Sprinting to the finish!
November 16, 2022
[No audio tonight. Ran out of time!]
Russian-made missile hits Poland. As I write on Tuesday evening, the facts are in flux regarding a Russian-made missile that exploded in Poland. President Biden said during remarks to the press that it was “unlikely” that the missile was fired “from Russia.” That fact may not exculpate Russia from responsibility for the attack on a NATO member. Biden moved quickly, holding an emergency roundtable meeting with world leaders in Bali. But until more is known, we should take comfort from the fact that Joe Biden is at the helm during this crisis. Stay tuned, but no need to panic!
Sprinting to the finish!
It has been a long, tough slog to the 2022 midterms and the finish line is almost in sight! If you are pressed for time and can’t make phone calls or send texts and postcards, you can help by donating any amount to Raphael Warnock’s run-off campaign. Even better, you can join a Zoom call to meet Senator Warnock. Here are the details from reader Sarah O’Neill:
Join Senator Raphael Warnock on a Zoom call on Thursday, November 17 at 6:00 PM Eastern / 3:00 PM Pacific. The “NY Buddy Group” is co-hosting, and you can contribute any amount to join the Zoom call. Donate here: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/tribundlmfd to receive the link to the online event. There is no minimum required to join the call, but please be as generous as you can! Democracy is on the line!
And for those you looking to help the “get out the vote” effort in Georgia, I recommend Focus for Democracy, which focuses on funding organizations with proven track records of success in motivating turnout. Here is a note from Aaron Frank:
Focus for Democracy’s Georgia Runoff Briefing: Maximizing Your Runoff Donations. Want expert advice on how your contributions can win the MOST votes in Georgia? Join Focus For Democracy’s Georgia Runoff Zoom briefing. F4D’s expert evaluators have rigorously examined the evidence behind tactics used by scores of organizations. In this briefing, they’ll tell you about the remaining funding gaps that will enable your contributions to produce many times more votes for Senator Warnock than you could with donations elsewhere.
Wednesday, November 16
5:00pm PT/8:00pm ET
Register here: https://tinyurl.com/F4DNov16
Speaking of “sprinting to the finish,” Democrats still have control of Congress until January 3, 2023. During the remaining time, Democrats must push through key pieces of legislation that might not otherwise make it through a Republican House. See Vox, Congress’s lame-duck session to-do list includes same-sex marriage protections and electoral reforms. Important pieces of legislation include:
Respect for Marriage Act, which will ensure federal recognition for same-sex marriages and require states to recognize same marriages that were entered into in another state in which same-sex marriages are legal. But . . . the bill will not require any state to authorize same-sex marriages if the Supreme Court overrules Obergefell. A version of the bill has passed in the House and apparently has enough Republican votes in the Senate to pass. But if different versions of the House and Senate bill need to be reconciled, Democrats must do so before January 3, 2023, to prevent backsliding by a GOP-controlled House.
Electoral Count Reform Act. Although defeat of election-deniers in six swing states will lessen the possibility of an electoral crisis in 2024, there is bipartisan support for reform of the ancient Electoral Count Act. The reform bill will increase the threshold for objections and clarify the role of the Vice President. The bill will also provide a method for expedited judicial review of disputes over the appointment of electors. The reforms are sorely needed and should pass. But as with the Respect for Marriage Act, the House and Senate versions of the bill will need to be reconciled. To ensure passage, reconciliation must occur before January 3, 2023.
Raising the debt ceiling, funding the government, and authorizing defense spending. A GOP majority in the House will have leverage only to the extent that Republicans can hold fiscal bills hostage to exact concessions from Democrats on “must pass” legislation. To avoid that hostage-taking strategy, Democrats should “front load” budget legislation to the greatest extent possible.
There are undoubtedly more bills that should pass during this so-called “lame duck” session of Congress. But there is reason to be optimistic about prospects for progress in the next two months. See this report by the Pew Research Center that 43% of the “substantive” bills passed by the last Congress were passed during the “lame duck” session. Democrats should take full advantage of the remaining time to push their agenda forward.
Republican leadership fights erupt into open warfare.
Democrats frequently complain about alleged “party infighting” among various factions within the congressional delegations. Such infighting comes with the territory in politics, especially when a party accommodates constituencies from across the spectrum. But the Republican infighting is reaching new heights of acrimony. Why is this relevant to Democrats—apart from the feelings of schadenfreude? The GOP fights over leadership in Congress will determine just how difficult it will be to achieve any legislative progress in the next two years. At the moment, it is an open question of whether the “crazy caucus” will prevail in leadership fights in the GOP.
In the Senate, Rick Scott made a surprise announcement that he will challenge Mitch McConnell as minority leader. His announcement was made during an acrimonious lunch that featured open fighting between McConnell, Scott, Thune, Collins, and Ernst, among others. Senators Hawley, Lee, and Cruz had already ambushed McConnell before the meeting. See The Hill, GOP acrimony spills over at heated Senate lunch.
Things are worse on the House side. Although Kevin McCarthy was re-elected as the GOP Majority leader and will be nominated for Speaker, he garnered only 188 votes, while 31 GOP members voted for Andy Biggs (R-AZ). Matt Gaetz said during an interview that he was aware of five Republicans who would “rather be water-boarded by Liz Cheney” than vote for Kevin McCarthy.
To be elected as Speaker, McCarthy can’t afford to lose five votes—much less 31 votes. Gaetz also suggested that McCarthy had “bought off” the support of Marjorie Taylor Greene and would “zap her” “faster than you can say Jewish space laser” when he no longer needed her support. See Raw Story, Gaetz claims McCarthy doesn't have the floor votes to secure Speakership — even after successful caucus vote.
With Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene on opposite sides of the fight for GOP control of the Speaker position, it is bound to get interesting. And, of course, we should expect Trump to weigh in on both leadership races. That will make it wild.
More on media coverage of DeSantis.
Yesterday, I addressed the propensity of the press to treat all politicians through the lens of “the horse race” of “who’s the frontrunner.” Today, Dan Froomkin did a much better job of describing the media’s propensity for applying a lens of faux impartiality or “both siderism”—even though one side is dedicated to the destruction of democracy. See Press Watch, Coverage of Ron DeSantis shows the media has learned nothing from Trump. As Froomkin writes,
Trump is a Trumpist. But DeSantis is a fascist. And he is gaming political journalists just like Trump did in 2016.
[DeSantis] is counting on mainstream journalists, once again, being so desperate to cast themselves as “impartial” that they will normalize what is effectively 21st-century American fascism.
DeSantis has learned he can get away with anything, no matter how extreme or how deceitful. Rather than holding him accountable, political reporters praise his strategy.
Sure, our major news organizations [will] run the occasional story pointing out who he really is. But what DeSantis is exploiting is the “both-sides” political media’s inability to sustain outrage against one side, no matter how extremist and authoritarian it becomes.
As I noted, we must do our part by not letting the media “mindlessly discuss insurrectionists and traitors as if they are concerned citizens seeking office to promote the public good.” Today, the strategy of criticizing the press may have worked. See the discussion in Concluding Thoughts about the media’s reporting on Trump’s announcement that he is running for the 2024 GOP nomination.
Trump’s legal jeopardy.
There were developments on multiple fronts in litigation and investigations involving Donald Trump. I don’t have the space to cover all of the development, but I do have sufficient space to recommend that you read the exhaustive review by Joyce Vance, Civil Discourse, A lot for a Tuesday. As Vance notes, one of the most imminent threats to Trump comes from the criminal investigation in Fulton County, Georgia. Vance reviews recent statements by the Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and concludes:
I’m reading this as an indication that her special grand jury, which is purely investigative, has completed its work and she has made a decision that she will present their work to a regular grand jury that has the power to indict cases.
If D.A. Willis convenes a grand jury, the only purpose in doing so will be to indict Trump. So, the first criminal indictment against Trump may come from a state grand jury for election tampering. The good news about such a development that Trump cannot pardon himself from state crimes or order the DOJ to cease prosecution.
It has been a long wait, but it appears that Trump may finally be held to account for his corrupt behavior. And if Merrick Garland can read the room, it is time for the DOJ to act, as well. The clock may be ticking on Merrick Garland’s tenure as Attorney General, so he’d better indict and convict Trump before Trump can fire Garland.
To the surprise of no one, Trump announced his candidacy for the 2024 GOP nomination for president. Observers said that Trump delivered the speech with “low energy” and “seemed bored.”
After the speech, observers noted the sharp differences between the headlines reporting on Trump’s announcement. While the Washington Post headlined its story in a way that highlighted Trump’s status as an insurrectionist, the NYTimes initial headline simply noted that Trump had announced his candidacy. Compare WaPo, Trump, who as president fomented an insurrection, says he is running again with NYTimes, Donald Trump announces a 2024 run for president, ignoring GOP warnings that his influence is harming the party.
After criticism on Twitter by (among others) Joyce Vance, the NYTimes updated its headline to state “Trump Announces 2024 Run, Repeating Lies and Exaggerating Record.” NPR upped the ante with a headline stating, Donald Trump, who tried to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election and inspired a deadly riot at the Capitol in a desperate attempt to keep himself in power, has filed to run for president again in 2024. Now that’s a headline!
It appears that the message is getting through to some members of the media. Trump is a twice impeached, coup-plotting, national-secret-stealing traitor running for the presidency to escape the inevitable criminal indictments for his many crimes. No headline or story should ever ignore or minimize that fact. Trump is not a candidate for the presidency. He is a threat to the Constitution and our democracy. Our job is to ensure that no one ever forgets that fact.
It would be a mistake to underestimate or dismiss Trump’s candidacy. But we must also recognize that he is weakened, compromised, toxic, divisive, and uniquely unfit to serve as president. At the moment, he is also the presumptive GOP nominee—no matter what the polls say.
As Trump dodges criminal investigations and evades blame for the midterm meltdown, Joe Biden is rallying world leaders in response to the missile attack on Poland and congressional Democrats stand poised to pass more landmark legislation. We truly have reason to be hopeful but no reason to be complacent!
Talk to you tomorrow!