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Political Wire logo GOP Lawmaker Insists on Keeping Motion to Vacate
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  McCarthy Ousted
      •  Trump Legal News: You Talk Too Much
      •  Covering Donald Trump
      •  Moms for Liberty, Extremist Group
      •  Moms for Liberty, Report from the Front Lines
      • Tracking Poll, October 2023, Senate Edition

McCarthy Ousted

Boy, that escalated quickly. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is now a historic figure—or, at very least, the answer to a Jeopardy! question—as yesterday he became the first Speaker of the House in U.S. history to be ejected from the position. It's also the third-shortest term as speaker, following the 1 day served by Theodore M. Pomeroy (who bridged the gap created when VP-elect Schuyler Colfax resigned at the end of a term in order to prepare for his new posting) and the 257 days served by Michael Crawford Kerr (who died suddenly shortly after taking office).

The vote to vacate the chair was 216-210, as all of the Democrats present joined with eight Republicans to fire McCarthy. The eight are Andy Biggs (AZ), Ken Buck (CO), Tim Burchett (TN), Eli Crane (AZ), Matt Gaetz (FL), Bob Good (VA), Nancy Mace (SC) and Matt Rosendale (MT). You know you're a special kind of person when you're more unhinged, and less interested in governance, than Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), all of whom voted to keep McCarthy.

In the short term, the House will continue to function... sorta. It turns out—and this particular piece of information was kept secret until yesterday, since it's never come up before—that a newly elected Speaker of the House chooses someone to serve as acting speaker in the event the job comes vacant. The acting speaker is Patrick McHenry (R-NC), who was (secretly) chosen for the "honor" back in January. McHenry has only the power to preside over the election of a new speaker and is not in the line of succession. So, if something happens to Joe Biden in the near future, the U.S. will have its first woman president. And if something happens to Biden AND Kamala Harris, then the U.S. will still have its first woman president in President Pro Tempore of the Senate Patty Murray (D-WA). Normally the pro tempore job goes to the oldest senator from the majority; if it had this time, then that office would also be vacant due to the death of Dianne Feinstein. So, the country was very close to having a cabinet member be third in the line of succession for the first time since the adoption of the Presidential Succession Act of 1947.

You will note that we wrote that the House will "sorta" be functional. What we mean by that is that the majority's #1 item of business is to find a new speaker. So, the lower chamber has already adjourned for the week, and wannabe speakers will spend the next few days trying to see if they have the votes. Then, the Republicans will hold a candidates' forum to discuss potential replacements for McCarthy early next week. So, for at least the next 7-8 days, if not longer, the House won't be doing anything except trying to clean up the mess made by Matt Gaetz & Co.

As to the identity of the next speaker, your guess is as good as anyone else's (and see below to make your guess). McHenry is a potential candidate, presumably, though as a McCarthy ally he probably can't get the votes, even if he wants the job. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA) is a possibility, as are House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) and Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY). Kevin Hern (R-OK), chair of the a-bit-less-extreme-than-the-FC Republican Study Committee is taking a look. So is Jim Jordan (R-OH). That said, recall that McCarthy himself took 15 votes to be elected, and that he was considered the only viable candidate at the time. This time, one of the following things will necessarily have to come to pass:

  1. A non-McCarthy candidate emerges who is moderate enough for the non-Freedom Caucusers, but fire-breathing enough for the extremists. Again, that person did not exist 9 months ago.
  2. The Freedom Caucusers agree to back someone more moderate than they prefer.
  3. The non-Freedom Caucusers agree to back someone more extreme than they prefer.
  4. A candidate emerges who can get some Republican and some Democratic votes.

Everyone knows that the real budget fight is right around the corner. If merely keeping the government open (which, by the way, means McCarthy sacrificed himself for the greater PR good of the Republican Party) was enough to vacate the chair, then what will the next speaker commit to on that subject? If McCarthy's would-be replacement promises to slash government funding by 8%, the way the FCers want, that person will never get all 218 Republican votes. If the would-be replacement says they will work to find a budget that can pass the Senate, that person will never get the FCers' votes.

So, maybe the solution to the problem will end up being 1, 2 or 3 from the list above, but it's hard to see how that can be made to work. That leads us to option #4. Before we got to the point of writing this paragraph, we heard from reader J.G. in San Diego, who asks a couple of very good questions:

Are there really not five centrist, sane Republicans who wouldn't prefer to switch parties, become the most important members of the House, and hand control back to the grown-ups?

Wouldn't you rather be the most powerful centrist in a Democratic House, where every Democratic bill had to be written to get your vote, rather than being the least powerful Republican in the crazy House?

To us, it makes all the sense in the world that half a dozen of the Biden 18 could transform themselves into the kingmakers of the House by allying with the Democrats. They could insist on the Speakership for one of their own, or could insist on a mountain of pork, or both. We don't even think they would have to change parties, per se. They could brand themselves the Commonsense Republican Caucus, and announce that until the Republican Party is no longer in the thrall of people like Gaetz, they are going to pursue the only available path to actual governance.

That said, Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) had a version of this opportunity available to them during the last Congress and didn't take it. And the Biden 18 had this opportunity available back in January and didn't take it, either. So, don't hold your breath waiting for a group of Liz Cheneys and Adam Kinzingers to announce themselves.

Whoever the next speaker is, it apparently will not be McCarthy, who said already that he's not going to try to reclaim his gavel, and who is uncertain he'll even remain in the House. It's at least possible that he's not being truthful, and that he's going to linger in the background to be available as a (very) white knight to ride to the rescue and to resume the speakership under more favorable conditions. But we doubt it. Consider the five Republican Speakers of the House who have served in the last half-century:

  1. Newt Gingrich (4 years): Run out of office after the Clinton impeachment blew up in Republicans' faces.
  2. Dennis Hastert (8 years): Served without too much dissension, and for longer than any other GOP speaker.
  3. John Boehner (4 years, 10 months): Quit in disgust after a rebellion of the tea partiers.
  4. Paul Ryan (3 years, 3 months): Didn't want the job, fled Congress when Republicans lost the majority.
  5. McCarthy (9 months): Ejected by the Freedom Caucusers after a stormy tenure.

In short, this is a deeply dysfunctional political faction, and has been for decades. Fully 80% of the Republican speakers of the last 50 years have ended up in some version of a state of war with their own conference. Compare that with the Democrats, where there is occasional dissension, but where every speaker since at least the 1970s has left on their own terms, enjoying broad support among their colleagues. Leading the House Republicans these days is clearly a miserable job, more so than the members of the general public can possibly know. It's entirely believable that McCarthy would willingly step down, having learned to be careful what he wished for, because he got it and look where it got him.

Incidentally, for those keeping score at home, McCarthy lasted 270 days. You may recall that when he was first elected, we asked readers to guess how long before a motion to vacate would be filed. The mean guess (average) was 165.21 days. The median guess (halfway point) was 105 days. The mode (most common guess) was 725 days (in other words, no motion will be filed and he'll make it to the end). Roughly 6% of readers thought McCarthy would survive his full term, while at the other end of the spectrum, 3% of readers made a guess of 10 days or fewer, with four guessing McCarthy would only make it one day. Roughly 1% of readers hit it on the nose, and guessed 270 days. Unfortunately, we did not ask for initials and cities, so we can't give those folks credit for hitting the bullseye. Sorry.

It is also a little surprising that McCarthy made no effort to save himself by reaching out to the Democrats. Maybe that's just another sign of how sick he is of the job. Maybe he knows that if he tried it, all the other Republicans would turn against him. Or maybe he knows that the Democrats just weren't open to this sort of cooperation. On that point, the Democrats' votes to eject McCarthy are being slurred by some as selfish and a sign that the blue team is, like the red team, unable to put the good of the country ahead of the needs of the party. We think those criticisms are off the mark. The moment McCarthy allowed his colleagues to commence a phony impeachment inquiry, he was guilty of a gross abuse of power and an offense against the Constitution. The Democrats were entirely justified in booting him, just for that. Had he shown some contrition, and called off the investigation, then maybe they could have shown some mercy. But as it is, his termination as Speaker was richly deserved as penance for his undemocratic behavior. He also made a spending deal with Joe Biden in May and then reneged on it. Oh, and last weekend he went on "Face the Nation" and blamed the Democrats for the House's malfunction. Is it surprising that the Democrats had enough of him?

At the moment, House Republicans are promising to vote on a new speaker in a week. Maybe the party will be scared straight, will find a way to coalesce around some non-McCarthy candidate, and will be operating normally by this time next Thursday. On the other hand, there's not a lot of benefit in having a vote if no candidate has the votes, so don't carve "we're voting in a week" in stone. There could also be a repeat of the McCarthy fiasco, where 5, or 10, or 15 rounds of voting or more are needed to figure things out.

If the Republicans do manage to come up with an actual speaker in the next week or so, then the budget process could be nigh-on impossible to manage. To start, everyone may hate Matt Gaetz, but clearly he and his cadre are more powerful today than they were yesterday. Meanwhile, the moderate Republicans in the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus are reportedly furious with their Democratic colleagues for not saving McCarthy. So, the House's most prominent "let's find a way to work together" group may collapse. How any speaker could cobble together 218 votes out of this, we don't quite know. And 218 votes for bills that can actually pass the Senate and get a White House signature? Monumentally difficult, it would appear.

The U.S. is gradually moving to a system that has all the disadvantages of a parliamentary system without any of the advantages. In the House, there are sort of four parties:

  1. The Progressive Caucus, a left-wing party
  2. The Democrats, a center-left party
  3. The Republicans, a right-wing party
  4. The Freedom Caucus, an extreme right-wing party

The first two are close enough together that with some arm twisting and the right leader, they can form a stable government when together they have a majority. The last two are barely on speaking terms and cannot form a stable government. In countries with a formal multiparty parliamentary system, governments fall all the time when one small party balks at something. Italy and Israel are the poster children here. In principle, the advantage of a parliamentary system is that if one party or a coalition of parties has 50% + 1 of the seats, they can carry out their program, with no checks and balances to stop them. There is rarely or never minority rule. The U.S. now has a system with the worst of both worlds: instability and the inability of the majority (in the House) to actually govern.

In view of this, things are going to be very... interesting in the House for the foreseeable future. If we said we had any idea what is going to happen, however, we would be lying. (Z)

Trump Legal News: You Talk Too Much

Note that the headline refers to the Run-D.M.C. song with that title as opposed to the Joe Jones song or the George Thorogood song. The Run-D.M.C. tune includes the lyric "Your mouth is so big, one bite could kill a Big Mac." If that is not on point, we don't know what is.

Anyhow, we probably won't write about Donald Trump's fraud case every day because the news is going to be kind of weedy and repetitive. But there were two related bits of news yesterday worth passing along. The first is that Trump continues to behave as if angering Arthur Engoron, the judge who has sole power to decide the former president's fate, is a winning strategy. And so, the former president posted a message to his boutique social media platform in which he gave the name of Engoron's chief clerk, included a picture of her with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and decreed that married-for-43-years Schumer and the clerk (whose name we will not be repeating) are dating each other and that the clerk is carrying out Schumer's wishes.

Let us pause for a moment to note that, in addition to being stupid, this is also utterly reprehensible. First of all, it is not cool to publicly suggest, without evidence, that someone is cheating on their spouse. Second, Trump knows full well that some of his followers are mentally unwell, and can be spurred to violence. Now his supporters know what one of Trump's "enemies" looks like, and where this "enemy" works. It is not at all out of the realm of possibility that this poor clerk could be assaulted or killed. And note that many of Trump's social media posts are quickly made into e-mail blasts, as this one was. So, this information has been shared with far more people than just the cadre that actually looks at Truth Social.

In view of all this, Engoron was justifiably furious with Trump, and ordered him to remove the post immediately (which was done, whether by Trump or someone else). The Judge also advised: "Consider this statement a gag order forbidding all parties from posting, e-mailing or speaking publicly about any of my staff. Failure to abide by this order will result in serious sanctions."

Presumably Trump will find a way to evade that (limited) gag order. For example, he's still apparently allowed to post things about the judge himself. But we suspect he's going to push his luck too much, and get gagged even more aggressively. There's also a hearing on Oct. 16 where Special Counsel Jack Smith will ask Judge Tanya Chutkan to impose a gag order for that case. Since Trump struggles to control himself, it could well be that the first time he sees the inside of a jail cell is not after losing one of his (many) cases, but after being found in contempt of court for running his mouth. (Z)

Covering Donald Trump

This is a question we think about a lot. And, as it turns out, we're not the only ones. In fact, there has been a sizable number of pieces in the last couple of weeks on the issue of the correct way to cover Donald Trump.

The fundamental problem is pretty simple. On one hand, just about everyone, outside of significant elements of the MAGA mediasphere (MAGAsphere?) wants to be fair and dispassionate. On the other hand, Donald Trump is not a normal presidential candidate. He's a four-times-indicted potential felon who tried to overthrow the government, in addition to being a court-affirmed sexual predator. And added to the salad are the endless lies, the threats against individuals, the cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin and other strongmen, the shady financial dealings, and Trump v2.0 (a.k.a. American Fascism v1.0). What to do with someone like that?

Now, some of the "correct way to cover Trump" items are largely just rants. Salon tends to be kind of rant-y, a lot of the time, and their columnist Brian Karen certainly was in his piece headlined "Donald Trump's thrill ride is nearly over—but the media refuses to let go." For example:

The Biden White House and the Democrats have no heart for the fight they face, and no head for it either. In an attempt to avoid getting their hands dirty, they're allowing the country to bathe in Trump's filth without responding to it. We heard a rare exception from Biden this week in San Francisco when he said, "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans are determined to destroy this democracy."

White House spokesman Andrew Base backed that up by saying that "to abuse presidential power and violate the constitutional rights of reporters would be an outrageous attack on our democracy and the rule of law."

We need more of that and a lot less of people in my profession giving false equivalency between Trump and his GOP competitors, much less the current president. If this is the end, then let it be Trump's end—not our country's.

At the end of the day, will some of my fellow journalists grow a pair? We make decisions every day based on money and audience share, not journalism. Trump went on Meet the Press because he's good for ratings. We cover him as if he were equal to Biden for the same reason.

Impassioned, but "grow a pair" is not especially actionable. Also, we think it's a little facile to say that the way in which Trump is covered is due to the desire for ratings. Sure, that's part of it, but, for example, has no "ratings" and no need to chase gratuitous clicks, and yet we still wrestle with how to cover Trump.

In addition to the Salon piece, we read several others on the general subject. Here are some bits of advice we think are more useful, both for us and for politics-focused outlets in general:

  • Let People Reach Their Own Conclusions: Josh Marshall, of TalkingPointsMemo, had a piece last week headlined "Learn to Cover Trump Right Before It's Too Late." The most important point he makes is that while it's necessary to outline the various threats that Trump poses to democracy, it generally does not go over well when media members preach to readers. And so, he concludes, "Reporting clearly things that are alarming is more important than telling people how alarming it all is."

  • Too Much Negativity: The piece written by Margaret Sullivan of The Guardian is headlined "With democracy on the ballot, the mainstream press must change its ways." Her most useful observation is that the media has a negativity bias (true), which means that it's a constant stream of bad news about Trump and a constant stream of bad news about Biden. This inadvertently creates a false "they're both awful" equivalence. Put another way, it's OK to write positive stories about the Biden administration. In fact, in view of the ease with which negative stories are produced, there's an argument for consciously making sure to do so.

  • If the Shoe Fits: The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by the conservative-but-not-Trump-friendly Rupert Murdoch, did not intend to comment on Trump coverage, per se. However, the headline of a recent op-ed speaks to the question nonetheless: "Why Is Donald Trump Afraid to Debate?" Generally, when writing about politics, one avoids judgmental words like "afraid" and judgmental questions like this one. However, the words (and questions) exist because sometimes they are called for.

  • Think about Framing: Press Watch had a lengthy piece headlined "A desperate appeal to newsroom leaders on the eve of a chaos election" in which they reported the opinions of various experts as to how politics coverage could be better. Jennifer Mercieca, who teaches political rhetoric at Texas A&M University, focused on framing: "Use a 'democracy frame' instead of a horse race frame. What impact does the event/news item have on democracy in America?" Others quoted in the piece made similar observations.

  • Set the Agenda: Politicians are pretty good at setting the agenda and controlling the narrative, and Trump is especially skilled in this way. Several people interviewed by Press Watch had ideas about how to counter that. The best, we think, was from Harry Shearer: "Pick five 'major issues'; devote a full week to both the issue and the candidates' positions on the issue." We will have to consider that. But no matter what happens, we're not having "Infrastructure Week."

  • Cut the Oxygen: This is a notion we've had for a very long time, but it is good to hear that others have it as well. In the Press Watch piece, Heather Cox Richardson says: "It is astonishing how fully the Trump circus continues to absorb oxygen in the midst of the most consequential administration since at least Reagan. The press certainly doesn't have to cheerlead for the administration, but it should make clear the extent of the changes it's overseeing." Agreeing with Richardson is, of all people, Howard Stern. The radio talker doesn't care about covering the Biden administration, but he does describe Trump coverage as being "like an obsession," and says that media shouldn't be feeding the "can you believe what Trump said/did?" addiction.

  • The Silent Majority: This doesn't really apply to us, but it's good to know that others are annoyed by this trend as well. In short, we've seen a million pieces where reporters travel to "the heartland" and try to understand the Trump voter. As several of the Press Watch respondents observed, where are the equivalent pieces for non-Trump Republicans? Or for Democrats?

  • Advocate for Democracy: This is something we've written many times, but again it's good to hear that others agree. Dan Gillmor, who teaches journalism at Arizona State University, decrees: "It is long, long past due to take an activist stance on behalf of democracy." Other respondents for that piece agree: To be staunchly pro-democracy is not prima facie evidence of bias.

Some interesting thoughts, and certainly things that we will keep in mind going forward. It's not so easy, on a daily basis, to hit the right balance when it comes to Trump. On one hand, it would be over the top (albeit accurate) to consistently refer to him as "sexual predator Donald Trump" on first reference. On the other hand, we don't want to fall into sloppy habits that serve to normalize his various forms of bad behavior.

As readers may have noticed, we have made one small change to the page as a gesture in this direction. From now until the election, the picture of Trump that appears at the top of the page is his mugshot. So, every day, there will be at least a small reminder that he's a deeply problematic, and very possibly criminal, individual. (Z)

Moms for Liberty, Extremist Group

We've been meaning to get around to this, and now the time has come. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), as most readers will know, maintains a watchlist of extremist groups in the United States. Normally, this "honor" is reserved for various racist, antisemitic and anti-government groups. However, just 2 years after their founding, Moms for Liberty has made the cut.

How, exactly, does that designation make sense as a description of a group of people known for going to PTA meetings and yelling at everyone? Well, part of it is that the things that they yell are very extreme. But the larger part of it is that the things the group does after the PTA meeting is over. They have their newsletters (i.e., propaganda) that are filled with extreme rhetoric and ideas. And they have perfected the art of using social media to harangue those individuals they disagree with.

As we note above, we've had this item on the back burner for a while. And it is instructive that, every time we've thought about moving it to the front burner, we've had no difficulty finding a recent news story to use as a potential illustration of their approach. There is always something, and it's rarely more than a few days old. For example, there was just a dust-up in Telford, a small borough of Pennsylvania.

The background to the Telford incident is this: There is one library in the 5,000-person town, the Indian Valley Public Library. Margie Stern has been director of the library for the better part of a decade, and the main problems she had to deal with for most of that time were the kinds of problems you would expect—managing access to the rec room, stretching the budget to cover all expenses, etc. That changed in March, when Telford began to gear up for elections to its borough council. Two Moms-for-Liberty-backed candidates made the library a centerpiece of their campaigns, decreeing that the librarians are all "groomers" who provide "pornography" for children and engage in "sex trafficking." These days, the library often has protesters outside, who alternate between making these wild and unfounded charges and quoting scripture.

As a well-to-do suburb, the Telford Borough Council has historically been dominated by Republicans. But two of the current council members have been won over to the Moms for Liberty agenda, and they secured a 25% cut of the library's budget in order to hire a new police officer to patrol the streets for perverts. If the two additional Moms-backed candidates are elected, then that will be a majority of the seven-person council, and the library may lose all of its funding.

In response to these machinations, Natalie Cimonetti, who is a mother of two and is not an extremist, decided to counter-organize in support of two Democratic candidates. Her organization is called Red Wine & Blue, and its purpose is to resist extremism. Using the same tools that the Moms for Liberty use, Cimonetti took her fight to social media. And last week, Chief of Police Randall Floyd sent Cimonetti a letter warning her that she could be facing criminal stalking charges if she doesn't back down.

The exact nature of Cimonetti's posts is unknown, though she apparently posted the names and addresses of Moms members to Facebook. Not the most admirable thing ever, but "criminal" is a stretch, particularly since doxxing is a standard tool in the Moms for Liberty toolkit. Floyd, for his part, says he's not taking sides, but he's sent letters like this before. Also, one cannot help but notice that money taken away from the library tends to go to his department.

The council elections will happen in November, of course, and while the number of ballots cast is usually in the low hundreds, this time it's going to be in the thousands. Both sides are gearing up, and are blanketing the one-square-mile area with signage. There's no polling, naturally, but the scuttlebutt is that there's going to be big-time "support the library" turnout, and the Moms and their allies are going to take a shellacking. We'll be keeping an eye on it, because one can imagine similar situations playing out across suburbia next year.

It's also worth noting what's really going on here. There is no doubt that, at the local level, Moms for Liberty and their allies think they are fighting the good fight against... Satan or whatever. However, the people who are pulling the strings are thinking about... abortion, and its potential negative impact on Republicans in 2024. If Democrats can somehow be painted as extreme because of the books they tolerate in schools and libraries, then it could serve to cancel out attacks against Republicans for being extreme on abortion.

At least, that's the theory. We are somewhat skeptical that the people whose votes are available will draw an equivalence between, say, making Johnny Has Two Daddies available and forcing a woman with a non-viable fetus to carry it to term. Meanwhile, if a group is worried that non-right-wing voters are going to show up to the polls in large numbers, and they pursue an approach that could also cause non-right-wing voters to show up to the polls in large numbers, that's a double loss, and not a win. (Z)

Moms for Liberty, Report from the Front Lines

Continuing on this theme, readers will recall that reader J.K. in Silverdale is helping run the campaign of a candidate for the local school board, and asked whether or not that candidate should attend a forum held by the Moms for Liberty. Readers gave many interesting answers, although those answers were by no means unanimous, one way or the other.

J.K. wrote in with a report on how things ended up turning out, and we thought we would pass it along. And so:

First, thank you to the readership for your thoughtful campaign advice. Reading your comments clarified for us that there were sound arguments for either choice.

My candidate did not attend the Moms for Liberty forum. I did.

I did not attend in any official capacity; I am not a public figure and my role in my candidate's campaign is not public knowledge. I showed up with the other member of our campaign, and we sat and listened with the twenty or so adults and handful of kids in the audience. Only four candidates from across our county of five school districts showed up. This was not a well-attended event.

Within the first few minutes, I realized that my candidate had absolutely made the right call when she decided not to attend. She had reached out to the hosts asking about the format of the event, and she received a polite response including some generalities, but stating that the format had not been finalized. I'm not sure the format ever was finalized. The moderators were civil but prone to editorializing. After brief introductions, the moderators read a series of statements that distorted facts, and candidates were asked to hold up a green or red card to signal agreement or disagreement. There was no disagreement among the four candidates. Positions stated in the forum included no pornography in school libraries, consider arming teachers for school safety, God gave parents children to mold as they see fit, only the U.S. and state flag should be seen at school, community health clinics should not be at schools, and board members should take a stand against state law (which is a violation of the oath of office). Between the loose, editorializing format and sheer number of distorted facts, this simply was not a venue for my candidate to present a different perspective.

Listening to these people at board meetings and at this forum, I confess a perverse fascination. They seem sincere in their beliefs and emotions, and they seem to live in an alternate reality. They are deeply concerned about "what is happening in our schools," but provide some mix of no evidence, distorted evidence, or happenings from outside our district. When they make public comments at board meetings, it's a bizarre, performative act. They expend great effort finding issues, real or imagined, to be angry about. Frequently, their complaints are about issues outside the purview of the school board, and are therefore pointless.

Unfortunately, their distorted reality has real and terrifying consequences. A music teacher at one of our schools, Brownsville Elementary, posted on Facebook about a curious kindergartner asking if he's a boy or girl (the kid apparently asked because of the teacher's red shoes, not his dress or red fingernails). His response: "I don't have to be a boy or a girl. I dress like me. And if someone thinks I dress like a girl, then I take that as a compliment because girls are awesome!" A local right-wing pastor posted about this, urging parents to make a fuss and pull their kids out of the school. The pastor's post was picked up by Libs of TikTok and went viral. On Monday, Brownsville Elementary was closed due to a bomb threat.

This is stochastic terrorism. There are over 400 elementary students who attend that school, and parents will now send their kids there knowing their children's lives were credibly threatened. Prior to Wednesday's board meeting, my candidate friend texted me, "They are bringing in sheriffs to protect us. That is not a joke." Public comments at the meeting supported the teacher and LGBTQ+ community by about a 3-or 4-to-1 margin, and included multiple pastors who countered the right-wing pastor by affirming inclusive Christianity. And yet, there is that minority that seems to think a peaceful man in a dress is a bigger threat to children than the all-too-real fear of being blown up.

This is the reality in a blue district in a blue state. Please, even if you are in a blue district, do not be apathetic about your local school board elections.

For anyone interested in following the election in my district, Central Kitsap, here is our voters' pamphlet. The brave candidates striving for inclusive schools include the first Asian woman to run (p. 33), the first Black member of our board, and my friend.

Thanks, J.K.! This certainly helps make clear why the SPLC made the choice it did. (Z) Tracking Poll, October 2023, Senate Edition

Now that things are heating up, and there's a real basis for movement, we're going to make sure to do these monthly. Today will be a Senate update and Friday will be a presidential update.

To start, we asked readers to judge which Senate seats are most likely to flip in next year's elections. The new rankings are in the second column, since June is when we last asked:

State Current Holder May Rank June Rank
Montana Jon Tester (D) 2 1
West Virginia Joe Manchin (D) 1 2
Arizona Kyrsten Sinema (I) 4 3
Ohio Sherrod Brown (D) 3 4
Texas Ted Cruz (R) 5 5
Florida Rick Scott (R) 6 6
Nevada Jacky Rosen (D) 7 7
Wisconsin Tammy Baldwin (D) 8 8
Pennsylvania Bob Casey (D) 9 9
Michigan Open (Debbie Stabenow, D) NR 10
California Open (Dianne Feinstein, D) 10 NR

Note that we are defining "flip" as "will be claimed by the caucus/conference that does not currently control the seat." So, if Sinema wins or if Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) claims that seat, then it isn't a flip.

We've also asked readers to guess how many seats the Democrats would hold once the dust has settled next November:

Month Low High Mean Median Mode
May 28 60 49.71 50 50
June 28 62 49.88 50 50

The "question of the month" was: "Counting from June 7, how many days until Donald Trump is indicted for the Mar-a-Lago documents?" There were just over a hundred readers who correctly guessed "2," as the indictment came down on June 9. The average guess was 39.66 days, which is not far off from July 28 (51 days), when the superseding indictment was filed.

The new "question of the month" is this: Who will be the next Speaker of the House? The ballot is here! (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct03 Congressional Drama, Part I: Gaetz Pulls the Trigger
Oct03 Congressional Drama, Part II: Other Storylines
Oct03 Trump Legal News: 99 Luftballoons
Oct03 John Kelly: It's All True
Oct03 Suarez In Hot Water
Oct03 RFK Plotting Independent Bid
Oct03 Sinema Has Her Game Plan
Oct02 Gaetz Promises to Use the Single-Use Fire Extinguisher
Oct02 Newsom Makes His Pick
Oct02 Trump Calls Haley a "Birdbrain"
Oct02 Anti-Trump Republican Group Shows How to Damage Trump
Oct02 One of the Georgia 19 Has Flipped
Oct02 Feinstein's Death May Be Worth $3.2 Million to Adam Schiff
Oct02 Taylor, Travis, and Trump
Oct02 The Supreme Court Is Open for Business: Cases to Watch
Oct02 Trump Is on Trial Today
Oct01 Crisis Averted... for Now
Oct01 Sunday Mailbag
Sep30 Saturday Q&A
Sep29 Dianne Feinstein Has Passed Away
Sep29 Republicans in The House, Part I: A Hard Day's Night
Sep29 Republicans in The House, Part II: You Fool No One
Sep29 Meanwhile, Over in the Senate: You Got The Look
Sep29 Trump Legal News: Moby Dick
Sep29 The Day After the Debate: A Little Less Conversation
Sep29 Another GOP Presidential Candidate?: I Heard It through the Grapevine
Sep29 My Gift Is My Song: Don't Fear the Reaper
Sep29 This Week in Schadenfreude: Got to Give It Up
Sep29 This Week in Freudenfreude: Hold Your Head Up
Sep28 Donald Ducks Daffy Debate
Sep28 Debate Takeaways
Sep28 Trump Triangulates
Sep28 Trump Legal News: No-no, no, no, no-no-no, no, no-no, Na-no, no, na-no, no-no
Sep28 T-minus-2 Days and Counting
Sep27 Cory Booker Is Calling for Menendez to Resign
Sep27 Biden Pickets the Car Companies
Sep27 Tonight Is the Second Republican Debate
Sep27 Senate Is Moving Close to a Continuing Resolution
Sep27 Shutdowns Have a Long and Not Glorious History
Sep27 Big Republican Donors Are Stuck
Sep27 But Trump's Base Is Not Stuck
Sep27 Judge Rules Trump Defrauded Banks and Insurance Companies
Sep27 Government Files an Antitrust Suit against Amazon
Sep27 Chutkan Demonstrates Her Stuff
Sep27 Hunter Biden's Laptop Is Back in the News
Sep27 Supreme Court Rejects Alabama's Appeal
Sep27 New Hampshire Also Has House Races
Sep27 FCC Reinstates Net Neutrality
Sep26 Today's Corruption News, Part I: Bob Menendez
Sep26 Today's Corruption News, Part II: Clarence Thomas