Today’s Edition (May 7, 2021)

DeSantis reduces democracy to infotainment

          Ron DeSantis is Governor of the State of Florida. As such, he is supposed to represent everyone in Florida, not merely members of the Trump wing of the GOP. On Thursday, DeSantis exhibited contempt for Floridians who are not ‘Trump Republicans’ by signing voter suppression legislation during a live program on Fox News. It was a divisive gesture worthy of the mini-Trump that DeSantis aspires to be. It was disrespectful to the democratic process, it was boorish, and it was an act of supreme partisanship designed to taunt the intended victims of the legislation. Ron DeSantis wants to be elected the next president of the U.S. in 2024. Democrats should work tirelessly to ensure that he is not even re-elected as the next Governor of Florida in 2022. See WaPo, “Democrats signal hopes to take down DeSantis and seize Florida in 2022.”

          DeSantis’s action highlights a truth so obvious it hurts: Republicans have absolutely no interest in governing America in a bipartisan manner. In a rare moment of honesty, Mitch McConnell told reporters on Wednesday that, “One-hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.” McConnell must have received a call from a chagrined Senator Manchin whose obstructionism in the Senate is premised on working with Republicans in a bipartisan manner. McConnell tried to walk-back his statement, but he is fooling no one. In October of 2010, during Obama’s first term, McConnell said, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” For the last decade, the raison d'être of the Republican Party has been nothing more than opposition to whatever Democrats stand for—without regard to the interests of the American people. They are bereft of ideas and devoid of conscience.

          What is the point of criticizing the self-evident bankruptcy of the Republican Party? It is to remind us that it is a waste of time to pursue the false hope of bipartisanship with the current manifestation of the GOP. Indeed, the GOP’s strategy is to exploit the Democratic bias towards inclusivity and compromise. It is an unfortunate truth that President Obama lost precious time—and many appointments to the federal bench—pursuing the vain hope of compromise and goodwill from McConnell. See  Huffpost (12/13/19), “Mitch McConnell Brags About Blocking Obama For 2 Years, Then Laughs About It.” (“I was shocked that former President Obama left so many vacancies and didn’t try to fill those positions.”)

          Let’s not repeat that mistake. The current wave of voter suppression legislation is not motivated by an innocent desire to improve election security. No matter how many pages of innocuous-sounding provisions are used to conceal the true intent of the bills, those pages cannot mask the stink of the rotting fish that lie at their core. When your political opponent appears on a right-wing newscast to sign a piece of legislation, his message is clear: “This bill is a victory for Republicans, everyone else be damned!” It is a bitter message to accept, but we must be steely-eyed in our determination to protect the precious right to vote. We have no time for self-pity, disappointment, or disillusionment with Republican tactics. We should be working every day for victory in 2022. We are in the thick of the fight; let’s act like it.

Texas Senate to Vote on Voter Suppression Bill

          The Texas Senate is debating its voter suppression bill on Thursday evening, May 6th. Unless the Texas Senate accepts the version of the bill passed by the Texas House last week, there may be a few more days for concerned citizens to weigh in on the legislation. See Dallas News, “Texas House hunkers down for late night debate on GOP-backed elections bill.”

          In yesterday’s newsletter, I asked for reader input regarding organizations that are working to defeat the Texas voter suppression legislation. Readers responded with a dozen suggestions. I have filtered those suggestions to highlight organizations that are taking action or are focused on “getting out the vote,” rather than merely seeking donations. The suggestions included the following:

          Apologies if you sent a suggestion and I did not include it; I had limited time to vet the suggestions. One observation based on my review of a dozen Texas-based advocacy organizations: Several organizations recommended by readers appeared to have stopped operating in late 2020 after Biden was elected. As I said in the introduction to the newsletter, “We should be working every day for victory in 2022. We are in the thick of the fight; let’s act like it.” I hope that people haven’t declared victory and gone home in the organizations with dormant websites.

          One additional observation: The homepage for the Texas Democratic Party was a high-level front-end for people who want to become involved in the party. That’s good, but there was almost nothing about the voter suppression bill, other than two press releases about five screens below the landing page. In a perfect world, the first stop for readers wanting to get involved in fighting voter suppression in Texas should be the Texas Democratic Party. Instead, they are asking me (a California resident) for guidance on how to get involved in Texas. If anyone from the TDP is reading this newsletter, I suggest that you compare your landing page to the home pages for organizations that I linked above. Democratic voters in Texas (and beyond) want to support the work of the Texas Democratic Party. You should make it easy for them to become involved.

Department of Justice Warns Arizona Senate About “Audit”

The “audit” of the vote in Maricopa County by the Arizona State Senate has descended into rabbit holes of conspiracy and delusion. As reported by many outlets, the organizers of the audits are now examining the ballots with ultraviolet light to check for “bamboo in the paper”—because of a rumor that 40,000 ballots were “flown in from South East Asia.” See The Guardian, “Arizona Republicans hunt for bamboo-laced China ballots in 2020 ‘audit’ effort.” Even more concerning, the “auditors” intend to visit the residences of voters whose “registrations don’t make sense” and ask them “whether the individual voted in the [November] election.”  See NPR, DOJ: Arizona Senate Audit, Recount May Violate Federal Law.

          As noted in the NPR article linked above, the Department of Justice has contacted the Arizona State Senate to determine if the audit is violating federal law. Per NPR, the DOJ letter raised concerns that “ballots, voting systems and other election materials are no longer in the custody of election officials — a possible violation of federal law.” Good! The amateurs and conspiracy theorists who are conducting the “audit” should understand that the Department of Justice is scrutinizing their behavior and that any effort to alter or destroy ballots might bring criminal penalties for election fraud. Wouldn’t that be ironic?

More on Facebook’s effort to dodge responsibility for Trump’s misconduct.

In yesterday’s newsletter, I wrote about the Facebook Advisory Opinion that scolded Facebook management for trying to evade responsibility for addressing Trump’s misconduct on Facebook. Another blogger / newsletter writer—Judd Legum—has written a smart and important article about the Advisory Board’s decision. See Popular Information, “Facebook's problem isn't Trump — it's the algorithm.” Legum’s article is an eye-opening deep dive into the manner in which Facebook’s algorithms amplify right-wing extremist propaganda far beyond its reach in the rest of the news media. Legum also raises questions about Facebook’s efforts to obfuscate the role that the use of Facebook played in the January 6th Insurrection.

          I strongly urge you to read Legum’s article. It will make you a more discerning user of Facebook (if you use the platform) and will provide you with information that will be important in the coming debate about regulating social media companies. Legum’s article changed my view of the need to regulate Facebook. To whet your appetite, here is a sample passage from Legum’s essay:

          The Daily Wire, for example, is a sexist, xenophobic, and bigoted far-right website that produces no original reporting. But, on Facebook in April, The Daily Wire received more than double the distribution of the Washington Post and the New York Times combined.

          Facebook is the best thing that ever happened to right-wing outlets. So why are Republicans whining about “censorship” on Facebook when it is amplifying their message far beyond the fringe presence they would otherwise enjoy?

Reader comments on Biden proposed waiver to patent protection for coronavirus vaccines.

Every email I received about Biden’s waiver of the international protections for patent rights disagreed with my view that Biden made the right decision. I will circle back to this subject in a later newsletter, but in the meantime, the following link summarizes the arguments readers made in rebuttal to my discussion: Stanford Law School, “Stanford’s Lisa Ouellette on Waiving COVID-19 Vaccine Patents.”

The new GOP “litmus” test.

          There is no better illustration of the desperate straits of the GOP than this: The party is about to fire Liz Cheney from leadership for acknowledging that Joe Biden won the 2020 election. The likely successor to Liz Cheney—Rep. Elise Stefanik—repeatedly called Trump “the president” during an interview with Steve Bannon. See American Independent, “Elise Stefanik insists Trump is 'the president' in bid to snag GOP leadership spot.” Stefanik also gave full-throated support to the Arizona audit to find ballots laced with bamboo. In other words, the prerequisite for a leadership position in the GOP appears to be the willingness to participate in a mass delusion that is antithetical to our democracy.

Concluding Thoughts.

           I acknowledge that something is unsettling about fighting opponents who have lost their grip on reality. On the other hand, it is exhausting for them to continue to believe in conspiracy theories that bump up against reality every day. The conspiracy theorists must spin ever more complicated theories to explain away reality—such as ballots from China containing bamboo fibers. When they don’t find any bamboo ballots, they will fabricate other excuses—such as disappearing ink or shape-shifting voters who voted multiple times using different emanations.

          At the margins of the group clinging to conspiracy theories, some will tire of the charade and resume their lives free of delusion. In an electorate that is closely divided in swing states, we don’t need many defections to tip the balance in our favor. That means that we must remain steadfast and engaged in the interim. It is easier to live in a world of truth and fairness than a world of lies and grievance. We will outlast them. We have every reason to be hopeful, but no reason to be complacent!

          Talk to you tomorrow!