Nancy Pelosi: The real master of the ‘Art of the Deal’

Once again, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi showed everyone how it’s done.

Can we finally retire the narratives against Nancy Pelosi?

You remember the ones — they come up every election season. They’re false, they’re unfair, and after Pelosi stood her ground against Donald Trump, they should be put to bed once and for all.

She can’t be effective. Excuse me, but who led the fight for the Affordable Care Act, the type of health care legislation that Democrats had tried to enact for over 50 years? There were endless hearings about health care throughout 2009, and the original legislation kept getting pared down. When Democrats lost a Massachusetts Senate seat in January 2009, losing a cloture-proof majority, some Democrats were ready to throw in the towel. Even Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Obama, wanted to focus on a piecemeal approach.

It was Pelosi who insisted: “We don’t say a state that already has health care should determine whether the rest of the country should. We will get the job done. I’m very confident. I’ve always been confident.” And it passed.

She represents “San Francisco values.” Every election season, Republicans are likely to run ads about and show photos of Pelosi in local House races, telling voters that voting for a Democrat will put the evil Nancy Pelosi back in power. The GOP really revved it up this time. Of course, Republican operatives hoped that voters would think that “San Francisco values” would translate to evil, tax-and-spend liberalism.

Pelosi raised money and worked for Democratic candidates all around the country. And the Democrats flipped 40 seats. Sounds like those values are working fine.

She’s too old. This comes up every election, driven more by the media than anyone actually running. The Atlantic suggested that having a speaker as old as Pelosi (she’s 78) was the reason that that young, talented Democrats were fleeing the House. Um, hello? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who voted for Pelosi for speaker, is now the youngest House member in history.

Too many Democrats buy into that narrative, and the media, thinking it must be a major story, dutifully asked just about every candidate if they would support Pelosi for speaker. Several said no and ended up voting for her anyway. After three weeks back on the job, she successfully stood up to Trump as no other politician — Republican or Democrat — has had the guts to do. A story on Vox pointed out that Pelosi handed Trump “the most humiliating loss of his presidency.”

Trump found his wall, and her name is Nancy Pelosi.

As a woman who will be signing up for Medicare myself before too long, I always roll my eyes at the ageism attack. Women of a certain age know more than anyone else about the bias against middle-age and older women — try applying for a job if you’re over 55. But we’re the ones who get the job done.

As author Sady Doyle wrote in Medium:

Nancy Pelosi is old. Her Republican opponents have been spreading the word on that for ages: Donald Trump Jr. called her “tired old Nancy Pelosi” in a campaign ad. Sarah Palin and Lindsay Graham joked about her getting face lifts. Former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called her the face of “the old, old past” on Fox News. Beneath the competent, lifelong politician, these critics warn us, there’s a 78-year-old grandma with wrinkled skin  —  do you really want that making decisions about your health care? …

Pelosi herself has answered the critique many times over: “Oh, you’ve always asked that question, except to Mitch McConnell… It’s quite offensive, but you don’t realize that, I guess,” she told a reporter in 2012. Pelosi claimed that she has always worked to elect younger representatives to Congress and was particularly interested in electing young women: “I wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to account much sooner.”

But, then, that’s the problem: “Women” and “seniority” are not supposed to occur in the same sentence. The act of building a life over time, of working one’s way up to leadership or securing a position as a respected elder, is denied to us. Age, experience, and authority are intrinsically connected for men; we’ve all grown up with images of sage, white-bearded elder statesmen. We still live in a society where men are supposed to age into power and women are supposed to age out of sight. …

Our drive to remove old women from positions of visibility and power is also a drive to obliterate female solidarity and deny the feminist movement any lasting legacy. We don’t want to just edge those women out of their positions; we want to deny that their work ever mattered in the first place. After losing the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton was not just told to shut up and go away every time she appeared in public; she was erased from the history books in one Texas school district. …

It does no good to support a young leader like Ocasio-Cortez now if we intend to drop her the second she gets her first gray hair. … Movements cannot progress if they cannot remember where they started, and when feminist movements eat their elders, we condemn ourselves to be forever running in circles. Nancy Pelosi is old. Every young woman will be old someday, God willing. We can only hope that by the time we get there, being old is no longer a reason to throw us away.

Thank goodness that enough people remembered that lesson to value the experience of leadership. And some are learning it all over again.

Six rules for the media on how to cover the 2020 election

News on the next presidential race will be reported nonstop. How can the media do better this time around?

With the entrance of multiple Democrats into the 2020 presidential contest, and with several others either waiting in the wings or still pondering, the nation’s political reporters have a chance to do a better job than they did in 2016.

The question is: Will they?

Other journalists are offering advice and warnings. Many acknowledge that the media blew it in 2016, giving Donald Trump all the airtime he wanted and not taking him seriously — or looking at him critically — until it was too late.

Once media stopped giving Trump superficial treatment (especially after the election), pointing out his failures, never-ending lies, and actions of questionable legality (most of them aren’t so questionable), it was too late. Too many voters believed his taunts about the media being “fake news” and the “enemy of the people,” so they’re not likely to give the media the benefit of the doubt now. (A recent Poynter study showed that trust in the media is heavily polarized.) And because he is the president, the media have to cover him, even though they sometimes take the wrong approach in that coverage.

So the cycle begins anew. Democratic candidates announce, and women candidates are judged on their “moralizing tone” (Elizabeth Warren), their “hysteria” (Kamala Harris), or their “likability” (Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren). Sometimes candidates are dismissed immediately because they’re too old or too young, they’re no longer relevant, or their time has passed.

It’s true that most Americans — nearly seven in 10 people, according to Pew Research — feel exhausted and overwhelmed by the news. But that’s no reason to give short shrift to substantive issues for the 2020 election. If anything, news consumers want substance, not just coverage of the latest Trump tweet.

So what should the media do this time around? Here are six tips, compiled from advice by several journalists, along with some well-rounded common sense.

Don’t let Trump continually set the agenda. Trump is a master at saying, doing, or tweeting something outrageous to distract everyone from the government shutdown, the seesawing stock market, the effects of his tariffs, and the Robert Mueller investigation. He might have looked like a buffoon for serving cold fast food to the Clemson Tigers championship football team, but the whole time he was being trolled or Photoshopped on Twitter, coverage of the shutdown got moved to a back burner.

Frank Bruni offered his take in a New York Times column, wondering if the media would once again be Trump’s “accomplice.”

That’s a specific question but also an overarching one — about the degree to which we’ll let him set the terms of the 2020 presidential campaign, about our appetite for antics versus substance, and about whether we’ll repeat the mistakes that we made in 2016 and continued to make during the first stages of his presidency. There were plenty.

Trump tortures us. Deliberately, yes, but I’m referring to the ways in which he keeps yanking our gaze his way. I mean the tough choices that he, more than his predecessors in the White House, forces us to make. …

Our success or failure will affect our stature at a time of rickety public trust in us. It will raise or lower the temperature of civic discourse, which is perilously hot. Above all, it will have an impact on who takes the oath of office in January 2021. Democracies don’t just get the leaders they deserve. They get the leaders who make it through whatever obstacle course — and thrive in whatever atmosphere — their media has created.

Don’t cover Trump tweets like the Second Coming. The media asked themselves a serious question at the start of Trump’s term, namely, how should they cover his tweets? Since he wasn’t bothering with news conferences, and most interviews were on friendly Fox News turf, many a newscast leads with whatever spewed from his fingers in 280 characters or less.

In hindsight, the endless parroting was the wrong decision. It’s likely that many of his millions of Twitter followers are Russian bots (61 percent by some estimates), but a large number of them are in the media. Even when reporters don’t lead a story with a Trump tweet, they’ll often retweet whatever Trump said, often with a caustic comment. Guess what — he still gets his message out.

Stick to the substantive, not the superficial. Endless stories about who’s up and who’s down (while eventually necessary) rely more about name recognition than anything else. A story on how Democrats are polling in January of 2019 when no votes will be cast for a year is easy to write but meaningless.

Katrina vanden Heuvel pointed out the media’s “malpractice” in a Washington Post column and warned against a repeat:

As the 2020 presidential race gets underway, many journalists and pundits are already reverting to the personality-driven, horse-race-style coverage that plagued the 2016 campaign. During her first campaign stop in Iowa, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) talked passionately about taking on corporate power and tackling inequality in front of overflow crowds. In the corporate media, however, much of the coverage of Warren’s campaign rollout focused on her decision to take a DNA test and on implicitly sexist questions about her “likability.” …

Mainstream media coverage is frequently motivated by an insatiable desire for conflict — in war zones, on the campaign trail and in the nation’s capital. Too often, however, that coverage fails to inform people about conflicting ideas or alternatives to endless war, discredited economic policies and a downsized politics of excluded possibilities. As the new House majority rolls out its agenda and more presidential candidates enter the fray, outlets should reevaluate how they cover politics and policy. We can’t afford more media malpractice that degrades our democracy and drowns out real debate.

Don’t treat Trump like he’ll last forever. He won’t, even though sometimes it feels that way. While he certainly dominates news coverage and will always try to shout the loudest, he’s only as effective as his ratings.

Ted Koppel, a longtime veteran of “Nightline” at ABC News who now contributes to CBS News’ “Sunday Morning,” wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that Trump won’t “go quietly.” Koppel described Trump’s media mastery as “a multipurpose device, one he used adroitly in tandem with the endlessly adaptable political vehicle provided by social media during the election campaign and now during his presidency.”

Is there any reason to believe that what worked for Trump before he was elected and while in the White House won’t be equally effective after he leaves office? …

It is all but inevitable that whoever succeeds Trump in the White House will be perceived by 30 to 40 percent of the voting public as illegitimate — and that the former president will enthusiastically encourage them in this perception. Whatever his failings, Trump is a brilliant self-promoter and provocateur. He showed no embarrassment, either as candidate or president, about using his high visibility to benefit his business interests. Untethered from any political responsibility whatsoever, he can be expected to capitalize fully on his new status as political martyr and leader of a new “resistance” that will make today’s look supine.

I’m not so sure about that. As many of today’s rising political stars (think Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Beto O’Rourke) are showing, they can master social media as well as Trump, thank you very much. And they offer a fresher and more relatable image for younger voters. Plus, they’re more fun, and they’re not jerks.

Keep horse-race stories to a minimum, and make sure to offer perspective. Look, we all click on regularly to check out poll numbers; otherwise, our political junkie credentials would be revoked. Every news organization runs polls now, just to keep up. (This is true even as there are reports of bribery to rig polls and Trump manipulating poll coverage.) Horse-race numbers end up dominating news coverage, throughout primary season, during the political conventions, and as Election Day approaches.

Politico ran a piece in defense of horse-race journalism, calling it “awesome.”

Horseracism might be scary if the campaign press corps produced nothing but who’s up/who’s down stories. But that’s never been the case. American newspapers overflow with detailed stories about the issues and the candidates’ positions.

“Overflow”? Since when?

At the end of the 2008 campaign, Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell sorted Post political coverage over the previous year and found 1,295 horse-race stories compared with 594 stories about the issues.

Those numbers are pretty lopsided; I rest my case. Still, Politico makes some important points. Voters want to back a winner and don’t want to waste campaign contributions on a losing candidate.

It’s not antidemocratic for journalists to measure support by checking polls, campaign donations, audience size and endorsements. In fact, such signaling makes democracy possible. Especially in the opening days of a candidacy, a politician must alert potential supporters of his existing supporters. Not many voters will join a bandwagon that doesn’t have followers or wheels.

Horse-race coverage also helps clarify the voters’ minds when candidates converge on the issues, as happens regularly in the Democratic presidential derbies. If there’s little difference between the views of the candidate you favor and the leader’s, horse-race coverage helps optimize your vote by steering you toward the politician most likely to implement your views. Pundits aren’t the only ones who worry about a candidate’s electability.

Finally, the most important piece of advice:

Lay off the both-siderism. Of all the things that make reading or watching political coverage maddening, it is the false equivalency of reporting on one candidate’s shortcomings and then feeling the need to “balance” the story with something damning about the other candidate. Probably no one suffered the effects of this more than Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Here’s just one example: The Clinton Foundation gets a four-star rating from Charity Navigator and has spent millions fighting AIDS in Africa, and no one in the Clinton family draws a salary for foundation work. The Trump Foundation gave money to a political candidate, used funds to pay Trump legal bills, and is being closed down. Yet you would have had to dig for such differences in 2016, when the media were all too eager to quote some Republican calling the Clinton Foundation corrupt.

Washington Monthly offered some perspective:

We’ve also seen that some people in the media are finally recognizing that the polarization we’re experiencing in politics these days is asymmetrical, with Republicans doing things to deepen, rather than heal the divide. And yet, the kind of both-siderism that gave us Donald Trump in the first place continues to find a home in too many places. …

The reason [NBC’s Chuck] Todd and [Cook Political Report’s Amy] Walter don’t accuse Democrats of bad behavior in the current process is because there hasn’t been any on display. That isn’t a partisan assessment, it is a fact. Accurate reporting would confirm the facts rather than go in search of a way to claim that both sides do it. Todd and Walter engaged in a distortion that gives Republicans a pass for what they are doing, which makes reporters like them complicit.

Welcome to the 2020 race. As Bette Davis said in All About Eve, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 20, 2019.


The human costs of the Trump shutdown

Uncollected garbage piling up outside the White House Visitor Center is just a symbol of the garbage inside the White House itself.

Make no mistake: Donald Trump’s decision to throw temper tantrums and keep the government shut down until he gets his $5.7 billion border wall is hurting people. And the shutdown is going to hurt a lot more people before it’s over.

The worst-off, of course, are those employees who won’t get paid and are genuinely fearful about their ability to make a rent or mortgage payment. They’re worried about how they’ll afford groceries in the coming weeks to feed their families. They wonder where they’ll find the money for school fees. Whether those nearly 800,000 people are furloughed or forced to work without pay, it’s all the same — there won’t be money for necessities. There are stories about workers starting GoFundMe pages to pay rent. At least the Coast Guard was embarrassed enough to take down its online tip sheet suggesting that employees hold yard sales or babysit to make ends meet.

But sooner or later, we’re all going to feel the effects of the Trump shutdown, one way or another.

Those who don’t depend on the government for a paycheck might not realize how cutting off government services when employees aren’t around can affect all of us. Whether it’s curtailing a visit to a national park, waiting in a long line to board a plane, or worrying whether the food you buy at the grocery store is safe, this Trump shutdown is starting to mean inconveniences and hardships for many Americans.

The Center for American Progress issued an analysis that put the amount of missed paychecks at $2 billion every two weeks. That’s a lot of money to remove from the economy, even for a short time.

As the shutdown continues, it will get worse. “By the White House’s own estimate — which is lower than some outside forecasts — this shutdown will likely reduce quarterly U.S. GDP by 0.1 percent every two weeks that it continues,” the analysis estimated.

Since first-quarter GDP is projected to be roughly $5 trillion, Trump’s shutdown will cost the U.S. economy $5 billion in lost output every two weeks it continues based on the administration’s own impact estimate. That’s $2.5 billion per week, $357 million per day, or $15 million per hour.

An estimate reported in Politico was lower — $1.2 billion a week. But that could be enough to have ripple effects throughout the economy, such as lowering the country’s credit rating and causing an overall economic slowdown.

It’s tough enough for families of government workers. But those withheld funds also mean businesses where those workers would usually spend money are hurting, too. No federal workers buying lunch at a local deli. No families going out to dinner. No trips to the movies. No purchases at local stores and malls. Whole communities feel the effects.

We know that Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., are closed. We’ve all seen photos of garbage piling up on the National Mall and at national parks, even as groups of Muslim youths are volunteering to take care of that trash. Seven people have died at national parks since the shutdown began, as there is little supervision for visitors. Some parks, like Joshua Tree National Park in California, have closed their gates rather than risk more human injury and damage to the parks themselves.

But when it comes to public safety, the effect of the Trump shutdown soon could be much more widespread. Here are just a few of the ways the shutdown is causing inconveniences and creating dangers for the U.S. population:

Food safety. The Food and Drug Administration oversees about 80 percent of the nation’s food supply. With workers furloughed, the FDA “has suspended all routine inspections of domestic food-processing facilities,” according to a story in The Washington Post. The FDA typically conducts about 160 inspections a week, and a third of those are done at high-risk facilities.

Although FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was planning to bring back some workers to inspect facilities that handle higher-risk foods such as cheese, seafood, and vegetables, there’s no way the number of those workers could be enough to meet the need. As the Post reported:

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit advocacy group, described the inspection reductions as unacceptable.

“That puts our food supply at risk,” said Sarah Sorscher, deputy director of regulatory affairs at the group. “Regular inspections, which help stop foodborne illness before people get sick, are vital.”

Foodborne illnesses are a major problem in the United States, sickening 48 million people each year and killing 3,000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.

Romaine lettuce, anyone?

The safety net. Poor Americans count on government assistance for a variety of services, and those services are getting cut off. Whether it’s nutrition programs, housing subsidies, or low-interest housing loans through the government doesn’t matter; many are on hold.

Funding for food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is guaranteed only through February. The more entrenched Trump gets, the less likely it is that those relying on such aid will be guaranteed that benefit. And it’s a lot of people. Says a report by CBS News:

According to the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 42 million Americans received SNAP benefits in 2017. More than 68 percent of participants were in families with children, and more than 44 percent were in working families. …

Staffing for Food and Nutrition Services, which oversees the Child Nutrition Programs, SNAP, and WIC [Women, Infants, and Children], has been cut by 95 percent since the shutdown began.

Others are going hungry now. According to another story from The Washington Post:

Already, more than 2,500 grocers and other retailers are no longer accepting food stamps because their SNAP licenses were not renewed before the shutdown started Dec. 22, according to the Food Marketing Institute, an industry group.

Federal funding has also been shut off for cash welfare benefits, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), for 3.4 million of the poorest Americans, the majority of whom are children.

It’s not just food; it’s also housing.

If the government does not fully reopen by Feb. 1, nearly 270,000 rural families who receive federal rent subsidies through the Agriculture Department would also be at risk of eviction because their landlords would no longer be paid, said Bob Rapoza, executive secretary of the National Rural Housing Coalition.

“These are the poorest rural people in the country,” Rapoza said. “They’re farmworkers, they’re senior citizens, they’re disabled.” …

And another 100,000 low-income tenants are already at risk because HUD did not have staff in place during the shutdown to renew at least 1,150 affordable housing contracts that expired in December.

That means apartment owners will not be paid and must now dip into their reserves to cover their mortgages which they may not be able to do indefinitely.

Fear of flying. Employees of the Transportation Security Administration must show up for work, even when they don’t receive a paycheck. But many of those who screen travelers at the nation’s airports have been calling in sick. Some are threatening to resign all together — or already have done so. According to a story on Politico:

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents a chunk of TSA employees, said screeners were becoming increasingly panicked as the partial shutdown drags on. …

“Every day, I’m getting calls from my members about their extreme hardships and need for a paycheck,” Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE’s TSA Council, said. “Some of them have already quit and many are considering quitting the federal workforce because of this shutdown.”

He added that a wave of resignations could create “a massive security risk for American travelers” since TSA cannot hire new screeners during a shutdown.

It’s one thing to be bothered by the inconvenience of long lines at airports when there aren’t enough TSA agents to process travelers. It’s a more serious safety concern when there are personnel shortages in air traffic control towers.

And TSA agents aren’t the only transportation employees on furlough: so are accident investigators who work for the National Transportation Safety Board. That means that the NTSB is having to postpone investigating serious crashes. According to Politico, the NTSB had to put off probes of 12 serious accidents. So far.

Those incidents include a tractor-trailer crash with a school bus that injured 15 people and a general aviation crash that killed four. In four other incidents, the shutdown prevented NTSB from gathering enough evidence to even decide whether it should launch an investigation or not.

Data not found. The loss of data collection might not cause any personal hardships now, but the lack of such data will hurt us all in the long run. Pew Research has a compilation of all the agencies that have stopped collecting and supplying data, “affecting everyone from investors and farmers to researchers and journalists.” Those include the Census Bureau, statistical offices in the Agriculture Department, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and more. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is up and running, but it might not have next month’s job numbers because part of its data collection is done with the Census Bureau.

The Center for American Progress did a breakdown of how the shutdown is affecting seven states — seven states where Republican senators face re-election in 2020. A few of those senators, such as Colorado’s Corey Gardner and Maine’s Susan Collins, have said publicly that they want to reopen the government without funding Trump’s vanity wall.

Another of those senators is Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who — so far, at least — shows no sign of budging and refuses to let senators vote on the House-passed bill to fund the government. You know — the same bill that passed on a voice vote in the Senate back in December.

“More than 6,000 federal government employees in Kentucky are furloughed or working without pay,” says a Think Progress report on the shutdown.

What do you say, Mitch? How much are you willing to screw over your constituents just to appease the big baby in the White House?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 13, 2019.


Sexist double standard arrives early in 2020 race

Why is one man’s word taken seriously while one woman’s is ignored? Do we really even need to ask?

Well, that didn’t take long, did it? It’s 22 months until the next presidential election, and already one potential Democratic female candidate is being trashed while one Republican male who’s not even a candidate is being treated like an elder statesman who might challenge Donald Trump.

On the last day of 2018, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced the formation of a presidential exploratory committee—the first step in announcing an actual run—with a video that lasted four and a half minutes and gave details of what drove her to run for public office, focusing on her work to regulate big banks and to help consumers. Her website invites people to join the team.

Within a day, the specifics of her announcement were being ignored, and she was being criticized for being unlikable and inauthentic. Never mind the fact that she beat her opponent by nearly 25 points in the recent midterm election.

Mitt Romney, the brand-new junior senator from Utah, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post criticizing Trump’s character, saying that Trump “falls short” of what a president should be (an obvious conclusion that the majority of the country agrees with), and it was front-page news everywhere. Now Romney is practically being treated like a possible Republican second coming. (That’s an interesting way to describe a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, since Mormons believe that the new Jerusalem will be built on the American continent, likely in Missouri, and possibly in Independence, Missouri.)

There were immediate stories on how Romney could win in 2020 and how there were calls from Republican donors to Romney advisers, with those donors all but chanting, “Run, Mitt, Run.” Never mind the fact that Romney lost the nomination to John McCain in 2008 and lost the race in 2012 when he was the nominee—he’s the anti-Trump flavor of the week. But Trump allies were quick to counterattack, some even suggesting a change in Republican party rules so that it would be harder for a challenger to fight Trump for the GOP nomination. It all turned out to be much ado about nothing: Romney says he won’t challenge Trump in 2020.

So we have an actual candidate with actual ideas facing ridicule and a non-candidate being treated like a GOP messiah. The saddest part about all of this is that it’s nothing new. Men are taken seriously in high office, while women must fight for legitimacy every step of the way. We saw it in 2016, and now we’re seeing it in the 2020 race.

A story in Politico with the headline, Warren battles the ghosts of Hillary, starts with several paragraphs telling the reader what’s wrong with Elizabeth Warren. It takes a few minutes of reading—likely when many would have stopped reading, not to mention those who only saw the headline on social media—to talk about any of Warren’s positive traits.

In the year of the woman, it adds up to one unwelcome mat for the most prominent woman likely to be part of the 2020 field. But it also presents an unmistakable challenge: How does Warren avoid a Clinton redux — written off as too unlikable before her campaign gets off the ground?

It’s pretty shallow journalism to say that Warren is already “written off as too unlikable.” You wanna talk about unlikable? Try Sen. Ted Cruz, whom everyone reportedly hates but who beat the “likable” Beto O’Rourke in Texas.

Twitter was not kind to the Politico article.

I feel compelled to point out that Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz is married to Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who also might throw his hat in the ring. But her tweet has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not her husband has presidential aspirations; it simply points out the double standard.

Farther down in the Politico piece was a comment by (finally!) a female Democratic operative.

Others see sexism in the barrage of Warren criticism and alleged parallels to Clinton. If there’s a public perception that’s personally rankled Warren, it’s the depiction that she’s cold, according to one of her former advisers.

“They say that about women — anybody who runs for president. As you go up the political ladder and go up in the polls, you will get that criticism,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist. “First it was Hillary Clinton. Then it was Nancy Pelosi. Now it’s Elizabeth Warren. Who knows who is behind her.”

When Mitt Romney—who lost the popular vote and the Electoral College to Barack Obama—criticized Trump, he was talked about breathlessly as a potential 2020 rival. When Hillary Clinton—who received nearly 3 million more votes than Trump—dared to speak her mind, she was advised to take up knitting, a suggestion that (to be fair) received widespread condemnation.

Even worse than the Politico article was a snarky piece in The Boston Herald quoting several “politicos” (all male, by the way) opining that Warren’s New Year’s Eve Instagram Live post of her and her husband having a beer was “inauthentic pandering” in an attempt to attract young supporters.

“Elizabeth Warren seems more like a chardonnay senator than a beer senator,” quipped Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University politics professor who was a longtime Democratic communications specialist. “It’s just sort of trying too hard … and people have pretty good radar for that sort of thing.”

What, so now there’s an upper age limit for drinking beer?

You would think that after midterm elections that saw a record number of women running and another record number being elected to national office (not to mention being victorious in state and local races), at least some in the media would be over this kind of sexism. After all, more than 42,000 women sought help from Emily’s List in getting started with campaigns, compared with 920 in 2016, and the new group She Should Run helped 14,000 women candidates.

But then, not all of us have the mindset of the Beltway media, some of whom seem to have blinders that filter out anyone not white and male. Hillary hatred, decades in the making, apparently is being transferred to any candidate with two X chromosomes.

The Washington Post addressed this dilemma for female candidates with a story headlined Before you run against Trump, you have to run against Hillary (if you’re a woman):

Even as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was elected House speaker on Wednesday, the women looking at White House campaigns continue to shoulder gendered criticism and demands not placed on their male counterparts: to be strong but not too tough; to be assertive without being pushy, lest voters turn away for reasons that they may not acknowledge are sexist but that researchers say are. …

It has also led some Democrats to openly wonder whether the party would be smarter to avoid a female presidential candidate in 2020 — a notion offensive to many in the party.

“It is ridiculous,” said Jess McIntosh, a Democratic strategist who worked on Clinton’s campaign. “We never look at loss by a man and say, ‘I guess we shouldn’t take another gamble on another white man’ or ‘I guess we should not have another veteran.’ ”

All of this doesn’t even address the ageism question: Trump is 72 and Romney is 71. Bernie Sanders is 77 and Joe Biden is 76. Compared with that lot, Warren is relatively youthful at 69. Yet her age is always mentioned, as was Hillary Clinton’s age in the 2016 race (she’s now 71).

This is not meant to be an endorsement or a criticism of Elizabeth Warren. At this point, I don’t have a favorite of the likely batch of Democratic hopefuls—it’s way too early for that (for me at least). I like and am impressed by several and dislike a few of the Democrats who are said to be considering running for the nomination. The number of names being tossed around could be as high as 30 people (if you believe The New York Times). Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez already has announced a plan for scheduling 12 debates among contenders.

But when the national media are unfair and sexist to women politicians and candidates, even at the very beginning of a campaign, we need to let those reporters and pundits know in no uncertain terms that they’re blowing their jobs of covering politics. The time for a double standard is long over. When will the media realize that?

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Jan. 6, 2019.

Republican losers we won’t miss in 2019

Republican Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas, aka Mr. Ducky Pajamas, is no longer in Congress. The question is, how did he get elected in the first place?

The Blue Wave of November’s midterm elections brought a satisfying end to the public service (talk about an oxymoron) careers of many Republicans.

Of course, it wasn’t just the ones who lost at the ballot box. Many saw the proverbial writing on the wall and retired, choosing not to face voters again when their reelection chances were iffy at best. Some were forced out early in the face of scandal.

Some Republicans, including several in Donald Trump’s Cabinet, resigned, were forced to resign, were fired, or even were fired via tweet.

These GOP losers were at all levels of government and influence, from local and state government to national offices. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced early that he was calling it quits after flailing around for three years on the job with little to show for it, was second in line to the presidency, behind Vice President Mike Pence. Think about that for a minute.

There are way too many Republican losers to mention. So let’s take a look at just a handful of those in the 2018 edition of the GOP Hall of Shame. And beware: Vampires can rise from the dead.

Kris Kobach. The outgoing Kansas secretary of state lost the governor’s race to Democrat Laura Kelly. And there was much rejoicing.

In November, the man whom Jeet Heer of The New Republic called the face of voter suppression went down in flames, losing by nine points. In the red state of Kansas, no less.

What made Kris Kobach so evil? It was his relentless chipping away at voting rights, always for those who were more likely to vote Democratic. Chipping away, hell — the guy used a sledgehammer with his constant lies about “voter fraud.” And he did it all with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

Kobach was poised to take his voter suppression battle nationwide when he was named as the leader of Donald Trump’s sham voter fraud boondoggle, the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, but luckily for the rest of us, it was disbanded before it could do any real damage.

He did enough damage just in Kansas. His voter suppression work there probably made the difference in the 2014 gubernatorial race, in which the unpopular Sam Brownback won reelection, despite the fact that many Republican officials backed the Democrat, Paul Davis.

This will serve as Kobach’s legacy, via a story at Vox:

Kansas passed laws at Kobach’s urging requiring people not only to show photo ID at the polls but also to prove their citizenship when registering to vote. The law was thrown out in court earlier this year, and Kobach — a former law professor — was ordered to take a law class on evidence and rules of procedure.

“Ordered to take a law class on evidence and rules of procedure.” That had to burn, but it couldn’t have happened to a bigger jerk.

Scott Walker. Second to Kobach going down, the sweetest loss on Election Night belonged to the Wisconsin governor. A Google search of “Good riddance Scott Walker” brings up the same headline from a disparate group ranging from unions to Reddit groups to Wisconsin Democrats to those Walker tried to get fired.

Tales of Walker’s stupidity and sins are many. He was so ineffective as a Republican presidential hopeful that he dropped out of the race in September 2015, two months after he announced his bid and after he tanked during debates. And remember the time a New York blogger had him believing he was on a phone call with one of the Koch brothers?

Voter suppression? Check. Union-busting? Check. Here’s just a partial list by Paste Magazine of other nefarious Walker deeds:

Walker’s frequently been pointed to as the cause for large amounts of student debt. His state’s been ranked in the top ten worst for graduates with debt. He’s appointed openly homophobic judges and even taken money from lobbyists for legalized marijuana, only to turn around and suggest that the impoverished should be drug tested.

On his way out the door, he signed anti-Democratic legislation passed by an anti-Democratic legislature to limit the powers of Democratic successors. Way to cement your bad reputation, Governor.

Speaking of governors, if you’re from Illinois, like we are, savor these four words: Former Governor Bruce Rauner.

Paul Ryan. There’s so much to say (and none of it good) about the Eddie Munster lookalike. There were his multitude of sins and peccadilloes: his evil tax cuts for the rich; his nonexistent plan to replace the Affordable Care Act; his “expertise” as a financial policy wonk, which the media will probably fall for again; and his unearned reputation as a budget hawk.

All of that is disgraceful. For me, though, the worst thing was his constant and blatant lying, even about matters he had no need to lie about and that could be fact-checked so easily. It’s what earned him the moniker Lyin’ Ryan. While all politicians stretch the truth, Lyin’ Ryan took it to a whole new level (except for Donald Trump, of course).

Why lie about running a marathon in less than three hours, when he was finally forced to admit that he had shaved an hour off his running time? Why claim that President Obama was responsible for the closure of a GM plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, when its closure was announced seven months before Obama took office? Why continue to claim that GOP tax “reform” would mean Americans could file their tax returns on a form the size of a postcard, when it’s so obvious that will never happen?

Politifact compiled a list of Ryan’s lies, and it’s surely far from complete. On the day he announced his retirement in April, many media outlets published similar stories, such as this one from Vox in which Matt Yglesias called Ryan “the biggest fraud in American politics.”

Trump Cabinet secretaries. Not all members of Trump’s Cabinet were previous office holders, but most were partisan Republicans, and several are gone. Think of most of those as rats fleeing a sinking ship — except that they were flying high on the public dime. HHS Secretary Tom Price was the first to go, in 2017, but he certainly wasn’t the last.

  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The thing we’ll miss most about Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III is Kate McKinnon’s portrayals of him on Saturday Night Live. Outside of that, not much—he tried to institute regressive policies on civil rights abuses, public safety complaints, rights of transgender individuals, “zero tolerance” on illegal border crossings, immigration crackdowns, recreational marijuana laws, and much more. Trump was so angry about Sessions’ recusal over the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia that he publicly berated Sessions for months and kept hinting at firing him before Sessions was forced to resign after the midterms. There were hints that he might run for his old Senate seat in 2020 to represent Alabama, but apparently he’s shooting down those rumors. Maybe he just doesn’t have the support after his spectacular fall from grace.
  • EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Never has there been a more egregious and more pitiful grifter than Scott Pruitt, who was forced out as EPA chief. It’s hard to choose what was the worst thing about him. His sweetheart condo deal for $50 a night? The 24/7 security detail for $4.6 million? The $43,000 soundproof booth he had installed — and reportedly didn’t even use? Actually, his worst case of malfeasance was against the environment itself, practices he continued since the days when he was the attorney general of Oklahoma, backed by big oil money.
  • Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The choice of a freshman Republican Montana congressman to be a Cabinet secretary seemed odd until it was revealed that Donald Trump Jr. pushed the Zinke choice — the two share an avid love of hunting. Besides his expensive travel habits (sometimes for partisan trips), Zinke was facing several corruption charges before he announced his resignation, and he still might be investigated by House committees that will soon led by Democrats. But there will be no more horse rides through the streets of Washington, $139,000 doors in his office, or the Interior secretary’s special flag that flew when he was in residence.

GOP House members we won’t miss. Democrats picked up 40 seats in the midterms. Here are some Republicans who resigned early, chose not to run for reelection, or ran and lost — and deservedly so:

  • Peter Roskam. Roskam was one of two main authors of the 2017 GOP tax overhaul (the other was Erik Paulsen in Minnesota, who also lost). Republicans thought they would ride that plan to victory, but they badly misjudged the public’s lack of support for a plan that delivered chump change to most people while slashing taxes for the wealthy. Among Roskam’s problems were his support for the law’s cap on state and local tax deductions, which hurt his suburban constituents. He was forced to soften his support, but the damage was done. Besides, Roskam has been an overall jerk since his days in the Illinois Legislature.
  • Dana Rohrabacher. The Republican from Orange County, California, was often referred to as Putin’s favorite congressman, but he spread his influence to right-wing leaders and lobbyists throughout the globe. “For much of the past decade, he has served as the voice of foreign autocrats in Congress,” wrote Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post. Since he lost his seat after 15 terms, he can now visit them in person overseas.
  • Trey Gowdy. The South Carolina Republican will forever be remembered as the congressman who wilted under Hillary Clinton’s 11 hours of testimony about a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans. His two-year probe as head of a select House panel on Benghazi cost $7 million and produced an 800-page report that said basically nothing. He decided to leave office, and as his congressional career wound down, he finally admitted, “I don’t have a lot to show for the last seven years.”
  • Darrell Issa. The California congressman’s career turned ugly when he led pointless investigation after pointless investigation into the Obama administration as chair of the House Oversight Committee. He chose to retire rather than face a tight reelection fight. But he’s not going away just yet: Trump nominated him to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency.
  • Blake Farenthold. Maybe the Texas Republican wasn’t a big mover and shaker in the House, but he’ll always be remembered as the grinning guy in the photo wearing duck pajamas with his arm around a lingerie model. And as the congressman who was finally forced to resign after a series of sex-related scandals, some of which had settlements paid to staffers out of public funds.

Republican senators we won’t miss. Let’s hope the door hits them on the way out.

  • Jeff Flake. The retiring senator from Arizona comes across as a nice, pleasant guy. But the media constantly bent over backward trying to paint him as an independent voice of moderation who wasn’t afraid to challenge Trump or the powers that be. The trouble was that Flake was all talk and very little action. When it was time to vote, he almost always voted the party line. The Phoenix Times listed 15 Times Jeff Flake Criticized Trump, Then Nothing Happened. His decision to retire had more to do with the fact that he was likely to lose to a primary challenger than a principled ethical stance.
  • Bob Corker. Like Flake, the Tennessee Republican knew he might face a tough primary battle. LIke Flake, he liked to talk big but vote how Mitch McConnell wanted him to. Who cares if he gets into a Twitter war with Trump now, telling everyone it’s time to #AlertTheDaycareStaff? The damage has been done.
  • Orrin Hatch. It’s been a long time since the long-serving Utah Republican practiced bipartisanship. He was forced to express regret about a comment that he “didn’t care” if Trump broke the law. As he delivered his farewell address to Congress, he was being ripped on Twitter and in letters to the editor back home as being a spineless dinosaur. Since he’ll soon have more time on his hands, perhaps he can go back to his songwriting career.

Of course, some of these has-beens are likely to enter the public arena again. Some will run for a different office. Many will earn big bucks on the speaking circuit. Some will return to the world of finance, where they’ll figure out new ways to fleece consumers and pick people’s pockets. Some are bound to show up on the airwaves as political commentators on Fox and (when the network feels it must have some “balance”) CNN. No doubt some will join right-wing think tanks to develop new tools for voter suppression, new ways to gerrymander districts, and new laws to trample on women’s and minority rights. And some will form new political action committees to elect even more onerous Republicans.

As the old country song twangs, “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 30, 2018.


Why we need a Green New Deal

Sit-ins at congressional offices were just the beginning.

No doubt you’ve heard about the climate action plan called the Green New Deal, a proposal that has a catchy name but has been short on specifics. No matter: You’re going to be hearing a lot more about it in the months to come. And it’s not a moment too soon.

The Sunrise Movement , which led simultaneous sit-ins in Congress in November, including one at the office of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is leading the way to establish a radical, forward-thinking action plan to save the world from the growing threat of climate change. More than anything else, the group is demanding that lawmakers take action.

The exact details of a Green New Deal are still in development. A lot of ideas, written in legislative language, are available as a draft proposal at the website of incoming New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has become a driving force behind the plan. Generally, the evolving plan could very well include these still-speculative details as described in an article from the Sierra Club magazine:

  • A rapid break from fossil fuels.
  • A country fully powered by renewable energy in 10 years’ time.
  • A nationwide energy-efficient smart grid, powered by clean energy start-ups that will provide good-paying jobs.
  • Massive investment in the drawdown and capture of greenhouse gases.
  • Diversification of local and regional economies, with a particular focus on communities such as coal mining areas where fossil fuel industries control the labor market.

Even more encompassing are these ideas that make the Green New Deal a jobs bill: “Ocasio-Cortez also proposes providing all Americans with the opportunity, training, and education to be a full and equal participant in the country’s clean energy transition; universal health care programs that would help green energy start-ups get off the ground; and a jobs guarantee program that would assure a living-wage job to every person who wants one,” says the Sierra Club story.

All of these are ambitious, far-reaching goals. They are being called unrealistic and overreaching, and there’s nothing saying these ideas will turn into actual legislation, much less be signed into law. There are the usual Republican skeptics demanding, “Who’s going to pay for this?”

But if you don’t try, nothing happens. You’ve got to start somewhere. The planet isn’t giving us any choice.

In the House, Ocasio-Cortez is leading the movement to turn a plan that is still in its infancy into a reality. Already, 40 Democratic lawmakers are on board with the idea of establishing a special 15-member Select Committee for a Green New Deal, and the number keeps growing. More than 200 local and national organizations are adding their voices, their support, and their funding to the Sunrise Movement. The idea is for the Select Committee, which would have Republican as well as Democratic members, to write specific legislation, a process that could take a few years but could serve as a major influence as the country nears the 2020 presidential election.

“A Green New Deal is both smart politics and smart policy, not to mention the only practical way at this late date to preserve a livable planet for our children,” wrote Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, in a column in The Washington Post. And she identifies another message, too.

How refreshing it is to hear environmental champions saying “yes!” to ideas. Too often, the green message has been negative — don’t build that pipeline, don’t hurt that critter — without offering a corresponding positive vision, thus feeding the perception that environmentalism is for elites who can afford to sacrifice. By contrast, a Green New Deal is shrewdly packaged, leaves little doubt about its purpose.

Many of the nation’s scientific leaders also are on board with the Green New Deal. “Many scientists are willing and ready to advise lawmakers on the science behind climate change. But it’s up to policymakers to pass laws that could help to avert catastrophic global climate change,” said a story on Think Progress. Scientists may not be leading the charge for a Green New Deal, the story added, but they’re not far behind the “cohort of young people on the front lines of the climate action movement.”

The timing couldn’t be better, with a new Democratic House ready to start work in January. The latest report from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that the world has 12 years to get its act together to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate catastrophe. A U.S. government report released in November from the Trump administration, the Fourth National Climate Assessment, spells out the dire predictions about how climate change is affecting weather, the economy, water supply, and health. (No one cares about Donald Trump’s claim that he doesn’t believe it.)

The U.N. climate conference that just wrapped up in Poland to work out details to implement the Paris climate agreement made progress, but not enough. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres warned that failing to agree on climate action would “not only be immoral” but “suicidal.”

Is there public appetite in the United States for a plan as radical as a Green New Deal? Actually, yes, there is.

Legislation of this magnitude won’t happen overnight, given who’s in the White House and given a GOP-led Senate, but it needs to happen, sooner rather than later. As Jesse Meisenhelter, an organizer with the Sunrise Movement, wrote in The Nation:

We understand that Democrats can’t pass legislation with a climate-denying White House and GOP-controlled Senate. But they can lay the groundwork now, by developing a plan for a Green New Deal and taking the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge.

The 2020 “ideas primary” has begun, and presidential hopefuls are racing to lay the planks of their platforms. The Green New Deal is an opportunity to define a bold and clear future under Democratic leadership. …

Since our sit-in at Pelosi’s office, over 13,000 young people have joined the Sunrise Movement. …

The same young people that mobilized a historic midterm turnout are now looking ahead to 2020. We will knock on doors, pressure representatives, and primary Democrats who take fossil-fuel money. We will protest and risk arrest if we must, and as we already have, to ensure this economic transformation occurs within the next 12 years.

Our generation has a right to good jobs and a livable future. The Green New Deal is a winning plan for both. Now the only question is: will the Democrats embrace it?

Local chapters, or hubs, of the Sunrise Movement are starting all over the country. At this point, while many hubs (not all) are on the East and West Coasts, they are slowly making their way inward. Interested parties can search for a group nearest to where they live.

It’s not just the House—some likely 2020 presidential candidates from the Senate, such as Bernie Sanders and Cory Booker, also support the aims of the Green New Deal. As the 2020 Democratic presidential field takes shape, I’ll be looking for candidates who aren’t afraid to call for serious climate action and are willing to place it front and center, with specific proposals.

There are myriad issues that deserve attention in the next election: health care, gun violence, and voting rights, just to name a few. But cutting greenhouse gas emissions and taking significant climate action are the solutions that will mean a livable future for all of us.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 23, 2018.

Feeling ‘regrexit,’ the UK needs a Brexit exit (UPDATE)

Anti-Brexit protestors demonstrating in Brighton, England.

Let’s face it, United Kingdom: The dream of separating from the European Union has blown up. Hold a new referendum to stay in the EU, and vote the correct way this time around.

Many in the UK are having serious second thoughts about the 2016 vote to leave the European Union — not unlike the way at least some Donald Trump voters are realizing they made a big mistake in November 2016.

The results of the June 2016 Brexit referendum were surprising, as many polls suggested that the “Remain” supporters outnumbered those on the “Leave” side, albeit slightly. But the vote on Brexit went the other way, 51.9 percent to 48.1 percent.

Leave and Remain voters were divided by age and geography. Younger voters voted heavily to remain, while older voters chose the leave option. London voted strongly to remain, as did those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Voters in other parts of Britain, such as Wales and northern cities, wanted out of the EU. Many votes were based on faux populism, perceived inequality, fear of immigrants, and complaints about too much government spending — in this case, by the European Union. (Sound familiar?)

Never mind the fact that leaders of the Leave campaign have admitted that many of their statements about the EU and the benefits of leaving it were outright lies. Never mind that much of the Leave campaign was driven by Russia. Never mind that there was no methodology for how to leave. Never mind that “What is the EU?” became one of the most-Googled queries in the UK after the vote.

No matter. The vote to leave won over the vote to remain. But it’s not the way the majority of people in the UK feel now. There is now sentiment for a do-over.

The disparity is wide, and it’s growing. A new Eurobarometer survey shows that if a new referendum were held, over half — 53 percent — of people in the UK would vote to stay in the European Union, with only 35 percent indicating that they still wanted out.

There are no good choices on Brexit. The final agreement that Prime Minister Theresa May and her staff hammered out with EU leaders satisfies no one. From Times of London columnist Hugo Rifkind:

Die-hard “leavers” who thought leaving the EU would mean an improved British economy are beginning to realize that their idea was nothing but “a fantasy island unicorn model.” (One May ally went so far as to say it was time to “shoot the unicorns.”) On the other side, die-hard “remainers,” seeing what a catastrophe either the current Brexit pact or a “hard Brexit” would be, want a new vote. And many Brits are so sick of the whole issue that they just want it to be over.

The question is: Will leaders in the UK take the obvious way out of this disastrous situation and call for a new vote? To save their country’s trade and economy, even if it costs them their own political skins?

The negotiations over exactly how the UK would leave the EU have been a mess. After two years of bargaining, Prime Minister Theresa May finally returned to Parliament with an agreement in hand, but it quickly became obvious that it would lose.

May was forced to cancel a vote for Parliament to approve her Brexit deal, as it “would be rejected by a significant margin,” as May herself admitted. With support draining away, some of her fellow Conservatives forced a vote of no confidence. May survived, but she emerged as a weaker leader and had to promise not to run again as leader in the next scheduled general election in 2022. This was on top of the House of Commons voting that the government was in contempt of Parliament for failing to publish texts of its full legal advice on Brexit.

An absolute Brexit deadline is coming up on March 29, 2019, only a few months away. And a “hard Brexit,” that is, a cutting of the EU cord without details worked out on trade and other matters, could be disastrous for the UK.

The EU is trying to give Brits an easy out. The European Court of Justice ruled that the UK can cancel its Brexit decision without the permission of the other 27 EU members. See, Prime Minister May? They’re trying to help.

Liz Saville Roberts, a member of Parliament from Wales, urged May to take advantage of the court’s ruling, saying it was “the prime minister’s gift to personally take Brexit off the table.” But May and her Tory government have abandoned the idea of taking such a step, even though the UK could still keep all its existing benefits, including its rebates, its opt-outs, and the pound sterling.

After the Brexit vote cancellation, May visited other European leaders trying to get a sweeter deal, but she was unanimously told, “No dice.” She tried again after the no-confidence vote, and the situation was basically unchanged. According to a Financial Times story:

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has said that she has “no intention of changing the exit agreement.” Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, expressed similar sentiments, saying there is “no room whatsoever” to amend the treaty.

One of the biggest sticking points in Brexit negotiations involves the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Leave voters apparently didn’t consider the potential problems that might occur on that border, where travel and trade are currently unhindered. It’s a border that isn’t really a border — until it might have to be, once again.

Neither the UK nor the EU wants a hard border. The current Brexit agreement has a “backstop,” or a safety net of last resort, that basically kicks the can down the road over rules regarding trade and other matters until after the final Brexit separation goes into effect. The purpose is “maintaining cross-border cooperation, supporting the all-island economy, and protecting the Good Friday peace agreement,” according to a BBC Q&A explaining the idea. The deal also would keep the UK in a “customs union” when it comes to Ireland. But critics charge that it means Britain would be neither fully in nor fully out of the European Union, and it would have no say in future trade rules. In the worst-case scenario, a hard Brexit could trigger a 30 percent tariff in Irish trade.

There are some 200 roads crossing from Ireland into Northern Ireland along the 499-kilometer, or 310-mile, border (they use different measuring standards). Today, few roads have signs announcing the end of one country and the start of another — we see more signage driving from one state to another here in the U.S. The Irish travel to and fro without showing a passport. Euros from Ireland and pounds sterling from the north are both accepted in border towns. Businesses trade freely with those on the other side of the border. Residents cross regularly for medical care. Sheep and cattle graze on farms on both sides. “Up to 35,000 people commute across the border every day,” says a story by the BBC.

During the days of the Troubles, or the time of violence and tension in Northern Ireland in the late 20th century over British rule that left some 3,600 people dead, there were British military security checkpoints along the border. Armed soldiers patrolled across watchtowers and added spikes to secondary roads, forcing drivers to cross only at a military checkpoint. Cars waited in long lines to cross in either direction, and drivers often had to open their car trunks (or “boots”) to show that they weren’t carrying weapons. The Troubles ended officially in 1998, and no one in either Ireland or Northern Ireland wants a return to those times.

The Irish sketch comedy group Foil, Arms and Hog have a clear explanation of the problems with Brexit, especially how it would affect Ireland and Northern Ireland.

So what’s next? Many news organizations (certainly every one in the UK) painted possible scenarios of the next steps on the Brexit front. Most were remarkably similar, and none predicted an easy or a good outcome:

  • May is trying once again to renegotiate aspects of her current deal, specifically details about Ireland and Northern Ireland. The rest of Europe already has said no—a deal’s a deal.
  • May is in a weaker position, since so many members of her own party voted against her in the no-confidence vote (200-117). She’ll lose those votes, plus the 10 Unionist Party votes from Northern Ireland that are part of her coalition, and the votes of the opposition in a Brexit deal vote. She has now scheduled a vote in mid-January, but it’s not likely to pass. She has set a deadline of Jan. 21, 2019, for an absolute vote. But look how she backed down before.
  • There are calls to postpone the Brexit date to allow more time to renegotiate. This, too, has met with rejection by the other 27 countries.
  • If the deal can’t pass, if there can’t be a postponement, and no one wants the nuclear option of a hard Brexit, many are now concluding that a new vote might be necessary. Such a referendum could be the simple options of Leave or Remain, as in 2016, and Remain could very well win this time around. Or it could offer options of staying in the EU, approving the current Brexit deal, or taking the hard Brexit. If one of those options gained only a plurality—say, staying in the EU—those on the losing sides would be furious. That would include voters and politicians.

Here’s what the UK needs to do. Either take the easy way out offered by the European Court of Justice and reject Brexit or listen to public sentiment and the People’s Vote campaign, which is seeking a new referendum with a Leave/Remain question. The campaign has support from many MPs and other representatives from multiple parties: Labour, the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and Plaid Cymru in Wales.

Elections in the UK take only a matter of weeks, not the endless presidential campaign season we have in the U.S. that can last a full two years. A new Brexit vote could be finished before the absolute Brexit date of March 2019. All Theresa May would need to do is put on an Emily Litella cardigan sweater and glasses and declare, “Never mind.”

The Brexit vote was called the one of the dumbest votes ever taken, until the U.S. elected Donald Trump as president. Ultimately, it’s just like in this country: Be careful about who—and what—you vote for.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 16, 2018.

UPDATE: Prime Minister May scheduled a vote for Jan. 15. She warned that unless Parliament approves her Brexit deal, there will be no Brexit at all.

May lost the Brexit vote by a 2-1 ratio. She again survived a vote of no confidence in Parliament, but the way forward remains unclear. Meanwhile, the rest of Europe is as confused as the British people themselves on the next step.

Enough already. Just schedule a new vote.

NEW UPDATE: The latest in the never-ending Brexit saga is that the EU has agreed to a new Brexit delay until Oct. 31, or Halloween.

It could be more ominous. The EU could have given the date of Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Day, the anniversary of the date in 1605 when Guy Fawkes and his cohorts plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament with barrels of gunpowder hidden in the basement of the House of Lords.

The Gunpowder Plot failed. But Parliament seems to be blowing itself up all on its own.

North Carolina election fraud case evokes a history of U.S. election scandals (UPDATE)

With Donald Trump’s campaign support, Republican Mark Harris thought he was a winner in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District. But his victory is on hold in the face of charges of absentee vote tampering.

What looks more and more like blatant election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District is being seen as a case of how to steal an election. But that wouldn’t be the first time in American history that such outright election fraud had occurred.

Despite the constant screeching by Donald Trump and other Republicans about the virtually non-existent “problem” of voter fraud, Republicans are now faced with a juicy scandal involving the alleged stealing of votes via absentee ballots. Working on behalf of Mark Harris, the Republican “winner,” (the state board of elections has refused to certify the results) was Leslie McCrae Dowless, a local Republican operative with a criminal history of these kinds of shenanigans. Dowless oversaw a crew of workers who collected absentee ballots from voters, even though such ballot collections are illegal in North Carolina.

Harris (who, by the way, is a former Baptist minister) earned an inordinate amount of votes from absentee ballots, especially in rural Bladen County, which seems to have the strongest evidence of vote tampering. “Only 19 percent of mail-in absentee voters were registered Republicans, yet 62 percent of those ballots went the Republican way,” said a Washington Post story praising the shoe-leather local journalism that uncovered the details of the scandal.

There are only 905 votes separating Harris and Democrat Dan McCready. Besides the possibility of vote tampering, there are charges that some of the collected absentee ballots, especially those from African-Americans and Native Americans, never got delivered.

North Carolina election officials are investigating the possible election fraud. There are calls for a do-over election, and Democrats in the House are threatening not to seat Harris in January until the state investigations are over and the issues are resolved and even hold their own hearings. Dallas Woodhouse, the executive director of the North Carolina Republican Party, now says he is open to holding a new election, although instead of the obvious election fraud, he’s giving early voting as the excuse. Democrat McReady has withdrawn his concession, and he and his staff are gearing up for a possible new election. Even Harris now says he would agree to a new election if evidence of election fraud affected the outcome.

But such dishonesty is not new. This is not voter fraud, this is election fraud. And there are instances of election fraud throughout U.S. history, going back to the time of the founders.

A story in Slate, with details from Deliver the Vote: A History of Election Fraud, an American Political Tradition — 1742-2004, by historian Tracy Campbell, offers some tidbits:

George Washington won his seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1758 by spending 40 pounds on booze for his neighbors. The passage of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 appears to have been the work of election thefts, concluded historian Samuel Eliot Morison in 1916. In the early days of the Union, Whigs encouraged passage of registry laws “since they felt Democrats resorted to importing voters in a large number of elections,” Campbell notes. Democrats, of course, opposed registry laws because they discriminated against citizens who had recently relocated. In one Michigan city, Republicans co-opted a registry law by declaring scores of Democrats as improperly registered and allowing Republicans, “registered or not,” to vote.

A compilation of some of the most infamous — and downright weird — instances of U.S. election fraud was put together by the website Grunge, whose mission seems to be putting together odd facts. Here are just a few examples.

The Know-Nothing riot and rigged election of 1856. The Know-Nothing Party came into existence not because its members were ignorant; they merely promised to say, “I know nothing but my country” during an interrogation. The men who founded the party, also called the American Party, were xenophobes and nativists who looked down on recent immigrants (hmm … sounds familiar). Besides boasting eight governors, five senators and 43 congressmen, the Know-Nothings took over Baltimore politics in the 1850s, preventing newly naturalized citizens from voting or forcing them to choose Know-Nothing candidates.

By the time of the municipal election of 1856, there was open violence between political factions. There were actual riots on Election Day in October as partisans attacked with other with guns, axes, picks, and bricks. Several people were killed in the Know-Nothing riot, and scores more were injured. The winner of the election was the Know-Nothing candidate Thomas Swann, whose victory by a margin of 9,000 votes was not seen as legitimate. Swann’s victory that year and subsequent years were always accompanied by violence and accusations of vote-rigging.

Tammany Hall’s “cheat machine.” For more than a century, the Democratic New York City political machine of Tammany Hall earned the loyalty — and the votes — of New York’s expanding immigrant population by promising them jobs, places to live, and citizenship. But Tammany Hall counted on more than immigrants to keep their candidates in power. According to the Slate story:

Tammany Hall “imported inmates from the Blackwell’s Island Penitentiary to vote in Democratic wards” in an 1843 contest. Tammany was known to employ “floaters” who cast multiple ballots, “thugs” who intimated opposition voters, and “colonizers,” illegal voters who could be summoned from another city or state to swell the registration rolls at the last minute and throw a close election.

The ballot box with the hidden secret compartment. In the early days of San Francisco in the 1850s, the city’s political machine was controlled by a Democratic political operative named David Broderick, who had cut his electoral teeth on Tammany Hall methods. Besides employing thugs to “persuade” voters and handing out lucrative political jobs to his cronies (from which he collected part of their salaries), Broderick guaranteed his electoral wins with a special ballot box with a false bottom that could hold any amount of votes deemed necessary to guarantee a win. Extra ballots could be released into the main compartment by moving a hidden panel.

By 1856, local residents, angered by political corruption and the killing of a crusading newspaper editor, formed what was called the Second Committee of Vigilance to take back power. They found the infamous ballot box in the home of a local Democrat and delivered their own form of vigilante justice, rounding up some 25 of Broderick’s political hacks, giving them a swift “trial” on charges of political fraud and ballot-box stuffing, and sending them off on ships in San Francisco Harbor.

Broderick, however, became a U.S. senator from California.

To my mind, though, the truly weirdest story of election fraud is from Oregon.

The cult that tried to prevent people from voting — through food poisoning. In the 1980s, a religious cult (and we’re using the term loosely) led by a charismatic figure named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was kicked out of India and settled in a rural section of northeastern Oregon. The 2,300 or so Rajneeshees, as the mystic’s red-, orange-, and purple-clad followers were called, settled into a 64,000-acre ranch in Wasco County, incorporating their new supposed utopia as Rajneeshpuram. The Rajneeshees (also called sannyasins) believed in peace, free love, and, apparently, lots of sex.

The nearby small town of Antelope objected to the new and growing enclave, especially as the Rajneeshees plotted to take over Antelope and the county government in an attempt to fight Oregon land-use laws that hampered their expansion. As elections approached, cult leaders decided to spread salmonella-laced liquid at salad bars in local restaurants to try to keep voters away from the polls. Some 750 people were sickened. The cult also bused in some 2,300 homeless people from cities across the country to swell the voting rolls—a tactic that didn’t go unnoticed by local officials. Ultimately, the cult collapsed, some leaders went to jail, and the Bhagwan went back to India.

There are many more sordid details about this strange chapter in Oregon’s history, involving the Rajneeshees’ attempting to murder state officials, wiretapping, setting fire to a country planning office, and more. A complete five-part series of the cult’s time in Oregon ran in The Oregonian. The story of the cult also was told in a recent Netflix docuseries called Wild, Wild Country.

And I thought the Chicago mantra of “vote early and often” was bad.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 9, 2018.

UPDATE: It took a while, with days and days of hearings, but the North Carolina Board of Elections has ordered a new election for the 9th Congressional District. Here are the dates: There will be primaries on May 14. If no candidates receive at least 30 percent of the vote, there will be runoffs on Sept. 10, with a general election on Nov. 5. If no runoffs are needed, the general election will be Sept. 10.

But one name won’t be on the ballot: Mark Harris. The Republican says he will not run in the new election — likely he figures his name is so tainted that he would lose anyway. Democrat Dan McCready, however, is ready for another round.

NEW UPDATE: After the May 14 primary, McCready is again the Democratic candidate, having run unopposed. The GOP primary winner is state Sen. Dan Bishop, who received 48 percent of the vote, thus negating the need for another runoff. McCready and Bishop will face off on Sept. 10, the same date as municipal primaries in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Bishop is best known as one of the authors of the so-called “bathroom bill” that voided anti-discrimination protections in Charlotte for LGBT people and directed transgender people to use public bathrooms and showers that matched their birth gender.

Why Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ should be the Democratic woman

These are just a few of the faces of candidates in 2018. They’re female, they’re almost all Democrats, they’re not all white, and many of them won.

Each December, Time magazine announces its Person of the Year. It’s the individual (or group) who, “for better or for worse,” as the magazine puts it, had the greatest influence on the events of the year.

This year, it should be no contest. The greatest influence in America this year came from Democratic women. They were the millions of women who marched, who ran for office, who voted, and who demanded that their voices be heard. And we all saw the results in the midterm elections.

Time has been choosing the year’s major person of influence since 1927, when aviator Charles Lindbergh graced the magazine’s cover for the first time. It was usually a Man of the Year (Wallis Simpson broke through in 1936 as the Woman of the Year because of her romance with British King Edward VIII, prompting his abdication). In 1999, the magazine realized it had better get with the times and designated the achievement as Person of the Year.

Displaying his typical (yet undeserved) over-the-top egotism, Donald Trump announced that “I can’t imagine” anyone other than himself as Time’s Person of the Year. Time usually picks the winner of a presidential election as Person of the Year, so he got the call in 2016, as did Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and other presidents before him.

Too bad the public disagrees. In Time’s readers’ poll (no doubt social media-driven) on who should get the honor, Trump got only 2 percent of the vote. He was beaten out by 23 other candidates, including Robert Mueller (that’s gotta sting), Christine Blasey Ford, Michelle Obama (hey, her book Becoming outsold any of Trump’s books—bigly), Colin Kaepernick, and Jeff Bezos (owner of the “failing” Washington Post). Also getting 2 percent of support were Maxine Waters and Stormy Daniels—like that company, Trump? At least he got more votes than Melania. The top vote getter was the South Korean boy band BTS, so that’s how seriously we should take this survey.

This year, Democratic women made the difference. It’s not just one woman but a female Democratic collective: the candidates, the voters, the canvassers, the phonebankers, the marchers, the resisters, the legislators.

And they’re just getting started.

The candidates: We’ve all seen and read the numbers: Emily’s List got inquiries from more than 42,000 women wanting to run for office in 2018, up from 920 in 2016. Out of that total, upwards of 5,000 received candidate training, and 500 were endorsed by Emily’s List.

There was a record number of women running for state and federal office. In total, there were 235 women running for the House and 22 for the Senate. Of those, 182 House candidates were Democratic women and 15 Senate candidates were Democratic women. Not all of them won, but 60 percent of Democratic women won in House seats that flipped from red to blue. As a story in The New York Times put it:

It is the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives ever elected to the House in its 116-year history. And it boasts an avalanche of firsts, from the first Native American congresswomen to the first Muslim congresswomen. …

[M]any of the members of the freshman class [are] blazing a trail for other candidates of color. Several of the freshmen-elect are the first African-American women to be elected by their states, and voters in Kansas and New Mexico will send the first-ever Native American women to the House.

With Nancy Pelosi (who raised boatloads of money for Democratic candidates to help them win) headed to another term as House speaker; Democratic women making more media appearances and becoming more influential on social media; and some Democratic women possibly gearing up for a 2020 presidential run, it’s clear that women legislators will have growing influence in coming months.

Across the aisle, on the GOP side? Not so much—there were only four newly elected Republican women.

The voters: Traditionally, more women than men turn out to vote, and that likely held true in 2018, although numbers are still being crunched. What is clear is that women boosted overall voter turnout to 49 percent in the 2018 midterms. Midterm turnout usually averages about 40 percent.

The gender gap showed that 60 percent of women voted for Democrats, while only 47 percent of men voted blue. So all those new Democratic officeholders have women voters to thank: “Democrats won women’s vote for Congress by the largest margin seen in midterm exit polls” was a post-election headline in The Washington Post.

There is further breakdown by age, race, and education level. According to another story in The Washington Post:

White women without college degrees moved modestly toward the Democrats, more so than white men without college degrees. But a far greater proportion of white college-educated women swung to the Democrats, even beyond their previous support for Democratic candidates in previous elections.

Key to the Democratic successes were the most reliable Democratic voters of all: black women. According to figures from Pew Research, 92 percent of black women voted Democratic, and they turned out in huge numbers, just like they always do. But they weren’t quiet about their role—they wanted to make sure candidates sought their input and spoke to them directly.

Stacey Abrams knew that in Georgia. While she might have fallen short in the governor’s race (voter suppression was obviously a major factor), she knew she needed to court black women voters and talk about the issues most important to them. According to a story in Essence magazine:

[Abrams] has been firm and consistent in her message from the jump, detailing plans to address health care and education, issues that she knows are important to Black women.

“We are leveraging the enthusiasm and support of the African-American women’s community to motivate and galvanize the communities that they touch — and that means every community in the state of Georgia,” Abrams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And it is a level of outreach that has not gone unnoticed. Paula Benton, a resident of Stone Mountain, said that she is happy that Abrams is actively targeting black women.

“It’s time black women started getting the recognition they’re getting,” Benton told AJC. “We’ve always been the backbone of everything.”

Latinx women voters also played a big part: According to data from Pew, 73 percent of Latinas voted Democratic in congressional races.

The marchers, the resisters, and the organizers: Millions of people—not only women, but a big majority of them were female—turned out in January 2017 to register their feelings about Trump’s presidency in a Women’s March that exceeded all expectations in marches across the country. The second march in January 2018 also attracted millions, with a focus on running for office and voting. All of that energy turned into the Resistance, but that’s only one part of it.

After the Valentine’s Day mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17, masses of people—again, the majority of them women—joined local chapters of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Now, along with the affiliated Everytown for Gun Safety, it’s 5 million members strong. The organization backed candidates in state and federal races across the nation, registering voters, knocking on doors, phonebanking, and performing other GOTV efforts. The gun reform groups proudly claimed after the election that their volunteers had helped to deliver a “gun sense majority” to the House. No surprise: Nearly all of the people wearing those recognizable red T-shirts are women.

And just in case you were wondering, there already are plans for a Women’s March on January 19, 2019, which is being dubbed the #WomensWave. It makes sense: The Blue Wave wouldn’t have been possible without a Women’s Wave.

All of the energy from Democratic women was the driving force in taking back the House and in electoral wins across the country at all levels. And whether or not the editors at Time take my advice in naming the Democratic woman as the Person of the Year, I can’t wait to see what Democratic women accomplish in 2019 and beyond.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Dec. 2, 2018.

#GunSafety proposals taking shape for new Democratic House (UPDATE)

Lucy McBath was one of several Democratic candidates whose campaigns stressed gun reform. Now she’ll have a chance to influence policy as a new member of Congress from Georgia’s 6th District.

Although Democrats won’t take over the majority in the House of Representatives until January, they’re already spelling out an ambitious agenda. Democratic leaders and incoming representatives have been giving details about some of the issues they hope to tackle, such as a broad ethics reform package, which would include campaign finance reform, voting rights, and ethics and accountability.

Of course, Democrats will have oversight authority, which various committees will use to investigate the many misdeeds of the Trump administration. Already, incoming committee chairs are announcing their agendas:

  • California’s Adam Schiff aims to support the Robert Mueller investigation and look into the Russian ties to Donald Trump’s campaign as chair of the House Intelligence Committee.
  • California’s Maxine Waters is ready to take on the big banks and insurance companies as head of the House Financial Services Committee.
  • Maryland’s Elijah Cummings is likely to head an ethics investigation as the new chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
  • Impeachment, if it happens, would be under the auspices of New York’s Jerry Nadler as head of the House Judiciary Committee, although he says his first move will be to protect the Mueller investigation.
  • As head of the House Ways and Means Committee, Massachusetts’s Richard Neal says he has every intention of going after Trump’s tax returns.
  • Several new members, including New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are backing a Green New Deal to combat climate change. There’s some pushback from veteran Democrats slated to head committees that normally focus on the environment, who worry that the ambitious plan might not be realistic, but a few other House Democrats are on board. Perhaps the Fourth Annual Climate Assessment released (reluctantly, I’m sure) by the Trump administration will change Democrats’ minds about the need for urgent action.

Another big initiative could be legislation on gun safety, which many newly elected Democratic members of Congress stressed in their campaigns. By all accounts, Democrats aim to start with common-sense gun laws backed by big majorities of Americans—support for universal background checks of all gun buyers is nearly universal itself. These bills could include background checks; a “red flag” law, in which police or family members could ask a court to take weapons away from someone deemed a danger; a repeal of the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 provision that restricts federal funding for research on gun violence; a ban on bump stocks; and more.

There were major congressional victories by advocates of gun reform over Republican opponents with high ratings from the National Rifle Association. Everytown for Gun Safety boasted an 83 percent win rate among its 66 endorsements in federal races. There were three times as many gun reform ads this election cycle as in 2016: 125,879 pro-gun control ads for House, Senate, and governor races. That was also true in campaign spending: Gun reform groups spent about $2.4 million more than gun rights groups on 2018 congressional races.

One such gun reform victor is Democrat Jason Crow, an Army veteran and gun owner who beat incumbent Mike Coffman in Colorado’s 6th District. Crow is aiming for a ban on assault weapons, limits on high-capacity magazines, and more background checks. Coffman received more campaign contributions from the NRA than any other GOP candidate in Colorado this year and often had been described as “bullet-proof.” Not this time: Crow beat the five-term incumbent by over 10 points.

In one of the more satisfying wins, Lucy McBath, a former spokeswoman for Mothers Demand Action for Gun Sense in America who lost her son to gun violence, will be the new congresswoman for Georgia’s 6th District. McBath beat GOP incumbent Karen Handel, who also had an NRA endorsement. McBath’s campaign website listed the following as her gun safety legislative priorities: implementing background checks for all firearm purchases; raising the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21; working to defeat concealed-carry reciprocity measures; and introducing legislation to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers and other criminals.

Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch’s 22nd District includes Parkland, where 17 people died in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Valentine’s Day. Deutch credits the #MarchForOurLives and the #NeverAgain movements started by the shooting’s survivors for many victories by advocates of gun reform. Establishing common-sense gun laws was seen as important issue for 72 percent of Democratic voters overall in 2018 and was a prime motivator in getting young people to register to vote and turn up at the polls.

Deutch has a list of his priorities on gun safety legislation. According to a CNN story:

Deutch said implementing universal background checks, a “gun violence restraining order,” which allows law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily take guns away from people who are deemed a threat, and banning so-called “bump stocks” are at the top of his list, along with other school safety and mental health initiatives.

Another new voice on gun safety in Congress will be Democrat Kim Schrier, a pediatrician who won a traditionally GOP seat in Washington State. Getting rid of the Dickey Amendment and advocating for federal funds to study gun violence is one of her top priorities. As she said in an NPR story:

“It’s different to come at this as a pediatrician and not a career politician,” said Schrier, who ran an ad during her campaign talking about the risks of having a gun in the house around depressed boys. “My goal here is to keep our children and our communities safe, and I don’t think there is anything radical about that.” …

Schrier says health care was undoubtedly the most consistent policy concern she heard from voters on the campaign trail this year, and that’s consistent with most polling. But she said she also heard a lot about gun safety, particularly from women and mothers.

“Women had a big say in the election, and I think the issue of gun safety resonates there,” said Schrier. “I know it does.”

“The gun movement took a bruising hit on Election Day,” wrote Francis Wilkinson in a Bloomberg opinion piece with the headline, “The NRA Doesn’t Seem So Invincible Anymore.”

More than two dozen House races around the country flipped from Republicans to pro-regulation Democrats. A Kentucky Democrat, John Yarmuth, was spotted in the Capitol wearing an “F” pin to advertise his NRA rating. “We unseated 15 A-rated NRA members with F-rated members,” he told a reporter. “So I’m going to have to get some more pins made.” …

Politically, the NRA now lives by the GOP, dies by the GOP. It has absolutely no protection in states with Democratic majorities or, starting in January, in the House, where Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has already promised to introduce gun-regulation proposals. …

In exit polls, voters registered support for “stricter gun control measures” by 59 to 37. A CNN poll taken after the election found that registered voters preferred Democrats in Congress to Trump on gun policy by 54 to 37.

What will House Democrats do, since it’s likely that their bills will face opposition in the Senate, if they’re even brought up for a vote at all? Consider any piece of legislation on gun reform as a chance to put down their markers: This will remind voters what Democrats can do when they control both houses of Congress and the presidency.

Originally posted on Daily Kos on Nov. 25, 2018.

UPDATE: The House has now passed two major pieces of gun legislation. One bill would require all gun sellers to conduct background checks on firearm buyers, and the other would extend the review period for background checks on firearm purchases. Both bills face an uphill climb in the Senate, and Trump has threatened to veto the bills if they became law.

This is just round one.

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