Today’s Edition: “It’s difficult to make predictions.”
November 23, 2021
“It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future.” That aphorism is often erroneously attributed to Yogi Berra and Niels Bohr because of its obvious applicability to baseball and physics. But the earliest evidence of its use traces back to the Danish Parliament in 1937, suggesting that the originator was describing politics. The adage has particular force as we approach the 2022 elections, which are laden with predictions of disaster for Democrats. In the last few weeks, readers of this newsletter have sent emails saying they are worried because respected and sober voices within the Democratic Party and liberal media are claiming that Republicans will crush Democrats in 2022. Don’t believe such predictions. The future is contingent on many things—including random, unforeseeable events and our own willingness to alter the course of history through hard work.
Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) is retiring when his term ends in 2024. Toomey occupied a seat that has been under Republican control for 50 years. Trump endorsed Sean Parnell to succeed Toomey, saying that Parnell has “my Complete and Total endorsement.” Parnell is a decorated Army veteran and a successful author and speaker. (Ballotpedia.) Trump stood by Parnell even after allegations of domestic violence surfaced in the divorce proceeding between Parnell and his wife. But on Monday, a judge awarded sole legal custody of Parnell’s children to his wife and Parnell suddenly announced that he was dropping out of the race. See CBS, “Trump-Backed Senate Candidate Sean Parnell Drops Out of Race After Losing Custody Battle.”
To be clear, Democrats must still win the seat being vacated by Toomey and there is a field of ten Republicans vying for the GOP nomination. But the sudden loss of Parnell’s candidacy is a blow for Republicans that was unforeseeable. Trump will, of course, grant another candidate “my Complete and Total endorsement,” but the damage is done. Parnell’s withdrawal from the Pennsylvania race makes the point that we must contest every race until the last vote is cast. Electoral contests can turn on a dime because of events large and small—from child custody awards to pandemics to claims by a losing president that elections are rigged. We are roughly a year from Election Day 2022. Measured in six-hour news cycles, that is the roughly the equivalent of all of recorded human history. In other words, a lot of unexpected and surprising things can happen in the next twelve months—and probably will.
I do not mean to diminish the challenge we face or the impact of Republican efforts to gerrymander their way to success. But in the face of predictions of certain defeat, we have only two choices. We can accept that “all is lost” and give up, or we can choose to fight, dire predictions notwithstanding. If we give up, we ensure that the predictions of doom will become self-fulfilling. If we continue the fight, we preserve the possibility that we will win. Parnell’s abrupt withdrawal reminds us that there is a reason they play games in baseball and hold elections in politics: It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.
The Freedom to Vote Act and the Filibuster
The Freedom to Vote Act remains in suspended animation in the Senate as Joe Manchin has failed to convince a single Republican to support the Act. The situation will not change unless and until the Senate carves out an exception to the filibuster for voting rights legislation. A group of scholars representing dozens of universities has published a statement urging the Senate to modify the filibuster to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. See New America, “Statement in Support of the Freedom to Vote Act.” The Statement describes how the filibuster was instrumental in allowing Southern states to impose 75 years of voter suppression after the Civil War. The Statement is worth your time and consideration.
The filibuster is an abomination and perversion of democracy. I agree wholeheartedly that the filibuster should be abolished (or modified) so that the Freedom to Vote Act can be enacted. But I disagree with the implication in the Statement that the failure to pass the Freedom to Vote Act will “undermine the minimum conditions for democracy [and] likely result in an extended period of minority rule.” We can win even when the deck is stacked against us. For example, Republican state legislatures dominated the redistricting process in 2010 but Democrats have controlled the House for two of the five election cycles following that redistricting. Whatever advantages Republicans granted themselves through gerrymandering in 2010 did not result “in an extended period of minority rule.”
We should demand that the Senate pass the Freedom to Vote Act. But if we cannot convince Manchin and Sinema to modify the filibuster, all is not lost. We still have the ability to show up at the ballot box in vast numbers and overwhelm the efforts of Republicans to prolong their hold on power by denying equal representation to voters.
Another federal judge questions DOJ failure to pursue insurrection leaders.
Federal Judge Amit Mehta sentenced a January 6th insurrectionist to 30 days in prison for trespassing at the Capitol. In doing so, Judge Mehta questioned why the government has yet to indict the leaders of the insurrection. Judge Mehta said:
The fact remains that [defendant] and others were called to Washington, D.C., by an elected official, prompted to walk to the Capitol by an elected official. People like Mr. Lolos were told lies, told falsehoods, told our election was stolen when it clearly was not. We’re here today deciding whether Mr. Lolos should spend 30 days in jail when those who created the conditions that led to Mr. Lolos’ conduct, led to the events of Jan. 6 [haven’t been] held to account for their actions and their word.
We are approaching the one-year mark of the insurrection. No leader of the insurrection has been indicted. How much longer must America wait for the Department of Justice to defend the Constitution against insurrection?
House Select Committee continues apace.
Despite disappointment over the DOJ’s apparent decision to give a free pass to the organizers of the insurrection, the House Select Committee forges ahead with its investigation. Committee members have indicated that dozens of Trump aides are cooperating with the investigation. Good. Meanwhile, the Committee has turned its sights on Roger Stone and Alex Jones. Stone used members of the Proud Boys as his security detail on January 5th and 6th, while Jones claims that he facilitated a donation of “80%” of the financing for the January 6th rally that preceded the assault on the Capitol. See The Hill, “Jan. 6 panel subpoenas Roger Stone, Alex Jones.” The subpoena to Jones states that “you implied that you had knowledge about the plans of President trump with respect to the rally.”
Stone and Jones may invoke executive privilege to avoid testifying, just as Steve Bannon did. If they do, expect Congress to refer them to the DOJ for criminal contempt, as well. We should be thankful that the Special Committee is moving so aggressively to learn the truth. If only the DOJ would share that sense of urgency.
Offering voter registration in healthcare settings.
A reader who is physician sent a link to an organization that offers voter registration to people who visit hospitals and other healthcare settings. See “Vot-ER – Vote like our health depends on it.” In the last year, Vot-ER has partnered with over 300 health institutions and 100 national organizations and associations across the country to bring voting into the healthcare setting. The non-partisan organization uses innovative approaches to encourage registration among patients, including
· Site-based voter registration by providing posters, discharge paperwork, and patient handouts to over 300 locations.
· “Healthy Democracy Kit”: Healthcare providers wear a “Ready to Vote?” lanyard and a voter registration badge with a QR-code and SMS shortcode that they can use to help patients register to vote or request an absentee ballot.
If you are involved in healthcare and interested in making voter registration services available to people visiting your facilities, check out “Vot-ER.”
As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, the nation is again waiting with apprehension and disquiet as another jury considers a claim of self-defense to justify the killing of an unarmed citizen. As we hope for justice, we should recognize that criminal prosecutions by states are not necessarily the final step in holding the killers accountable. Federal civil rights legislation provides additional avenues of redress for the families and accountability for the perpetrators. It is painful and maddening for families to see the killers of their loved ones walk free. But it is the rare exception that killers avoid any and all legal consequence for their actions—even if they are acquitted in a criminal trial.
As difficult as it is, we should trust and respect our system of justice so long as it does not appear to be corrupt or biased. Where there is injustice, we should seek to reform the law, elect new prosecutors, or elect new judges. If we hope to defend the rule of law, we must respect it even when it produces results that feel unfair. If we fail to do so, we are granting license to others to disrespect and undermine the rule of law when it suits their partisan aims.
I hope to spend Thursday and Friday with my family, so I am not planning to send newsletters on Thursday or Friday (unless events warrant otherwise). In the meantime, remain calm and enjoy time with family and friends.
Talk to you tomorrow!