.

If you haven’t voted, what are you waiting for?  Go.

For those of you who have, take deep cleansing breaths, think of calming things, like a quiet walk on the beach, sunset over the ocean, a mountain vista.

That’s it for now.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Reading

Latinos Con Biden — Stephania Taladrid in The New Yorker on how grassroots organizing is turning out the Latinx vote in Miami.

On a scorching afternoon in early October, Miguel Sahid walked over to a freshly painted mural in Wynwood, Miami’s art district. When Sahid reached the wall, tears began flowing from his closed eyes. Looming above him was an image of a Taíno woman wrapped in a Puerto Rican flag, her lips sealed with the word “Reclama,” or “Demand.” Her right arm was raised as high as Lady Liberty’s, but instead of a torch, she held a banner reading “Tu Voto es Mi Voto”—“Your Vote Is My Vote.” Sahid and others had commissioned the mural as a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Maria—but also as a rallying cry for the nearly nine hundred thousand eligible Puerto Rican voters in Florida, urging them to make their voices heard this November.

Sahid became involved in politics only recently—he was groomed in the world of theatre, and now runs an actors society for Latino youth. At forty-six, he comes across as a sturdy man, with carefully combed hair, warm eyes, and a jaunty smile. Like other Puerto Ricans, he has taken Donald Trump’s demeaning of the island personally, and sees Maria as a thorn in the President’s side. To this date, he vividly remembers the call he placed to his parents back on the island when the hurricane made landfall, in September of 2017. “Many of the phone lines were down, because everyone was calling,” he said. When he finally got his father on the phone, he learned that their apartment was flooded ankle-deep in seawater. Shortly after, Puerto Rico slipped into a blackout, and eight days passed before Sahid was able to reach his parents again. Trump’s callousness and ineptitude stunned him. “Everything changed when I saw he wasn’t paying the slightest attention to Puerto Rico, and that all he bothered to do was throw paper towels at us,” he said. “It felt as if he were offering a Band-Aid at a time when we desperately needed surgery.”

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Trump declared that he had done an “A-plus” job in Puerto Rico. During his only visit to the island, which lasted less than four hours, the President blamed local authorities for any problems and downplayed the damage. In reality, the official government death toll was 2,975, a higher number of victims than during Katrina, the hurricane that devastated New Orleans, in 2005. In parts of Puerto Rico, American citizens were left without electricity or clean water for months. The island has yet to fully recover from the disaster, which wrought an estimated hundred billion dollars in damage on a population whose local government was already heavily burdened by debt. Last month, in a transparent, last-minute effort to earn votes, Trump pledged a package of thirteen billion dollars in federal disaster funding to Puerto Rico. But many, including Sahid, saw this as a cynical political ploy by a President who reportedly wanted to hand over the U.S. territory to the highest foreign bidder. “First he wanted to sell us, then he wanted to swap us for Greenland, and now he wants to buy us?” he said ruefully. Feeling increasingly frustrated, Sahid looked for ways to become more engaged in politics and came across the grassroots groups Boricuas con Biden and Cubanos con Biden. “There, I found thousands of people airing similar grievances,” he said. “It made me realize that I’m not alone.”

According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos make up seventeen per cent of the electorate in Florida—the largest share of any battleground state. A staple of Florida politics is that Cuban-Americans reliably vote Republican; this year, they are expected to overwhelmingly support Trump. There are, in fact, more Puerto Rican eligible voters in the state than Cuban-Americans, and, together with myriad other groups, including Mexicans, Dominicans, Nicaraguans, and Ecuadorians, they constitute nearly three-quarters of the community’s voters. The result of the battle for their support could decide whether Trump or Biden wins the state. “Unlike 2016, this has been a much more contested environment,” Carlos Odio, the co-founder of the research group EquisLabs, told me. “If you’re Biden, what you’re trying to do is maximize votes. Trump has an easier job—he just needs to bat a few balls away.” To win Florida, Odio estimates that Joe Biden likely must secure around seventy per cent of the non-Cuban Latino vote—a level of support reached both by Barack Obama, in 2012, and Hillary Clinton, in 2016. The last time that Equis polled for Biden, his support hovered around sixty per cent. But he’s since made modest gains in Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, aided by a heavy investment in advertising thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s half-million-dollar donation there and a wave of volunteers working to turn out the vote.

Addressing a small crowd of organizers in Miami Springs last weekend, Obama, who was in Florida to promote his Vice-President, emphasized just how momentous their work could prove, saying, “If you bring Florida home, this thing’s over.” Initially, the number of registered Democrats who had cast their ballots early in Florida outpaced Republicans by two-to-one. But in the last week, registered Republicans have steadily closed that gap, and now trail Democrats by less than a hundred thousand votes. In Miami-Dade, a Democratic stronghold, Republicans have an advantage in turnout of more than eight per cent. The numbers also reveal that half of Latino registered voters have yet to cast their ballots in the state. Privately, Latino political activists, and even Biden campaign staffers in the state, say that the Florida Democratic Party, which runs Biden’s coördinated campaign, has not invested enough money in direct voter contact among Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, and other potential supporters. “I’ve emptied my pockets,” one of the staffers said, of having to make up for the lack of budget with personal money. The staffer has overheard others say they’re “being sent to the front lines just like soldiers without bullets.” But the campaign contends it has spent six figures over the last week in get-out-the-vote efforts and events at early polling locations. “We are leaving no stone unturned,” Christian Ulvert, a senior adviser in Florida, said.

Although research has long shown that there is a racial and ethnic disparity in the use of vote-by-mail, some are frustrated by what they see as the state campaign’s failure to invest more heavily in Latino turnout, despite the Biden campaign having raised a record $1.5 billion nationally, and working with a hundred-million-dollar donation from Bloomberg. But they also recognize an all-too-familiar pattern, which, in their view, explains why Democrats have not won a statewide election in Florida since 2012: the Democratic Party is not making a large enough effort in a state where demographics trends favor them. “Florida doesn’t have to go to the margins,” the staffer said. Now some of them are dreading a Trump victory or a repeat of the 2000 Presidential election, when the contest was settled in George W. Bush’s favor by five hundred and thirty-seven votes. If Republicans continue to turn out their voters in droves, Biden staffers fear that they may not be able to keep up with their lead. “If we don’t get the Hispanic vote out today and tomorrow, it’s game over,” the staffer told me on Saturday. “At this rate, they’re going to catch up to us by Monday.” Another staffer argued that it was impossible to make up in a matter of days for work that should have been done over the last year. “At this point, I’m praying for a miracle,” the staffer said.

What may offset the campaign’s neglect is that many Latino voters believe their livelihoods and integrity are on the ballot this year. For the nearly fifty thousand Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria, November 3rd may well determine the future for their relatives back home. For the nearly two hundred thousand Venezuelans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans living in Florida, it may be a question of undoing Trump’s attacks on the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows immigrants from countries beset by violence, repressive regimes, or natural disasters to remain in the United States. And for the more than three hundred thousand voters of Mexican descent, it may be a matter of standing up for their dignity. Across nationalities, Latino voters are fed up with being treated as second-class citizens. What’s more, some say that they see in Trump the authoritarian instincts displayed by leaders of the nations they fled. “The reason why I’m horrified by Trump is because I see Daniel Ortega in him,” Carolina Chamorro, a Nicaraguan sociologist who moved to Florida in the nineteen-eighties, said, referring to the Sandinista leader. “All he’s doing is manipulating the masses.”

Much of Trump’s bigoted rhetoric has been aimed at Latinos—and, in cases like the mass shooting of twenty-two people last year in El Paso, in which the gunman set out to kill as many Mexicans as possible, it’s proved fatal. For Maria José Wright and Fred Wright, the notion that Trump is viewed as a pro-life leader is painfully ironic. Their son, Jerry, was one of the forty-nine victims of the Pulse night-club shooting, in Orlando, in 2016. Until that year, the Wrights had invariably voted Republican. “A lot of people don’t know this, but the shooter at Pulse, who took my son’s life, got radicalized because Trump started talking about banning [immigrants from] Muslim states,” Fred, an Ecuadorian-American businessman, said. “To us, he is pro-death.” Maria José expressed regret that many conservative Latinos who support the President limit their pro-life defense to the unborn, when more than a hundred Americans are killed by guns every day, and more than two hundred and thirty thousand have died as a result of COVID-19. “It’s shameful,” she told me. Maria José said she was troubled by the G.O.P.’s personality cult, and by Trump’s debasement of the press, scientists, and his opponents. “It scares the living crap out of me,” she said.

In a closely contested election riven by fear and hostility, the work done at the grassroots level could prove decisive in increasing turnout. Weeks before the start of early voting, Sahid joined dozens of volunteers, including Daniela Ferrera, the co-founder of the grassroots group Cubanos con Biden, and began rallying voters by organizing caravanas, rallies on wheels. When early voting began, they started visiting polling places to counter the presence of Trump supporters, whose vehemence they fear will deter Biden voters from turning out. A week ago, in the city of Hialeah, a Republican stronghold north of Miami, Maria Caridad Fernandez, a Cuban-American voter, wept after seeing fellow Biden supporters outside her polling site. Fernandez told me that she had been doubting whether to vote or not—her neighbor’s pro-Biden yard signs had been stolen, and she found the current political climate deeply dispiriting. But the sight of Biden supporters evoked a feeling of belonging—one that was comparable to what Sahid had felt. “I want this country to be proud of us and to never feel ashamed of having welcomed us in,” Fernandez said.

Sahid recently led a Sunday-morning caravan of Biden enthusiasts through downtown Miami. Previous caravans had numbered in the hundreds, but, this time, two thousand cars had registered on the eve of the event. Dressed in jeans and a tight “Latinos con Biden” shirt, Sahid welcomed people with a broad smile as they drove in: “¡Hola, hola, hola! How are you guys doing?!” Within less than an hour, there were more cars than the street could fit. People brought their elderly parents, their children, and pets and carried cardboard signs, some homemade, that said “Abuelas Cubanas con Biden,” “100% Anti-Comunista, 100% con Biden,” and “Republican voters against Trump.” Other signs referenced Trump’s treatment of Puerto Rico and his talk of trading away the U.S. territory, such as, “Prohibido Olvidar” and “Puerto Rico no se vende.” Next to their Biden flags, people brandished Puerto Rican, Mexican, Venezuelan, and Uruguayan flags. Leading the way was a pickup truck, playing at full volume a classic Puerto Rican song, whose lyrics went “¡Pa’ fuera! ¡Pa’ la calle! ” or “Get out, to the street.”

On the caravan’s way to Tropical Park, when Trump supporters drove by, their shouts of “Communists!” were drowned out by the cheering and honking of Biden supporters. “This is how you know the street is on your side,” Sahid said proudly. “Two months ago, you saw none of this.” His husband, Andres Mejia, sat to his right and joked that Sahid has had to replace his car horn three times. “It went mute during the first caravan,” Mejia said, as Sahid kept honking. By the time that Sahid reached the main boulevard in front of the park, more than a thousand people were lined up on the street’s edges, waving signs and dancing. An elderly Dominican man expressed astonishment at the size of the pro-Biden crowd in a park where Trump supporters convene regularly. “Trumpists had been here for a year,” he said in disbelief. “One never gets to see anything like this in Miami.” The turnout had exceeded Sahid’s expectations, but he was cautiously enthusiastic.

The following week, he and a group of volunteers put together another caravan, which drew several hundred cars from different parts of the city. The plan was to meet at the Freedom Tower, on Biscayne Boulevard—an iconic building where Cubans long petitioned for asylum, and which is known as the “Ellis Island of the South.” As Sahid and others got closer to the monument, a growing number of Trump supporters showed up in their cars. When the Biden supporters finally reached their meeting point, the boulevard was blanketed with Trump 2020 flags. Leading the caravan in support of the President were the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group. They had hired a parade float, which featured a large-sized cutout of a bridge and which read “TRUMP UNITY.” It included a singer, too—a boisterous man who performed the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” with the letters “M.A.G.A.” Members of the rival caravans engaged in a screaming match. Some people shouted “¡Comunistas! ”; others “¡Asesino! ” A girl on an electric scooter carried a megaphone and repeatedly yelled, “Biden is a pedophile!” Another kneeled on the backseat of a car and twerked in the direction of a crowd of Biden supporters. There were different ways one could read the effort to sabotage the caravan—as a desperate attempt to regain the streets or a troubling show of force designed to intimidate Democrats. Sahid didn’t rule out either scenario. “It’s going to be darn hard to win this thing,” he said.

Democracy vs the Corrupt Federal Judiciary: Which Side Are You On? — Josh Marshall in TPM.

We now have another case in Texas where the state Republican party is going to court to attempt to throw out roughly 100,000 ballots cast via curbside voting in Harris County, Texas. They lost their bid in state courts. So now they’re rushing to federal court where a thoroughly corrupted federal judiciary is likely open to this wholesale disenfranchisement. Federal judges are buying into the theory proposed by four justices on the pre-Barrett Court that only state legislatures can make any changes to voting procedures. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate says state Republicans have drawn one of the most partisan federal judges in Texas to hear the case.

Here we have yet another opportunity for a corrupted federal judiciary to rig the election in favor of the Republican party. It’s akin to the kind of things we see in broken democracies like Russian and Turkey, where notional democratic procedures are backstopped by courts which intervene if the elections are going in the wrong direction.

People need to open their eyes to the reality of what has happened. The federal judiciary has been thoroughly corrupted. The issue is not principally one of ideology. It is that a large number of Republican judges see their role as backstopping the electoral fortunes and policy choices of the Republican party. For this they are willing to use states-rights federalism or federal intervention depending on situational convenience. They manufacture new interpretive theories wholesale to achieve these ends. This can sound hyperbolic. But it’s not.

For democracy to survive the federal judiciary must be reformed. We’re focused on Trump right now. But even if he’s defeated next week the federal judiciary will remain in place in its corrupted state and likely expand its efforts to interfere in elections and exercise vetoes over Democratic policy-making. For democracy to survive the federal judiciary must be reformed. That starts with expanding the Supreme Court with at least four new Justices. But it should apply to the rest of the federal judiciary as well.

Doonesbury — Closing argument by the numbers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

I Voted

It took twenty minutes from the time I got out of the car, walked across the parking lot of the Pinecrest Library through the phalanx of campaigners for various candidates, some I’d never heard of (I live in a different community than this particular early-voting location), got my ballot, marked up the three pages of candidates, constitutional amendments, and charter amendments for Palmetto Bay, got my I VOTED! sticker, and got back in my car.  There were a lot of voters, and the parking lot was full, but apparently in anticipation of a large turn-out, the county had set up a lot of polling stations.  Social distancing was enforced, and everything went smoothly.

Don’t ask me how I voted because other than the Big One, I don’t actually remember all the names.  Frankly, for a lot of the local races, I rely on seeing who has yard signs along side the candidates I do know.  So if a candidate for vice-mayor in Palmetto Bay is next to the one for the presidential candidate I support, they probably get my vote.  Yeah, I know, I should be doing better research, but a lot of it is hard to find, Google notwithstanding.  That said, I did read up and research the state constitutional amendments and made my informed choices.

The most important thing, though, is that I voted.  You can listen to all the hype, the pundits, the Twitter feeds, the Facebook posts, your friends, your neighbors, the crazy uncle, and the guy at the gas station, but it doesn’t do anything until you stand alone in that little portable polling station, with the ballot printed out and the ball-point pen that you use to fill in the little bubble on the page next to the name.  It is the most important act in our journey as a country and as a civilization.  And in those twenty minutes — the average length of a TV sitcom episode — I was doing something that people have fought and died for: the simple act of casting a vote.  Doing the one thing that will actually count.

What I will never understand, especially this year, are those who have the vote and don’t use it.  The state and county has made it as easy as they can even with the pandemic: early voting at a lot of locations with ample parking and open for 12 hours a day; absentee and mail-in secure ballots, doing practically everything but coming to your house.  How much easier can they make it, and what’s stopping you?

To be honest, I don’t want to hear your excuses for not voting because it’s not worth hearing, and if you don’t care about the outcome, then I really don’t want to be around you.  This is too stark a choice not to have a voice.