With a week until Roger Stone is set to turn himself in to a Coronavirus infested Georgia federal correctional institute, the longtime Trump advisor has filed one last appeal in D.C. federal court challenging Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s recent ruling denying 67-year old with a history of asthma a reprieve due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Obama-appointed Judge is determined to punish Roger Stone for refusing to back down to her tyrannical kangaroo court and for his refusal to bear false witness against President Donald Trump. During his trial, she not only disgraced herself and the judicial system, Judge Amy Berman Jackson let her contempt for the American people, truth, rule of law, Roger Stone and Donald Trump ooze from every ruling or rant she made.
In a statement to The Gateway Pundit, Stone called his emergency appeal’s chances of reversing Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s “remote, despite the strength of our appeal.”
My lawyers just filed an emergency appeal with the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to appeal Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s ruling denying my motion to delay my surrender date because of the dangers of Covid-19, ordering my home confinement, and ordering me to prison on July 14. I have filed this appeal because the Judge’s decision is wrong on the law, the precedents in the DC Circuit and in all cases, including other circuits, for COVID-19 delayed surrender and compassionate release since the pandemic began.
It is also based on her incorrect assertion that the prison she wants to send me to has NO confirmed cases of COVID-19. I recognize that the chances are overwhelming that the appeals court will remand the matter back to Judge Jackson, but it is vitally important that the American people see all of the incorrect claims in her most recent ruling. As for the hysterical Democrats who insist that I have been given “Special Treatment ” by the Justice Department I would point out that although Jackson’s ruling went against the DOJ’s own uniform policy to agree to 60 day extensions in surrender due to COVID-19, the DOJ is now opposing my emergency motion on appeal even after not opposing it originally.
I want the President to know that I have, in good faith, exhausted all of my legal remedies and that only an act of clemency by the Presideny will provide Justice in my case.
This is a case in which I was charged on politically motivated, fabricated charges and was denied a fair trial by an unbiased judge, an honest jury, and uncorrupted and non political prosecutors. It is important that people understand that the same people who attempted to destroy General Flynn and are attempting to destroy me, are the same people who tried twice to illegally and seditiously remove the president from office.
GP contributor Joe Hoft has covered Stone’s case extensively, recently exposing how pedophiles and sex offenders have been released from the very prison Stone is set to be jailed, for “health concerns related to Coronavirus.” To think that we have a federal judges who think that a 67-year old victim of a sham political show trial for non-violent process crimes deserves to die in a Coronavirus prison but pedophiles don’t is not only unimaginable… it is shockingly evil.
Roger’s wife Nydia recently made a compelling and emotional plea to President Trump to pardon her husband and save his life.
Stone’s appeal to the DC Court of Appeals is indeed his final shot at escaping a death sentence. Will President Trump listen and will patriots across America demand action in time to spare Roger Stone?
One of the more distressing episodes of the Obama Presidency was the administration’s apparent interest in appointing Judd Gregg, a former Republican senator from New Hampshire, to be Secretary of Commerce. This was part of the hope-springs-eternal element in that president’s politics that so frustrated so many of his supporters. Gregg turned down the position anyway, citing political differences with the administration. That didn’t stop Obama from appointing Gregg to the Simpson-Bowles commission, one little bit of bipartisan foolishness in what was a virtual sea of it.
It’s probably a blessing that this romance did not go further, because the current evidence is that Judd Gregg has left the trolley far behind. He apparently believes that Joe Biden is Caesar, and the women he might pick as his running mate are a cabal of lean and hungry ones. Let us look at Gregg’s theory of The Underlying Agenda. From The Hill:
The underlying agenda is becoming more and more apparent:
— Promoting and promulgating — not merely accepting — the massive protests that have occurred in some cities, even when they have led to lawlessness, looting, riots and declarations of autonomy.
— Searching out and destroying unbelievers in pursuit of a politically correct version of history, and doing so with a zeal that would have made Cotton Mather blush
— Removing statues of historical figures that are deemed unacceptable based on today’s parameters of social justice.
Let’s skip on down to Gregg’s point, shall we, because it’s a doozy.
Within a few months of assuming the presidency, Biden may find himself being the next statue toppled as the socialist/progressive movement moves closer to power. Replacing him with his vice president could be deemed necessary to the cause. His colleagues could declare him too old to handle the presidency and remove him under the 25th Amendment. Et tu, Brute? The Cause will have been completed. Power will be fully in the hands of the statue-removers, the social justice police and those who see America’s political history as basically evil. It will be a coup. Look over your shoulder, Joe. Watch your back. Donald Trump is not your most threatening problem.
(A question for The Hill: do you allow anyone to write anything and publish it without reading it?)
The answer is not in Shakespeare, however. It can be found in the works of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Pore Judd is nuts.
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Charles P. Pierce Charles P Pierce is the author of four books, most recently Idiot America, and has been a working journalist since 1976.
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Democratic Senate candidates had another monster fundraising quarter, adding to their huge war chests despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that prompted fears of lackluster enthusiasm ahead of the November elections.
In Senate contests in key states like South Carolina, Maine, North Carolina and Montana, Democratic challengers announced eye-popping hauls that are largely thanks to a Trump-fueled wave of progressive energy and small-dollar donor cash.
In South Carolina, Jaime Harrison reported raising a record-breaking $13.9 million in his race against Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of Trump’s top allies on Capitol Hill. The haul is almost double the record $7.3 million he reported for the first three months of 2020. It’s also more than any Senate candidate in South Carolina from either party raised for their entire campaign before this cycle.
In rural Montana, where a dollar will go a long way compared to more expensive urban political advertising markets, Gov. Steve Bullock announced that he’d raised a whopping $7.7 million, more than double his haul in the first quarter. Bullock is hoping to oust Trump-friendly incumbent GOP Sen. Steve Daines.
In North Carolina, the relatively little-known Cal Cunningham, a military veteran and former state senator, said he’d raised $7.4 million in the second quarter. He, too, topped his first-quarter haul by $3 million. He will face Republican incumbent Sen. Thom Tillis, a staunch supporter of Trump, in the general election.
And in Maine, former state House Speaker Sara Gideon, a top Democratic target, revealed she raised a whopping $9 million in the second quarter. Gideon, the most likely Democratic challenger to GOP Sen. Susan Collins, is set to receive an additional $3.5 million if she wins the Democratic primary later this month.
Amy McGrath, Mark Kelly, and John Hickenlooper ― the Democratic Senate candidates in Kentucky, Arizona and Colorado, respectively ― have not yet announced their second-quarter hauls, but they are also likely to exceed expectations.
None of the GOP candidates up for reelection have released their fundraising numbers yet, but they are expected to lag substantially behind their Democratic opponents.
“These latest record-breaking numbers reflect the growing interest in these Senate battlegrounds and an unprecedented motivation to hold Republicans accountable,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesperson Lauren Passalacqua said in a statement. “Republican incumbents in Washington are still trying to take away health care from their constituents in the middle of a pandemic and standing by while the president divides the nation and exacerbates a public health and economic crisis. Voters have had enough.”
Republicans hold a 53-47 advantage in the Senate, and with Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) facing a tough reelection fight, Democrats likely need to win at least four seats to reclaim the majority.
Trump’s steady slide in the polls, which can be attributed to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and racist appeals to white supporters, has only increased Democrats’ chances of winning the upper chamber.
The state of the race for Senate control has alarmed top Republican lawmakers, who keep pleading without success for the president to change course.
“Right now, obviously, Trump has a problem with the middle of the electorate, with independents, and they’re the people who are undecided in national elections,” Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) told reporters last month. “I think he can win those back, but it’ll probably require not only a message that deals with substance and policy, but I think a message that conveys, perhaps, a different tone.”
Even Graham, one of Trump’s most stalwart defenders (at least after he lost his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential primary), broke with the president on Monday after he lashed out at Bubba Wallace, NASCAR’s only Black Cup Series driver, and criticized the auto racing league’s decision to ban the Confederate flag from its events.
“I don’t think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for,” Graham said on Fox News radio. “You saw the best in NASCAR. They all rallied to Bubba’s side. I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude rather than being worried it’s a hoax.”
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The CARES Act, the $2 trillion economic rescue legislation signed by President Trump on March 27 and scheduled to end on July 31, was perhaps the most pleasant legislative surprise I’ve seen in my decade of covering American politics.
The legislation passed at the end of a decade that was marked by congressional stalemate and ineptitude. My basic model of federal politics going into the Covid-19 calamity was that presidents typically get two years to try to implement their agenda, which the opposition tries to block at every turn; once the opposition wins back Congress in the midterms, the bulk of domestic affairs is handled in a series of bare-knuckle budget fights for the rest of the president’s term or terms in office.
That model fit the Obama administration and early Trump administration well — but the passage of the CARES Act blew it to pieces. It is a transformative piece of social legislation passed during the fourth year of a presidency, by a divided Congress. It is a massive expansion of the safety net that passed by voice vote in the House and unanimously in the Senate. It is a bipartisan measure that emerged not out of years of careful coalition-building (like so many bipartisan efforts at immigration reform) or heated and bitter negotiations (like so many bipartisan deficit-reduction deals) but out of a couple weeks of frenzied bill-writing with minimal conflict.
The individual provisions of the CARES Act are widely known, but it’s worth dwelling a bit on the bill itself, its historic importance, and what it means that Congress was able to pass it.
“Congress has increasingly stalemated on most of the big public problems of the day: immigration reform, global warming, future of entitlements, pensions, and so on,” said Sarah Binder, a professor of political science at George Washington University and an expert on Congress. “And in that context, your surprise about CARES Act seems quite reasonable. How did a polarized and divided Congress — that can’t solve most public problems — manage to legislate nearly $3 trillion (plus more before and after CARES) in a mere few weeks?”
“Honestly, it was just what I needed, maybe even better,” Sarah Gordon, a musician and actor in New York City who has relied on the federal $600 unemployment benefit boost since losing her job in fitness, told me. She said it took weeks to get through to the New York state unemployment agency on the phone, but once she did, the money kept her afloat. “After NYC rent (mine is a little below average for living by myself) plus bills and other expenses, it put me just even.”
However, Congress has left town and does not appear ready to pass any legislation to extend the $600 bonus unemployment payments — or any other aspect of the CARES Act. Now Gordon and millions like her are facing a sudden collapse in support from the federal government even as unemployment remains at its highest point since the Great Depression. “It would be great if it would continue, but even better for those who have additional expenses, like house payments, car payments, or even another mouth to feed,” Gordon said.
The CARES Act is a bigger fiscal stimulus than the New Deal or the 2008-’09 packages
The Covid-19 crisis is the biggest economic disaster, at least in terms of measured unemployment, since the Great Depression, so it’s perhaps appropriate that the main measure enacted to fight it was historically enormous too. But its scale has been, if anything, underappreciated.
I asked Marc Goldwein, senior vice president at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), to determine how the CARES Act and accompanying legislation compared to the bills passed in the wake of the 2008-2009 recession. Goldwein and his team have been documenting Covid-19 economic relief spending through their COVID Money Tracker.
CRFB’s analysis found that the Covid-19 response has to date totaled $2.5 trillion, or about 2.3 percent of GDP over the next five years. The Great Recession response cost $1.8 trillion over five years, or 2.4 percent of five-year GDP. The two are, as a share of the economy, roughly equivalent, despite the Great Recession measures being gradually passed from February 2008 to December 2010.
Jason Furman, an economics professor at Harvard and former top adviser to President Obama who was involved in crafting the 2009/2010 stimulus policies, has put together his own similar estimates that even further underline the magnitude of the Covid-19 response.
The two measures total to about the same amount of spending, he finds, but the Covid-19 response was condensed into just one year. As a result, the biggest year for fiscal stimulus during the Great Recession (2010) saw stimulus only amount to 4.7 percent of GDP. In 2020 so far, stimulus has amounted to 11.4 percent of GDP.
Not only was the Covid-19 response larger than the stimulus policies enacted in 2008-2010, it was larger than the New Deal, at least from a fiscal perspective.
In a 2015 paper, economists Price Fishback and Valentina Kachanovskaya tallied the fiscal stimulus undertaken between 1930 and 1940 (the vast majority of which was initiated by Franklin D. Roosevelt after taking office in 1933) at $41.7 billion, or about $653 billion in 2009 dollars — less than the $840 billion cost of the 2009 stimulus bill, as the St. Louis Fed’s Bill Dupor notes. Dupor also finds that, between 1931 and 1939, the federal debt grew by 30.3 percent of the economy; between 2008 and 2011, it grew by 32 percent of the economy. Again, the Great Recession response was larger.
Since the CARES Act is, at least relative to one year, larger than the 2008-2010 stimulus measure, this data suggests that it is bigger than the New Deal as a purely fiscal matter as well.
CARES has been a huge humanitarian boon
The importance of CARES is perhaps better seen in the actual outcomes among the American people during an unprecedented lockdown.
Perhaps most notable is the $600-per-week increase to unemployment insurance (UI) benefits it included. That produced a strong, positive incentive for people to leave work if it was deleterious to their health, even as they kept their heads above water financially. This aspect of the legislation was criticized by some Republicans in Congress for deterring work, but deterring work in this circumstance was a feature, not a bug. A recent paper by economists Peter Ganong, Pascal Noel, and Joseph Vavra found that the average UI recipient is getting 134 percent of their previous salary; “two-thirds of UI eligible workers can receive benefits which exceed lost earnings and one-fifth can receive benefits at least double lost earnings.”
The program, which is set to expire at the end of July, seems to have had a tremendous impact. In April, personal income (defined as the money Americans receive from wages, government benefits, investments, and so on) grew by 10.5 percent, by far the highest monthly growth rate in the metric’s 60-year history, even as unemployment shot up from 4.4 percent to 14.7 percent that same month. That’s largely attributable to the $600 UI boost and the one-off stimulus checks upping unemployed people’s incomes even as jobs disappeared.
That allowed the researchers to test how the stimulus affected households by comparing spending on April 13 to April 15 and the days immediately after. This is a variant on what’s called a “regression discontinuity” approach in social sciences, and it’s one of the higher-quality tools we have for testing what effects a policy actually caused as opposed to what happened around the same time.
Sure enough, spending jumped modestly for high-income households (by 9 percentage points; the green line below) and enormously for low-income households (by 26 percentage points; the blue line below) over the two days that the stimulus package was implemented:
By the beginning of June, spending by the lowest-income Americans had almost entirely returned to its pre-crisis state.
Zachary Parolin, Megan A. Curran, and Christopher Wimer of the Center on Poverty and Social Policy, based at Columbia, found that poverty rose an almost imperceptible amount, from 12.5 percent of the population to 12.7 percent, between 2019 and 2020. But without CARES, it would have risen to 16.3 percent, resulting in almost 12 million more people being in poverty. The reductions were concentrated disproportionately among Hispanic and Black households.
The second group — longtime poverty research duo Bruce Meyer of the University of Chicago and James X. Sullivan of Notre Dame, collaborating with UChicago scholar Jeehoon Ha — found that in April and May, the estimated poverty rate covering the previous 12 months was 8.6 percent compared to 10.9 percent in January and February, suggesting that poverty actually fellafter the Covid-19 pandemic hit, almost certainly due to the overwhelming federal response.
The two studies use slightly different methodologies. The Columbia researchers use monthly survey data for April from the census and project the annual poverty rate for 2020 based on that one month; they also model how poverty would look under different policy schemes.
Han, Meyer, and Sullivan use both April and May survey results, specifically a rarely used question about annual family income that’s asked in the monthly census surveys. To assess the cumulative impact of the coronavirus and CARES Act, they compare January and February data to April and May data.
The two studies also emphasize different aspects of the recovery package in explaining the CARES Act’s effect on poverty.
The Columbia study in particular highlights the role of the $600-a-week boost to unemployment benefits. Among individuals who lost their jobs and did not receive UI benefits, the other measures in the CARES Act (principally the $1,200 checks) reduced poverty from 35.1 percent to 30.2 percent, the paper finds.
But among jobless individuals who did get UI benefits, the CARES Act reduced the poverty rate from 19.5 percent to 6.4 percent, less than the rate among employed individuals. (The higher pre-CARES poverty rate in the former group reflects that many of those not eligible for UI benefits were undocumented immigrants, who are poorer in general.)
The Han, Meyer, and Sullivan paper finds that both stimulus checks and UI benefits were important, and is slightly more positive on the former. If you exclude the $1,200 checks, the poverty rate in May is 1.3 points higher, they find, while if you exclude UI benefits, it’s only 0.7 points higher.
Overall, though, they’re similar papers with similar conclusions: The stimulus checks and UI benefits helped tremendously in keeping low-income people afloat during the pandemic.
This is not to say that the CARES Act was perfect. No economic research I’m aware of has found positive results from the $500 billion the bill included in bailout money for large corporations. Chetty et al. found that the Paycheck Protection Program offering forgivable loans to small businesses produced no real effects on employment.
But it’s unreasonable to expect every single provision of a bill this large to be effective. The stimulus checks and UI payments appear to have worked extraordinarily well at preventing a humanitarian calamity, and that’s a strong endorsement for any legislation.
What made its passage possible
So how could a bill this sweeping, and this helpful to low-income people, pass during divided government?
Frances Lee, a professor of political science at Princeton who studies congressional conflict, notes that in some ways the bipartisan passage of the bill should be unsurprising: It’s easier for legislation supported by bipartisan majorities to make it through in general, even outside of emergencies.
“There’s very little legislation that passes on party-line votes,” Lee explains. “All of the rise in congressional polarization is on other types of votes than enactments: amendments, procedural votes, message bills. But when measures actually succeed in getting through the legislative process, large majorities are the overwhelming norm.” This is true of both routine legislation like post office renamings and major bills. The Children’s Health Insurance Program was enacted by a large bipartisanmajority in 1997.
More recently, the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act, a bill expanding the EPA’s ability to regulate chemicals, passed nearly unanimously in 2016, despite Republican control of Congress and a Democratic presidency and despite historically unprecedented levels of interparty conflict (there’s a whole book on how this happened).
But the scale of CARES is still notable. Lee argues that you have to understand it by analogy to war measures, perhaps even going back to World War II as the closest historical analogue. “The government is effectively putting a lot of people out of work. It’s putting whole sectors of the economy out of business [by imposing lockdowns]. So it’s easier ideologically to accept the idea that some compensation would be acceptable even to hardliners,” Lee says. “Clearly, the behavior of the Federal Reserve and federal government after the pandemic is comparable to war. All of that is comparable to policymaking in wartime more than anything else.”
Lee adds that the sheer speed with which the bill was passed helped enable its bipartisan support, as there was no time for a countermobilization.
Binder, the professor of political science at George Washington University, notes that individual political self-interest helps explain the bill’s success, a point Lee concurs on.
“I think we have a notion that in times of crisis, lawmakers and their leaders put aside partisan differences and ‘rise to the occasion,’” Binder wrote in an email. “But I think that idea of bipartisanship in a crisis misses the broader electoral dynamic that often motivates Congress to act: A crisis can motivate action, not so much because it’s the ‘right thing to do’ but because neither party wants to be blamed for failing to act. When the consequences of stalemate are too steep for both parties (an economy in a coma, millions already filing for unemployment, tens of thousands dying), we shouldn’t be surprised to see them go to the bargaining table and reach a deal.”
Binder also notes that the bill had a little something for each party: Republicans got large-scale support for major businesses, Democrats got a big UI expansion, Trump got checks he could put his signature on.
“The CARES Act wasn’t a zero-sum game of legislating. It’s more like a positive-sum game,” Binder wrote. “To a large extent, the parties have secured their most preferred outcomes and ceded a bit to the other party. … In that sense, the parties aren’t seeking out the ideological sweet spot between the parties (there might not be one …) and then agreeing to a least-common-denominator deal; instead, they’re each getting what they want the most. That’s often the case in polarized times, I would wager.”
Lee notes that this dynamic changes if Joe Biden enters the White House. Much as then-Minority Leader Mitch McConnell found it advantageous to try to sink the Obama administration’s stimulus measure in early 2009, both due to Republican ideological opposition to expanded spending and because it was not in his self-interest to hand Obama a legislative win, McConnell and his allies could find themselves blocking similar measures under Biden should he beat Trump in November.
“As a minority party, it should be easier for [Republicans] to resist,” Lee says. “It might inaugurate more austerity.”
Not extending the CARES Act could mean calamity
The CARES Act’s passage was a huge achievement that kept millions of people out of destitution during this crisis. But as big as the bill is, it’s not, on its own, equal to the task in front of us right now.
The Trump administration has voiced more openness to additional stimulus checks than to extending UI, but as of now the $1,200-per-adult, $500-per-child payments that landed on April 15 are the only unrestricted cash payments the administration has authorized.
There are any number of measures that could effectively extend the benefits of the CARES Act. The House-passed HEROES Act would extend the $600-per-week UI benefit through the end of January 2021, at least, and execute another round of $1,200-per-adult stimulus checks (this time with $1,200 per child on top, not just $500). It would also include $500 billion in state aid and $375 billion for local governments, both of which are facing severe budget crunches.
Another relief bill could include automatic stabilizer provisions so that benefits like the UI boost and stimulus measures continue indefinitely until some objective threshold (like unemployment falling below 5 percent) is reached. The UI provision could be converted into a “job losers’ allowance” that recipients are allowed to keep when they go back to work, as a way to encourage people to take jobs when the economy “reopens.”
Gordon, the NYC actor and musician, manages a Facebook group for other New Yorkers dealing with unemployment, and she says many are wrestling now with whether to try to return to work during the pandemic or wait it out. The UI money expiring could force their hands. But it’s not clear there’s even work available for those who want to return. “I have hope that I will have a job once we are called back,” Gordon said. “But I have also seen four people called back for a week and then laid off.”
As of now, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress appear set to follow up one of the most ambitious measures adopted in American history with absolutely nothing. The result of that will likely be that all the progress in terms of poverty and recovered spending among the poor enabled by the CARES Act will be undone. That will be a calamity, both for the American people and — ironically — for Republicans’ chances of holding on to the White House and the Senate.
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There is no doubt that Bernie Sanders’s campaign for president inspired an unprecedented grassroots movement in this country. We built a multiracial, multigenerational campaign of working people united under a common struggle for human dignity. We all witnessed our fellow organizers, volunteers, and ourselves commit everything to further this cause.
If we are going to build a future characterized by economic, racial, and environmental justice, we have to take what we accomplished during this campaign further. We owe a transparent assessment of this campaign’s failures to our supporters, volunteers, and to that future we hope to build.
None of us was under the impression that fundamentally changing the American political system was going to be an easy feat. In light of 2016, many of us expected unprecedented levels of resistance from the Democratic political establishment we were working to unseat. From the mired Iowa caucus results, to the DNC consolidation behind Joe Biden before Super Tuesday, to rampant bad-faith smears from the corporate media, it was clear that we were truly fighting against an entrenched and effective establishment. But these are not the only reasons for our defeat in that fight.
Leading up to our precipitous downfall after Super Tuesday, the campaign’s field team had been expressing concerns over strategy and staffing for months. Beyond what has been publicly litigated by campaign management, media, and our supporters, our defeat can also be attributed to two major internal failures: an overreliance on the distributed model of organizing, and the lack of a system to maintain accountability, transparency, and feedback from staff on the ground to upper management.
We owe a full explanation of these factors to our base to show that it is not our movement that has failed — Bernie’s policies have proven to be incredibly popular — but rather a strategic error of the same campaign structures which hindered us from fully engaging our organizers, volunteers, and ultimately our voters.
The organizing program on the Bernie campaign was fundamentally a battle between two competing organizing philosophies. One is a deep organizing model that focuses on investing in field staff and community building. The other model, known as distributed organizing, places the work of organizing almost entirely on volunteers.
In Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and California, the campaign invested heavily in deep organizing. That investment paid off. In Iowa alone, there were well over 150 organizers, and that team was able to build an organization that knocked on almost 500,000 doors in a state of 3 million people.
Iowa’s constituency organizing program, which focused on the long-term organizing of core demographics in the state, won crucial satellite caucus locations. In Nevada, that team won the Las Vegas Strip caucus despite anti–Medicare for All fearmongering. A large campus organizing program, with organizers relentlessly working at almost every university available, organized everywhere from big state schools to small community colleges.
Despite all this, we did not win blowout victories in these states. Almost all our victories were won within a narrow margin. In these cases, it was the existence of a robust field program that accounted for those wins.
Campaign management acted as though the momentum of winning Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and California would be sufficient to carry us to the nomination. This strategy drastically underestimated the combined influence of corporate media and power brokers within the Democratic establishment to undercut our campaign.
Unlike typical political campaigns, a working-class movement will only succeed if it out-organizes the opposition. This requires investing heavily in community-based organizing. From the beginning, it was clear that deep organizing would be our key to success.
However, the campaign began to rely on a distributed model of organizing in the coming states. They did not even maintain the investments they had already made — after each early state, most organizers were laid off instead of being moved on to Super Tuesday states. In Iowa, two-thirds of the staff was sent home, even as the campaign raised a historic $25 million in January and $46 million in February. Besides California, no Super Tuesday state had more than ten field staffers.
This is because distributed organizing vests the responsibilities of a field organizer — which include volunteer recruitment, development, training, voter contact, and most of all, time — entirely onto volunteers, supported by remote resources. For a distributed dependent program to work, the campaign would have needed to put staff in states months before their election to help build a grassroots, volunteer-led structure. Instead, field staff were thrown just weeks before the election into states with no prior organization and completely disjointed volunteer efforts.
Because the campaign pursued a model of distributed organizing, we went on to sacrifice states like Texas, Maine, and Washington, which we could have won with a deep organizing program. In others, we could have picked up a larger delegate share. By replacing organizers with volunteers, but expecting the same time commitment and level of training from volunteers that would have been expected of paid staff, campaign management effectively stymied the field program that delivered its victories.
The fact that campaign leadership maintained a strategy of minimal field staff in Super Tuesday states sheds light on another major shortcoming of management: they were ultimately unwilling to learn from their mistakes, even when hundreds of organizers implored them to reconsider.
The staff union estimated over two-thirds of Iowa staff as having been laid off and sent home. This ratio was more or less mirrored in the subsequent races in New Hampshire and Nevada. Many staff were shocked by what they saw as a poor strategic choice.
This decision-making seemed to be one of a campaign winding down rather than one at its zenith. The decision to downsize staff was never fully explained, and various efforts, including letters and petitions within and outside of the union, left largely unsatisfactory answers.
After Super Tuesday, the detrimental effects of overreliance on distributed organizing and failure to consult with people on the ground became abundantly clear. Another letter was sent to Faiz Shakir on March 4, signed by over one hundred field staff. Demands included immediate redeployment of all former staff to remaining states; prioritization of field investment, including campus and constituency organizing; and transparent channels of communication with upper management.
These demands were ignored, and staff who continued to express concerns through multiple channels were either brushed off or admonished for raising questions openly. Many wondered whether those running the campaign had given up already.
Unfortunately, this lack of accountability to staff on the ground was a pattern extending far beyond the redeployment process. Ranging from labor tensions early in the campaign cycle to concerns over transparency as the primaries drew near, it became clear that management would not consider the input of its workers in the field.
Workers were so dedicated to the campaign and a Sanders presidency that fear of potentially damaging leaks to the media severely limited internal organizing efforts to pressure management to change course. The lack of transparency combined with an under-resourced field program were the largest internal failures.
The Bernie Sanders campaign demonstrated its impressive ability to mobilize communities when deep organizing was at the forefront. A core tenet of Bernie Sanders’s theory of change is the need to expand the electorate.
There are few examples more illustrative of this philosophy than the Spanish-speaking caucuses in Iowa, where no other candidate reached the viability threshold. It was proven by the workers at a pork processing plant who all caucused for Bernie in the first contest of the day. It was shown by the 159 Burmese refugees, 98 percent of whom caucused for the first time, winning all nine county delegates for Bernie. The spirit of this campaign was structurally laid out in victories like the Las Vegas Strip workers in Nevada, which required the deep organizing and connections only possible with staff and dedicated volunteers on the ground. Even then, the odds were tight.
Downsizing the field program and failing to listen to lower-ranking staff was a massive error implemented by those at the top. Had management been willing to pivot strategy and take advice from those on the ground, these mistakes may have been avoided. Regardless of the contingencies, however, there is no question the campaign was not prepared for the unprecedented attack on our movement that everyone should have been ready for.
It is difficult to say whether anything could have saved the campaign’s precipitous decline post–Super Tuesday. Any such analysis is relying heavily on speculation. But it’s undeniable that Bernie Sanders’s presidential runs inspired a political awakening in millions of people, in a way not seen in decades. The promise of a change in business as usual — as well as Sanders’s candor and willingness to insist over and over on the things each person fundamentally deserves — for many felt like a sea change in political discourse at a fundamental level.
His supporters and volunteers made no mistake about the uphill battle ahead. They braced for a fight. That the campaign leadership failed to implement more democratic structures of accountability and feedback was a disservice to this base and to Sanders’s mission. A lack of transparency in strategy kept what should have been a dynamic process from the bottom up into a static one, with predetermined goals and little consultation with those on the ground. Indeed, if grassroots campaigns are to remain true to their origins, the shortcomings of the Bernie model may very well warrant a reassessment of internal democracy in campaign structures at large.
Ultimately, the experienced and well-paid senior advisers did not understand what we were up against. We did. The volunteers, organizers, and community leaders who committed to the struggle fought with our base to accomplish our ultimate goals.
It is up to all of us to ensure that we learn from the mistakes of this campaign and use it to build something truly grassroots, which we can only do by soberly assessing these missteps. The movement is not over with the suspension of Bernie’s candidacy — it has given us the tools we need to begin to build that movement.
As people have spent more time at home lately, local friendships have blossomed. People have become much more aware of neighborhood goings-on as they worked from home.
One young lady from Ashton-Under-Lyne in Greater Manchester, England, has forged a friendship with a deliveryman, and their bond has gone viral after she learned how to speak his language.
First, 8-year-old Tallulah drew Tim Joseph, the deliveryman, a picture of a rainbow as a “thank you” for his work. Joseph is deaf, so Tallulah also learned how to sign “have a good day” just so she could greet him.
Tallulah’s mom, Amy Roberts, caught the adorable interaction on video and shared it on Twitter.
“This is our … delivery man, who his deaf,” Roberts wrote, according to Love What Matters. “[W]e see him 1 or 2 times a week, start of lockdown Tallulah drew him a thank you; he still has it proudly on show in his van, they have built up quite a friendship over these last few weeks. She’s signing ‘good morning’ which he taught her.”
The video shows Joseph teaching her how to sign “good morning” as well so that she can sign “good morning, have a good day.”
“Tallulah realized I was deaf and then one day she surprised me when she signed to me, ‘have a good day,’ I think she learned sign language at school,” Joseph told the BBC. “I was very happy and I then showed Tallulah how to sign, ‘good morning, have a good day’ and then she signed it perfectly and it absolutely made my day.”
He said that he still had the picture she drew and that it’s hanging up in his van. Joseph was surprised when the video went viral and has seemed to enjoy watching it make the rounds and bring people joy.
“I was very shocked when Tallulah’s mum posted the video on Twitter and I saw thousands of people liking it and people sharing it, saying ‘thank you,’ ‘learn to sign,’ and ‘thumbs up,’” he said.
“I hope more people learn to sign and we bring more people together. Thank you very much and ‘good morning, have a good day.’”
The video has continued to circulate, prompting more updates from Roberts.
“Tallulah & Tim just had their Tuesday catch up, like us, Tim is overwhelmed with everyones lovely comments and interest,” Roberts tweeted on June 23. “He signed to us that he cried with joy. So #thankyou in a world where you can be anything.”
Even the company Joseph works for commented on the video, asking for details so they could recognize their employee.
“Hi Amy,” Hermes Parcels wrote. “This is lovely to see. We’re glad that the driver is offering such lovely service and has become friends with Tallulah 🙂 Please could you pop us a DM with a recent tracking number and contact details so we can get him the praise he deserves? Take care, SB.”
Hopefully Joseph will be encouraged by recognition from his company as well as the kind comments online, and this lovely friendship will continue to flourish.
Forget MAGA. The snappy new motto of the Trump 2020 campaign would more fittingly be changed to “Hate One Another.” The strategy was already an outdated failure in the 1960s. In the 2020s, it is a throwback to the worst of America. And there’s good reason to doubt it will get him reelected.
Trump launched his revamped E Pluribus Pluribus strategy with fireworks over the 4th of July weekend, an occasion that normal presidents have used to summon a spirit of national unity, but which he instead twisted into an unseemly carnival of disunity.
And Monday, he resumed trying to rip Americans apart from one another, starting the day with an ugly push against some of the most inspiring, most promising moments in the recent national effort to uproot racism.
He attacked NASCAR, the car racing sport beloved by so many in the South, demanding that Bubba Wallace, the league’s only full-time African American driver, apologize to drivers who made an extraordinary show of support after he said a noose had been found in his garage. Drivers stood by him. The FBI later said the rope was not a noose, but Wallace disagreed, and anyone who saw the photograph could attest it looked like, well, a noose, of the kind used for lynching.
Trump also decried NASCAR’s decision to ban the Confederate flag, again placing himself squarely on the side of racists.
The only effort he is making to expand his appeal beyond racists is by frightening the public about what the anti-racism movement aims to achieve. “Their goal in not to better America,” he declared at Mount Rushmore, “their goal is to end America.”
The United States is in the midst of a profound moment of self-examination. Yes, it has included excesses, and it has been driven by intense emotions. But at its heart, this is a time of national introspection.
It is a time of legitimate patriotism, an effort to look at what is wrong with the country, at where it has fallen short of its ideals, in a quest to narrow the space between what America is, and what it has proclaimed since its founding that it wants to be.
Today, with millions of Americans sickened by the coronavirus, the economy in a deep recession, and Trump’s response to the crisis — and to the protests over police killings of Black people — seeming to only make it all worse, the President has seen his support start to evaporate.
He is frantically trying to hold on to his base. Most politicians try to build on the base. This President is putting new joists on his floor so he doesn’t fall through. At this rate, he may succeed only in lessening the depths of the fall and the magnitude of the ignominy he could suffer in November. But Trump is acting so recklessly in his attempt to fire up supporters through divisiveness and fear that one wonders just how far he will go before he risks burning the house down.
How far will this man — who spoke during the 2016 campaign of “Second Amendment people” stepping in, should they have disagreed with judicial picks Hillary Clinton might have made — take this dangerous tactic?
Consider what he is promoting as part of this strategy.
Even after the secretary of the Army and the secretary of defense were said to be holding bipartisan talks about the base names, Trump rejected the notion. They are bases such as Fort Benning, named after Brig. Gen. Henry Benning, the impassioned defender of slavery who, like other Confederate generals, fought and killed US soldiers in the US military, in order to split up the country and preserve slavery. He was an enemy of the United States, the country that now honors him.
The base names, the Confederate flags, the monuments, they exalt men who defended not just a genteel South of mint juleps and magnolia trees. They fought to perpetuate slavery, a system that brought millions of kidnapped men and women across the ocean, shackled in the bowels of ships, to be sold, traded, branded and whipped, treated like animals and often worked to death.
Trump now protects the vestiges of a system that nearly tore the country apart in a civil war, his actions tacitly lending support to that living descendant of slavery, racism.
Whether or not Trump is a racist, it is clear that he is giving bigots aid and comfort. He is stoking their passions, and he is doing it for the same reason he does everything he does: because he thinks it will help him.
But it hurts America. It digs inside unhealed wounds and infects them. It counts on hatred rising on both sides. Trump seems to want to raise a delirium of rage in voters.
In the end, though, he may be the principal casualty of the bacillus. For once, he may be misreading the electorate. More than three-quarters of Americans call racism and discrimination “a big problem” in the United States. A majority support the anti-racism protests. Trump is out of step. Even the military Joint Chiefs of Staff are preparing a draft to ban Confederate flags in all military bases, as CNN has learned.
The fact is, racists will always find a place where they are welcome. But that place is becoming smaller. America is becoming less racist and has demonstrated in myriad, stunning ways in just six weeks — since George Floyd’s killing shook the nation by the shoulders — that it is determined to accelerate that transformation. Trump is counting on the process failing. He wants voters to see it as a threat to an idealized vision of America.
But most Americans see the protests, and the changes they could bring, as a way to make America great, to bring it closer to its founding, and as-yet-unattained, ideals. That’s why Trump’s “hate one another” strategy looks like not much more than another in a string of his embarrassing failures.
Documents show Hunter Biden still controls a stake in a Chinese investment firm despite his promise to resign from the company’s board and a pledge from his father Joe Biden that no one in the family will have foreign business entanglements if he is elected in November.
The troubled son of Joe Biden, a former vice president who is now the presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, holds a 10% equity stake in the Chinese government-linked Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Company, according to Chinese business records first reported by the Daily Caller.
Through his lawyer, Hunter had promised to leave the board of the Chinese firm by the end of October 2019, but his resignation was only submitted to China’s National Credit Information Publicity System this spring. Two Chinese business websites run by Baidu and Qixin both show updates with Hunter’s name being removed from the BHR board of directors in April, but both also show an LLC owned solely by Hunter — Skaneateles — as still being a “sponsor/shareholder” with 3 million yuan invested in the company, purportedly comprising the 10% stake in the China-based business venture.
“We work with China’s industrial leaders, state-owned enterprises, multinational corporations, as well as with start-up visionaries in their international mergers and acquisitions, domestic restructurings and pre-IPO financings,” the Chinese BHR’s company website states, adding that, since launching in December 2013, it now manages “over RMB15 billion in assets” — the equivalent of more than $2 billion.
The business records for Skaneateles found on Washington, D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs website list Hunter as the “executive officer” of the company, and the address for the LLC is a multimillion-dollar home in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles. That is where the Washington Examinerpreviously reported Hunter and his new wife, Melissa Cohen, had been renting a $12,000-a-month home as he was fighting a court order to disclose his financial information as part of an Arkansas paternity suit brought against him by Lunden Alexis Roberts, the mother of Biden’s young child.
The Daily Caller noted that “BHR’s business records with the NCIPS were updated on April 20 to reflect Hunter Biden’s departure from its board less than one week after the Daily Caller News Foundationreported on April 14 that his name was still listed as a member of the firm’s board at the time and that no evidence had yet surfaced to prove that Biden had actually relinquished his position with the company.”
Hunter’s lawyer, George Mesires, reached out to the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler a few days after the April article was published, with Kessler sharing a letter from BHR’s CEO and tweeting: “Trump folks pushing a line that Hunter Biden never resigned from board, citing an apparently outdated database entry. Now Hunter Biden’s lawyer has obtained letter confirming he did resign in October, as originally reported.”
The letter, from BHR CEO Jonathan Li, was addressed to Mesires, and said simply: “Mr. Robert Hunter Biden no longer serves as an unpaid director on the board of Bohai Harvest RST (Shanghai) Equity Investment Fund Management Co., Ltd. effective from October 2019.” Yet it appears that Hunter still has a substantial financial stake in the Chinese company.
“They will not be engaged in any foreign business because of what’s happened in this administration,” Joe Biden said of Hunter Biden and brother James Biden, in an Axios on HBOinterview that aired in December. “No one’s going to be seeking patents for things from China. No one’s going to be engaged in that kind of thing.”
The Biden campaign did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment about whether Hunter should have a stake in a Chinese company given that promise, and Mesires did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s questions about whether Hunter should relinquish his holdings in the Chinese firm and a request for Hunter’s resignation letter from the board.
Mesires wrote a lengthy post on Medium in mid-October claiming that Hunter “neither played a role in the formation or licensure of” BHR “nor owned any equity in it while his father was Vice President.” Hunter’s lawyer said his client “served only as a member of its board of directors, which he joined based on his interest in seeking ways to bring Chinese capital to international markets” and that “it was an unpaid position.”
“BHR was capitalized with 30 million renminbi (RMB), or approximately $4.2 million USD at today’s currency exchange rates,” Mesires said. “In October 2017, Hunter committed to invest approximately $420,000 USD (as of 10/12/2019) to acquire a 10% equity position in BHR, which he still holds. To date, Hunter has not received any compensation for being on BHR’s board of directors … Hunter intends to resign from the BHR board of directors on or by October 31, 2019.”
Hunter’s role with Chinese BHR is not his only foray into Chinese-linked business.
Ho, a lieutenant to the founder of the multibillion-dollar Chinese conglomerate CEFC China Energy, was indicted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in 2017 for a bribery scheme aimed at government officials in Africa, assisting Iranian sanctions evasion, and using the Chinese company’s connections to sell weaponry to Chad, Libya, and Qatar.
Hunter Biden agreed to represent Ho as part of his efforts to work out a liquefied natural gas deal worth tens of millions of dollars with CEFC China Energy’s leader Ye Jianming, who had ties to the Chinese Communist Party.
Kathleen Biden, Hunter Biden’s ex-wife, accused him in divorce filings of “spending extravagantly on his own interests … while leaving the family with no funds to pay legitimate bills.” The filing also discusses a “large” diamond, worth $80,000, he claimed he no longer had. In a later interview, Hunter Biden said the diamond, which he claimed was only worth $10,000, was a gift from Ye.
“What would they be bribing me for? My dad wasn’t in office,” Hunter Biden told the New Yorker. “I knew it wasn’t a good idea to take it. I just felt like it was weird.”
Now, recent national and district-level polls signal that many of the well-educated voters souring on Trump are also displaying more resistance to Republican congressional candidates than in 2018 — potentially much more.
That movement could frustrate GOP hopes of dislodging many of the first-term House Democrats who captured previously Republican suburban seats in 2018. It also means Democrats see further opportunities in white-collar House districts — from Pennsylvania and Georgia to Indiana and especially Texas — where the GOP held off the 2018 suburban tide, often only by narrow margins.
“The suburban exodus has continued, and my gut is as long as Trump is identified as the leader of the party, that continues,” says former Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, who served as chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Even if Trump’s strength outside the metro areas allows the GOP to recapture some of the non-urban seats Democrats won last time, Davis warns, further suburban losses could still leave the party in a deeper hole after November.
“You can’t afford that,” says Davis, now a partner in Holland & Knight, a DC law firm. “[Suburbia] was the base of the Republican Party just a decade and a half ago. And there just aren’t enough rural voters to make up for those kind of losses. It means for the Republicans that instead of picking up seats in the House, that the bleeding could continue.”
The NRCC and some GOP consultants say such predictions overstate the party’s risk. They argue that the 2018 Democratic incursions into previously red-leaning suburban districts represented a high-water mark, driven by a greater turnout of Democratic voters than Republican ones during the midterm election. In the larger turnout of the presidential year, they maintain, many of these districts will snap back to their historic Republican leanings and allow both Trump and GOP House candidates to carry them again.
Bob Salera, a spokesperson for the NRCC, says the committee’s baseline assumption for these races is that Trump will run as well in most white-collar districts this year as he did in 2016, when he carried almost all of the new suburban districts Democrats are targeting in November, as well as many of those that the party captured in the 2018 midterms.
“For the most part, what we are seeing is Trump’s standing in these [suburban] districts is fairly close, within a couple points of where it was in the 2016 election,” Salera says. “Trump’s approval right now isn’t much lower, and in some cases in different places is higher, than it was in the 2016 election. Basically, we are looking at those 2016 numbers as a baseline for how the presidential [race] will play out in these districts.”
But Democrats, and even some Republicans, say that polling this spring flatly refutes the assertion that Trump’s position in white-collar House districts has not deteriorated since 2016.
In these suburban districts, “he’s underperforming,” says Robby Mook, president of the House Majority PAC, a Democratic super PAC. “The House battleground that we are looking at today [is districts] he won in 2016 and he is losing today. That’s just a fact.”
“There was this seismic shift in American politics in 2016 that advanced in 2018 and is continuing to advance now,” Mook says.
In recent weeks, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other party groups have publicly released or privately circulated polls that show Trump losing to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, often by substantial margins, in a wide array of well-educated districts, including many that Trump carried in 2016. The NRCC has discounted these polls as wishful thinking but has released very few of its own surveys this year, and none in the districts Democrats have spotlighted.
What the polls find
Public polling this spring consistently showed Trump and the GOP facing grim numbers with well-educated voters. National surveys released in the past few weeks by Monmouth University, the Pew Research Center and CNN all showed Trump’s approval rating among White voters with at least a four-year college education sinking to 33% or less, with at least 64% disapproving.
By comparison, even during the 2018 Democratic sweep, exit polls found that 38% of college-educated White voters approved of Trump’s job performance, according to results provided by Edison Research, which conducts the exit polls for a consortium of news organizations that includes CNN.
That decline contrasted with Trump’s showing among minorities in the new CNN and Monmouth polls, which found the President’s approval rating with voters of color was almost exactly the same as in the 2018 exit poll, just over 1-in-4 in each case.
The Monmouth and CNN polls and a national New York Times/Siena College survey all found Biden leading Trump among well-educated White voters by about 30 percentage points, a much bigger advantage than any data source on the 2016 results recorded for Clinton. (The exit polls showed Trump narrowly carrying those college-plus White voters.)
Critically, some of the recent public surveys found that weakness trickling down to GOP congressional candidates. In last week’s Monmouth survey, college-educated White voters preferred Democrats over Republicans in House races by a resounding 59% to 36%.
If that disparity held through November, it would represent a huge deterioration for Republicans since 2018, when the exit polls showed Democratic House candidates nationwide carrying those voters by 8 percentage points, about one-third as much. (That came after the exit polls made a methodology change that analysts believe provided a more accurate estimate of the vote among college- and non-college Whites than in previous years.)
Even the more modest swing among well-educated voters that exit polls recorded in 2018 was sufficient to fundamentally reconfigure the House battlefield. The Democratic wave that year crested highest in well-educated and often racially diverse urban and suburban districts. Before that election, Republicans held 43% of the House districts where the share of people 25 and older with at least a four-year college degree exceeded the national average, according to a CNN analysis of the 2018 results.
But now Republicans hold only 23% of such seats, according to a new analysis of results from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey conducted by CNN senior visual editor Janie Boschma. In all, Democrats control 135 of the House districts with higher-than-average college education levels, while Republicans hold just 41. (Those numbers reflect the new district lines drawn under court order in Pennsylvania, but not the new lines that state courts have approved in North Carolina.)
Many of the top Democratic House targets for November are within those remaining 41 Republican districts with more college graduates than average, including incumbent Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick in Pennsylvania, Ann Wagner in Missouri, Chip Roy in Austin, Don Bacon in Nebraska, David Schweikert in Arizona and Steve Chabot in Ohio, as well as opportunities in open seats around Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Raleigh, North Carolina. Several more potentially vulnerable GOP seats (including those held by incumbent Reps. Rodney Davis in Illinois, John Katko in New York and Scott Perry in Pennsylvania) come in just below the average education line.
The flip side is also true: Many of the Democrats elected in 2018 who Republicans most hope to oust hold seats in districts with many more college graduates than average, including Reps. Lizzie Fletcher and Colin Allred in Texas, Sharice Davids in Kansas, Elissa Slotkin and Haley Stevens in Michigan, Lucy McBath in Georgia, Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, Tom Malinowski in New Jersey and all the newly elected Democrats from Orange County, California.
In 2016, when exit polls showed Trump running more competitively among college-educated White voters, he won many of the white-collar districts on both lists. With far fewer voters than in earlier generations splitting their tickets between presidential and House candidates, the outcome in many of them may be tipped by whether he does so again.
Perhaps the best test of Trump’s standing in white-collar districts will come in Texas, which Republicans have dominated since the early 1990s. Even in 2016, the state was only marginally competitive, with Trump beating Clinton there by 9 percentage points or nearly 800,000 votes. But in 2018, Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke rode a surge of support in Texas’ big metropolitan areas — he won its five largest counties by about six times as much as Barack Obama did in 2012 — to hold Republican Sen. Ted Cruz to a victory of only about 2.5 percentage points. Democrats rode O’Rourke’s strong performance to sweeping gains in state legislative and local elections across urban and suburban areas, as well as the election of Fletcher and Allred.
“In Texas, the Democrats performed about as well in the suburbs in 2018 as they’ve done in 20 or 25 years,” says Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant and GOP chair in Travis County (Austin).
Democrats see opportunities
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee built on that beachhead by investing early in serious challenges in a number of Republican-held House districts, most of them better educated than average. The party’s best Texas pickup opportunity is the heavily minority but relatively less-college-educated West Texas seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Will Hurd.
After that the Democrats’ top targets are all districts that combine substantial racial diversity with large numbers of college graduates, including open seats in the suburbs of Dallas and Houston and challenges to GOP incumbent Reps. Chip Roy and, somewhat more distantly, Michael McCaul in districts that sprawl south from Austin through more conservative rural communities.
All of those seats have followed the white-collar movement toward the Democrats evident in other areas of the country since 2016. Except for the seat Hurd is vacating, Trump won the rest of those districts last time. But he did not exceed 52% of the vote in any of them, in each case carrying far less of the vote that Mitt Romney had done there in 2012.
In 2018, O’Rourke narrowly won the McCaul district and the Dallas open seat and fell short by less than 1 percentage point in both the Roy and open Houston-area seat, according to a recent analysis by J. Miles Coleman of the Sabato’s Crystal Ball election website. (In all, O’Rourke won or finished within 5 points of Cruz in 10 congressional districts now held by Republicans, and some of those other seats are beginning to secure late interest from Democrats as well.)
Sri Preston Kulkarni, the Democratic nominee for the open seat in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston, was also the party’s candidate in 2018. A former foreign service officer who did not launch his campaign until January 2018, Kulkarni lost that year by 5 percentage points to Republican Pete Olson, who retired rather than seek reelection again after that close call.
Kulkarni says the climate for Democrats in the district is more favorable now and that Trump is “absolutely” weaker than he was there even two years ago. Under Trump, Kulkarni says, Republicans “are not looking for a broad coalition, they are focusing on a very small but intense coalition and they are leaving out the suburbs.” Nearly 46% of the district’s residents hold at least a four-year college degree and racial minorities compose a majority of its population, with immigrants representing nearly 1-in-4 residents, census figures show.
Kulkarni’s race captures another critical element of the battle for these white-collar districts. Many of them are in metropolitan areas at the epicenter of this year’s twin national earthquakes: the coronavirus outbreak and the eruption of protests that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Floyd’s funeral was held just across the border in Harris County, which has emerged as one of the centers of the outbreak, with a surging caseload (more than 36,000 as of Monday) that officials warn may soon overwhelm its hospital system.
Kulkarni has been unflinching in criticizing Trump on both fronts; he told me he considers the President’s response to the Floyd protests a “threat to American values” and Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak “the biggest failure of leadership in the government” he has ever seen.
(After GOP Gov. Greg Abbott last week imposed a statewide mask requirement, Nehls did not criticize him but suggested in a statement that he considered it unnecessary in Fort Bend. “The Governor’s going to do what he’s going to do to combat this virus statewide but this virus isn’t affecting everyone the same,” said campaign spokesman Nick Maddux.)
Trump’s increasingly polarizing strategy for reelection helps explain why many strategists in both parties believe it will be difficult for as many House candidates as in the past to win in districts that vote for the other party in the presidential contest. That may help Republican challengers against Democratic incumbents in blue-collar and rural districts where Trump has been stronger, such as Reps. Collin Peterson in Minnesota, Jared Golden in Maine and Abby Finkenauer in Iowa. But it looms as a huge challenge for the GOP in these suburban areas.
Carlos Curbelo, a former GOP representative who lost his urban Miami district during the 2018 Democratic sweep, agrees it will be tough for the party’s candidates to escape the undertow if Trump doesn’t improve his position in those places.
“It’s almost impossible,” he says. “All candidates [are] encouraged to run their own races and maneuver however it is they need to in order to win. But with this heavy overlay, it’s very difficult. The space in which to maneuver is very tight.”
Like the NRCC’s Salera, GOP consultant Mackowiak says he believes Trump will perform better in these suburban districts than the party did in 2018. While Mackowiak believes that “if it’s a referendum on Trump he’s going to get killed in the suburbs,” he maintains the President can win back previously red-leaning college-educated voters by tying Biden and Democratic House candidates to liberal ideas such as the Green New Deal and single-payer health care that might advance under unified Democratic control of government.
Still, Mackowiak acknowledges that if 2020 produces an electoral divide in Texas similar to the one in the 2018 Senate race — with Trump holding the state by maximizing rural turnout while suffering huge losses in the big metro areas — it will “be a category five political hurricane” for local Republicans.
“The state House will be gone,” he said. “We will lose three or four congressional seats. That’s an unthinkable scenario.”
Yet many observers in both parties believe that’s exactly what the November election may produce in virtually every state: a widening trench between the preponderantly White small-town and rural areas that remain bonded to Trump and a deepening recoil from him in the diverse and well-educated urban and suburban population centers.
Trump may be comfortable with that trade since he is trying only to finesse one more Electoral College victory even if he loses the popular vote again. But many Republicans say Trump’s vision of squeezing bigger margins out of shrinking places at the cost of generating more resistance in communities that are growing is a losing long-term trajectory for the party. Nowhere is that more true than in the battle for control of the US House.
“It’s a strategy that is divorced from the reality of the country,” says Curbelo. “And there are Republican leaders in both chambers who are aware of this. This is not an important [consideration in] the President’s strategy because in his team’s mind they only have to win one more election. But for everyone else it’s a longer-term game. A lot of Republicans have been willing to be shortsighted and taken what they can get from the Trump era. But ultimately they know this is not the future of the party.”
The tweet left the White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, struggling to explain the president’s position, though she said he had informed her that he had no intention of taking a position either way on the Confederate flag ban and was merely criticizing what McEnany described as a “rush to judgment” about the situation.
Hours later Trump followed up with another tweet criticizing the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, both of which announced they would review a potential name change after years of pressure from Native American groups.
“They name teams out of STRENGTH, not weakness, but now the Washington Redskins & Cleveland Indians, two fabled sports franchises, look like they are going to be changing their names in order to be politically correct,” he wrote, before disparaging Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for promoting the results of a DNA test that showed she had a small percentage of Native American blood.
Trump claimed that “Indians, like Elizabeth Warren, must be very angry right now,” though indigenous groups have led the charge to rename teams like the Redskins and Indians that disparaged or appropriated their culture.
Last month, shortly after unveiling Black Lives Matter signage on his car, members of Wallace’s team reported finding a noose in the team’s garage at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, prompting a swift investigation by NASCAR as well as the FBI.
The FBI determined that Wallace had not been the target of a hate crime and that the noose had been in the garage, which was assigned to Wallace on short notice, since 2019.
The incident took place amid national upheaval over the police killings of Black Americans, spurred by the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.
NASCAR has defended its decision to push for an investigation of the episode, with the racing association’s president asserting that “given the facts presented to us, we would have pursued this with the same sense of urgency and purpose” while arguing that the noose was legitimate and that the sport was acting “to protect our driver.”
Wallace, who never saw the noose personally and who was flooded with support, tweeted after the FBI completed its investigation: “I think we’ll gladly take a little embarrassment over what the alternatives could have been.”
On Monday afternoon, Wallace tweeted out a message to “the next generation and little ones following my foot steps,” saying that “your words and actions will always be held to a higher standard.“
“You will always have people testing you. Seeing if they can knock you off your pedestal,“ Wallace said. He urged fans to “always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE … Even when it‘s HATE from the POTUS.“
The initial coverage was panned by some on the right, who compared the episode to the Blackactor Jussie Smollet’s fabricated assault.McEnany made the same link as she defended Trump’s tweet in a press briefing on Monday during which she was pelted with questions about it.
The Confederate flag, she argued, was a throwaway mention “in the broader context of the fact that he rejects this notion that somehow NASCAR men and women who go to the sporting events are racist when in fact, as it turns out, what we saw with the FBI report and the alleged incident of hate crime, it was a complete indictment of the media‘s rush to judgment once again.”
She leaned on NASCAR‘s and the FBI’s statements about the episode, both of which referred to the pull rope in question as a noose, while insisting that the “intent” of Trump’s tweet “was to stand up for the men and women of NASCAR, the fans and those who have gone” to its races.
Asked why the president believed Wallace should apologize for something he was not personally involved in, McEnany said Trump felt it “would go a long way” if Wallace would acknowledge the results of the investigation — something the driver did two weeks ago when the investigation concluded.
Contrary to Trump’s assertion, NASCAR — one of the first major sports to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic — saw its ratings increase immediately after banning the Confederate flag from its events. A Fox Sports executive said in a tweet that overnight ratings for the race that took place hours after NASCAR’s ban was announced were up “+104% over the comparable race last season.” The Talladega race, which was postponed a day because of rain, was the most-watched Monday race since 2014.
The network has seen an 8 percent bump in NASCAR viewership since resuming races in mid-May, said Michael Mulvihill, Fox Sports’ executive vice president and head of strategy.
The White House doubled down on Trump’s accusation — its official Twitter account retweeted @RealDonaldTrump’s attack on Wallace — but at least one key ally broke with the president.
“I don’t think Bubba Wallace has anything to apologize for,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said in an interview on Fox News Radio, noting that “even though it was a noose created to hold the door open, in the times in which we live there’s a lot of anxiety.”
The notion that Wallace “was upset by somebody finding a noose in the garage made perfect sense to me,” Graham added.
The senator also cheered NASCAR’s decision to prohibit the Confederate flag from its events, explaining, “They’re trying to grow the sport.”
“You take images that divide us and ask that they not be brought into the venue and that makes sense to me,” he said.
Graham also argued that the show of support Wallace received from other drivers was “the best” of the sport.
“So I would be looking to celebrate that kind of attitude more than being worried about it being a hoax,” he said.
The president’s tweet comes as Trump has embraced culture wars in an effort to revive his reelection prospects after polling has shown him consistently trailing former Vice President Joe Biden.
A new Gallup poll on Monday found that Trump’s job approval had dipped to 38 percent, just 3 points above his all-time low. The survey also registered its largest partisan gap in approval ratings — 89 points — in Gallup history.
As the White House has fended off criticism over Trump’s response to coronavirus and the racial unrest after Floyd’s death, the president has come out staunchly against renaming military bases named for Confederate generals and has repeatedly proclaimed his support for preserving monuments to famous colonial and Confederate-era figures that protesters have sought to topple.
The president has also been vocal about his opposition to the National Football League’s culture wars, including kneeling during the national anthem. In 2013 Trump tweeted that then-President Barack Obama, who had asked the Redskins to change their name, should not use his presidential free time to boss football franchises around.
“Our country has far bigger problems!” Trump wrote. “FOCUS on them, not nonsense.”
Together with NASCAR, both sports handed him a culture-war loss in the same week in June.
Such issues were the focus of a pair of speeches Trump delivered over the weekend to mark Independence Day.
On July 4, Trump pledged to defend American monuments and the country’s “rich heritage” while he vowed: “We will never allow an angry mob to tear down our statues, erase our history, indoctrinate our children or trample on our freedoms.”
The previous evening, during a speech in front of Mount Rushmore, Trump lambasted a supposed “left-wing cultural revolution” that he claimed is “designed to overthrow the American revolution,” adopting divisive rhetoric on a weekend typically reserved for more unifying language.
His campaign has pushed back on critical coverage of the speeches, with communications director Tim Murtaugh declaring it “one of the worst cases of media bias in recent history.”