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May 28, 2020, 02:21 AM
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« Reply #60 on: May 12, 2020, 09:02 PM »


With this configuration of the Supreme Court---especially with the additions of Kavanaugh and Gorsuch---I'm not optimistic. Hope I'm wrong. I also think they'll kick the cases back down to the lower courts, so that the decisions are delayed till after the election.

All the best,

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« Reply #61 on: May 12, 2020, 09:11 PM »

Hey Soleil, yep I also think they will kick it back down to the lower courts.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if all the Supremes just did the right thing? DDD
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« Reply #62 on: May 13, 2020, 07:04 PM »

Yeah, DDD, it really would be amazing if all the Supremes just did the right thing. But based on their recent rulings and the fact that some of them are bought and paid for by Trump, I'm not holding my breath! Regards, Soleil
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« Reply #63 on: May 14, 2020, 05:26 AM »

This is what Republicans do .........

Wisconsin Republican supreme court strikes down governor's stay-at-home order

Justices say Tony Evers lacked authority to extend order through May in ruling that reopens state

Wisconsin’s supreme court struck down the state’s stay-at-home order on Thursday, ruling that Governor Tony Evers overstepped his authority by extending the order through the end of May.

The ruling reopens the state, lifting caps on the size of gatherings, allowing people to travel as they please and allowing shuttered businesses to reopen, including bars and restaurants. The Tavern League of Wisconsin swiftly posted the news on its website, telling members, “You can OPEN IMMEDIATELY!”

The 4-3 decision, written by the court’s conservative justices, also chips away at Evers’ authority to slow the spread of coronavirus and will force the Democratic governor to work with the Republican legislature as the state continues to grapple with the outbreak.

Evers issued a stay-at-home order in March and extended it in late April. Republicans asked the supreme court to block the extension, arguing that move required legislative approval.

Nearly seven out of 10 Wisconsin residents support the governor’s “safer at home” order, according to a Marquette University Law School poll. But Republican lawmakers in the state worried about the economic impacts of an extended shutdown.

Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Republicans’ behalf, praised the ruling. The state director, Eric Bott, called it “a win for the protection of the separation of powers and the necessary legislative and public oversight in the administrative rule-making process”.

But top health officials, including Dr Anthony Fauci, have warned against reopening too quickly.

The sheltering orders will remain in place until 20 May to give lawmakers time to develop a new coronavirus plan.

Republican lawmakers have yet to offer an alternative outbreak response plan. The state’s chamber of commerce proposed allowing all the state’s businesses to open at once, while asking high-risk establishments to take some safety measures.

Local governments can still impose their own health restrictions, however. In Dane county, home to the capital, Madison, officials quickly imposed a mandate incorporating most of the statewide order.

The GOP move against Evers mirrors actions taken by Republican-controlled legislatures in other states, most notably against the Democratic governors in the nearby “blue wall” states of Michigan and Pennsylvania. All three are critical presidential battlegrounds in November.

The GOP has been working to weaken Evers’ powers since he ousted incumbent Republican governor Scott Walker in 2018.

Speaking on the court’s decision, the chief justice, Patience Roggensack, wrote for the majority that the stay-at-home order issued by Wisconsin health secretary, Andrea Palm, amounted to an emergency rule that she did not have the power to create on her own, and also imposes criminal penalties beyond her powers.

“Rule-making exists precisely to ensure that kind of controlling, subjective judgement asserted by one unelected official, Palm, is not imposed in Wisconsin,” Roggensack, part of the court’s 5-2 conservative majority, wrote.

Rebecca Dallet, one of the court’s liberal justices, dissented. She wrote that the court’s decision will “undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history. And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.”


The GOP ‘has turned Wisconsin into a failed state’: CNN’s Toobin unloads on court overturning stay-at-home order

on May 14, 2020
By Brad Reed

CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on Thursday unloaded on the Wisconsin State Supreme Court ruling that overturned Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s stay-at-home order meant to slow the outbreak of COVID-19.

“The Republican Party has turned Wisconsin into a failed state,” he said. “This is such an outrageous lawsuit, such an outrageous decision… the idea that a state cannot try to protect the public health of its citizens is contrary to Wisconsin law, as well as common sense, and this hostility in the Republican Party to the Democratic governor there has just jeopardized thousands of lives.”

Toobin later accused the Republican Party of politicizing the virus to such an extent that even commonsense public health measures were met with suspicion and hostility from GOP voters.
Defend democracy. Click to invest in courageous progressive journalism today.

“You have Democrats believing in science,” he said. “You have Republicans who are looking at this, it seems to me, through an ideological lens that is about hostility to government, disbelief in science.”

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUDG3r1h0ww&feature=emb_title


Sioux tribes refuse to take down coronavirus checkpoints after GOP governor threatens legal action

on May 14, 2020
By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

In South Dakota, Sioux tribes have set up highway checkpoints in the hope of preventing the spread of coronavirus on their reservations — and Gov. Kristi Noem, a Republican, has demanded that the checkpoints be removed. But Sioux leaders are fighting back.

In a letter on Sunday, May 10, Maggie Seidel (Noem’s policy director), told members of the Oglala Sioux and the Cheyenne River Sioux tribes, “The checkpoints on state and US highways are not legal, and if they don’t come down, the state will take the matter to federal court.” But Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier is not backing down.

Frazier told CNN, “We want to ensure that people coming from ‘hot spots’ or highly infected areas, we ask them to go around our land…. With the lack of resources we have medically, this is our best tool we have right now to try to prevent (the spread of COVID-19).”

In her letter, Seidel asserted that it is “unlawful to interrupt the flow of traffic on these roads.” But Frazier has maintained that his top priority is “protecting the lives of our people and those that live on this reservation.”

MSNBC’s Joy Reid clearly sided with Frazier’s position when he appeared on her show, “AM Joy,” on May 10 — asserting that Noem was endangering the lives of Native Americans by interfering with the checkpoints. Frazier told Reid, “We have every legal right to do what we’re doing. In the past history, and time after time, the lack of adequate health care for our people — we just don’t really have the resources to combat this virus once it gets into our lands. Right now, the main tool we have at this point is prevention.”


Texas Supreme Court puts expansion of voting by mail on hold

on May 16, 2020
By Texas Tribune

The state Supreme Court’s order comes one day after a state appeals court had allowed the expansion to stand while a legal case was appealed.

The Texas Supreme Court on Friday temporarily put on hold an expansion of voting by mail during the coronavirus pandemic.

Siding with Attorney General Ken Paxton, the Supreme Court blocked a state appeals court decision that allowed voters who lack immunity to the virus to qualify for absentee ballots by citing a disability. That appellate decision upheld a lower court’s order that would have allowed more people to qualify to vote by mail. The state’s Supreme Court has not weighed the merits of the case.

It’s the latest in an ongoing legal squabble that in the last three days has resulted in daily changes to who can qualify for a ballot they can fill out at home and mail in.

Federal and state courts are considering legal challenges to the state’s rules for voting by mail as Democrats and voting rights groups ask courts to clarify whether lack of immunity to the coronavirus is a valid reason for people to request absentee ballots. A resolution to that question is gaining more urgency every day as the state approaches the July primary runoff elections.

Paxton asked the Supreme Court to intervene the day after a state appeals court let stand a ruling from state District Judge Tim Sulak that susceptibility to the coronavirus counts as a disability under the state election code and is therefore a legally valid reason for voters to request absentee ballots.

The appeals court rebuffed Paxton’s efforts to block voters from requesting absentee ballots under those conditions while the case was making its way through the courts.

But the Supreme Court’s Friday decision means that order will remain blocked while the appeal of the case moves forward.

“The Legislature has carefully limited who may and may not vote by mail,” Paxton said in a statement after the ruling. “The Travis County trial court’s decision to allow everyone to vote by mail is contrary to state law and will be reversed on appeal.”

In a statement, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said the party would continue the legal battle.

“This is a dark day for our democracy,” he said. “The Republican Texas Supreme Court is wrong to force the people of Texas to choose between their health and their right to vote. They would have Texans die, just so they can hold on to power.”

The attorney general has said local officials must follow his reading of existing eligibility requirements. Paxton argues that a fear of contracting the virus while voting in person doesn’t meet the state’s definition of a disability.

The Texas election code defines disability as a “sickness or physical condition” that prevents a voter from appearing in person without the risk of “injuring the voter’s health.”

But Sulak’s ruling is not based on voters’ fear of contracting the virus; instead, he agreed with the individual Texas voters, state Democrats and civic organizations that argued that a lack of immunity to the virus makes voters eligible under the existing disability definition.

The court also set oral arguments for Wednesday on Paxton’s request for it to weigh in on whether the appeals court erred and abused its discretion when it allowed Sulak’s order to go into effect.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2020, 06:34 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #64 on: May 16, 2020, 06:37 AM »

A Sitting President, Riling the Nation During a Crisis

By smearing his opponents, championing conspiracy theories and pursuing vendettas, President Tru​mp has reverted to his darkest political tactics in spite of a pandemic hurting millions of Americans.

By Alexander Burns, Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin and Nick Corasaniti
NY Times
May 15, 2020

​​Even by President Trump’s standards, it was a rampage: He attacked a government whistle-blower who was telling Congress that the coronavirus pandemic had been mismanaged. He criticized the governor of Pennsylvania, who has resisted reopening businesses. He railed against former President Barack Obama, linking him to a conspiracy theory and demanding he answer questions before the Senate about the federal investigation of Michael T. Flynn.

And Mr. Trump lashed out at Joseph R. Biden Jr., his Democratic challenger. In an interview with a sympathetic columnist, Mr. Trump smeared him as a doddering candidate who “doesn’t know he’s alive.” The caustic attack coincided with a barrage of digital ads from Mr. Trump’s campaign mocking Mr. Biden for verbal miscues and implying that he is in mental decline.

That was all on Thursday.

Far from a one-day onslaught, it was a climactic moment in a weeklong lurch by Mr. Tru​mp back to ​​the darkest tactics that defined his rise to political power​. Even those who have grown used to Mr. Trump’s conduct in office may have found themselves newly alarmed by the grim spectacle of a sitting president deliberately stoking the country’s divisions and pursuing personal vendettas in the midst of a crisis that has Americans fearing for their lives and livelihoods.

Since well before he became president, Mr. Trump’s appetite for conflict has defined him as a public figure. But in recent days he has practiced that approach with new intensity, signaling both the depths of his election-year distress and his determination to blast open a path to a second term, even at the cost of further riling a country in deep anguish.

His electoral path has narrowed rapidly since the onset of the pandemic, as the growth-and-prosperity theme of his campaign disintegrated. In private, Mr. Trump has been plainly aggrieved at the loss of his central argument for re-election. “They wiped out my economy!” he has said to aides, according to people briefed on the remarks.

It is unclear whether he has been referring to China, where the virus originated, or health experts who have urged widespread lockdowns, but his frustration and determination to place blame elsewhere have been emphatic.

Ken Goldstein, a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, said that Mr. Trump and his campaign were going on the offensive in nasty ways in an attempt to shift the attention of the public away from him and onto other targets, and ultimately onto Mr. Biden.

“If this election is about Trump, he probably loses,” Mr. Goldstein said. “Trump’s only hope is to make the election about Biden.”

A number of Republican operatives believe Mr. Biden’s advantage is soft and that his penchant for gaffes will at least make the race more competitive than it would otherwise be amid a pandemic and an incipient economic depression.

“We have a very good story to tell on him and we’ve got to do it,” said Corry Bliss, a Republican strategist, of the negative narrative his party aims to generate about Mr. Biden.

Still, Mr. Trump’s behavior has rattled even some supportive Republicans, who believe it is likely to backfire and possibly cost them the Senate as well as the White House. It has also further alarmed Democrats, who have long warned that Mr. Trump would be willing to use every lever of presidential power and deploy even the most unscrupulous campaign tactics to capture a second term.

In many respects Mr. Trump’s approach to the 2020 election looks like a crude approximation of the way he waged the 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton, attacking her personal ethics, often in false or exaggerated terms; taking Mrs. Clinton’s admitted errors and distorting them with the help of online disinformation merchants; and making wild claims about her physical health and mental capacity for the job. Given that the 2016 campaign — the only one Mr. Trump has ever run — ended in a razor-thin victory for him, it is perhaps not surprising that the president would attempt a kind of sequel in 2020.

But there are vitally important differences between 2016 and 2020, ones that amplify the risks involved both for Mr. Trump and for the country he is vying to lead.

He is running against an opponent in Mr. Biden who, despite his vulnerabilities, has not faced decades of personal vilification as Mrs. Clinton did before running for president. And unlike 2016, Mr. Trump has a governing record to defend — one that currently involves presiding over a pandemic that has claimed more than 80,000 American lives — and he may not find it easy to change the subject with incendiary distractions.

Yet with the responsibility to govern also comes great power, and Mr. Trump has instruments available to him in 2020 that he did not have as a candidate four years ago — tools like a politically supportive attorney general, a Republican-controlled Senate determined to defend him and a vastly better financed campaign apparatus that has been constructed with the defining purpose of destroying his opponent’s reputation.

His attacks over the last week on Mr. Obama have showcased Mr. Trump’s persistent determination to weaponize those tools to bolster a favorite political narrative, one that distorts the facts about Mr. Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, in order to spin sinister implications about the previous administration.

But Mr. Trump also appears to genuinely believe many of the conspiratorial claims he makes, people close to him say, and his anger at Mr. Obama is informed less by political strategy than by an unbending — and unsubstantiated — belief that the former president was personally involved in a plot against him.

This weekend, Mr. Trump will huddle with some of his conservative allies in the House at Camp David, where they are expected to discuss the efforts — entirely fruitless up to this point — to prove Mr. Obama was involved in a conspiracy.

Of all Mr. Trump’s efforts, this one may be among the least concerning to Democrats, given Mr. Obama’s strong popularity and the degree to which Mr. Trump’s claims of an “Obamagate” scandal have been confined so far to the usual echo chambers of Fox News and right-wing social media. As he did in 2016, Mr. Trump is trying to force other outlets to cover the matter through repetition on his Twitter feed.

Democratic anxiety about the president’s attacks on Mr. Biden runs higher. But in general Mr. Biden’s advisers have professed confidence that the severity of the country’s problems will make it difficult for Mr. Trump to retake control of the campaign, and that Mr. Biden’s fundamental political strengths make him well positioned to survive a campaign of attempted character assassination.

On a conference call with reporters on Friday, Mike Donilon, one of Mr. Biden’s closest advisers, said Mr. Trump was transparently engaged in “an all-out effort to take people away from what they’re living through.”

“I think that’s going to be real hard to do, because the country has really been rocked,” Mr. Donilon said. “And where the president has succeeded in the past, in terms of throwing up lots of distractions and smoke screens and trying to move the debate to other questions, I don’t think he’s going to succeed here.”

The president has been grumbling about his own campaign and this week complained to allies that he had not significantly outraised Mr. Biden in April, according to a Republican who spoke with Mr. Trump.

Still, Mr. Trump’s political operation has moved over the last month to devise a plan for tearing down Mr. Biden, who does not inspire great enthusiasm in voters but is held in higher esteem by most than the incumbent president. The result has been a blizzard of negative digital and television ads, battering Mr. Biden on a range of subjects in a way that suggests Mr. Trump’s advisers have not yet settled on a primary line of attack.

The campaign’s ads on Facebook are as relentless as they are varied, as if plucked from a vintage Trump rally rant: Some make unfounded inferences about Mr. Biden’s mental state, saying “geriatric health is no laughing matter.” Others paint the presumptive Democratic nominee as “China’s puppet” by highlighting statements that Mr. Biden made when he was vice president, like “China is not our enemy.” Still others stick to traditional themes of illegal immigration.

Over the last week, the Trump campaign has spent at least $880,000 on Facebook ads attacking Mr. Biden.

Yet there are persistent doubts even within Mr. Trump’s political circle that an overwhelmingly negative campaign can be successful in 2020, particularly when many voters are likely to be looking for a combination of optimism, empathy and steady leadership at a moment of crisis unlike any in living memory. And the more Mr. Trump lashes out — at Mr. Biden and others — the more he may cement in place the reservations of voters who are accustomed to seeing presidents react with resolute calm in difficult situations.

Private Republican polling has shown Mr. Trump slipping well behind Mr. Biden in a number of key states. Perhaps just as troubling for Mr. Trump, it has raised questions about whether his efforts to tar Mr. Biden are making any headway.

Last month, a poll commissioned by the Republican National Committee tested roughly 20 lines of attack against Mr. Biden, ranging from the private business activities of his son, Hunter Biden, to whether Mr. Biden has “lost” a step, a reference to mental acuity. None of the lines of attack significantly moved voter sentiment, according to two people briefed on the results. There were some lines of attack that had potential, one of the people briefed on the results said, but they were more traditional Republican broadsides about issues like taxes.

Mr. Trump has also been warned by Republican veterans that his efforts to define Mr. Biden in negative terms so far have been slow or ineffective. At a meeting with political advisers this week that included Karl Rove, the top strategist for former President George W. Bush, Mr. Rove warned Mr. Trump that he had fallen behind in the task of damaging Mr. Biden, people familiar with the meeting said.

Part of the challenge, though, is that Mr. Trump constantly undermines his own team’s strategy, in ways big and small. While he finally stopped doing his daily press briefings, after weeks of pleading from his allies, he still makes comments on Twitter or to reporters nearly every day that hand Democrats fodder and make Republicans squirm.

In addition to his attacks against Mr. Obama, he separated himself from the highly popular Dr. Anthony Fauci, downplayed the importance of testing and has refused to wear a mask. And Mr. Trump’s appetite for conspiracy theories is often embarrassing to his party: Several times in recent weeks, he has falsely accused a prominent television host of murder and called for a “cold case” investigation.

The president also routinely misses even the political opportunities his advisers deliberately tee up for him.

When Mr. Trump was visiting Pennsylvania this week, for instance, his team scheduled a friendly interview in the hope that he would make the case that Mr. Biden would undermine fracking, an important industry in Pennsylvania. But Mr. Trump made no mention of fracking and instead attacked Mr. Biden’s mental condition and called wind power a “disaster” that “kills all the birds.”

“He’s come back down because that’s where his natural state is,” said Terry Nelson, a Republican strategist, referring to Mr. Trump’s slide in the polls after a short-lived bump in March. “Because he’s not in position to rally the country in a way a president traditionally would in a situation like this.”


Trump cheers on anti-lockdown protestors for attacking a journalist covering their event

on May 16, 2020
By New Civil Rights Movement

This morning President Donald Trump issued two tweets in support of anti-lockdown protestors in Commack, Long Island, New York who lashed out at News 12 Long Island reporter Kevin Vesey as he covered their event.

While the majority of white Trump-supporting demonstrators peacefully picketed the roadside, four minutes into covering the event, several protestors started yelling at Vesey through bullhorns, giving the reporter the middle finger, telling him “Go home, you’re fake news” and “Fake news is not essential,” and trying to invade his personal space without masks, risking the possibility of attempting to infect him with COVID-19.

In response to videos of the protestors attacking Vesey, Trump tweeted, “People can’t get enough of this. Great people!” and “FAKE NEWS IS NOT ESSENTIAL!” Numerous times in the past, Trump has referred to the media as the “enemy of the people.”

Here is video of Vesey’s report:

    This was my story that aired on TV today — a recap of yesterday’s events, and what’s happened since. pic.twitter.com/cfGrBYiLGJ

    — Kevin Vesey (@KevinVesey) May 15, 2020

The protest was organized by a Facebook group called the Setauket Patriots who later issued a public apology to Vesey via Facebook, stating:

    “The Setauket Patriots group, would like to apologize on how you were treated… The few who decided to Harass you and try to prevent you from doing your job are not members or affiliated with the Setauket patriots group in any way, shape or form…. As with all mass rally events, you will always get a few idiots to disrupt an otherwise peaceful, pleasant demonstration and they should have been removed by Police.”

On April 29, President Donald Trump cheered on armed anti-lockdown protestors in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia — three states run by Democratic governors — by telling them to “liberate” their states. Trump later defended the tweets, saying that some state’s social distancing policies are “too tough.” Meanwhile, anti-lockdown protestors in Michigan have openly discussed assassinating its female Governor Gretchen Whitmer, causing the state legislature to shut down this week.

New York remains the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. As of May 16, the state has had 346,000 confirmed cases and 22,304 deaths.


Trump threatens to cut off funds to Michigan after it sends out ‘illegal’ absentee ballots

on May 20, 2020
Raw Story
By Brad Reed

President Donald Trump on Wednesday uncorked an angry Twitter rant against Michigan for sending out absentee ballots to its state’s voters.

“Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election,” the president wrote. “This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

Trump’s angry rant came after Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced this week that all registered voters in Michigan would receive ballot applications through the mail this year that they could send in to avoid having to go to the polls during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump’s threat to cut off funding to Michigan comes as the state deals with the twin crises of the pandemic and mass flooding caused by a burst dam.

    Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!..

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2020
« Last Edit: May 20, 2020, 07:25 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #65 on: May 16, 2020, 06:58 PM »

Hi Rad and all,

Thank you, Rad, for posting those articles. I hope the Biden campaign starts fighting back hard against Trump---I think it's the only way to counter his dirty tricks---and I also hope they start consulting with Republican and ex-Republican never-Trumpers, like the people behind the Lincoln Project. Republicans are a lot better at fighting hard. Democrats don't seem to have it in them.

Steve Schmidt, one of the founders of the Lincoln Project, is one of the few pundits who isn't afraid to speak the unvarnished truth about the moron in the White House. I find it cathartic.

Here are excerpts of Steve Schmidt on MSNBC with Joy Reid, May 15:

"Donald Trump has been the worst president this country has ever had."

"When you listen to the president, these are the musings of an imbecile, an idiot...they're the precise words in the English language to describe his behavior, his comportment, his actions.

We've never seen a level of incompetence, a level of ineptitude so staggering on a daily basis by anybody in the history of the country who's ever been charged with substantial responsibilities.

It's just astonishing that this man is the president of the United States---the conman from New York City, many bankruptcies, failed businesses, a reality show that branded him as something he never was (a successful businessman).

Well, he's the president of the United States now, and the man who said that he would make the country great again has brought death, suffering and economic collapse on truly an epic scale, and let's be clear---this isn't happening in every country around the world."

"We're the ones with the most shattered economy and we are because of the fool that sits in the oval office behind the resolute desk."



On a lighter note...

Daily Show mashup of Trump's inability to speak properly:


Although funny to listen to---and I think humor is an antidote to evil and to just about everything---the slurred speech and unintelligible gibberish that comes out of his mouth are disturbing. They seem to point to either cognitive decline, drug use or a neurological issue---or all of the above. It should be a concern, but it is barely talked about in the media.

If any other president had uttered even 1% of these, it would have been a major scandal, but, once again, this guy gets away with everything.

All the best,

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« Reply #66 on: May 17, 2020, 06:14 AM »

Seeking: Big Democratic Ideas That Make Everything Better

By the end of primary season, the Democratic Party had all but settled on a conventional center-left agenda. But the pandemic is forcing the Biden campaign and other leaders to redraw plans for 2021.
Mr. Biden’s campaign has been rapidly expanding its policy-drafting apparatus, with an uphill economic recovery waiting if he wins in November.

By Alexander Burns
NY Times
May 17, 2020, 4:35 a.m. ET

More than 36 million Americans are suddenly unemployed. Congress has allocated $2.2 trillion in aid, with more likely to be on the way as a fight looms over government debt. Millions more people are losing their health insurance and struggling to take care of their children and aging relatives. And nearly 90,000 are dead in a continuing public health catastrophe.

This was not the scenario Joseph R. Biden Jr. anticipated confronting when he competed for the Democratic nomination on a conventional left-of-center platform. Now, with Mr. Biden leading President Trump in the polls, the former vice president and other Democratic leaders are racing to assemble a new governing agenda that meets the extraordinary times — and they agree it must be far bolder than anything the party establishment has embraced before.

So far, neither Mr. Biden nor Mr. Trump has defined in itemized terms what an agenda for the first 100 days of a new presidency in the coronavirus era might look like. But on the Democratic side, far more than within the Republican Party, there is an increasingly clear sense of the nature and scale of the goals a new administration would pursue.

Mr. Biden’s campaign has been rapidly expanding its policy-drafting apparatus, with the former vice president promising on Monday to detail plans for “the right kind of economic recovery” within weeks. He has already effectively shed his primary-season theme of restoring political normalcy to the country, replacing it with promises of sweeping economic change.

On Wednesday, Mr. Biden signaled anew that he was willing to reopen his policy platform, announcing six policy task forces — covering issues including health care, climate and immigration, as well as the economy — that combine his core supporters with left-wing allies of Senator Bernie Sanders, his vanquished primary opponent.

The formation of those committees was aimed in part at easing divisions between Democrats that are already flaring on subjects like the size of a potential infrastructure bill and the intractable issue of health care. Despite having dashed Mr. Sanders’s populist insurgency in the primary, Mr. Biden is still facing loud calls from his party’s activist wing to adopt ideas he has firmly resisted, like single-payer health care.

But in several areas there are already strong signs of consensus within Mr. Biden’s party, as once-cautious electoral and legislative tacticians shed their opposition to huge price tags and disruptive change amid a crisis that has melted traditional obstacles to government action.

Democratic leaders say that if they hold power next January, they must be prepared to move to pump trillions more into the economy; enact infrastructure and climate legislation far larger than they previously envisioned; pass a raft of aggressive worker-protection laws; expand government-backed health insurance and create enormous new investments in public-health jobs, health care facilities and child care programs.

Discussions are also underway, some of them involving Republicans, about policies that would ban stock buybacks and compel big corporations to share more of their profits with workers.

And there is more to come: Interviews with more than a dozen influential lawmakers, union leaders, think tank experts and advisers to Mr. Biden and other senior Democrats revealed an intensifying set of deliberations in the Zoom meetings of Mr. Biden’s campaign, the skeletally staffed offices of Capitol Hill, and a web of conference calls and email chains initiated by powerful Democratic interest groups. Across all of them, there is a sense that Democrats must use the next six months — with an unpredictable campaign still in progress — to prepare to act swiftly in case they get the chance.

“There is a recognition that this event is more transformative than 2008, more transformative than 9/11, more transformative than the fall of the Berlin Wall,” said Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, a centrist Democrat.

The party’s moderates, Mr. Warner said, had begun to think “exponentially bigger” about a legislative vision for overhauling the economy.

Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who since ending her presidential campaign has laid out an array of plans for countering the pandemic, said she saw a widening recognition within her party that it faced “a big moment that we must meet with big ideas.” Ms. Warren, who has recently spoken several times about policy with Mr. Biden, said she believed the former vice president saw the moment in similarly urgent terms.

“The coronavirus has pushed to the front the need for real change,” said Ms. Warren, a contender to be Mr. Biden’s running mate. “Families need more economic security and we need an economy over all that has more resilience and more protection built in for helping each other in a time of crisis.”

For Mr. Biden and other leaders of the Democratic establishment, a difficult balancing act still awaits, as they navigate competing pressures from their party’s left flank and the middle-of-the-road voters Mr. Biden is determined to court in the general election. If the current political mood and conditions of the country seems ready-made for promises of dramatic change, that does not necessarily mean most voters are hungering for the same wish list as the ideological left.

As Mr. Biden surely knows from his years as vice president — most of all the battle over the Affordable Care Act — voters who demand new policies from the government in one moment may not patiently endure the disruptions and unintended consequences that tend to accompany structural change, particularly in times of economic hardship.

Yet Mr. Biden has plainly changed his outlook on the mission he would pursue in office: As a newly announced presidential candidate last year, Mr. Biden presented himself as a tinkerer under whom “nothing would fundamentally change.”

That spirit was absent from a speech Mr. Biden delivered this month from his porch in Delaware, telling voters that his aim was “not just to rebuild the economy, but to transform it.”

The task of reimagining the economy is in many respects an unlikely one for Mr. Biden, whose driving interests for most of his career were foreign affairs and criminal justice. His most prominent stint as an economic leader came as vice president, when the Obama administration shepherded a reeling financial sector back to functionality and imposed new regulations on Wall Street — but stopped well short of seeking to overhaul the nature of the American private sector and rewrite the rules of the workplace.

Mr. Biden earned praise for his high-profile role overseeing the distribution of a $787 billion economic stimulus program. But the Recovery Act has come to be seen by many Democrats as something of a cautionary tale about governing in a recession: a law that stitched up a tattered economy but failed to spur a strong comeback, leading to deep electoral losses for the party.

It is a scenario Democratic leaders are determined not to repeat, particularly progressives who have long faulted the Obama administration for paring back the stimulus in the hope of winning Republican support.

Many of Mr. Biden’s close advisers are veterans of the Obama administration with similar political scars from the last recession. But the Biden campaign has also begun to recruit and corral scores of other Democratic experts into a web of advisory groups aimed at generating policy faster and with greater ambition. Stef Feldman, Mr. Biden’s policy director, said much of the campaign’s energy was devoted to mapping out a “quick slate of executive actions” to address pandemic conditions and carry out other aspects of Mr. Biden’s agenda.

But Mr. Biden is also soliciting input from a range of party luminaries outside his campaign, some of whom described him as eager for new ideas.

“I think that he wants to work and support working families, and I think he’s interested in hearing programs and thinking outside the box as far as what needs to be developed to achieve that goal,” said Lee Saunders, president of the government workers’ union Afscme, who has spoken several times recently with Mr. Biden.

Separate from the Biden campaign, about three dozen influential figures at labor unions, think tanks and other progressive institutions have convened a weekly virtual meeting ­— known as the Friday Morning Group — with the same goal, according to multiple participants who spoke about the sessions on the condition of anonymity. Among its motivating forces is a view that liberal Democrats failed in the last recession to take the initiative in specifying plans for achieving large-scale change.

This convening of progressive minds, one of several brainstorming-and-planning initiatives underway in Washington, has mulled a range of policy options, including mainstream proposals like major new spending on public health and child care and less widely supported options like creating a universal basic income or offering a federal jobs guarantee.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents more than a million health care workers, said she had briefed Democratic lawmakers in both the House and Senate about her organization’s view that it was time to “change the rules of the economy for the long term,” including a powerful expansion of the rights and employment benefits of lower-income workers.

“We don’t want to stand for any short-term fixes when we need a total overhaul,” said Ms. Henry, who has also been in touch with the Biden campaign.

Hanging over Mr. Biden’s plans will be uncertainty about elections for the House and Senate that will determine whether Mr. Biden would have cooperative Democratic majorities or face opposition from a Republican-held Senate aligned with conservative business interests. Mr. Trump, who has said little about his goals for another term, has begun accusing Democrats of imperiling an economic recovery by proposing new regulations and taxes.

For now, however, the political atmosphere seems to be one of demand for more aggressive action: One Democratic group, Navigator Research, that has been conducting daily polling on the pandemic, found large majorities of voters concerned that the government would do too little to help people and eager for the government to do more, even if it cost a lot of money.

Jake Sullivan, one of Mr. Biden’s closest policy advisers, said the former vice president had not shed the underlying view of the American economy that defined his candidacy for much of the last year, when Mr. Biden rejected calls for his party to embrace the agenda of democratic socialism. But, he said, the external circumstances facing a potential Biden administration were different now.

“We are going to have to do more, push further, be more creative coming out of this once-in-a-century pandemic — no doubt about it,” Mr. Sullivan said.

According to several aides, Mr. Biden is expected to produce detailed plans for funding health care jobs and green infrastructure, and initiatives to rebuild the domestic manufacturing of critical supplies and help Americans who lost jobs in the most devastated industries find lasting employment.

In his speech on the economy this month, Mr. Biden also said he wanted to “insist that big corporations, which we’ve bailed out twice in 12 years, set up and take responsibility for their workers and their communities” — a striking flash of populist sentiment that Mr. Biden has not yet translated fully into policy.

Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado, a moderate Democrat who also ran for president last year, said he hoped Mr. Biden would embrace policies that would shift wealth and economic power away from the extremely rich and toward workers and middle-class people hit hardest by the pandemic.

Mr. Bennet, who has proposed a range of tax and health benefits for low- and middle-income households, said he saw a window for action that did not exist during the last recession.

“I think there was not the same recognition, 10 years ago, that there is today, that we’ve had 50 years of an economy that only works for people at the very top,” Mr. Bennet said, adding with blunt impatience: “I think a decade of not achieving the stuff we need to achieve is probably enough.”
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« Reply #67 on: May 18, 2020, 05:20 AM »

Freed by Court Ruling, Republicans Step Up Effort to Patrol Voting

Officials seek to recruit 50,000 poll watchers and spend millions to fight voter fraud. Democrats say the real goal is to stop them from voting.

By Michael Wines
NY Times
May 18, 2020,

WASHINGTON — Six months before a presidential election in which turnout could matter more than persuasion, the Republican Party, the Trump campaign and conservative activists are mounting an aggressive national effort to shape who gets to vote in November — and whose ballots are counted.

Its premise is that a Republican victory in November is imperiled by widespread voter fraud, a baseless charge embraced by President Trump, but repeatedly debunked by research. Democrats and voting rights advocates say the driving factor is politics, not fraud — especially since Mr. Trump’s narrow win in 2016 underscored the potentially crucial value of depressing turnout by Democrats, particularly minorities.   

The Republican program, which has gained steam in recent weeks, envisions recruiting up to 50,000 volunteers in 15 key states to monitor polling places and challenge ballots and voters deemed suspicious. That is part of a $20 million plan that also allots millions to challenge lawsuits by Democrats and voting-rights advocates seeking to loosen state restrictions on balloting. The party and its allies also intend to use advertising, the internet and President Trump’s command of the airwaves to cast Democrats as agents of election theft.

The efforts are bolstered by a 2018 federal court ruling that for the first time in nearly four  decades allows the national Republican Party to mount campaigns against purported voter fraud without court approval. The court ban on Republican Party voter-fraud operations was imposed in 1982, and then modified in 1986 and again in 1990, each time after courts found instances of Republicans intimidating or working to exclude minority voters in the name of preventing fraud. The party was found to have violated it yet again in 2004.

The 2018 ruling merely “allows the R.N.C. to play by the same rules as Democrats,” a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee, Mandi Merritt, said in a statement.

“Now the R.N.C. can work more closely with state parties and campaigns to do what we do best — ensure that more people vote through our unmatched field program,” the statement said.

But the program escalates a Republican focus on limiting who can vote that became a juggernaut after the Supreme Court dismantled the Voting Rights Act in 2013. But beyond that, it also reflects an enduring  tension in American life in which the voting rights of  minorities — whether granted in 1870 by the 15th Amendment or nearly a century later by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — seldom seem free from challenge.

Besides the national party and Mr. Trump’s campaign strategists, conservative advocacy groups are joining lawsuits, recruiting poll monitors and mounting media campaigns of their own. Leading them is a new and well-funded organization, the Honest Elections Project, formed by Leonard Leo, a prolific fund-raiser, advocate of a conservative judiciary and confidant of President Trump.

Republicans will have an Election Day operations program “that probably no other presidential campaign has had before,” Josh Helton, a Republican consultant, said at a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee in March. “It’s going to be all hands on deck.”

In battleground states, that extends even to comparatively quiet places like Fond du Lac County, an eastern Wisconsin outpost of about 100,000 people and 1,200 farms midway between Green Bay and Milwaukee.

“I think the big push is going to be for poll observers” in November’s general election, the Republican Party county chairman, Rohn Bishop, said this month. “No harm in making sure.” Indeed, he said that training sessions for election monitors were already in the works.

Democrats who have been tracking the effort say the goal is not to limit fraud, but to make the supposed threat of election theft the tentpole of a coordinated campaign by Republicans and their allies to limit the number of Democratic ballots counted in November.

“This is a burn-it-down strategy, a strategy to win at all costs,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, the senior adviser at Fair Fight, the voting rights group founded by Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia. “They see this as central to victory.”

Fair Fight claims that the groups’ combined spending on lawsuits, election monitoring and spreading allegations of cheating will far exceed the $20 million announced to date. That message, blasted out, in particular by Mr. Trump, has stirred concerns that the Republican fraud drumbeat could lay the groundwork for Mr. Trump and his supporters to reject the election results should he lose.

The Covid-19 pandemic has raised the stakes further, leading Democrats and voting rights advocates to call for expanded voting by mail and Mr. Trump and some Republicans to claim with little evidence that it would invite fraud.

Some skeptics say the voting wars are partly political Kabuki, acted out to rally supporters in both parties and raise funds for advocacy groups. But in a presidential election where social distancing has muffled campaigning and few voters remain on the fence, turnout has taken on outsized importance. And neither side disputes that November’s vote, as in 2016, could turn on a relative handful of ballots in key states

Neither the Trump campaign nor the Republican National Committee responded to requests for interviews, although the committee provided a summary of its work and policies. In essence, Republicans say Democratic efforts to relax voting restrictions are partisan moves that demand a firm response, and that Republican countermeasures reflect standard political mobilizing.

Others say the Republican focus on vanishingly rare cases of fraud targets a politically useful phantom.

“It’s utter nonsense. This has been shown over and over,” said Kenneth R. Mayer, an elections expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The continued insistence that there are material levels of intentional voter fraud is itself a form of fraud.”

But political strategists insisted at the conservative committee conference in March that ballot fakery was a major concern. “In some of these areas where there’s no Republican presence whatsoever, then they’re going to cheat, and they’re going to cheat early and they’re going to cheat often,” Mr. Helton said at the March conference. At polling places, he said, “just having a presence of some sort is a deterrent for probably 80 percent of the bad behavior.”

Being present at the polls isn’t unusual; in fact, both parties monitor polls. Monitors check whether poll workers follow the rules and can complain to election supervisors or summon party lawyers if differences are not resolved.

They also can challenge voters’ right to cast a ballot — if, for instance, a voter lacks a required ID card. That can force voters to cast provisional ballots that are not counted unless they prove their eligibility.

But Democrats say the Republican focus on monitors and repeated allegations of fraud are part of a coordinated strategy to depress turnout, especially by minorities, by fueling anxieties among voters already suspicious of the authorities.

“They don’t need to keep millions of people away” from the polls, said Ms. Groh-Wargo. “Challenge a couple of voters here, a couple there, and it all aggregates up. They realize they’re going to win or lose this thing at the margins.”

Among other things, Democrats cite Mr. Trump’s repeated demands that law-enforcement officers patrol the polls and the recent creation of voter-fraud task forces by Republicans in four state governments, at least in part at the national party’s urging.

They also point to a meeting in February attended by conservative political luminaries and at least one national Republican Party official, sponsored by the Center for National Policy, a group of conservative power brokers. The topic was voter fraud and “ballot security” operations, particularly in inner cities and areas with Native American populations, according to The Intercept, which published excerpts from a recording of the meeting.

One group represented at that meeting, Texas-based True the Vote, is recruiting military veterans to become poll monitors. The group, an offshoot of a Houston Tea Party branch, was scrutinized by local prosecutors after its first poll-monitoring effort in 2012 sparked complaints of voter intimidation.

The group’s founder, Catherine Engelbrecht, told the gathering that Democrats could inundate the polls with phony votes. “The swarming tactics of a radicalized socialist mind-set,” she warned, “is a dangerous thing to behold.” The group did not respond to a request for comment.

History also offers reason for Democrats’ concern. The court order vacated in 2018 involved repeated efforts to depress Democratic turnout. In the first instance, the party recruited off-duty police officers wearing “National Ballot Security Task Force” armbands to monitor polling places in black and Latino neighborhoods in New Jersey. A Democratic lawsuit claimed the officers hectored poll workers and voters and stopped volunteers from helping voters cast ballots.

At the Conservative Political Action Committee conference, Justin Clark, a Trump campaign senior adviser overseeing Election Day operations, argued that the court order had handed a decades-long edge to Democrats.

“We were really operating with one hand behind our back,” he said.

Speaking to Wisconsin Republicans in November, Mr. Clark said the party’s expanded poll-monitoring plans were accelerated by defeats last November in governor’s races in  Kentucky and Louisiana.

The party has named three regional directors of Election Day operations, is hiring directors in 15 key states and will beef up the paid staffs that recruit and work with volunteers. Wisconsin, for example, is to receive 100 operatives, compared to 62 in 2016.

One aim, he said, is to expand poll monitoring beyond the usual big-city Democratic strongholds. Mr. Clark, in remarks which were posted online by the Democratic opposition group American Bridge, cited a county where he said Mr. Trump won by 14,000 votes in 2016. “But maybe he should have won by 17,000,” he said. “Their cheating doesn’t just happen when you lose a county.”

In addition to the $20 million raised by the party for legal battles over election rules, conservative advocacy groups have joined the legal war, filing lawsuits and briefs in states such as New Mexico, Minnesota and Nevada. The Honest Elections Project, which surfaced only this spring, already has joined legal battles over voting in six states and has spent $250,000 on advertising opposing voting by mail. 

Honest Elections officials did not respond to a request for an interview. But an account in the online publication Axios in January detailed plans by Mr. Leo, its creator, “to funnel tens of millions of dollars into conservative fights” nationwide.

Republicans said the goal of their litigation effort  was “to ensure the integrity of the 2020 election” and rebuff Democratic attempts “to sue their way to victory in 2020.” But Mark Elias, a Washington lawyer who represents Democrats in many of the suits that Republicans are contesting, said every Republican court filing has sought to add or keep limits on voting rather than remove them.

“I go to bed sleeping pretty well, thinking I’m fighting for everybody to be able to vote,” he said. “When was the last time a party said it would spend $20 million to make voting harder?”
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« Reply #68 on: May 18, 2020, 10:04 AM »

Trump’s defenders are drumming up fake Democratic ‘scandals’ to provide cover for his failures: ex-RNC spokesperson

Trump’s Weekend of Scandal Was Hiding in Plain Sight ..It's going on right now and no one can see it because of the chaff.

by Tim Miller
May 18, 2020
The Bulwark

The Washington Post published a picture of Stacey Abrams wearing a cape this weekend.

You may have seen it, since in certain corners of the conservative news media, this fawning coverage of the becaped former state representative and vice-presidential hopeful was the single most noteworthy piece of news from the weekend.

And I’d like to preface the impending rant by saying, for the record, that in the narrowest possible sense, these conservative media critics have a sliver of a point. It is true that the number of glowing profiles given over to a failed gubernatorial candidate and long-shot vice presidential contender is absurd. And yes, it is impossible to imagine a losing Republican candidate being given this sort of treatment.

And yes, it’s telling that the biggest media outlets are unable to have even a modicum of self-awareness in situations like this. I wish they would stop. (See also: Cuomo, Andrew).

But while the professional media critics, anti-anti-Trumpers, and assorted both-siders were obsessing over the Stacey Abrams Caped Crusader feature, there were some other things happening in the actual real world.

Here are some of them:

(1) The president of the United States quote-tweeted an avowed alt-right account that flirts with Holocaust denial,

(2) The president also texted supporters false allegations that he had been illegally spied on by the previous vice president.

(3) The president also fired another independent inspector general without providing cause.

(4) The official American death toll from COVID-19 inched close to 90,000 souls while the president spent his time live tweeting cable TV.

(5) One of the president’s large adult sons grotesquely suggested that Joe Biden is a “pedophile.”

(6) Another of his large adult sons claimed that the virus was a hoax perpetrated by the left and the media and that it will disappear after the election.

(7) The President sent a tweet encouraging protesters who aggressively shouted down and chased after a random local news reporter with calls of “you are the virus,” “traitor,” and “enemy of the people.” (Note: This was entry number seven because I even forgot about it until after writing the article because Trump does so much insane stuff every day)

But who could find the time to care about any of this when the Washington Post publishes a picture of Stacey Abrams in a cape. #Capegate. What an outrage.

Three and a half years into the Trump experiment, the president is still using chaff to prevent people from zeroing in on any one of his actions. He veers from incident to incident—at any point in U.S. history, any of the above seven items would have been an all-encompassing scandal, a few could’ve been career enders. Meanwhile, Trump’s defenders run content farms of counter “scandals” which they litigate and re-litigate and then litigate some more. Which has the effect of paralyzing the mainstream media, which has produced a great deal of good journalism, but has been unable to change its fundamental priorities, which create recency bias, kabuki balance, and an evolutionary imperative for clicks.

The current conservative content farm “scandal” is “Obamagate,” in which Trump has fabricated an espionage claim against both his predecessor and general election opponent. This “scandal” has been a public-private partnership, created both with the tools of the federal government as well as Trump’s campaign and its proxies in conservative media.

The very creation of this fake “scandal” is, as I wrote last week, being largely treated as a sideshow by those who either think it too stupid to be taken seriously or don’t understand how the Department of Justice and director of National Intelligence are leveraging government assets in order to aid the president’s reelection campaign.

For those who have not followed it, the tl;dr of what the government is doing is this:

The Department of Justice has deputized U.S. Attorney John Durham to oversee a team of investigators aimed at looking into whether the Russia investigation was actually a Deep State plot. Durham has access to a grand jury and the resources to scour the globe. Meanwhile the acting director of National Intelligence, someone whose main experience for the job was pleasing President Trump with his aggressive trolling of reporters on Twitter, is selectively leaking innocuous intelligence gathering efforts in order to advance this conspiratorial narrative.

These leaks, in turn, are being driven by the Trump campaign. On Saturday the president used the leads from the director of National Intelligence to advance an elaborate lie that accuses his opponent of committing illegal espionage against him.

Just read that sentence again.

The president used the leads from the director of National Intelligence to advance an elaborate lie that accuses his opponent of committing illegal espionage against him.

This is the most outrageous and pernicious lie that a president has levied against his opponent in my lifetime.

And despite the president himself elevating this lie on Saturday, it was not discussed on front pages across the country. Forget front pages, it’s hard to find any article at all addressing the President’s insane charges.

Most coverage of the issue is framed around discussing whether or not Obama and Biden did anything wrong—there is literally no evidence to suggest that they did—rather than focusing on how the Trump administration is guilty of weaponizing American intelligence agencies for political ends by perpetrating this falsehood.

Drawing historical analogies to Trump’s behavior is more or less impossible—there is no true analog. The best I can do is this: Imagine if, in 2012, President Obama had deputized a U.S. attorney to investigate claims that 9/11 was an inside job perpetrated by the Bush family, while asserting that the GOP engaged in illegal espionage against his campaign because the government was investigating the Tony Rezko scandal. And that he somehow tied Mitt Romney to the fiction, too.

Set aside the fact that this would be Wuhan batshit level crazy that would have caused people to wonder if Obama was even mentally fit for office. There is a 100 percent chance that these actions would have become the all-encompassing scandal for the rest of Obama’s administration.

Trump’s actions combine the politicization of intelligence, the misuse of tax dollars, and the creation of a phony investigation using the Department of Justice in order to advance the president’s reelection campaign. And that’s just the nuts-and-bolts, the stuff you can probe with your hands. The president has also created a propaganda campaign that will lead millions to believe that one party actively spied on the other, further tearing the fabric of our country in ways that won’t be repaired for a generation. Or maybe ever.

And if that isn’t giving you cause for concern, the president has systematically fired the independent inspectors general overseeing the departments most intertwined with his COVID-19 response and his “Obamagate” abuses. The fired IGs include the State and Defense Departments, the pandemic response, and the intelligence community. The only person in the Republican Senate majority who seems to give a damn about this is Mitt Romney.

And for good measure the president elevated an avowed white nationalist and Holocaust denier who proceeded to brag about how Trump is helping him get around deplatforming.

    Six months ago Michelle Malkin was “cancelled” because she refused to disavow me after I was blacklisted by Con Inc.

    Three months ago my 77k sub channel was banned from Youtube.

    Yesterday the President retweeted a video of Malkin posted by an America First clips channel. pic.twitter.com/8fPuDlGqSb

    — Nicholas J. Fuentes (@NickJFuentes) May 17, 2020

Put all this together with beyond the pale defamation and the COVID lies and the Trump family went exponentially further than any previous president in eroding our norms rhetorical, political, and legal — and that was just one weekend.

But hey, don’t forget that cape pic.
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« Reply #69 on: May 21, 2020, 05:21 AM »

Democracy is the enemy for Republicans .........

Republicans Have a New Plan to Thwart the Will of the People

A Missouri initiative would undo voters’ preference for nonpartisan legislative districts — and perhaps shift representation itself.

By David Daley
Mr. Daley is the author of “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.”
NY Times
May 21, 2020, 5:00 a.m. ET

When Karl Rove laid out the Republican plan to win back power by weaponizing redistricting in a March 2010 op-ed, Democrats failed to pay proper attention.

The vision set forth — called Redmap, short for the Redistricting Majority Project — proved simple yet revolutionary: In most states, legislatures control the decennial redistricting that follows the census. So in November 2010, Republicans invested tens of millions of dollars in these ordinarily sleepy local races and swept elections.

Through gerrymandering, they drew themselves huge advantages in Congress and state capitals, firewalls that have allowed Republicans in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Michigan and elsewhere to survive wave elections in which Democratic state legislative candidates won hundreds of thousands more votes.

It’s a census-year election again, and this time both sides understand the stakes. Democrats know down-ballot elections this fall are the last opportunity to close the redistricting gap before next decade’s maps are drawn.

Republicans appear to have a different strategy for 2020 — subtler, more technical and instructed by successful legal challenges that overturned Republican-drawn maps in North Carolina and Pennsylvania as unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders.

Last week, Republicans in Missouri presented a dress rehearsal of this plan. If left unchallenged, it could once again dye many states red for a decade or more.

In 2018, nonpartisan movements in five states, including Missouri, won redistricting reform via ballot initiative. (Oregon, Oklahoma and Arkansas are attempting to follow suit.)

So last week, Missouri lawmakers looked to dismantle the initiative — called Clean Missouri and supported by 62 percent of the state’s voters — that would have taken mapmaking authority away from politicians and handed it to a nonpartisan state demographer. If Republicans have their way, that demographer won’t draw a single line and control over maps will be returned to a commission of party insiders.

That’s not all they want to do, and it’s entirely likely that the fine print tucked inside this proposal will make its way into redistricting bills in Republican-controlled state capitals nationwide.

First, the new bill would add language to the state constitution that makes it harder for Missouri citizens to gain legal standing to challenge a gerrymandered map in court. Voters living in districts intentionally “packed” with members of one political party — which allows a mapmaker to hand the surrounding seats to their own side — would not be eligible to argue that their rights have been harmed by a statewide plan, because they were still able to elect a member of their choosing within their own specific district.

Second, under the new plan, if a legal challenge did make it into the courts, the state constitution would limit the remedies available to judges. A judge would not be able to throw out the entire map as unconstitutional but merely to order smaller changes to individual districts — essentially retaining most of the advantages embedded into the map by partisans.

The Clean Missouri proposal required the state demographer to draw a map that reflected Missouri’s overall political balance. The legislature’s new plan would have insiders drawing a map that prioritized compactness. In a state like Missouri, where Democratic voters are concentrated in two cities at opposite ends of the state, weighting the criteria in favor of compactness would artificially benefit the party whose voters are spread more efficiently across the state.

While the Clean Missouri plan required a map that achieved “partisan fairness” as closely as practical, the Republican plan allows for a much looser calculation of partisan fairness — which would allow for a map that is more gerrymandered than some of the nation’s most one-sided maps in Wisconsin and North Carolina.

Would you like recommendations for more stories like this?

Perhaps most dramatically, the Republican plan would open the door to drawing state legislative districts in a way that could shift the essence of representation itself. The longtime standard has been to count everyone — the total population — when drawing up equally populated legislative districts.

Republicans, however, have urged states to redistrict based on voting-age population instead — and so count only American citizens over the age of 18. What impact would this switch have? Before his death in 2018, the Republican redistricting mastermind Thomas Hofeller completed a study to assess the impact of drawing political maps that were based not on a state’s total population — the current practice virtually everywhere in the nation — but on citizens of voting age. Looking at Texas, he concluded that the switch would pull power away from cities and toward older, rural populations. It would also, he said, “be advantageous to Republicans and non-Hispanic whites.”

Last summer, at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s gathering of conservative lawmakers, a panel of Republican election experts urged state legislators to redistrict based on voting-age population as well.

The redistricting wars of 2021 will not be the same as 2011. The effort in Missouri should ring alarm bells that failed to go off after what amounted to a warning from Mr. Rove 10 years ago.

Republicans are looking ahead and planning carefully. If Democrats look to win last decade’s battle and fail to fight this one, they’ll be staring at another decade in the wilderness — and America’s creep toward anti-majoritarianism will accelerate.
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« Reply #70 on: May 21, 2020, 05:23 AM »

Meanwhile .........

A World Without Partisan Gerrymanders? Virginia Democrats Show the Way

In a rare move, a group of lawmakers voted to give up their own redistricting power.

By Jesse Wegman
Mr. Wegman is a member of the editorial board.
NY Times

Politicians rarely give up power voluntarily. They never give it up when they have free rein to lock it in for at least a decade, and exact long-overdue revenge against their political opponents.

But a group of Virginia Democrats did just that earlier this month, when they voted in favor of an amendment to the State Constitution stripping themselves of the power to redraw legislative district maps in 2021, after the decennial census.

Last fall, Democrats won majorities in both houses of the Virginia Legislature; with a Democratic governor already in office, they took full control of the state government for the first time in a generation. They had unlimited power to fashion the new maps in their favor, cementing their own grip on power just as Republicans around the country have done since the last redistricting cycle in 2011. Some Republican maps are so biased that they have given the G.O.P. legislative supermajorities even when the party loses the statewide popular vote, which happened in Wisconsin in 2018. So it’s entirely understandable for Democrats who regain power to want payback — now.

And yet nine Virginia Democrats agreed to put down their partisan swords and join Republicans to support the new amendment, which would require that the state’s district maps be drawn by a bipartisan commission made up of lawmakers and regular citizens. Voters must ratify the amendment in November before it will take effect.

The Democrats’ vote was a display of integrity and selflessness by members of a party with unified control of government. It placed long-term interest in the health of representative democracy over the shorter-term partisan benefits that both parties have been happy to exploit when they control redistricting.

The Virginia amendment’s passage is all the more important in the present moment, when voters everywhere have been left at the mercy of self-serving state lawmakers, thanks to the Supreme Court’s refusal to intervene to stop even the most extreme partisan gerrymanders. The ruling last June, by a 5-to-4 vote, asserted that redistricting was a political matter to be resolved by the states, not the federal courts. The justices thus enshrined one of the most corrosive and anti-democratic practices in American politics.

Virginia’s new amendment would establish a 16-member commission, made up of eight lawmakers and eight citizens, divided evenly between the two major parties. A supermajority of both lawmaker and citizen commissioners would have to agree on a proposed map to send it to the Legislature for approval. If they can’t, the job shifts to the State Supreme Court.

The amendment, which under the State Constitution had to pass the Legislature twice in a row before going to the voters, was first approved in 2019 by overwhelming bipartisan margins. At the time, Republicans controlled the Legislature, but polls pointed strongly toward an impending Democratic takeover in last fall’s elections. As soon as that happened, most Democrats withdrew their support from the amendment. Many had previously vowed to keep supporting it even if they won — yet another reminder that power is a lot harder to relinquish once you have it in your hands.

Some black Democratic lawmakers also opposed the amendment because, they argued, it didn’t provide enough protections for black voters, who have long been cheated out of political power by biased maps. In the past five years, federal courts in Virginia have struck down Republican-drawn state and congressional districts for intentionally discriminating against black voters.

To address various concerns about the amendment, the Legislature should pass laws that would ensure racial and ethnic diversity on the commission and require the State Supreme Court, which has a conservative majority, to appoint a special master to draw the maps using the same criteria as the commission. They have already passed a law to eliminate “prison gerrymandering,” the practice of counting prisoners where they are incarcerated rather than where they are from.

There are good fixes. Still, the commission itself has significant flaws, chief among them that it includes lawmakers, who have demonstrated time and again that they shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the redistricting process. Foxes guarding henhouses are still foxes, even if they’re being watched closely by the farmer. But the amendment is an important step in the right direction, and in the end it succeeded because nine Democrats joined all Republicans to get the measure over the hump for a second time.

And what of those Republicans? Aren’t they to be commended for voting in favor of fairer maps? Sure, but it was an easy call once they were out of power, or knew they were about to be. The better question is, Where was their public spirit when they held an unthreatened majority?

Republicans continue to find countless ways to block efforts to make voting fairer and more democratic. In Missouri, Utah and Michigan, Republican lawmakers are working to undo citizen-led ballot initiatives that were passed, in some cases overwhelmingly, by voters tired of being chosen by their politicians.

And when Republicans do lose at the ballot box, they respond not by trying to appeal to more voters, but by stripping power from duly-elected Democrats — essentially looting the shelves on their way out the door. This is the behavior of a party that neither trusts its own popularity nor accepts its opponents’ legitimacy, a fatal combination for a constitutional republic.

In light of this, many Democrats have little patience for calls to level the playing field. After all, why play fair when the other side doesn’t? The answer is that the alternative is a race to the bottom, where voters of both parties give up because they know whatever box they check at the polls, the politicians have already made their choices for them.

In far too many parts of the country, that’s the reality today. Partisan gerrymandering is a key reason millions of Americans feel the government is rigged against them. The good news is that this behavior used to happen behind closed doors, and now it’s being dragged out into the open. The more the public learns about it, the more they oppose it. Virginia voters support the new redistricting amendment, 70 percent to 15 percent; according to a January 2019 poll commissioned by Campaign Legal Center, which pushes for electoral reform, 65 percent said they favored districts with no partisan bias, even if it meant their own party would win fewer seats.

As the nation approaches a new round of districting in 2021, lawmakers everywhere — especially Republicans, who’ve been drunk on their own mapmaking power for a decade — should take a lesson from Virginia’s Democrats and lay down their pens. It may take more work to win elections by listening to what voters actually want than by simply rigging the maps, but it’s a critical step to save our representative democracy.
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« Reply #71 on: May 21, 2020, 09:27 AM »

Trump faces ‘nearly insurmountable’ odds of being reelected thanks to COVID-19 recession: forecasting model

on May 21, 2020
By Brad Reed
Raw Story

The recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has put a major dent in President Donald Trump’s chances of winning the 2020 election, according to an influential election forecasting model.

NBC News reports that Oxford Economics, which has a strong track record of forecasting presidential elections, now sees Trump as all but certain to lose the popular vote this fall.

“An unemployment rate above its global financial crisis peak, household income nearly 6% below its pre-virus levels, and transitory deflation will make the economy a nearly insurmountable obstacle for Trump come November,” the firm writes in explaining its latest forecast.

How dire is the situation for the president? The Oxford model projects Trump will receive just 35 percent of the vote this fall, and that it would take “take nothing short of an economic miracle” for him to overcome that.

That said, no major party nominee has ever received just 35 percent of the vote, as even Herbert Hoover in 1932 managed to get 40 percent of the popular vote in the middle of the Great Depression.

George H.W. Bush, who lost the 1992 election, got only 37 percent of the popular vote, but that was with third-party challenger Ross Perot taking away millions of potential votes from both him and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton.
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« Reply #72 on: May 23, 2020, 05:21 AM »

Barack Obama poised to add his star appeal to Joe Biden's campaign

The former president, the most popular politician in America with a huge social media following, can bolster the Democratic nominee with key groups and drive voter registration

Daniel Strauss in Washington
Sat 23 May 2020 11.00 BST

Former president Barack Obama has dipped his toes into the 2020 presidential campaign recently and is positioned to do more in the coming months as Joe Biden’s effort to defeat Donald Trump gathers steam.

Interviews with about a dozen Democratic strategists, party officials and people close to Obama want the popular former president utilizing his powerful online presence and focusing on rallying key Democrat constituencies that are critical to a Biden victory.

Obama is regarded as one of the most popular politicians in American politics and a huge asset within the Democratic party. He left the White House with a near-60% approval rating. His endorsement for any candidate is the political campaign equivalent of an oilman and hitting a gusher.

Obama would be most effective, interviewees said, in highlighting his former vice-president’s résumé, rallying key Democratic voting groups like African American women, and pushing voters to register.

The situation is unique. There hasn’t been a popular former two-term president eager to hit the trail for his former running mate for years. On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic limits in-person campaigning and rallies. Still, the strategists interviewed say Obama is valuable and should be used everywhere.

“You rarely have a former president that is more popular than the now-sort-of-nominee,” Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher said. “Barack Obama is the most popular political figure in America right now.”
Joe Biden and Barack Obama before a presidential primary debate in 2007.

Valerie Jarrett, who served as a senior adviser to Obama during his time in the White House, said Obama is “committed to helping Vice-President Biden in any way the Biden campaign thinks is helpful. The pandemic is forcing everyone to be more creative since the conventional ways of doing business, including campaigning, are not possible.”

Obama has a robust social media presence with millions of followers on his Twitter account and Jarrett pointed to Obama’s endorsement of Biden, which was an online video now that campaign rallies have become a thing of the pre-pandemic past.

“I think you can tell from the video that he rolled out with his endorsement, one very useful platform is President Obama’s social media platform where he has more followers than any other politician by far.”

According to a Democratic strategist familiar with Obama’s thinking, the former president is eager to campaign for Democrats “up and down the ballot” in 2020. He plans to follow the lead of the Biden campaign as well as that of the main Democratic campaign arms – the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and other umbrella organizations.

Obama was an active surrogate to boost Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections but since then has taken a more restrained approach to the national spotlight. He has only waded into current politics a few times and mostly on an indirect basis.

Most recently, though, he delivered a commencement speech for college graduates where he said the coronavirus pandemic had “finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing”. Obama didn’t mention Trump by name but the speech was widely regarded as a direct allusion to the president. It could also herald what Obama’s public appearances in the final months of the 2020 presidential campaign would be like.

Separately, during a closed event with thousands of supporters and Obama alumni, the former president warned that the justice department’s decision to drop charges against the former Trump administration national security adviser Michael Flynn put the rule of law at risk.

Campaign veterans and strategists say Obama is useful less as an attack dog going head to head with Trump and more as one who highlights a positive vision of why voters should elect Biden.

“To me, Obama is the world’s best character witness,” said Teddy Goff, who was digital director for Obama’s second presidential campaign. “Yeah, he can make the case that Trump is bad. He can certainly validate the case for Biden’s policies. But essentially he’s the most popular political figure on planet Earth and the one guy he entrusted with the single most important appointment of his life was Joe Biden.”

But Obama could also persuade more people to vote.

Meg Ansara, who was national regional director for Obama’s first presidential campaign and more recently battleground states director for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said one of the key priorities, especially in this environment, is voter registration.

“I think voter registration is a huge place,” Ansara said, adding that persuading undecided voters is important for someone like Obama as well. “I’m a big believer that you need to do both in the bulk of these battleground states.”

There have been moments during the last three years when Democrats had wondered why Obama didn’t speak out more against Trump or weigh in more during the Democratic primary. That’s actually an asset now and adds weight to when Obama does speak out, said Guy Cecil, who runs the Priorities USA Super Pac.

“I think in some respects the Biden campaign benefits from the fact that Obama has not spent three and a half years in the political limelight, attacking the president, attacking the administration, engaging in a back-and-forth with [Trump],” Cecil said.

Corey Platt, a veteran Democratic strategist and campaign manager, said that Obama and Biden have done a good job of appearing together so far and he should keep doing that rather than just focusing on going head-to-head with Trump.

“I think he if continues to remind people about competency and progress under his administration it will make people feel good about Biden, change and sanity. If he engages Trump I think that could backfire,” Platt said. “He can help articulate Biden’s vision for what happens next year and promote confidence in getting through this crisis together.”

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« Reply #73 on: May 23, 2020, 07:58 PM »

Here are excerpts from an article in Slate about how the media normalizes Trump and how dangerous that is. This is important because the softball way the media covers him may help get him elected again:

The President Still Has No Clothes
By Dahlia Lithwick and William Sage
Slate, May 20, 2020


"We may never have the tests to determine exactly what is wrong with Trump himself. But we know that something is wrong, and we have known this for a long time."

"In the absence of psychiatric or cognitive tests Trump may never undergo, we cannot establish that some affirmative condition accounts for his daily shortage of rational output. This leaves us in the uncomfortable position of having to document only what Trump lacks."..."The burning question is why we don’t."

"Anyone and everyone charged with reporting on this president should make a fundamental commitment that describing or interpreting this president’s statements and actions must highlight, on an ongoing and even repetitive basis, what they don’t see. Reporters, public intellectuals, and pundits should stop filling in Trump’s gaps for him and should allow as full a picture as possible to emerge of his cognitive and personal incompleteness. Not doing so explicitly has resulted in four years of rationalizing, contextualizing, and indeed—in popular parlance—“normalizing” a president few of us would trust to take care of a pet over the weekend."

"Why does our public commentary about Donald Trump’s words and deeds so seldom start or finish with the honest observation, familiar from fairy tales, that “he isn’t wearing any clothes”? This unwillingness to mention the nakedness of his character, the absence of what is practically and morally required of presidents, becomes an act of draping layers of cloth over an unadorned and oblivious leader. And why do journalists and pundits keep doing this? The primary reason must be that news and its consumers and producers abhor a vacuum."

"It has taken years for some members of the mainstream press to note explicitly in headlines that Trump utters false statements."

"COVID-19 has brought Trump’s irrationality and incoherence into clearer focus, but it will take energy and commitment among both media sources and their audiences to continually center that fact."

"...news coverage continues to excuse itself from connecting the dots of Trump’s episodic irrationality into a larger demonstration of incapacity. Scattered lay commentary suggests that a crisis of the magnitude facing America has caused a mental or emotional collapse on the president’s part, but few if any lines are traced to the persistent irrationality of Trump’s entire presidency."

"It seems that an arguably outdated, likely irrelevant professional taboo on mental health diagnosis has overshadowed, and ironically nearly obscured, the pathology of this presidency. Still, no psychiatric diagnosis is needed to assess the president, just more explicit acknowledgment of the causal possibilities and their associated risks. If a sixth grader can look at Trump’s behavior and conclude that he is emotionally challenged, unmoored from facts, and unable to speak the truth, why are informed, trained adults barred from saying the same thing?"

"...we must find ways to report on his increasingly dangerous irrationality, and we must do so without inadvertently rationalizing it. In order to understand it, we have to stop trying to make sense of it."
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« Reply #74 on: May 26, 2020, 05:18 AM »

Trump claims Democrats will try to rig the 2020 election — but what Democrats fear could be a lot worse: report

on May 26, 2020
By Alex Henderson, AlterNet

President Donald Trump has been claiming that Democrats will do everything they can to promote voter fraud and rig the 2020 election in their favor. And according to an article written by journalist David Siders and published in Politico on Memorial Day 2020, Democrats fear that Trump — by making that claim — could be setting the deeply polarized United States up for a period of post-election chaos.

“Trump’s increasingly amped-up rhetoric surrounding the integrity of the November election is beginning to bring to center stage a previously muted conversation,” Siders reports. “With the president lagging behind Joe Biden in public opinion polls six months before the general election, his opponents are becoming increasingly anxious that Trump may attempt to undermine the results of the election if he loses — or worse, might attempt to cling to power regardless of the outcome.”

On Sunday, May 24, Trump tweeted, “The Democrats are trying to Rig the 2020 Election, plain and simple!” And attorney Vanita Gupta, who headed the U.S. Justice Department’s civil rights division under President Barack Obama, told Politico that such rhetoric will give Trump a chance to question the election results if he loses to the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee: former Vice President Joe Biden.

Gupta asserted, “He is planting the seeds for delegitimizing the election if he loses…. It’s from the playbook. It’ll get more intense as he gets more freaked out.”

Another fear expressed by some Democrats is that Trump will try to find a way to extend his presidency beyond an eight-year limit. Former Democratic Rep. David Skaggs told Politico, “It’s one of those things that I think has a very low probability, but a very high risk. So even though I don’t think it’s likely to eventuate into some kind of intervention at the state level by the president.… there’s still some chance of that. And therefore, it’s wise to take it seriously.”

Democratic strategist Pete Giangreco believes that Trump’s claims of a rigged election in favor of Democrats is symptomatic of his “autocrat playbook.”

Giangreco told Politico, “He’s already set the stage to say it’s rigged. This is part of the Trump autocrat playbook…. There’s no way this guy’s going to win the popular vote, and it’s at least 50-50 he’s going to lose the electoral college. So, he’s got to come up with something else.”

Bob Bauer, Biden’s personal lawyer, asserted that Trump “may well resort to any kind of trick, ploy or scheme he can in order to hold onto his presidency.”

Les Francis, who served as deputy White House chief of staff under President Jimmy Carter, warns that Trump is more dangerous than President Richard Nixon — who, Francis explained, made an “institutional decision” to resign in August 1974. But Trump, Francis noted, has a very different mindset.

Francis told Politico, “One thing we know about Trump, for sure, is he’s not an institutionalist by any stretch of the imagination…. I don’t think there’s any depth to which he will not go. I don’t think there are any rules that he thinks apply to him. As his behavior grows worse, I think people become more alarmed at the possibilities.”
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