One of the things we sometimes lose sight of during the “we need change now” and “but it’s politically difficult” discussion at the Presidential level is that a lot of real change happens at the local level. I’m convinced, for example, that the rising number of Commonwealth’s Attorney candidates in Virginia who ran on decriminalizing cannabis and criminal justice reform in general allowed the General Assembly to take action. They could see voters from both sides of the political spectrum support these campaigns, and this gave them “permission” in a way.
These local elections also matter in the sense that they help the Progressive coalition build a bench of candidates and elected officials with the experience and chops to run for higher office. Today’s Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney is tomorrow’s Virginia Attorney General.
An authoritarian figure who has joked about being President for life runs the Federal Government during a pandemic that could literally kill millions of Americans and disrupt society for months. States are postponing primary elections and struggling to figure out how voters can cast ballots while keeping social distancing. Understandably, some people worry that Donald Trump might take advantage of the crisis to stay in power.
These discussions focus narrowly on two questions: whether States could physically hold elections during a pandemic using modern systems and what would happen if they couldn’t. Most agree that elections can take place if state legislatures hurry up and figure out how to use expanded absentee voting, other voting by mail systems, or even the internet. They also think that if for some reason elections cannot be held, someone other than Trump would take power based on existing statute.
What none of these articles mention is the Electoral College and the role of state legislatures in choosing these Electors. This is the group that actually elects the President, as we found out the hard way in 2016. These days voters choose these Electors by casting votes at polling stations or by mail because state legislatures want it that way – this is not a Constitutional requirement. This means that elections for President and Vice President can take place as long as state legislatures can meet and choose Electors before Election Day.
So, in the argument between Merrill and Buttigieg, who is right? They both are. And the fact that Merrill doesn’t understand that point is part of the problem; and it’s a sign of what the 2020 Democratic nominee must fix.
One cannot even begin to talk about this issue without acknowledging that the white working class is quite literally dying. Mortality rates for middle-aged white Americans have been ticking upwards for nearly 20 years, led primarily by a sharp rise in “deaths of despair”—suicide, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse—among those without college degrees. According to research, these deaths are primarily driven by a lack of good jobs and the dysfunction that economic anxiety creates in the social fabric.
Buttigieg is right that Trump pretended to offer solutions for these voters specifically, and that certain aspects of Clinton’s messaging did not convey the urgency that people in these communities feel about their circumstances. It’s no accident that “learn to code” has become a scornful joke on both the right and the progressive left.
Merrill is also right that the solutions Trump offered were racist, vitriolic, and full of false promises. Trump blamed economic and social problems on immigrants, promised to use his supposed skill as a negotiator to fix trade deals and bring jobs back, and promised to use his bully pulpit to strongarm companies into keeping existing factories open and getting new ones built.
Contributors and staff at The Bull Elephanthave predicted the outcome of today’s elections and they deliver about what you’d expect from true believers. Most think the GOP will hold the House and some think Republicans will pick up 3 or more seats in the Senate, with one suggesting a 60-seat majority. Many argue that Corey Stewart will outperform polls and one thinks he could have won with more help from the Republican national and state parties. Almost all think Barbara Comstock will lose, but few think any other Democrats will win Virginia House seats they aren’t heavily favored to win (e.g., Don McEachin [D-4]). Continue reading →
I think Susan Collins had no good choice here. Her vote to confirm buys her a credible and well-funded challenger, but a vote the other way would likely have created a primary challenge from the right. It seems to me that while Collins has rarely deviated from conservative orthodoxy with respect to her actual votes, she has carefully cultivated a reputation as a moderate (chiefly by claiming to respect reproductive choice for women). This and incumbency has so far protected her politically, but Democrats (especially women) in Maine will now do everything they can to replace her. This challenge comes in 2020, when Democrats will also show up in force to vote against Donald Trump if he runs again. I think she had a better chance to win a challenge from the right and keep the seat by voting no on Kavanaugh but supporting his just-as-conservative replacement.
Joe Manchin faced a similar problem except that he depends on some level of support from conservatives to keep his seat where Collins depends on marginal liberals for hers. I would suggest to Senator Manchin that (like in Maine) a “right thing to do” vote against Kavanaugh would have kept enough conservatives in his corner as long as he votes to confirm Trump’s next choice. And as in Maine voting to confirm Kavanaugh will alienate Democrats he needs to win. It’s too late for a primary challenge from the left, but to win he needs every vote he can get, and many women will now stay home. Continue reading →
“Whenever I’m in New York, I can work myself into this state of really bleak despair, and then I go out and travel and meet … it’s not even necessarily Democratic Party activists as much as Indivisible activists or Democratic Socialists of America chapters or these sort of grass-roots groups that have sprung up since the election and are just doing so much work. And it always makes me feel so much more hopeful about the future.
You hear the same story over and over again of these kind of middle-aged women who, they voted, but they didn’t necessarily pay super close attention to primaries, maybe they had to look up what congressional district they were in, and who woke up the day after the election and were so shattered and looked around for somewhere they could go and found either an offshoot of Pantsuit Nation or a local Indivisible meeting.
And you meet these women, and they go to meetings now four or five nights a week. They have all new friends. They are just astonishing organizers, and they’re kind of using this intense local knowledge that they have. You can’t replicate that when it comes to canvassing, somebody who just knows everyone on the block. So you see that being deployed everywhere, and that I think is why you’re seeing these numbers in some of the special elections, these swings that are even bigger than the swings you see on the generic ballot.”
I can tell you that I saw the same thing all over Virginia’s First Congressional District during the primary campaign this spring, and these folks don’t seem to be tiring. So I’m more optimistic than some of my fellow Progressives that we’re really about to see a Blue Wave in November.
The Williamsburg-James City County Indivisible group has invited me to speak about the Electoral College at their meeting on 29 August. This talk will take place at the James City County Library at 7770 Croaker Road in Williamsburg from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.
I’ll discuss how and why the men who wrote the Constitution settled on this method for selecting a President, including how slavery created the conditions that made direct election of the President all but politically impossible. I’ll also discuss efforts to eliminate the EC or render it moot.
Please join me and the WJCC Indivisibles for an informative evening and a chance to meet new Democratic activist friends.
Corey Stewart likes to pal around with people like Paul Nehlen and Jason Kessler. Nehlen is an anti-Semite who jokes on Twitter about killing political opponents. Kessler organized the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville last August. A rally attendee and Kessler supporter killed Heather Heyerwith his car. Two Virginia State Troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M. M. Bates, 40, of Quinton, Virginia, died when their observation helicopter crashed on their way to assist authorities on the ground. Kessler plans a sequel, by the way. Wonder if Stewart will attend. Continue reading →
I spent Primary Day roaming the First District putting out signs and helping volunteers where we had them at the polls talking to voters. Took some photos of John Suddarthvoting. Started off at a polling place in Caroline County where I greeted a handful of voters and spent 30 minutes talking to Steven Brodie Tuckerabout the state of the Republican Party, whether Nick Freitasor Corey Stewartcan win Tim Kaine’sSenate seat this fall, and single payer health care. Interestingly, he seemed open to the idea once I explained that John’s proposal would actually free up markets in health care by removing for-profit health insurance companies from the mix. Continue reading →
@realDonaldTrump is a terrible leader and manager of staff. He had no idea which staff member had sent the memo telling surrogates not to discuss the Trump University lawsuit. Then he threw her under the bus, telling people on the call to “throw it out,” and asking if there were “any other stupid letters.” “…you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t all that smart,” he told supporters (including Jan Brewer and Scott Brown) on the call. He seems to forget that he’s the incompetent executive who hired “people who aren’t all that smart” in the first place.
@realDonaldTrump hasn’t the foggiest idea what it takes to run a Presidential campaign or to assemble a winning political coalition. He has no idea how to build and run the organizations and teams necessary to win the Oval Office. If someone constructed it for him he would jerk it out of their hands like a toy he covets and start throwing it at the ground just to watch pieces fly off. He doesn’t understand who does what (communications, organizers, fundraisers) or how these people achieve success (data analysis, volunteer recruiting, media plans). He apparently doesn’t realize that political campaigns are highly specialized endeavors with a handful of professional experts who know how it’s done. He has no use for either a sound strategic plan or expert guidance for the detailed tactical work needed to identify and motivate supporters.
@realDonaldTrump doesn’t understand that bullying your way through the storm after saying something offensive won’t help him expand his universe of potential supporters. He can’t seem to help categorizing and referring to people as members of groups (Muslim, “the blacks,” “the Hispanics,” Mexican). People hear this as a claim that tribal membership is the most important quality people have – it drives their behavior. This is, of course, the very definition of racism – and I believe his willingness to say some of these things out loud has driven his popularity among many Republican primary voters. At this point, however, it’s begun to offend his now wider audience. Rather than back off this rhetoric, he’s asking surrogates to emphasize it. This, by the way, puts people like Jan Brewer and Scott Brown in a tough position – they want to elect a Republican President, but probably don’t want to earn reputations as racists in the process.
#TrumpWillNeverBePresident. He’s a terrible leader and can’t manage subordinates except through fear. He calls junior staff “stupid” in front of other senior people. He hasn’t the smallest clue what it takes to put together the national political coalition needed to win the US Presidency and apparently believes he can win simply by saying silly things on television so people pay attention to him. And when he says silly things on television and the people around him advise reticence, he lacks the temperament to realize he’s in over his head.