Let's Get This Party Started
Dec. 30, 2020, 7:38 p.m.
Biden War Room
Historically, pollsters could ask voters about their views about issues and predict with some success how they would vote. Now, voters right, left, and center have somehow found their way into a centrifuge. It’s easy to pinpoint the cause, because like everything else in this era, the reason for the chaos is … Donald Trump.The votersOut from one side of the centrifuge pours a mixture of conservatives and progressives, moderates and many who don’t pay much attention to politics at all.This mix of the informed and the clueless (on both left and right) is the familiar American electorate. Many voted for President-elect Biden because of his policies or personal qualities. This mix contains some who decided against Trump because he is vile. There are some informed voters who chose Trump because they overlook his loathsomeness but like his policies.Members of Biden’s blended family of progressives and conservatives have been in awe of where they’ve landed. It’s as if they’ve suddenly found themselves vacationing on Sesame Street happily cavorting with colorful new monsters. Political Twitter is filled with, “I can’t believe I agree with…” naming someone from the far opposite end of the political spectrum. The President-elect has promised that he’ll be a President for all Americans, whether they voted for him or not.The sticky matter that remains inside the sealed centrifuge compartment encompasses a subset of Trump acolytes of all types: cult worshipers, crooks, racists, bigots, misogynists. And some, we assume, “are good people.” That voter group will henceforth be described as “residue” and ignored. This is the GOP’s base.GOP, acquiredBy 2020, Trump and the GOP had fused, and ownership of the party of Lincoln was officially transferred to Trump at the Republican National Convention. The Republican platform committee meeting was abandoned (likely the only GOP gathering all year that was actually canceled, under the pretext of safety). The actual adopted platform was that the committee “would have undoubtedly unanimously agreed to reassert the Party’s strong support for President Donald Trump and his Administration.” Translated: “Our platform is anything Trump wants.” The rest of the platform yelled at Democrats and the press.During the rest of Trump’s term, with the virus raging, the GOP kept firmly to its plans of supporting Donald Trump against all reason, and working hard at its other action items, trashing Democrats and the press, and accomplishing almost nothing else.Lindsey Graham famously suggested that Trump’s 2016 nomination would end the GOP. As we approach 2021, this prediction hasn’t materialized. There have been several high-profile defections from Trump in the form of the never-Trump movement, which began as soon as Trump rode that escalator in 2015.Later defections have come from former politicians (who spoke up after their careers ended, or whose careers ended because Trump ended them with a well-aimed tweet). Others came from party insiders and some mid-career GOP strategists. Whether these departures are simply a referendum on one man or on the entire party won’t be clear for a while.This does raise the question:What is a political party for?Political parties are valuable in our democracy, for organizing, and for putting out a worldview for debate. Those disagreements used to focus primarily on scale: how much to spend to address the climate crisis, the appropriate level for a minimum wage, how stringent the gun laws should be, the extent of needed subsidies for health care, farmers, or entrepreneurs.Until the Trump era, all parties agreed that our voting mechanisms are delegated to the states and that elections are sacrosanct. Those earning fewer votes accept their defeats, concede, and rebuild.That’s true now only among those of us who departed the centrifuge, including rational Trump voters. The sticky residue demurs.These differences loom larger than the ordinary disagreements about scale. We knew this was coming from Trump. Then the GOP dove into the pool.For the rest of us, many deep in both the left and right had already joined forces at the Lincoln Project, the Bulwark, and many grassroots organizations in the runup to the election. Those who joined hands (virtually, of course, in the age of COVID) affiliated based on existential issues, and were not a bit concerned about party identity. We can continue to work with all those who looked at the 2020 election and knew right away that it was fair and definitive. It’s easy to decide who is on which team. Some of them even have hats.The never-Trump movement was generally relieved to see Joe Biden nominated. Emotional reactions to Biden’s victory speech and his subsequent press conferences have emanated from both sides of the left-right continuum.What does it mean to be affiliated with a political party, or to leave it? Tim Miller, once in communications roles in the Jeb Bush campaign and the Republican National Committee, came very close to suggesting that a significant chunk of those who left the GOP should unite behind Joe Biden’s center-left agenda. Miller points out that most of Biden’s wish list is already embraced by conservatives looking for “unyielding commitment to the equality and liberty of all, and then to facts, reason and knowledge” and “recognize immigration as a vital national asset and universal access to quality health care, public and private, a national obligation”.Disaffected Republican voters swung densely-populated suburbs to Biden. That landslide of popular votes? Wins in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania? Without those commanding swings in formerly-reliable red districts, frivolous lawsuits might have oozed Trump into a second term. In the end, there were just too many states to overturn. Governing happens in the center. So does winning.Parties aren’t teams. They aren’t gangs. They don’t deserve loyalty or reverence against our consciences or our democracies. They’re a vessel for achieving goals that can’t be achieved by individuals. Parties should work for democracy, not for candidates. While we’re at it, candidates and political figures aren’t deities or rock stars, and we should stop dressing up dolls to look like them. Our political representatives are our employees. When they fail, it’s because we’ve been remiss at hiring or supervising them.What people can doWe can begin where we agree on goals. Then we can discuss means. To prepare for that, some New Year’s resolutions might help.Let’s discern the difference between news and political talk. News describes events that happen, without editing to create a narrative. Political talk comprises valuable analysis, unfounded predictions, gossip, and snark. Most of the content on all-news channels is not actual news. Healthy adults know how to allocate nutrition versus dessert. Figure it out.Let’s stop assuming we know the motivations of good-faith political opponents. That crosses the line between news and snark. When we agree about America, the rest is negotiation.We can work together with people with whom we disagree and make progress on some cooler policies before we delve into the hot wedge issues. Let’s support that and focus less on whatever we’re not getting.Let’s try to move the center a few degrees leftward of where it is now.Good-faith left and right voters are not as far apart as news-channel provocateurs contend. They are also not identical, as fringe voters contend. Left and right elected a center-left President. This means that we can find common ground.What parties can doIn a better political environment, the party should act as a sponsor, not a servant. Parties shouldn’t decide among nominees, but they could create some rules before candidates are printed on their primary ballots. Like home buyers who can walk away from their offers after inspections, political parties should not be forced to accept all candidates. Time will tell if the GOP wonders whether it should have created a rule or two in 2015.An obvious potential rule: require personal tax returns for release to primary voters and the press. Virtually all candidates do this voluntarily now. It’s not an undue burden to prove that your priority will be the people you represent. If parties won’t do this, states could take up the slack within legal bounds.Another possibility: limit the number of candidates on the party primary ballot. Parties already limit the candidates who qualify for debates. It’s possible that the large number of conventional Republican primary candidates in 2016 — senators and governors — split the mainstream vote, leaving only a few fringe candidates to consolidate the rest.What voters can doBlue advocates should be happy to offer our hospitality to principled conservatives until a constructive opposition party is built or repaired. Democrats and Republicans can be grateful that the guardrails of our democracy withstood the tsunami this time, because we were lucky. It couldn’t be clearer that we need better guardrails.In the long term, mandating transparency in election funding would be a good place to start. The former head of the Republican Party has endorsed many of the structural reforms initiated by Democrats and non-partisan groups.Democrats have allies among the never-Trump voters, a group that still wants to help Democrats remove all of Trumpism and Trump enablers currently in office. These are temporary workers in the Democratic camp, and progressives would be wise to embrace their support. It will be too soon that they use their well-honed campaigning tactics against Democrats when the odor of the Trump era dissipates.The most important action is for voters to become knowledgeable enough to vote in every single race. This might mean an occasional vote for the opposition party’s candidate. It will almost never mean a vote for a third-party nominee.What to do right awaySo, Georgia, it’s time for you to speak up. The legendary Georgia bark is healing. We need your bark and your bite. Vote by January 5 for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock. If you’re not a Georgia voter, you can donate or help the two campaigns in other ways. Permanent change comes from down the ballotPresidential elections get a lot of deserved attention, but other contests create fundamental, long-lasting changes. The House of Representatives and Senate write the laws, and they don’t even need a president to sign a good one. The Senate confirms federal judges, including Supreme Court justices. These judges decide whether the congressional laws are constitutional, so their appointments matter nearly as much as the legislators who write the bills.A president without a Senate majority needs to select more moderate court nominees to get a confirmation, but a one-term president with an obliging Senate can remake the entire federal judiciary lasting a long time.In the 2020 election, local lawmakers limited voting as far as their local courts would allow. They intentionally created delays in vote counting, knowing that this would simmer on right-wing media to build a false fraud narrative. They nearly succeeded in getting their legislatures to override valid election results. The culprits were always Republicans in 2020, but the pendulum could swing back and put dangerous Democrats in office.We voters delegate our democracy to others that we hire through elections. Our future depends on the choices we make today. Get informed. Get out and vote. We can make a government that makes us all proud. Let’s get this party started.
The Battles in the War for the Soul of the Nation
Dec. 23, 2020, 1:41 p.m.
Nader Hussein, BWR Press Secretary
The Grim Reaper, Moscow Mitch, Massacre Mitch. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has earned and self-appointed many nicknames going into what will be his seventh term in the U.S. Senate. Of the ones listed, the last two were given to him by his rivals and opponents. The first, however, McConnell gave himself last year, promising to be the executioner of any progressive policies Democrats dared to introduce while he serves as Senate majority leader. Credit where credit is due, he has more than earned that title, although I'm not sure that should be a point of pride for any responsible elected official.“If I’m still the majority leader in the Senate, think of me as the Grim Reaper," McConnell told a group of community leaders in Owensboro, Kentucky. "None of that stuff is going to pass," he bragged, referring to many policies that would benefit his own constituents. To be specific, he confirmed to Fox News anchor Bret Baier earlier this year that he was sitting on 395 pieces of legislation.What are some of those bills? Firstly, common sense gun reform. Last summer, two mass shootings in two days killed 32 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, less than a week after three were killed in a shooting in Gilroy, California. It was a horrific period, even by American standards. All three shooters purchased their guns legally, and had records of alarming behavior that should have disqualified them from buying firearms. Social media and message board posts of violent racism as well as lists of people to rape and kill could have been discovered if the perpetrators underwent strict background checks, as two bills passed by the House of Representatives earlier in 2019 would have mandated. While the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019 and the Enhanced Background Checks Act collect dust on Massacre Mitch's desk, with McConnell not even dignifying the bills by bringing them to the Senate floor for a vote, Americans die every day due to avoidable and senseless gun violence.An iconic and popular bipartisan bill, reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been indefinitely put on hold by McConnell. Introduced by President-elect of the United States Joe Biden as a senator, the multi-pronged approach to addressing domestic violence became law in 1994. It has been hailed by the ACLU as “one of the most effective pieces of legislation enacted to end domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.” Providing for shelters for victims, support to law enforcement and preventative measures, the bill was reauthorized in 2013, when Joe Biden was vice president. After expiring on February 15, 2019, the reauthorization passed the House on April 4 with the support of every House Democrat and 33 House Republicans. Since then, despite pressure from activists, politicians, law enforcement and more, Mitch McConnell has refused to take action. In December of 2019, Houston Police Chief Art Acevado called out McConnell for refusing to allow a vote on the bill after a Houston police officer was killed in the line of duty by an abusive boyfriend with a firearm, a death that could have been prevented by the VAWA, which would have closed the “boyfriend loophole,” which allows abusing domestic partners to legally purchase firearms.Lastly, and perhaps most importantly at the moment, the HEROES Act lays in McConnell's office as America is in the throes of one of the worst public health emergencies and economic crises in American history. Passed by the House of Representatives on May 15 of this year, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act would provide desperately needed relief to the millions of Americans suffering mentally, physically and economically from the coronavirus pandemic. The bill is a comprehensive measure to alleviate some of the burdens faced by families, businesses, communities and healthcare providers. Amongst many other things, the bill would provide a $1,200 check for every American, enhanced unemployment benefits for the millions who have lost or are struggling to find a job, increased funding for food stamps, reimbursements to health care providers for lost revenue, additional funding for effective testing and tracing measures, assistance for businesses to keep employees on their payrolls, expanded funding for housing and utility assistance and extended eviction and foreclosure moratoriums. These are all measures that, directly or indirectly, can be matters of life and death, but the Grim Reaper has made it clear that he has no intention of helping. He called the bill “unserious,” but just like the problems facing Americans, the HEROES Act is as serious as a heart attack, which would have been a reason to deny health care coverage if McConnell could've forced through the GOP's pathetic Obamacare replacement.Why bring attention to these bills? Why point out Mitch McConnell's inaction on crucial legislation? Because we have the power to right his wrongs. We can take the gavel out of McConnell's hands, by electing Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock to the Senate in January. If Democrats can win both of those seats, the Senate would be evenly split, and all tie-breaking votes would be cast by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.We know that this has been a long and grueling campaign. We feel the fatigue that we thought would end in November, but common sense gun reform, the Violence Against Women Act, and serious coronavirus relief can be passed with a new Democratic majority in the Senate to partner the existing majority in the House, and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris in the White House. Now, more than ever, the American people need serious and honorable leadership that places their needs above partisan gridlock, corporate sycophancy and special interest kowtowing. It is time we deliver for America.
We're All in Recovery Now
Dec. 16, 2020, 10:36 p.m.
Biden War Room
The glimmer of leadership has begun to emerge in America, like the sun poking up from the horizon. We did it. We excised the tumor that is Donald Trump, but there’s a lot of scar tissue.That scar tissue unfortunately still pervades the body politic. Many Biden voters are surprised and horrified that 70 million of their fellow citizens wanted to rehire Trump. Many Trump voters are speechless that any of us would have voted for Biden. After all, there weren’t any Biden boat parades.Incumbents normally have a re-election advantage, but nothing is normal now. Trump lost, in the middle of this pandemic, where his incompetence and indifference were there for all to see. This all took place in a sheltered environment that made it unusually difficult to vote. Yet voters for both candidates were very motivated, as is apparent from overall turnout. Or mail-in voting and extended (and safe) early voting simply made it easier to cast a ballot.Very little changed in voting patterns from 2016. Trump lost support in a few demographic groups and gained support in others, but nothing spectacular. Joe Biden recovered several midwestern states lost by Clinton in 2016, but that might simply have been the absence of a strong third party candidate. Georgia’s win might have come down to successful registration efforts that finally aligned the voter rolls with the state’s true demographics.Democrats need to adjust to the reality that 70 million voters, virtually half of America, chose to retain Donald Trump for president. Just like last time.Joe Biden’s electoral college win came down to 70,000 votes in Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and the Omaha area of Nebraska, not very much different than the 2016 vote difference that put Trump in office. We Biden voters think Trump voters are misinformed. The Trump voters think we’re misinformed. We have Stockholm syndrome, because there isn’t enough outrage on Earth to cover the last four years of misdeeds, and we have let many abominations slide. And some in America are still sure that Trump is about to pivot. Any moment now.Sure, a large part of our broken culture is that we’ve self-selected our sources for information and we suck at making these choices. Those who monetize information know this better than we do. The implications of social media’s role in weaponizing our politics, and whether these activities will be punished is under discussion. But we need to heal now. And “we” means all of us.Let’s face it, many of the Trump supporters appear to be in a cult. In a cult, only the leader matters. Only whatever the leader says can be considered the truth. Not only can Trump shoot someone on Fifth Avenue with impunity, he can inspire his supporters to plan or actually commit murder on his behalf, whether it’s against protesters, or against a governor. Or they might recruit for a call to war from a state GOP or in the swan song of a radio personality.It’s hard to show empathy right now, but we have to, for the country that we love. America isn’t just an idea, and it isn’t just a nation; we’re a family. Families try to reconcile for the good of the future. And temperatures will cool by January, literally and figuratively. The silly performance art of frivolous lawsuits and political grandstanding will go nowhere. Joe Biden will lay his hand on a Bible he’s actually read, and we will have our new President.There’s reason to be hopeful that our sharp division isn’t permanent.Oxygen starvationWithout the presidential podium, Trump is less newsworthy. Trump is planning rallies and a possible 2024 run. But he’ll have to pay for the venues with funds he has to raise, get to them without Air Force One, and maybe he’ll have to convince people to pay for tickets that won’t include a red hat. He runs the risk that the gatherings are poorly attended, and he’d have to hold them in places like Erie, Pennsylvania, a place he doesn’t want to visit, in a state that he lost Supremely. His rallies would draw people he doesn’t really like, when temperatures are literally and figuratively cooler. Every potential rally would be in a town without a Trump Hotel in which to stay, and likely without TV coverage. This is Trump’s nightmare.Channel surfingTrump is already burning bridges with some familiar media supporters that don’t show enough fealty to him. Fox News has already inspired Trump to recommend other outlets for an environment of more fantasy, less news, and added comfort. A brief Newsmax win in evening viewership simply demonstrates that these close contests between small viewer numbers (each around 200k watching) don’t represent an important part of television viewership, even during the pandemic, when nobody has anything else to do.A New TargetAfter Joe Biden is inaugurated, especially if the Senate is tied, actual news outlets will have a cornucopia of grievances to air without even acknowledging the private citizen Trump will be. There will be real and manufactured grievances against the White House, attributed (even if inherited) responsibility for economic stumbles, and a whole lot of hypocrisy, such as not confirming a Cabinet nominee because of a history of “mean tweets”. That sounds like a new rule. Prepare yourself for a lot of those.Branded with the Scarlet LTrump himself might not look as invincible after he is unable to reverse the election results. Some portion of his voters will always believe that the election was rigged. Some will realize that the surprisingly good Republican performance means that the election was not rigged, or they might figure out that voters just didn’t like Trump. Whatever rationale wins out, Trump’s brand as a winner is taking a beating.It’s official. Trump is a loser, in public opinion, in the media, and in many courtrooms. And we don’t know what more we will learn after Trump leaves office, either from those who have honored meaningless non-disclosure agreements until now, or those who have feared the power of the presidency.Furthermore, without the protection of DOJ guidance, it’s possible that federal, state or local charges might distract Trump from playing offense to playing defense. And he just might lose all over again.It’s hard to imagine, but days will go by without hearing from Donald Trump. There’s a lot to look forward to in 2021.So what should we do now?Recognize that we’re all in recovery. Maybe you remember how you felt in 2016, or in 2020 during the “red mirage” of November 3. That feeling that you don’t know your country? You don’t. And neither do Trump voters. Have some empathy. Be gracious. We won.While the new executive branch is coming into view, and in the future, don’t use Trump as a benchmark, ever. If you thought it was wrong for Trump to withhold his taxes, it’s wrong for your favorite candidate, too. Let’s hold our own politicians to a high standard, not just the low bar Trump couldn’t clear.One silver lining has been that Trump (along with GOP elected officials) revealed the slippery slope that can skid our democracy into oblivion. Never take your own vote for granted. Don’t use this valuable tool just to make a statement; it makes our government. Recognize how important you are.Emulate the Never-Trump Republicans. The “yellow-dog Democrat” was so named because they’d vote for any Democrat, “even a Catholic”, in 1928. That nickname isn’t a compliment. Democrats shouldn’t condescend; they hold a longevity record for being the party of bigotry. Blind obedience to a political party, or a government, or even a family, in the face of misconduct, is wrong, no matter who does it. Let’s hope that democracy always trumps party, even Trump’s party.Appreciate the federal and state career employees who do their jobs so professionally. They are both politically opinionated and fiercely non-partisan in their work. They are remarkably competent, and they endure largely unwarranted criticism. Some criticism comes from those who don’t like their decisions. Even more comes from those who don’t like our government at all. Now it’s coming from those who don’t like the guardrails protecting our democracy from those who don’t like our government. No matter how hard the losers always look for the election fraud that’s originated by voters, they’re nearly always unable to find it.Yes, the Trump cult is engaging in fantasy right now, and some of it is dangerous. But even the worst of this type of person has always been with us, and they are often caught before they do actual damage. And as long as they burrow back into the bushes, we can generally ignore them, because career government employees have our backs. When the darkest of us are invisible and inactive, they’re hardly more threatening than the moon-landing deniers or those that believe that the Beatles’ Abbey Road album cover was really a funeral procession.Sure, some conspiracy theories are more dangerous than others. Conspiracy theories are tantalizing, not only to the fringes, and not limited to one side of the aisle. Admit it; at some point in your life, you probably believed something with all your heart, only to learn that it wasn’t true (Santa excluded, of course). It’s hard to give up a false belief.You probably don’t worry about Holocaust deniers and 9/11 “truthers” every day, and it’s likely that you won’t need to worry daily about election truthers for all that long. The term “truther” isn’t an accident; it’s a framing technique for a lie. It’s wise to notice that sort of thing in the news you’re reading today. Framing is the way conspiracy theories gain traction.You probably have friends and family pull you aside to whisper about aliens, about pharma, about an ethnic group that’s pulling our strings. You smile and move on. It’s good advice, even among voter groups. Try to find common ground when someone you meet is disappointed, but sane. Ignore the insane, with compassion.For ourselves, it’s not enough to be a little better than what we see around us. We have to be principled, and criticize our own side when they don’t meet the standards we hold for the other side — in character, not policy. Let’s all keep disagreeing about policy. It makes for a better country.The cult groupthink that has undermined the GOP could happen to any of us, or all of us. We were lucky this time. Trump wasn’t disciplined or informed enough to take us all with him, only half of us. We’re too diverse to buy his bigotry.We dodged the bullet this time. Let’s learn from that.Albert Brooks plays a journalist in the movie Broadcast News. He makes a haunting speech comparing a charming colleague (played by the engaging William Hurt) to the devil. Brooks’ character predicts that when the devil shows up, he will sneak in without the long, red, pointy tail that would give his identity away. Funny thing, in this movie’s prophecy, even the actual devil is much kinder than Donald Trump:He will be attractive! He'll be nice and helpful. He'll get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation. He'll never do an evil thing! He'll never deliberately hurt a living thing... he will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just a tiny little bit. Just coax along flash over substance. Just a tiny little bit. And he'll talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he'll get all the great women.Someday that person will show up. We’d better be ready.
Sorry, GOP Senate. The Party's Over
Dec. 8, 2020, 5:24 p.m.
Biden War Room
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham famously mused on May 3, 2016, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it.”Surprisingly, this tweet is still live on Graham’s Twitter feed, the only remnant of an earlier version of the man who once appealed to late Senator and war hero John McCain.Some of us are grateful that the existential threat to our centuries-old democracy came from the buffoon Donald Trump, rather than a more capable authoritarian villain. Trump’s the one in the spy movies who handcuffs the hero ineptly, and then faces the camera to regale us all with his evil plan. Then he’s foiled by the hero’s swift wrist shake to the handcuffs and a karate chop, and the world is saved.It isn’t hard to understand Donald Trump’s behavior. Simply put, he has certain appetites, on behalf of only himself, and they need to be met right now. When Trump’s needs have coincided with those of Senate Republicans, they have been happy to support whatever he asks, and they have been rewarded with small and large gifts. Small gifts might include glowing tweets and campaign visits sparkling with television coverage, like a diamond bracelet on the wrist of a mistress.There were large gifts, too, such as controversial executive policy orders on immigration and the removal of environmental protections for short-term personal or corporate gains. These initiatives play well with the rightmost edges of the voter base and the donor class. They also starve our future and enable politicians — who hope to have lifetime careers — to keep their legislative fingerprints off of the less-desirable outcomes in the long run. “I never would have supported a Muslim ban! I’m shocked that you would accuse me of that!” says everyone still in office in 2028.Controlling both the Senate and the White House offered the GOP a large helping of tax cuts and more wealth inequality. Control of the Senate bestowed court-packing with regressive judges to fulfill promises made over decades to the party fringe. Put a pin in that, Democrats. A President needs the Senate to effect the kind of change that outlasts one’s term.But when you make a deal with the devil, sometimes the devil expects you to pay up with your soul.The year 2020 presented a slippery slope for the majority-Republican Senate, because this was the moment that the needs of Donald Trump went to war with the oath to the Constitution they all swore when they took office.The slide accelerated in January, with impeachment. To summarize, Donald Trump wanted the president of Ukraine, as a condition of the aid we taxpayers would fund, to announce an investigation into possible Joe Biden corruption. It wouldn’t be necessary to do the investigation (indeed, that would be self-defeating, as there was no corruption to find.) The announcement itself would achieve the goal. Foreign election interference had helped Trump in 2016, and there were few consequences to any of the actors. Why change strategies?The divide between Trump’s personal need (to be re-elected) and our democracy (fair elections without bribed foreign interference) was apparent in a phone call witnessed by many people who testified under oath. This is a textbook-level impeachable offense. Poor Lindsey Graham agreed. “We put conditions on aid all the time," he told reporters. "But if you said I’m not going to give you money unless you investigate my political opponent to help me politically, that would be completely out of bounds.” Oops.When the House sent the articles of impeachment along their path to removing Donald Trump from office, every Senate Republican (except Mitt Romney-UT and Susan Collins-ME) voted not to call witnesses. To his credit, Lamar Alexander (TN) said, "If you've got eight witnesses saying that you left the scene of an accident, you don't need nine."In the end, though, Alexander paid no attention to the testimony of the twelve witnesses he had in hand. Lindsey Graham certainly didn’t want to be held to his clear statement about wrongdoing. Only Mitt Romney voted for impeachment, and only for one count. One count would have been enough. Susan Collins, who would have preferred to have witnesses, voted against the impeachment itself, believing that Donald Trump had learned his lesson. Indeed he had.Enter the coronavirus. Avoiding the likely mocking by Trump and his followers, Senate Republicans appeared frequently at indoor events without masks. They hosted and attended high-profile outdoor events without requiring or even encouraging mask-wearing or distancing. For example, the vaguely-gloating celebration to announce the Amy Coney Barrett nomination was one of several Republican-endorsed superspreader events. Yet Senate Republicans occasionally recognized aloud that mask-wearing made America safer, with the hope that Trump might set a decent example. He didn’t.The GOP Senators followed Trump down the path of ignoring the coronavirus (because of its possible effect on Trump’s dreams of a second term, and maybe more terms than that). But the stakes became higher when it became obvious that Trump’s re-election wasn’t a sure thing.GOP Senators had been tested once, having been asked to pick sides during the February 5 impeachment vote: free and fair elections with a chance to win or lose, or guaranteed winning through whatever was necessary.Trash absentee ballots? Fine. Disparage American city voters with barely-disguised racism? No problem. Interfere with state ballot counting timelines to create chaos? Sounds like a plan. In the 2020 general election, they chose whatever Trump’s playbook would be. Few spoke up.For the record, the plan worked for nearly everyone but Trump. Vulnerable Senate seats in Maine and South Carolina were saved. The Senate majority was still Republican, but threatened by two inconclusive results in Georgia.On Election Day 2020, GOP leaders were silent and sometimes fretful in the face of Trump’s election threats. Since Election Day, they’ve been worse. Many won’t refer to Joe Biden as President-elect, though they will use the word “transition” and admit that the election is over.Some have created a cocoon around themselves. Some won’t talk to reporters. Some have been admirable. Lisa Murkowski (AK) has asked Trump to concede. Others (thank you again, Mitt Romney) have recognized the danger to our democracy.Rand Paul (KY) floated the possibility of wrongdoing, using ominous and empty terms like “Interesting…” and “Fraud?” based on the (very common) compilation of paper ballots during the night. His evidence? A blogger’s review and a suspicion that “Big Tech” is a malicious actor. Fox Business, not a lefty site, disputed these claims in a scare-quote-peppered article..Senator Rob Portman (OH) tried to discourage President-elect Joe Biden from nominating Neera Tanden to lead the Office of Management and Budget. Referring to critical tweets about Republicans on Tanden’s Twitter account, Portman said, “Of all the jobs, that’s one where I think you would need to be careful not to have someone who’s overtly partisan.”Surely he would have objected when George W. Bush nominated a partisan sitting congressman to head that office, especially a nominee without budget experience. No, that nomination sailed through and Rob Portman himself became OMB Director in 2006. The Senate once understood that Presidents should be able to pick their own teams if the candidates are qualified.Similarly, of former Fed Chairman Janet Yellen’s nomination to lead the Treasury Department, Senator Chuck Grassley (IA) said, “I believe that she would get a favorable view.” But he noted that he’d need to review her tax returns before making a decision. He must have waived that requirement when he made his decisions about supporting Donald Trump. He did have concerns about Trump’s recently-released tax documents, but only about how they got reported and apparently not what they revealed.Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, after most contested states had already certified their results, danced around Trump’s ability to “present his case”, knowing that Trump’s legal team has never suggested (because of the threat of perjury) that there is any fraud to find. He ends with, “And I think we are going to have to look at the effect of mail-in balloting." Asked if the election is rigged, he replied, “I mean, we’ll see.”We saw. It isn’t. Even after Trump’s landslide of a loss, the magnet that is Trump is still pulling away at the remnants of the GOP’s conscience.The other senator from Missouri, Roy Blunt, when asked if he considers Joe Biden to be the President-elect, “We are certainly moving forward as if that’s what’s going to happen on Jan. 20.” He added that the “president-elect will be president-elect when” the electors vote. Compare that to the day after Election Day four years ago, when he congratulated “President-elect Trump”. New winner, new rules.On the topic of new winners, the two Republican senators trying to keep their Georgia seats issued a joint statement calling for the resignation of their own state’s Republican Secretary of State. “The Secretary of State has failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” they said in a joint statement. “He has failed the people of Georgia, and he should step down immediately.” They offered no evidence of fraud.Perhaps they were simply trying to demonstrate by example how to fail the people of Georgia, in which case they were doing a bang-up job. There’s a real multi-dimensional quality to disenfranchising your own voters while you are interviewing with them for a return gig.At the moment, Senator Lindsey Graham isn’t willing to discuss the President-elect, or transitions, or democratically-elected leaders, only unspecified “suspicious” systems and possible “shenanigans”. But four years and a 180 degree swerve after his warnings to the GOP, he told the truth about the party one more time. "If Republicans don’t challenge and change the U.S. election system, there’ll never be another Republican president elected again," he said. Another way to go might be to broaden the party’s appeal beyond bigots and cultists, but maybe that’s just too hard now. It’s spineless, and shameless.That’s the final lesson that Republicans have absorbed from the Trump era. According to Trump, the world needs what is good for me, and anything else doesn’t matter. When democracy doesn’t deliver a win for me, we must change from our democracy to something else that does.There’s a motto for investors who want to understand their own risk tolerance: Would you like to eat well or sleep well? This expression means that risky investments often provide better returns, but they come with enough worry to disrupt your nights. Trump was always a risky investment. Senators, how’s your sleep right now?The Senate was once an august deliberative body, where hot issues were sent from the raucous House of Representatives to cool off. The GOP was once the Grand Old Party. Now they have to avert their eyes, away from the Proud Boys who are neither proud nor boys, away from supporting the impassioned Trump supporter who crossed state lines to murder peaceful protestors, away from assassination threats to lawmakers and civil servants who obstruct Donald Trump, and away from parades festooned with Trump flags embracing Confederate flags. Could they have expected that they’d have to do this when they signed on to ride along with Trump in 2016? Probably.Having a robust opposing party in the Senate is valuable, even to Democrats. But that party needs to have at least one of two characteristics. Either it needs to operate in good faith, or it needs to be in the minority. Right now we have neither, and governance is suffering for it. The good faith problem can't be fixed in the short term, because Senators have six-year terms and Trump still has coattails. But the majority-party problem can be fixed in about a month, by electing Democrats to both Senate seats in Georgia.The Republican party has figured out how to get people to vote in down-ballot elections. It's time for Democrats to step up and ballot down. And funny thing, a down-ballot election is coming up on January 5.The GOP, the party of Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln, has instead become the party of misguided businessman Herbert Hoover and bigot Barry Goldwater. It’s been reconfigured into the bloated, racist, authoritarian image of Donald Trump. Not grand. Not old. And with any luck, the party’s over. Don’t say you weren’t warned.Get a mail-in ballot.Vote early now or drop off the ballot and stay safe.Vote for Democrats Reverend Raphael Warnock AND Jon Ossoff .OR..do even more by donating or volunteering, even if you aren’t from Georgia.
Georgia, It's Up to You
Nov. 25, 2020, 3:10 p.m.
Biden War Room
“In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” This expression is associated most with the celebrity artist Andy Warhol, and the attribution feels right even though he probably didn't originate the quote. If you have never heard of Andy Warhol, well, then, he was probably right.If you currently live in Georgia, your fifteen minutes has begun and it will last about two months. You’re probably drowning in campaign ads, mailers, and phone calls. Much of the attention will calm down after the Senate races take place on January 5 (unless they go to a runoff again, which is simultaneously terrifying and hilarious). Now you know how lottery winners feel.Right now, Republicans control the Senate. The situation is this: if both Democrats Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock win their Senate races, the Senate is a 50/50 split. This would change Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from a dictator to a team player, or at least move him in the right direction along that continuum.Georgia, your fame gives you power, and it’s important that you wield this power by voting. You’re hearing a lot about the candidates right now. They’re all making accusations about each other, and you’re on your own to sort out the truth about whatever they’re saying. That’s not what we’re discussing here.You might also be hearing about the strategic importance of this election and of those two Senate seats. This is very true, and we’d like to make our case strategically.Georgia is famous at the moment partly because you all shocked the rest of the country by voting for Joe Biden. Only the nerdiest of pollsters colored your state as a pinkish possible Biden win. You did this. You registered yourselves and your friends. You stood in line at polling stations or sealed the envelopes to perfection.This presidential outcome matters partly because it will help others understand the state’s politics in the future. For one thing, Georgia is a bit of a mystery to outside observers when it comes to party affiliation. Unlike most other states, Georgia voters don’t have to declare a political party. You only have to specify a preferred ballot to cast a vote in a primary election if there are multiple parties selecting nominees. All those pundits and pollsters have no idea whether there are more Democrats, Republicans, or independents in Georgia.This means that it’s really difficult to measure party loyalty (that is, the voters that are likely to vote for a particular party’s nominee). So it’s harder to predict outcomes, there’s no “base” that’s easily measured, and there are few turnout models to project. This means that right now, your vote matters as much as it possibly can matter.Typically, midterm elections, local elections, primaries, and runoffs like this don’t get the turnout of a presidential election. And with Donald Trump on his way out the door, even the momentum that Joe Biden got from people who loathe Trump might not be the motivator it was on November 3rd.It’s often mentioned that nationally, Democrats tend to vote in larger numbers in presidential elections (that is, only every four years), and they’re outnumbered disproportionately by Republicans in elections that take place at other times (that is, most elections). Maybe that’s why there are so many Republicans in down-ballot positions. When you don’t vote, you’re giving your unused vote to the other side.This January 5 runoff election is as important as the one we just finished. Without these two Senate seats, Joe Biden will be unable to accomplish the job we just elected him to do.To be clear, getting only one of the seats is only marginally better than losing them both. To get to a tie, both Democrats need to win.The present roadblocks in the Senate include both the Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Senate rules themselves. Mitch McConnell sat on bills passed by the House, including a needed second stimulus to help people through this economic disaster and another bill to restore certain voter protections. They weren’t even brought up for discussion. Because the Vice President is the Senate tie-breaker, if a bill comes to a stalemate in 2021, Vice President Harris will be able to cast the vote that makes it a law. A tied Senate makes it so much easier.The Majority Leader refuses to confirm Supreme Court Justices (and for that matter, many lower court justices), unless there’s a Republican in the White House. He hijacked a Justice from President Obama, and hijacked another Justice from President-elect Joe Biden. The Republican Senate starved the courts during Barack Obama’s presidency, and has packed the empty chairs with arch conservatives since 2017.The Senate majority party chairs each committee, and has launched investigations intended to harm political opponents. They’ve promised to continue to do so during the Biden presidency. The same Senate was unwilling to bring in witnesses or review the testimony from the House impeachment inquiry and cleared Donald Trump without viewing any evidence. In a 50/50 Senate, decisions about matters like this are handled jointly by both parties. Elections have consequences.Mitch McConnell also threatened to prevent President-elect Biden’s Cabinet nominees from confirmation if they are not sufficiently “moderate” along a McConnell-defined scale. This is a largely unprecedented act of defiance in the previously-collegial body that was the Senate. It was once assumed that a President’s Cabinet nominees should be judged only on merit.Maybe you’d just as soon have a split government. That’s understandable. You’ll have that even in a tied Senate. The filibuster prevents bills that are too extreme from getting a hearing. Once they reach the floor, moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ) will keep bills that are far from center from getting passed. This is good news for moderates, though it frustrates progressives. The Senate, when it functions, is a deliberative body.A 50/50 Senate will give you a split government. A Republican Senate will give you no government.If you live in Georgia, and you want to get Mitch McConnell out of power, you can do that by voting in this election and getting everyone you know to go the distance with you. Here are the details:Register now (the deadline is December 7) if you aren’t registered already OR if you will turn 18 by January 5, 2021.Request an absentee ballot now. You can track your vote after you cast it. You can return your ballot by mail or leave it in a drop box. If you’d like to vote in person, Georgia will hold 16 days of early in-person voting, including early voting in Fulton County at State Farm Arena and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. There’s a lot of information for you on Georgia’s My Voter Page.It isn’t often that the votes of a single state change everything. Right now, that single state can be Georgia, and that voter can be you.Famously kind Georgian Jimmy Carter once said, “All I want is the same thing you want. To have a nation with a government that is as good and honest and decent and competent and compassionate and as filled with love as are the American people.”We’re working on it, Jimmy.
The Math Path to the Senate
Nov. 16, 2020, 4:52 p.m.
Biden War Room
Which voter were you in 2020, the one who would walk across broken glass to vote for Joe Biden (or anyone on a ballot who isn’t Donald Trump), or the sort of voter who can generally take or leave politics, and maybe even voting?In every election, there are voters, Democrats and Republicans, of the first type. They don’t miss an opportunity to vote in any type of election, for President, or every two years for Congress, in primaries, or in state and local races. These are the voters who select the best candidate from disappointing options; they’re the ones that vote for a great candidate who has no chance of winning. If you’re that person, and you’re a Democrat in Georgia, we really need you now. Your vote is the foundation of Democratic progress. You already know the importance of these two Senate seats.If you’re the second type, a person who votes once in a while, then we owe you an awful lot if you voted for Joe Biden this time around. Several of the states Joe Biden won could have gone either way. Yours was the incremental vote, the vote that beat the polling errors, the vote that kept Donald Trump out of cheating distance, and the vote that made the difference in November.Now it’s time to focus on the Senate, Georgia’s Senators in particular. Two events placed Georgia front and center in November’s election. The first is that Joe Biden is the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton and the first Democrat who is not a Southerner to do so since JFK in 1960. It’s hard to overstate how great that is.The second event is that both races for the US Senate are going to a runoff. It’s a lot like a “blue moon”, which is technically when a full moon appears twice in the same calendar month. A blue moon actually happened on Halloween night. Two Senate elections on the same day in the same state is an even rarer occurrence. Maybe the blue moon will lead to a blue Senate.The first of these Senate races began on a normal schedule, because Republican Senator David Perdue’s six-year term is up. His challenger is Democrat Jon Ossoff. Neither candidate crossed the 50% threshold of votes on November 3rd, so they’re trying again.The second election is “special” because Republican Kelly Loeffler was appointed when another Senator from the state retired. The seat will come up again in 2022, but we’re focused on keeping it warm until then. Like Arizona’s Martha McSally, this Senator has not yet been elected. Let’s keep it that way.This is an uphill battle for both Democratic candidates. Democrats are probably outnumbered by Republicans in the state, but voters don’t register with parties, so we only know partisanship by how they vote. It appears for now that Georgia is still a red state. Red states are a challenge up and down the ballot.Not long ago, red-state Alabama’s Senate seat went (in another special election) to Doug Jones, an unblemished Democrat running against Roy Moore. Doug Jones, the Democrat, had successfully prosecuted two KKK members for a church bombing that killed four black girls. Roy Moore has a known penchant for sexually assaulting teenage girls. Doug Jones won the race by only 50-48 against the child molester. He lost in 2020 to someone who later misidentified the three branches of government, mischaracterized the reason for World War II, and thought that Al Gore had been president-elect for 30 days. Alabama is really red.Georgia is pinker than that, maybe even peach-colored. But the challenge is there. Turnout was high in this election, but turnout isn’t the main reason Joe Biden won. We know that because Donald Trump also got better turnout in 2020 than he did in 2016.Part of the reason Joe Biden won is that he was running against Donald Trump. This is a guy that increased the turnout from people who like him and from people who hate him. That’s an interesting accomplishment.For example, he got some votes from disaffected Republicans and right-leaning Independents. That’s similar to the Doug Jones victory in Alabama against the child molester.But we don’t have Donald Trump to run against this time. It shouldn’t matter, but it makes the job harder. One more thing that works against the Democrats: many voters prefer split government, which might favor the two Republicans in this election. Split government generally sounds fine in theory, but it has resulted in partisan gridlock for the last two years, including an unconscionable desert of economic stimulus after the first pandemic stimulus package ran dry in mid-2020. Some proponents of split government are having second thoughts.If even one of the empty Senate seats goes to a Republican, Mitch McConnell runs the Senate, and getting the job done becomes a bigger challenge for Joe Biden. What’s the difference in Senate operations for these Georgia contests? Two seats don’t sound like a big deal. They are.With a Republican majority, Mitch McConnell gets to decide what laws even make it to the floor or a vote. In its first year of a majority, the Democratic House passed about 400 bills, which have been lying around unattended on Mitch McConnell’s desk. A Democrat in that job would try to govern.In a 50/50 Senate, bills that make it to the floor and then get to a tie vote are decided by the Vice-President (and VIce-President-Elect Kamala Harris will work with her former colleagues as did Vice-President Biden in the Obama administration.) With a majority in the Senate, the committee membership makeup reflects their proportion. In a 50/50 split, the committees are balanced, and that means that their work activities are nuanced. With a Republican Senate majority, expect to see investigations designed to hurt Democrats instead of progress. In an evenly-divided Senate, the committee chairs are selected by the Vice-President.A tie in the Senate is never a real tie. It’s effectively a majority for the President’s party. Put another way, these Senate races give Georgia a chance to turn Mitch McConnell into a senator that hardly matters.If you want President-Elect Biden to get his choice of Cabinet members, as have all presidents until now, a Senate tie is the only way to muzzle McConnell. He has made it known that President Biden’s Cabinet nominees must be moderate enough to meet his tastes. (He didn’t think Judge Merrick Garland met that test.) Similarly, the Senate has traditionally given Presidents of both parties a wide berth in selecting qualified judicial picks. That’s where the future Supreme Court starts out. It goes without saying that a Republican Senate can craft a Supreme Court to its own specifications by manipulating the process (as Mitch McConnell did at the beginning and at the end of the last four years.). A tied Senate would improve that situation for Joe Biden, whenever judicial appointments occur.So those are the stakes. How do we win?Turnout, turnout, turnout.Forget the catchphrases: red state, blue state, polls are even, polls are behind. None of that matters with enough turnout. That’s how Joe Biden won Georgia. The key is to register and turn out the sort of voter that generally chooses the Democrat. Youth voters made up more than a fifth of all Georgia votes, according to a group at Tufts University. About 800,000 new voter registrations, many enfranchising Black Americans, were made possible through the tenacious efforts of Stacey Abrams. The math is simple. More voters means more votes.The opposite of this approach is voter suppression, either enticing your opponents not to vote or suppressing their opportunities. In the past, Georgia has been the poster child for suppression efforts in the past, through voter purges, long lines, and delaying voter registrations. To the state’s credit, the Republican-led management of the 2020 presidential election has been exemplary so far.Here’s how turnout beats polling. Let’s say the state poll is even for two candidates, just to keep it simple. So half of voters like Candidate Blue, and half like Candidate Red. If the number of voters who cast ballots is also the same for both candidates, the result is a tie. Let’s say that Candidate Blue got 1000 votes, and so did Candidate Red.But what if great campaigning gets 100 more Candidate Blue voters to turn out than Candidate Red does? Then Candidate Blue wins by a hundred votes, 1100 to 1000. Total turnout for Candidate Blue is 1000 + 100. That’s bigger than Candidate B’s 1000. It’s just math.What can you do now to make this happen?If you live in Georgia, it’s time to vote. If you aren’t registered, or if you know someone who will turn 18 by January 5, even if they aren’t 18 yet, register to vote or help them register. The deadline is December 7, but please don’t wait. If you know anyone who didn’t vote on November 3, or voted for a third-party candidate, make sure that they understand the importance of their vote now. Make sure your right-leaning friends understand that the job is not yet done, that the Trump enablers will still be tied to him with marionette strings tugged on Twitter. Voters make a difference.Request an absentee ballot, or vote early (early voting begins December 14.) Learn more about early voting locations or ballots on Georgia’s My Voter Page.Election Day is the day you get your ballot, or it’s the day you vote early in person (stay safe). But the very last Election Day for this runoff is January 5, 2021. Don’t forget: there are TWO Senate races, and you want to vote for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock.If you don’t live in Georgia, and even if you do, and you’d like to help more:Donate to each campaign individually, for Jon Ossoff, and for Reverend Raphael Warnock. You might donate to national organizations like SwingLeft, or local groups like:Fair Fight Action: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/fair-fight-1 | https://fairfight.com/Black Lives Matter: https://blackvotersmatterfund.org/donate/ | https://blackvotersmatterfund.org/New Georgia Project: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/new-georgia-project-1 | https://newgeorgiaproject.org/The campaign websites also provide volunteer links for events, text or phone banking, in-person opportunities, and more.Some people think that only elections for President matter, but don’t underestimate these contests. They’re big, and the eyes of the nation are on them. Keep in mind, if Democrats vote by mail again and Republicans vote in person, an Election Night “red mirage” might again ripen into a blue victory.Author Jim Butcher is credited with the following maxim, but no matter where it originated, it applies to the importance of turnout in these Georgia Senate races.“You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”Let’s outrun them.
We're Not Finished Yet
Nov. 9, 2020, 4:28 p.m.
Biden War Room
Remember how you felt when you went to bed on Tuesday night, like the world was a horror movie? That is, if you went to bed? That was a night even chocolate couldn’t fix.We might still be feeling like that, if not for what you did. This election will be close in the states that made the difference. It’s hard to fathom, but Donald Trump might very well have won reelection, and he didn’t, because of you and others like you. Thank you.You've helped to make a miracle. You are part of America’s proud and sustained tradition of electoral integrity.Joe Biden, competent and decent, unseated someone who seems committed to dismantling our democracy, norm by norm, and law by law. You wouldn’t think that making this happen would be hard to achieve, but it was.You also contributed to America’s extraordinary turnout and engagement. You made a commitment by performing your civic duty and lifting your voice. And you did it in the face of a pandemic, while fighting off the rhetoric of a narcissist, and in some cases, overcoming both obvious and subtle institutional voter suppression activities intended to keep you home.Even if all you did was vote for Joe Biden, you've done your part. Wisconsin is blue only because of about 20,000 voters, and it might have been the tipping point state.Maybe you were even a bigger part of the movement that has created this excruciatingly slow landslide. If your only incremental contribution was to retweet someone's “VOTE” video, you can be proud.Maybe you helped in a big way. If you were a poll worker, maybe you helped someone vote instead of abandoning a half-filled Joe Biden ballot at the polling station. If you've phone-banked, text-banked, or door-knocked, you might have found enough voters to hold a state legislature, increase the minimum wage somewhere, or something even more significant. You have helped to change our history.This is a landslide, but not an avalanche. We maintained a small majority in the House of Representatives, but a simple majority is all we need, and for now we have that. But House seats are fragile.The Senate, for now, remains in Republican hands. But the Republican majority could become a tie because of this election, and much of the credit for that goes to Stacey Abrams, who registered 800,000 new voters in Georgia. That state’s electors for President — remarkably — could end up in Joe Biden’s column, and that isn’t even the most important event that happened in the Peach State.It’s this: Georgia is putting the Senate within reach for Democrats.Donald Trump was able to enact much of his agenda — of no additional economic support to COVID, tax cuts for the wealthiest, and yes, replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court with a woman who is her opposite — because of his enablers. Many of them are in the US Senate.Let’s just review the power of the Senate in Joe Biden’s immediate future as President:The Senate Majority Leader decides whether or not bills passed by the House of Representatives get to the Senate floor. Bills don’t get passed and sent to the President unless the Senate concurs in their importance. If you’ve been wondering why there has been no more money to help those devastated economically by coronavirus, this is the reason.The Senate confirms the President’s Cabinet choices. Mitch McConnell has already hinted that he will break with norms and require President-Elect Biden’s Cabinet choices to meet McConnell’s own definition of “moderate.” McConnell was just re-elected in Kentucky, because every vote matters, and Amy McGrath didn’t get enough of them. He’s 100% important now, but if Democrats controlled the Senate, he would be just one vote out of a hundred. That would be better.Even with a Democratic majority, legislation will still need to meet a 60-vote Senate filibuster threshold, but many of Biden’s plans could attract enough Republicans for passage. Other bills will face a 50-50 tie, and ties are broken by Vice President-Elect Harris. In short, the difference between change and gridlock rests with control of the Senate.In the longer term, the majority party in the Senate gets to choose the committee chairs, and decides whether or not to investigate government wrongdoing. And of course, it goes without saying that Joe BIden’s Supreme Court picks, if there are any, face a more sympathetic confirmation process (or any process at all), if a Democrat is the Senate Majority Leader. These two Georgia runoff wins would produce a tie, and other Senate seats don’t always wait for scheduled elections. A majority in the near future is in reach.It’s out there. But this won’t be easy. Georgia isn’t suddenly a “blue state”. We can thank Donald Trump for being so appalling that independent voters and even Republicans in Georgia came out to remove him. Republicans, even the ones who dislike Trump, still want to have a Republican Senate. This is part of the reason that many down-ballot Republicans like Senator Thom Tillis (NC) outperformed Donald Trump in their states.We don’t have the advantage of the Trump drag on the ticket in the two upcoming Senate races, and we don’t have a lot of time to build support to elect two Democratic Senators from Georgia. We need to find Georgia voters who didn’t show up in November, but will vote for two Democratic senators. One place to find them: anyone who wasn’t old enough to vote in November but will turn eighteen before the January 5 election and will register to vote before December 7.On the plus side, the new Senators would be seated with plenty of time to help Joe Biden enact his agenda, the one we worked so hard to make happen.When Democrats turn out, Democrats win. The battle over mailed ballots and the timing of counting created an unusual situation that might be repeated in the Georgia special elections. Maybe there will be another “red mirage” and maybe there will be another blue shift.That feeling you had on Tuesday night, when every state seemed to show an insurmountable lead in favor of Donald Trump? Don’t forget that feeling. Leverage it into energy and resolve.If you live in Georgia, make sure everyone you know understands this: the Senate elections in Georgia are nearly as important as the vote they just cast for President. We’ve learned that we can accomplish so much without leaving the couch.Georgia voters can request an absentee ballot until November 18, and early in-person voting begins on December 14.If you don’t live in Georgia, you can help. Donate to the campaigns of Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock. Sign up to phone bank for the candidates.One thing we have learned from the last two general elections: polls aren’t destiny. And that’s especially true in Georgia. We are destiny.As Georgia’s revered Congressman John Lewis told us, “The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument in a democratic society. We must use it.”Now’s the time for some more “good trouble”.
Oct. 31, 2020, 6:38 p.m.
Paul Sullivan, BWR Team
So, if you’re a typical American, you’re feeling pretty anxious about the election right now. You might be waiting to vote on election day, or you might already have cast your ballot. In either case, you’re probably sitting around at home in quarantine, your anxiety building, but convinced that you’ve done or will do the only thing that you can. But here’s the good news; there is more you can do - especially if you live in a state with a Senate election this November. But before we talk about that, let’s set the stage. Right now, there’s a global pandemic that’s killed over two hundred thousand Americans; the nation is currently in the middle of the worst economic recession since 1929; climate change-induced wildfires are rampaging across the West Coast; our traditional allies have begun to abandon us; and, to top it all off, the man who is supposed to be leading the nation is incapable of doing anything other than rage-tweeting about his political opponents and refusing to accept even a shred of responsibility for the disaster he created. I know that the present looks dark, folks. But there are reasons to be hopeful. Because Joe Biden’s running for President, and he’s got a plan to build back better. He’s got a plan to fix our crumbling infrastructure; he’s got a plan to stop climate change; he’s got a plan to fix our broken economy; and he’s got a plan to end this pandemic and end the perilous division that has wracked our nation for the past four years. But Joe can’t do it alone. When Barack Obama was inaugurated, way back in 2008, Mitch pledged not to work with the new President, and not to govern like a responsible statesman but to obstruct him at every turn. And, even though Obama is no longer in the White House, Mitch has continued this obstructionist strategy. In 2019, the House passed almost four hundred bills aimed at helping everyday Americans. Some of the stockpiled bills would reduce the price of prescription drugs, raising the minimum wage, and protecting people with preexisting conditions. All of them are aimed at helping the American people. But McConnell has refused even to bring these bills to a vote on the Senate floor. This is how he operates, America, and if Republicans hold the Senate this fall, they will do everything in their power to block Biden’s vision. So we need to make sure that we flip the Senate this fall. If Republicans loose their Senate majority, Joe Biden will be able to enact his vision for America. And we’re already at work on that front; in Colorado, John Hickenlooper is busy showing Republican Corey Gardner the door, while Mark Kelly is trouncing incumbent Martha McSally in Arizona. But flipping the Senate won’t be easy, and we’ll need every single seat we can get. Here’s the races where you can chip in this fall. You can donate money, you can make phone calls, or, if you live in one of the following states, you can simply tell your friends to make sure they vote this fall. Let’s get to work, America. Georgia: Kelly Loeffler vs. Raphael Warnock After “winning” a widely-contested election, one of the first things Georgia Governor Brian Kemp did was appoint GOP megadonor Kelly Loeffler to fill a vacant Senate seat. Loeffler, who bills herself as “more conservative than Atilla the Hun,” has since become nothing more than a yes-woman for Trump, and has voted with the President 100% of the time. She has accused the Black Lives Matter movement of being a “Marxist” organization that is out to “destroy” America. And she has also trumpeted an endorsement from conspiracy theorist and Qanon enthusiast Marjorie Taylor Greene. Oh, and she may have used her position to commit insider trading. Fortunately, Loeffler may have met her match. The Reverend Raphael Warnock grew up in public housing in Savannah, Georgia. His father was a veteran, and his mother picked cotton and tobacco. But he didn’t let his humble beginnings stop him from aspiring to greater things. He got a PhD in theology, and soon became the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church - the same church where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started his career. And now, he’s running for Georgia Senate. He’s going to help fix our broken healthcare system, save our deteriorating environment, and so much more. And with your help, he’ll become Georgia’s next senator this November.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/warnock-for-georgia_web?refcode=website&amount=25 Volunteer: https://secure.warnockforgeorgia.com/page/s/website_vol Also Georgia: David Perdue vs. John Ossoff Also up for re-election this year is Georgia Senator David Perdue. Perdue, just like his colleague, Loeffler, has come under scrutiny for insider trading. Despite calling himself pro-life, he told people to pray for Obama’s death. He’s been a Trump toady who votes with the President almost 95% of the time, and, just last week, he made a racist jab at our Vice Presidential nominee, Kamala Harris. But his bigoted dog whistles don’t stop there; he’s also deployed anti-Semitic tropes against his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff. Ossoff is a former investigative journalist who made his bones exposing the widespread atrocities committed by ISIS. Ossoff, unlike his opponent, supports protections for people with preexisting conditions, and will vote to make sure that every Georgian has access to affordable, high quality health insurance. He’ll fight for Georgia; but we need to fight for him first. Donate: https://electjon.com/donate Volunteer: https://go.electjon.com/page/s/web-volunteer Maine: Susan Collins vs. Sara Gideon Susan Collins has long called herself a moderate independent. But, over the last four years, she’s become nothing more than a stooge for President Trump’s radical, right wing agenda. She also voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, even after watching him perjure himself under oath. And, despite Trump’s repeated displays of lawlessness and bad behavior, she has done nothing more than meekly insist that she is, indeed, concerned by the administration’s pattern of norm-breaking. Maine deserves a senator who will actually fight for the state’s residents. Fortunately, there’s an actual leader running for the Maine Senate seat this fall. Sara Gideon has long been a voice for everyday people in Maine. She’ll help Joe rebuild our economy after the pandemic, and, unlike Collins, she’ll actually vote to protect a woman’s right to choose. She’s going to help protect our environment and our seniors. And, with your help, she’ll kick Collins to the curb this November.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/gideon2020Volunteer: https://saragideon.com/take-action/Iowa: Joni Ernst vs. Theresa Greenfield Joni Ernst has been in the Senate for just six years, but during that time, she’s accumulated quite a track record. She’s been a firm ally of Iowa Representative Steve King, who is best known for endorsing Neo Nazis and promoting white nationalism. And she’s so anti-Obamacare that she said that officials who attempted to implement the program should be arrested. But Ernst isn’t only opposed to providing Americans with affordable healthcare; she also wants to deny them access to education and clean air, saying that she wants to eliminate both the Department of Education and the EPA. Ernst likes to say that she’s opposed to these agencies because they represent wasteful government spending. However, her record shows that she’s done virtually nothing to actually curb the ballooning federal deficit. She’s also opposed one of Joe Biden’s signature accomplishments, the Violence Against Women Act. Fortunately, Theresa Greenfield is standing up to Joni Ernst. Unlike her opponent, Greenfield knows that healthcare is a right for all, not a privilege for the few. She grew up on her father’s farm in Iowa during the 1980s farm crisis, so she understands the plight of the millions of Americans who have fallen upon hard times during this pandemic. As Iowa’s future senator, she has pledged to pass another stimulus package that will ease the burden of the pandemic and help get America back on its feet. And, unlike Ernst, Greenfield knows that it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who know how to balance a government checkbook. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/tg-website-2020?refcode=web Volunteer: https://secure.greenfieldforiowa.com/page/s/sign-up-to-volunteer Texas: John Cornyn vs. M. J. Hegar. Texas has long been stereotyped as a “red state” where Democrats shouldn’t even bother trying to win. Fortunately, M. J. Hegar is used to breaking down barriers. She joined the Air Force and elbowed her way into the male-dominated Air National Guard, where she became a combat helicopter pilot. She was then deployed to Afghanistan, where she flew multiple combat operations and was shot down by the Taliban. But that wasn’t her last battle; far from it. In 2012, she sued the Department of Defense to end its policy against allowing women to serve in combat roles - and won. And now she’s ready to fight for Texas and all its residents as the Lone Star State’s next senator. Her opponent is Senator John Cornyn, a three-term Republican incumbent. In the past, he’s supported Trump’s misuse of military resources to build his border wall, only to suddenly claim that he’d never supported the wasteful endeavour at all. He claims to support protections for preexisting conditions, but his voting record shows the exact opposite. After years of deriding the ACA, he admitted earlier this year that the legislation was, in fact, a good thing. Cornyn can’t be trusted to look out for Texans; so let’s show up for Hegar. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/mjh_website?refcode=website-nav Volunteer: https://mjfortexas.com/get-involved/volunteer/ Alabama: Tommy Tuberville vs. Doug Jones Alabama is another so-called “Red State” where Democrats aren’t supposed to be able to win elections. But Doug Jones changed all that in 2017 when he ran for Senate - and won. Jones is a lifelong public servant. In 2001, he successfully prosecuted the Klansman who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church. During his Senate career, he’s been committed to ensuring that everyone has access to quality education and healthcare. And he’s been a staunch advocate of LGBT rights - something that he says is partly because of his openly gay son, Carson. His opponent, meanwhile, is former football coach Tommy Tuberville, whose qualifications for the US Senate include involvement in not one, not two, but three Ponzi schemes. Tuberville also seems to know very little about the office he wants to hold. So far, he’s refused to even debate Jones, and has steadfastly refused to answer even the most basic questions about his campaign. Jones has won once, and with your help, he can do it again. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/jones-homepage1 Volunteer: https://www.onealabamaaction.com/ North Carolina: Thom Tillis vs. Cal Cunningham Thom Tillis is known for a lot of things — most recently, for taking his mask off and catching COVID at one of Donald Trump’s superspreader events. Now, Tillis has since admitted that he was wrong to do so, but it’s not the first time he’s stumbled on public health; just recently, he made the bizarre and racist claim that Hispanics were driving North Carolina’s COVID numbers. And he’s previously said that he opposes forcing restaurant employees to wash their hands. Cal Cunningham, by contrast, understands the serious risk that Covid-19 poses — especially for those without health insurance. Cal’s always been about serving his country; at age 27, he became the youngest state senator in North Carolina’s history, but enlisted in the army after 9/11. He was deployed three times, and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cal’s gonna fight to make sure that people are protected during these trying times; but he needs your help to do it.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/cal-website?refcode=cal-website Volunteer: https://www.calfornc.com/get-involved/ South Carolina: Lindsey Graham v. Jaime Harrison For a long time, Lindsey Graham was viewed as a principled conservative, who was known for his friendship with the maverick Senator John McCain. Back in 2016, he called Donald Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic religous bigot.” But as time went on, his tune changed. Nowadays, he’s Trump’s very own lapdog. Despite the fact that Trump has repeatedly insulted McCain, and denigrated the deceased Senator’s war-hero status, Lindsey has stuck by Trump, his earlier criticisms forgotten. And now Graham, who previously insisted that he would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in an election year, has changed his mind once again. He’s voting to confirm Trump’s disastrous nominee Amy Coney Barrett - a judge with ties to right wing extremist groups who would likely vote to repeal Obamacare. His opponent, Jaime Harrison, is a different sort of man. He knows a thing or two about keeping his word. And that’s exactly what he’ll do if he’s elected to the US Senate this fall. If he becomes South Carolina’s next Senator, he’s pledged to fight for paid family leave, so that parents won’t have to miss out on a much-needed paycheck if their child is sick at home. He’s pledged to protect and grow the middle class, so that every American can have access to a good paying job. And, unlike Lindsey, he’ll fight for the criminal justice reform that this nation so sorely needs. Jaime already has quite a bit of support, but he needs all the help he can get if he’s going to defeat Graham this fall. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/adopt-jaime-harrison Volunteer: https://jaimeharrison.com/get-involved/ Alaska: Dan Sullivan vs. Al Gross Way back in 2016, Dan Sullivan was one of a few Republican senators who was willing to condemn Trump from time to time. That’s all changed now; he’s blatantly refused to even comment on Trump’s non-denials of white supremacy, but he always finds time to praise the President. And when Trump diverted federal funds from Alaska to pay for his fantasy border wall, Sullivan backed him up. But flip-flopping is par for the course with Dan; in 2016, he said that the American people should have a choice in their next Supreme Court justice; but that principle has quickly become a thing of the past. However, there are a few people who still trust Dan. Pebble Partnership executives seem pretty certain that he’ll vote to open up a new mine in Bristol Bay — a project which would surely destroy the local fisheries. But voters can trust his opponent. Dr. Al Gross, an Alaska native, is running for Sullivan’s seat. As a former orthopedic surgeon, he knows just how important and expensive healthcare is. As a commercial fisherman, he knows just how important and vulnerable Alaska’s fisheries are. And, unlike his opponent, he understands that sex education is far better at preventing abortions than a ban. Dr. Al might be an independent, but he’s our kind of guy. Help make sure he unseats Sullivan this fall!Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/algross-2020?noskip=true&refcode=website Volunteer: https://www.mobilize.us/dralgrossak/event/325488/ Montana: Steve Daines vs. Steve Bullock Now, I know what you’re thinking; Montana’s a red state where Democrats have no business trying to win. But Steve Bullock’s done it before; twice. And now, the two-term governor is taking on Senator Steve Daines this fall. Unlike Daines, Bullock understands what it means to be a leader, and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic proves it. Bullock acted early and swiftly to close down schools and bars, and managed to save his state from the worst of the pandemic. Daines, meanwhile, has been little more than Trump’s own little footsoldier, refusing to call out the President for his egregious behavior. And if his constituents ever try to ask him about his positions, he’ll always be conveniently out of town. Montana deserves a Senator who will actually serve his constituents; it deserves Steve Bullock.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/sb-homepage?refcode=scb_web_header-button Volunteer: https://stevebullock.com/get-involved/ Michigan: John James vs. Gary Peters John James doesn’t like to talk about himself all that much. In fact, he won’t even tell the people of Michigan what party he’s from. But make no mistake, James is a Republican who supports Trump “2000%” — but he won’t tell you about that either. And, despite his stated position that Obamacare is a “monstrous” law that needs to be replaced, he won’t tell you what he would replace it with. And he certainly won’t tell you about his close ties to Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. When it comes to his opponent, Gary Peters, you don’t need to wonder. Peters is a proud supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and wants to help strengthen the law even more. He’s also committed to protecting the Great Lakes from further environmental damage. He’s proved that he can fight for Michigan, but now we need to fight for him.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/gary-peters-2?refcode=button Volunteer: https://petersformichigan.com/volunteer/ Kansas: Roger Marshall vs. Barbara Bollier Barbara Bollier hasn’t been a Democrat for very long, but she’s had some very good reasons to switch sides. She watched as the Kansas GOP instituted disastrous policies that ran the state into the ground. And, like many Americans, she’s watched with mounting horror as the Republican party has wholeheartedly embraced Trump. As a doctor, she’s an ardent supporter of Medicaid expansion. And, she takes this pandemic seriously - as opposed to her opponent, Roger Marshall, who takes hydroxychloroquine to protect himself from coronavirus. Marshall is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Trump tax code, which is based on the same disastrous policy that sent Kansas into a nosedive. Marshall bills himself as fiscally responsible, but his record shows that he is anything but. If elected to the Senate, he’ll continue voting for the same policies that have utterly destroyed his own state. Make sure that doesn’t happen, and vote him out this November!Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bb4ks-web?refcode=sitemenu&amount=25 Volunteer: https://bollierforkansas.com/action/ Mississippi: Cindy Hyde-Smith vs. Mike Espy Mississippi is another state where Democrats - and especially black Democrats - aren’t supposed to be able to win elections. But Mike Espy has defied those odds. In 1986, he became the first African-American congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction. In 2018, he ran for Senate and lost by single digits to Cindy Hyde-Smith. And now, he’s trying again. Since that race in 2018, Mississippi has started to rise above its past, voting to remove the confederate battle emblem from its flag earlier this year. But Cindy has remained rooted in the past. She has said that Confederate soldiers should be valorized for “defending their homeland,” and, in a state with a history of lynchings, has said that she’d like “front-row” seats to public hangings. In a state that regularly feels the wrath of climate-change fed hurricanes, Hyde-Smith has voted to repeal environmental regulations designed to lessen global warming. Epsy, who was the Secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton administration, understands the threat that climate change poses. With your help, he can beat Cindy this november. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/espy-web-2020?refcode=espy-fr-web-nav Volunteer: https://secure.ngpvan.com/uF29pCoBokKmjNsDKzhM8A2 That’s all for now, America. Remember, with your help, we can flip the Senate, and send Mitch packing this fall. With him out of the way, Joe will be able to enact his bold vision for America. So let’s get to work.
I voted. I’m anxious. What can I do now?
Oct. 30, 2020, 7:18 p.m.
Biden War Room
Here’s some helpCongratulations. You planned, you voted, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Austin, Texas, you can get free stuff. But maybe you thought that the churning in your stomach would be gone after your ballot was out of your hands, and it isn’t. There are still some things you can do to reduce your stress level for the next few days, and some of them are as powerful as the vote you just cast.I don’t know the status of my vote.Track your ballot. You can track your vote in nearly every state, even if you voted in person. Check it after about 24 hours if you dropped your ballot off at an election office or drop box. You’ve probably heard about mail delays, but so far there don’t appear to be any reports of significant problems. In fact, this suppression tactic of delaying the mail was so widely reported that voters might just be voting earlier or in person, just to ensure that their votes are counted. Voting early also gave your ballot a clear shot to tabulation, because it avoided any signature-based shenanigans that might come up in important precincts. Give your ballot a week or so if you dropped it into a mailbox. If it isn't received soon, call your county office and ask about it. The people who work there are nice, even when they're busy. If it’s been received, keep watching every day. At some point, the site will probably tell you it’s been accepted…or discarded because it didn’t comply with your state’s rules. If it’s rejected, you know what to do. Go vote in person, preferably early. Worst case, you’ll be given a provisional ballot, which simply means that your vote will count once and only once. Then track your vote until it’s accepted. In some states, they can let you know it’s already been counted. That will allay some of your apprehension.Yay, my ballot was accepted. Now what?Corral your social circle. Time to make sure everyone around you is finished voting. Reach out to your parents, your friends, your aunts and uncles, and that barista in the coffee place where you order your brew. Ask them to track their own votes, or offer to track the ballot for them. It’s likely that your family includes lots of people who haven’t mastered their electronics. Lots of people who stare at their phones all day don’t know they can use them to track their vote. Offer to help them out. You might find that your Aunt Susan in the Philly suburbs loves Joe Biden, and in her zeal to vote, she forgot to use Pennsylvania’s secrecy sleeve. When she learns about her mistake, Aunt Susan can go to an early voting location and try again to get it right.For most ballot tracking, you only need to know the county, the voter’s name, and the birth date. This means that you could track your grandma’s ballot without needing to exchange microbes with her. Just find her birthday on Facebook (it’s your grandma, so you’d better know the year) and check out where her ballot stands. It’s about time Facebook gave you useful and personal information about someone rather than the other way around.I’ve checked on everyone I could. Can I do more?You can reach out. If you’re young, healthy, and inclined, you could help out by being a poll worker. You might join a text-banking team (they’re fun, and you don’t have to wear even Zoom-level clothes after your training session.) If you're a lawyer, you can help out, too. If not, Swingleft can help you find volunteer opportunities. You don’t have to spend money, and you don’t have to leave home to help. Volunteering feels good. It'll help the next few weeks go from interminable to interpersonal.We need a landslide. We need a mandate. We need some sleep. Each of us gets only one vote, but we can leverage our "I voted" status to help others achieve "I voted" closure. You can help push this over the November 3rd finish line, and make sure Donald Trump is over by November 4th.
Time to Fight Back Against Voter Suppression
Oct. 29, 2020, 2:11 p.m.
Nader Hussein, BWR Press Secretary
With early voting underway in 45 states and Washington D.C., voter suppression is already taking effect in the traditional ways as well as some new ones. The Republican Party has been working for decades to disenfranchise communities that traditionally vote for Democrats, especially Black and other minority communities. Closing polling stations in Black and Brown neighborhoods is ol' reliable for Republican-led states seeking to suppress minorities from holding them accountable at the ballot box. Long lines and waits of multiple hours are a hallmark of the electoral process, and it's not by accident.One of Donald Trump's senior advisors, Justin Clark, was caught on a recording telling a group of Wisconsin Republicans that voter suppression is a deliberate strategy used by the GOP to compete in swing states.“Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places,” Clark is heard saying. He continued, “that's what you're going to see in 2020. It's going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”Of course, once his words were made public, he backed off and claimed he was taken out of context, but the evidence to support his claim is overwhelming. States like Georgia and Ohio, with Republican legislatures and governors, have seen wait times of up to 10 hours and lines a quarter mile long. In Ohio, this is a result of a 2006 state law limiting counties to just one early voting site per county. For Vinton County, with a population of about 13.5 thousand people, one polling station might be enough, but for Franklin County, which includes the capital of Columbus, nearly 1.3 million people are limited to one location.With the coronavirus pandemic still wreaking havoc in the United States, interest in voting by mail has increased tremendously, and now the Republican Party has been forced to come up with new ways to suppress people wishing to vote by mail. Donald Trump has railed against mail-in voting, despite using it himself and having no evidence of widespread fraud with the historic method. A number of states have used the mythological threat of mail-in vote fraud to engage in voter suppression. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott attempted to implement a similar strategy to Ohio, limiting the number of ballot drop-off locations to one per county. To put that into perspective, Harris County, which includes Houston, has a population of over 4 million. Thankfully, a state judge has issued an injunction against the limitation, but there will likely be an appeal.In California, the state's GOP has taken a different route. Instead of removing ballot boxes, they are putting out fake drop boxes, despite being warned by the California Secretary of State. Some of the fake drop boxes have been labeled as “official,” despite having no affiliation with the county registrars tasked with collecting ballots. The GOP are defending their actions by claiming that they are merely ballot harvesting, but the status of the boxes creates issues with the chain of custody requirements for third-party ballot submissions.Directly interfering with people's ability to cast their vote is the most well-known method of voter suppression, but it is certainly not the only way. Another, more subtle way of suppressing participation is to try and convince people not to vote. Unlike the more traditional voter suppression practices, this one is not as limited to the right. Some on the fringes of the left have been trying to prevent people from voting in their best interests to serve their own purposes. Despite claiming to support things like expanding healthcare, protecting marginalized communities and increasing access to affordable housing, they will try and convince you not to vote for the only candidate that will address those issues, Joe Biden.One prominent example is Ryan Knight, a faux journalist with a prominent following on Twitter. Since the conclusion of the Democratic primaries, Knight has spent his time trying to dissuade Americans from voting in their best interests to push forward his hope of accelerationism. He likely hopes that the re-election of Donald Trump will cause a massive revolution in favor of his beliefs, disregarding the damage a second Trump term will do. While he asks for your money to fund his podcast and likely the rest of his lifestyle, he has no cares about LGBTQ+ people who will be kicked onto the street as Donald Trump's Department of Housing and Urban Development actively allow shelters to remove transgender individuals. In fact, it might be in Knight's personal interests for Donald Trump to win re-election, as his podcast and relevance would probably grow amid the chaos.In a display of absolute cowardice, he tries to avoid legitimate criticism by claiming that his vote or abstention will not have any effect as he lives in a safe Democratic state.“According to neoliberals, in the primary @JoeBiden was the most 'electable' candidate,” he tweeted on September 9. “But in the general my one vote in the safest blue state in the country is going to make him lose.”He disingenuously ignores the fact that he is trying to convince his over 366,000 Twitter followers to abstain or vote for someone other than Joe Biden. To put that into perspective, less than 80,000 votes swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump.While there are many more examples of prominent social media and celebrity personalities actively trying to suppress the coalescence of voters around Joe Biden, almost all of them have an incentive in Donald Trump's re-election.It is only right to clarify that people can have legitimate criticisms of Joe Biden and there is nothing wrong with trying to push him towards policies they support, but there is only one candidate that has shown a willingness to change and adapt. There is only one candidate who wants to help the poor, the working class, minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. There is only one candidate intent on expanding healthcare and affordable housing.These bad faith actors trying to dissuade you from voting are engaging in voter suppression. Like every other method, voter suppression should be called out and condemned. Voting in an election is a civic duty and a way to shape the future. Do not let them silence you. Make your voice heard. Vote.
"You're a senior. I'm a senior." Not exactly a policy, is it?
Oct. 21, 2020, 5:06 p.m.
Biden War Room
Donald Trump doesn’t relate well to people if they don’t look like him or if they don’t spend money the way he does.In 2016, Donald Trump tweeted out a photo of him pretending to eat a taco bowl — from Trump Tower Grill, of all places — with the comment “I love Hispanics!” He evidently thought that would endear him to the Latino community. It didn’t. Right now, he’s losing among Latinos 62% to 26%, about as poorly as he did in 2016.A few months ago, Donald Trump tweeted that the “suburban housewife” (in his own scare quotes) would vote for him. He said that if they didn’t, Senator Cory Booker would fill the suburbs with low-income housing.Suburban women aren’t afraid of Senator Booker, and they aren’t afraid of minorities in their neighborhoods. About a third of these suburban dwellers are minorities themselves. Trump’s talking points about minorities are as dated as his pickup lines for “housewives”. And Trump is losing suburban women 62% to 34%. This race-baiting isn’t lost at all on the people of color that Trump would love to court but hates to govern. Joe Biden leads Trump among Black voters by 90% to 5%. Furthermore, minorities are hit the hardest by COVID-19. For example, Latinos are 2.8 times more likely than white, non-Hispanic people to get the virus, and they don’t generally go to the Trump Tower Grill.You’d think that Trump would at least relate to people who are his own age. But Donald Trump is proving that he doesn’t relate well even in attributes he shares with other Americans. Learning that his support among older Americans was faltering, he decided to make a video directed toward seniors."I'm a senior, I know you don't know that,” Trump said. "Nobody knows that...but I'm a senior." When Trump says “Nobody knows that”, this usually signals that he’s just learned something new, like when he discovered that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. He decided to share this newfound Lincoln trivia, with the National Congressional Republican Committee March fundraising dinner. “Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that. We have to build that up a little more.” The National Congressional Republican Committee probably did know that.“Great president”, he said, of Abraham Lincoln.Upon his COVID-oozing return to the White House, his talking points for seniors began by stating that seniors are “his favorite people in the world.”For a guy that asserts that seniors are his favorite, he doesn’t seem to care very much that they die at an alarming rate when they contract COVID-19. “It affects virtually nobody”, he asserts. “It affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects,” he said recently, and many other times.Maybe his lack of concern is because he wants you to think that anyone who contracts COVID-19 can get the same care, and the same so-far-unapproved treatment that he got. Experts don’t agree how or even if the experimental cocktail used on Trump works.Upon his return from Walter Reed Hospital, Trump said, "You're gonna get the same medicine. You're gonna get it free. No charge. And we're gonna get it for you soon."None of these statements are true. And seniors would like our leaders to know something about them.Seniors don’t want to get COVID-19 and be admitted to the hospital and they don’t want to suffer this disease at home and have lifelong complications.While we’re on the subject, seniors don’t want to bury their parents and friends because of an avoidable pandemic. They don’t want to skip routine doctor visits and miss annual medical tests and preventive care. They don’t want to be afraid to see their children and grandchildren. They don’t want to cancel their travel, their movies, their dining with friends, and their sporting events. Seniors are very aware of lost time.And for those seniors who still need or choose to work, they don’t want to go to a job where they might catch a disease that could kill them, or stay home and lose a job that was paying their rent.Future candidates, take heed. Asking your constituents to “Die for the Dow” will not be a winning bumper sticker.“The whole concept of death is terrible,” the president said in March 2020 when he advocated reopening the economy by Easter. “But there’s a tremendous difference between one percent and four or five.” One percent of the US population is more than 3 million people. No wonder he’s currently delighted that fewer than half a million of us are projected to die on his watch.We all know that Trump talks, constantly. Even when he’s fatigued, he talks a lot. Rush Limbaugh had to shut him up after two hours of blather on the radio as if the US President was some long-winded cinematographer going over his allotted Academy Award time. What Trump doesn’t do is plan. Trump doesn’t do work. He just talks.You know who plans a lot? Joe Biden. Check out his website, for example.Joe Biden’s plan to help older Americans begins with the middle class. He doesn’t say, “I bet you didn’t know I am a senior”, because Joe Biden doesn’t think that governing is about him. He thinks it’s about us.He says instead, “Working- and middle-class Americans built this country. And, they deserve to retire with dignity – able to pay for their prescriptions and with access to quality, affordable long-term care.”His plan for older Americans begins with the following goals: Stand up to the abuse of power by prescription drug corporationsProtect and strengthen Medicare as we know it and ensure quality, affordable health care for all older AmericansPreserve and strengthen Social SecurityEqualize saving incentives for middle-class workersProvide help for older workers who want to keep workingJoe Biden understands how COVID-19 has affected older Americans. He also has seen the effects of the Trump Administration’s failure to act and its failure to follow the science. Here’s what Joe Biden said on Twitter on October 25, 2019, just about a year ago and months before the pandemic arrived in the US: “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.” Prescient.Here’s what Joe Biden said on Twitter on February 1, 2020: “We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency.” Presidential.Joe Biden’s plans — just for dealing with COVID-19 — includes “evidence-based guidance”, a “National Pandemic Dashboard” to help Americans know the risks in their own neighborhoods, testing capacity (a fatal flaw, literally, in Trump’s failed approach), and boosts in Social Security and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).There’s a plan to keep nursing homes and long-term care facilities safe for those most at risk.The list of Joe Biden plans starkly illuminates all the things we could have done if the pandemic was approached from scholarship instead of self-interest. Instead, worried about his electability and his stock portfolio, Donald Trump let people die. “It is what it is,” Trump said, without any remorse.As for the Biden plans that aren’t COVID-related, they’re described in-depth on his website. Stand up to the abuse of power by prescription drug corporationsFor prescription drugs, he’d ensure that price negotiations include Medicare and its bargaining power. He’d limit monopolistic pricing for new drugs and price increases for existing drugs to the general inflation rate. He’d allow consumers to import drugs from other countries, and he’d limit tax breaks for drug advertising and improve the supply of quality generics.Protect and strengthen Medicare as we know it and ensure quality, affordable health care for all older AmericansFor healthcare, he’s committed to protecting the Obama-Biden achievement, the Affordable Care Act, under relentless Republican attack, which harms older Americans who are not old enough to qualify for Medicare. Strengthening the ACA will also provide seniors with the assurance that their children and grandchildren will have unconditional and affordable healthcare. He’d maintain Medicare’s separation from other programs to protect its funding. He’d provide tax relief for long-term care and provide assistance for caregivers.Preserve and strengthen Social SecurityJoe Biden’s plan will protect Social Security. When Donald Trump teases a payroll tax holiday, and promises to cut these taxes permanently if reelected, he’s cutting the funding mechanism for Social Security and Medicare. Joe Biden’s plan puts Social Security on a much-needed path to long-term solvency, will shut down Republican efforts to privatize it, and will provide protections for the oldest Americans.Equalize saving incentives for middle-class workersMiddle-class workers today will have new tax benefits to promote retirement savings. Caregivers who don’t receive wages for their work will qualify for the tax breaks available to paid workers, and small businesses will be encouraged through tax breaks to help workers save for retirement.Provide help for older workers who want to keep workingFor older Americans who are still working, the Biden plan will protect these employees from age discrimination, experienced by more than half of older workers. Furthermore, he will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that helps low-wage workers so that it will be available to workers over 65.It’s our choice. Seniors vote at a higher rate than all other age groups. Seniors have quite a lot to gain and quite a lot to lose, because government policies — whether it’s Social Security and Medicare, pharmaceuticals, or the quality of healthcare — depend on our votes. And the success of these programs will depend on planning. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a solution. The year 2020 will serve as a reminder of that forever.But 2021 could be the beginning of our recovery — our return to health, the revival of our economy, and our path to unity. It’s a cliché to claim that seniors hold wisdom, but there’s no doubt that seniors hold power. It’s time for seniors to wield their power. Vote early and wisely. Vote for Joe Biden and his plan to rebuild our country. It will be nice to have a family celebration again.
Institutional Reform Begins with Joe Biden
Oct. 20, 2020, 5:20 p.m.
Biden War Room
Donald Trump is a threat to our institutions. There is absolutely no doubt about this. From international norms to domestic precedents, Donald Trump’s presidency has led to the weakening of institutions that have been sacred to the American system. Countless articles in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and The Atlantic underline this very fact. Academics from Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute have lobbed scathing critiques of Donald Trump’s reckless attacks on American institutions. In the wake of Trump’s four years in office, public trust in the government has collapsed, international allies have started to retreat from the United States, and the Executive Branch has seen internal bickering as the president attacks his own intelligence agencies.To truly understand the damage caused by Trump, it is first important to define what the term “institutions” means. According to the Department of Political Science at Duke University, norms are “the formal and informal rules, practices, and regularities at both the domestic and international level that guide and constrain political choices and activities.” This framework is crucial in guiding our understanding. Institutions, therefore, include the underlying organizations running our government. This encompasses the CIA, the DOD, and even the DMV, but they can also include civil society organizations that run on the ground and parallel to government functions. Think the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. However, institutions are not just these types of organizations. The other half of the definition includes the “formal and informal rules,” or what we call norms. These include concepts like electoralism and federalism.Taken as a whole, it becomes clear how Donald Trump has eroded the institutions that make up the United States and the dangers this phenomenon poses. Perhaps the most salient examples of this erosion come from Trump’s lack of a coherent foreign policy. Trump has consistently attacked multilateral institutions that have been the basis for the unprecedented era of peace seen since the end of World War 2. He has criticized the United Nations, pulled out from the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, and has enabled autocrats to push against the liberal international order that was upheld by previous administrations. Consequently, this has resulted in a weakening in global stability. War has flared across the world as the United States retreats from institutions and norms it once defended. From the battles between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to skirmishes between India and China, the world has become a more unstable and unpredictable place. In the wake of these developments, leaders across the world have begun to look away from the United States for international leadership.In the realm of domestic politics, Donald Trump’s most vicious attacks have been on key institutions whose main functions are to keep government accountable. Constant attacks on journalists and scientific experts have eroded public trust in these groups, and as such the very concept of truth comes at risk. Meanwhile, Trump’s desire to “drain the swamp” has seen little in the way of fixing corruption. Instead, low-level bureaucrats and government workers have borne the brunt of Trump’s crusade. Trump has made personal attacks against state governors and career civil servants. Such acts are unprecedented and have ultimately led to a further weakening in the American government’s institutions. These actions have manifested themselves in very consequential ways. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald Trump’s inaction has resulted in an unfathomable number of needless deaths, with more to follow. Equally alarming is Trump’s noncommittal position in accepting the results of the upcoming presidential elections, a stance that undermines the core concept of electoralism that guides the United States. However, it is also important to understand that Trump’s attacks on American institutions comes at the back of other institutions that he abused to get to his current position. In fact, much of this stems from historical precedence before Trump’s 2016 campaign. Shortly after the election of President Barack Obama in 2009, Republican leadership found itself facing a crisis. GOP leaders like Reince Preibus analyzed the outcomes of that election and asserted that the Republican Party needed to focus on demographic changes to remain competitive. Some leaders however believed otherwise. Just after President Obama’s inauguration, Mitch McConnell invited key Republicans to a private dinner on January 21. There they discussed a new pattern of politics. Rather than follow Priebus’s ideas of embracing demographics, the Republicans would use a handbook of opposition and minority rule.By acting as a bloc, Republicans abused American institutional systems to make governance impossible. Over the years, Congress became a polarized system of impotence, with Republicans refusing to cooperate with Democrats on issues like health care or the stimulus package. They actively used the filibuster to prevent substantive discussion, while gerrymandered redistricting has ensured Republican victories in key districts for years to come. This point is clear. The Republican Party is interested in forgoing norms like popular electoralism and majoritarian rule. Republican leaders like Senator Mike Lee have said this outright. Instead, members of the Republican Party are actively seeking to use broken institutions to cement their rule, while destroying those institutions capable of reversing such actions. This can be best seen in the rush to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat. Such actions come at the expense of institutional credibility. From the Supreme Court to Congress, the actions of the Republican Party have once more resulted in delegitimization and a sharp erosion in public trust. More and more individuals are showing their anger and frustration at the perceived lack of progress and justice by the federal government. It is little wonder, then, why civilians have searched for other ways to demonstrate their grievances. Anger at the institution of policing and the systemic racism within it has led to the racial justice protests seen all summer.A Joe Biden presidency is important because it represents a stop in institutional degradation. Biden has made it clear that his goal is to restore America’s image on the international stage by reengaging the country into wider institutions and agreements. On the domestic front, he hopes to bring decency, rationality, and trust back into politics and governance. These are important steps in fixing America’s institutional problems. However, such actions are only part of the equation. A Biden victory also represents a crucial opportunity to reform faulty institutions before they become further cemented in our government. From the filibuster to congressional districting, a Democratic win in 2020 represents the greatest opportunity at restoring majoritarian rule and democracy back into the United States of America. On the other hand, another four years of Trump represents a dangerous turn. The ramifications of this go beyond Trump the man and his administration, and instead tread into the waters of American rule of law. Joe Biden is the only candidate that represents an opportunity at revival and reform for America’s broken institutions.