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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Certifiable Loser
      •  Cold Turkey
      •  940,000 Absentee Ballots Have Been Requested for Georgia Runoff So Far
      •  Can the Democrats Win Back the Cuban Vote?
      •  Voters Apparently Like What They Are Seeing from Biden
      •  Five Things That Saved Democracy
      •  The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Labor

Certifiable Loser

Thanks to the holidays, the walls that are closing in on Donald Trump paused for several days. However, they have once again resumed their inexorable march. On Monday, two more key states, namely Wisconsin and Arizona, certified their election results. That means that all six states that Team Trump tried to contest—Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Arizona, and Wisconsin—have formally declared Joe Biden to be the winner of their electoral votes.

That is not to say that Trump & Co. are ready to give up. On Monday, TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani and campaign legal adviser Jenna Ellis staged an event in Arizona that was meant to look like a hearing being held by the state legislature. It was actually just a press conference, though. Thereafter, "America's Mayor" headed to Gettysburg, Penn., to continue fighting the legal fight there. It's probably just a coincidence that Gettysburg is best known as the site of a doomed attempt to win a battle that was already lost.

Needless to say, whatever legal arrows that Trump's legal team still has in the quiver are not likely to accomplish much. They continue to have a wee problem, namely a total lack of evidence for their claims. Also not helpful is their habit of making specious legal arguments that pass the smell test with approximately 0.0% of judges. On top of that, overturning an election result prior to certification is a tall mountain to climb. Once the results have actually been certified? That mountain turns into Everest stacked on top of K2. On top of that, we're just one week from the drop dead date for electoral disputes to be resolved (Dec. 8), and less two weeks from the day that electors cast their ballots (Dec. 14).

At this point, it is impossible that Team Trump is seriously expecting to overturn the results. Heck, they are barely even trying anymore. So what's their game, then? A few possibilities suggest themselves:

  • Trump's ego demands all of this, and everyone else is just along for the ride, either to remain in his favor or to line their pockets.

  • The moment that the lawsuits and the complaints about fraud cease, the donations will stop rolling in. Gotta keep the grift going!

  • Trump has decided that "Lock her up!" is no longer working, and "Sleepy Joe" never really did work, and so he's decided that his political "program" for the next four years will be "The election was stolen from me!" At this point, all of this is theater meant to give foundation for that.

If you asked us to guess which of these it is, we would actually guess it is all three. In any event, the only question remaining, really, is how long Trump can keep this up. (Z)

Cold Turkey

Time will tell how long it will be before the Republican Party quits Donald Trump. Months? Years? Decades? Despite the headline, it's likely to be a slow and laborious process; the most painful and public and slow removal of a band-aid in human history. Even with the inspiration of Thanksgiving, the GOP isn't going cold turkey when it comes to Trumpism. And yet, the last 48 hours or so have seen a remarkable amount of pushback against and kvetching about the soon-to-be-ex-president.

To start with, many Republicans are growing weary of Trump's baseless claims that he won the election and Joe Biden lost. The RNC is fielding constant questions from rank-and-file Republican voters in Georgia asking what the point of voting in the Senate elections is if the system is "rigged." And so, there is growing pressure on the President to shut his yap. Right now, the pressure is behind the scenes, but it could easily burst into the open if Trump doesn't cool it. Actually, it already burst into the open a little bit, as the staunchly conservative National Review (which was founded in 1955 by conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr.) ran an op-ed on Monday headlined "Trump's Disgraceful Endgame" in which they tell him to put on his big boy pants and admit he lost.

Meanwhile, there are also pooh-bahs within the Party who are not happy with the trial balloon that Trump floated, threatening to announce his 2024 run during Joe Biden's inauguration. They want to see him at the inauguration, handing over the reins to Biden the way that every outgoing president save Andrew Johnson and the Adamses has done. With the generally Trump-loving Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) speaking up the loudest, the argument is that a Trump appearance would reflect well on him and would send an important message about the health of the democracy. On the other hand, skipping it would appear petulant and would weaken his own claim to power should he win a future election.

And finally, as folks in Trump's orbit begin to accept his loss, they are moving on to the question of who is to blame. And so, the finger-pointing has begun, with various factions of the base blaming other factions for the President's poor performance on Nov. 3. Of particular concern, at the moment, is Trump 2020's ghastly performance among young voters; nearly everywhere he was outpolled among voters under 30 by a margin of 2-to-1 or more, and with only a couple of states as exceptions (Georgia and Michigan) he did worse with them in 2020 than he did in 2016. There are at least some Republican strategists who suspect—gasp!—that the President's predilection for racist dog whistles, his climate change denial, and his faux evangelism may be to blame. Undoubtedly, other aspects of Trump's poor performance will soon be under the microscope.

In any event, at least something of a reckoning is underway. How far and how fast it goes is anyone's guess, but it's at least possible that Trump's grip on the GOP will weaken more quickly than he (or anyone else) imagines. If Trump goes gentle (or maybe not so gentle) into that good night, there will be a civil war within the Republican Party over its new direction. (Z)>

940,000 Absentee Ballots Have Been Requested for Georgia Runoff So Far

Thus far, 940,000 voters in Georgia have requested absentee ballots for the U.S. Senate runoff election. Since there are still two weeks left to register to vote, and a month left to request an absentee ballot, that is a brisk pace. To put that (still climbing) number into context, there were 1,782,580 absentee ballots requested for the general election, of which 1,320,154 were returned. So, we're already at more than 52% of the total requests for November and counting.

It is, of course, hard to know exactly what this means given the wonkiness of a runoff election that is taking place in the middle of a pandemic. However, we have ample evidence from November that the absentee ballots will be overwhelmingly Democratic—a margin of about 2-to-1 if the pattern holds. At the same time, it's entirely plausible—given the poor weather in January (Atlanta temperatures then are 35F to 45F), the dramatically worse COVID-19 situation, and potential Trump supporter boycotts—that absentee ballots could play a larger role in the final outcome than was the case in November. During the general election, about one-quarter of the final vote tally was composed of absentee ballots. That figure could certainly be higher this time around.

In addition to all the absentee votes, another half of the general election votes came in the form of in-person early voting, which begins Dec. 14 for the special election. And so, it certainly seems if we are headed for a repeat of the dynamic from the general election, namely that the longer that Donald Trump denigrates the system in service his own needs, the deeper the hole he digs for the Republican candidates. No wonder the party pooh-bahs want him to shut his yap (see above). (Z)

Can the Democrats Win Back the Cuban Vote?

Now that we've talked a little bit about Georgia, let's move on to Florida. A consensus, one well-supported by evidence, has emerged that the key to Donald Trump's success in the Sunshine State was his strong performance among Cuban-American voters. That allowed him to limit the damage he took in urban areas, and to seize the large trove of EVs on the basis of his strength in more rural areas and in the panhandle.

The question is: Can the Democrats do anything about this problem? Cuban-American author and political analyst Alexandra Martinez thinks it's very possible. In an op-ed for CNN, she says that Cuban-American voters were very much swayed by Republican propaganda warning them that Joe Biden is a white, American version of Fidel Castro, and that with him will come socialism and all of its evils. Martinez' prescription is to push back against that narrative aggressively (something she says did not happen in 2020), and to market to Cuban Americans on the Democratic policies they really like, such as a higher minimum wage.

Although Martinez does not put it this way, she's essentially saying something that we've written a few times before, namely that the Democrats are in a bit of a linguistic trap. If the Democratic establishment really did fail to denounce socialism (which seems to be the case), it's surely not because the people who run the Party are stupid, but because that could be read by the Bernie wing of the party as "screw you." If the Vermont Senator, who's not really a socialist anyhow (certainly not of the Castro sort), had christened himself a Democratic Progressive all those years ago, that would have been: (1) more accurate, actually, and (2) less of a headache for the Party to deal with. This is not to blame Sanders for his branding, merely to point out that the label should be far less relevant than the policies, and it's silly that it's not. In any event, if the Democrats are to follow Martinez' advice, then it's not only going to mean outreach to Cuban Americans and Venezuelan Americans who hate socialism, but also to progressives, making clear that anti-socialist messaging is not to be read as a rejection of the political program of Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), etc. (Z)

Voters Apparently Like What They Are Seeing from Biden

The latest Gallup Poll is out, and it has some good news for Joe Biden: His approval rating is up to 55%. Not only is that his best number since he became the Democratic nominee, it's also four points higher than the 51% of voters who cast their ballots for him in November. It would seem that he's won over at least a few folks.

Generally speaking, presidents-elect tend to put up pretty good numbers prior to their inauguration. Then, the rubber hits the road, some people are upset/disappointed by the administration, and there's a dip. Most presidents manage at least a few bounces, but not all do. Donald Trump, for example, was at 46% on Jan. 20, 2017, and he never once improved on that by more than 3 points, meaning he will finish his presidency never having cracked 50% approval (he's at 42% in yesterday's release). It also means that Biden is likely to start his new job with an approval 5-7 points higher than Trump's ceiling, which surely will not make The Donald happy. (Z)

Five Things That Saved Democracy

Yesterday, we had a pretty grim item about all the chinks in the armor of the Constitution that Donald Trump has exposed, possibly for a future unprincipled aspiring president to exploit. Now, let's do the counterpoint, and look at a list The Guardian (UK) has put together of five things that saved American democracy:

  1. Decentralization: The fact that a presidential election is really an amalgam of thousands of local elections, each run by different people, using different equipment, and playing by different rules, certainly creates some problems. But it also makes it very difficult for a bad actor—whether foreign or domestic—to bend the results to their will. To quote the linked article: "On election night, the tributaries of local results become streams, and then flow together to form rivers, and then become a flood. No president or any other figure has the power to stop the result."

  2. Turnout: The turnout this year was higher than for any election of the past century, both in terms of percentage of eligible voters, and in terms of the total vote. When the citizenry is watching closely, and is taking an enormous interest in the outcome, it's much harder to get away with chicanery.

  3. Integrity and transparency: Trump's bellyaching notwithstanding, the election was overall efficient, accurate, and transparent. Votes that needed to be recounted were, and without much difficulty. Election officials put their jobs first and their partisan loyalties second.

  4. The courts: Much effort has gone into packing the courts with conservative judges. And when it comes to the election, this effort paid zero dividends for Trump 2020. Judges of all stripes—conservative, liberal, white, black, Asian, Latino, male, female, gay, straight, tall, short, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu—refused to buy the legal schlock that Team Trump was peddling. Thus far, the President is 1-39 in court, with three more, cases pending.

  5. The media: The media did a very good job of keeping voters informed about the election, including the potential for a "red mirage." Some outlets called some states more quickly than others, but no outlet ended up having to take back so much as a single call.

In the end, the lesson is this: It is possible to introduce some corruption into the process (for example, voter ID laws, USPS trickery). And it is possible for partisan judges to put their thumbs on the scales when an election is close and there's plausible legal cover for them to do so (for example, Florida 2000). But stealing an election outright is close to impossible, as there are a lot of obstacles standing in the way of what would be, in the end, a coup. (Z)

The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Labor

We resume our series of cabinet projections. The positions we've already written up:

And now: Secretary of Labor.

  • The Job: As the name makes clear, the Secretary of Labor is responsible for representing the interests of working people in the Cabinet, and serving as a counterpoint to the business-interest-advocating Secretary of Commerce. Among the issues they work on are employment opportunities, wages, and workers' rights. Because past secretaries have endeavored to make their pet projects and issues a permanent part of the Department, Labor is known for being one of the largest, most complex, and most unwieldy bureaus of the government. A (very) partial list of the agencies and programs under its purview: the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiative, the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Veterans' Employment and Training Service, and the Women's Bureau. That is not to denigrate these sub-departments, merely to say that anyone who serves as secretary is going to inherit a large and complicated ball of wax.

  • Considerations: This is another position that is very fraught for Joe Biden. Progressives will be watching closely, and labor leaders will be watching even more closely. The first decision the president-elect will have to make is whether he wants to select a career politician/bureaucrat for the post (which is generally his preference), or if he wants to select someone with a strong organized labor background (which is generally organized labor's preference). Biden would like to please organized labor, in hopes of keeping them in the Democratic fold (or, perhaps, winning them back). However, getting labor unions on the same page is like herding cats, and organized labor is sharply divided between two champions. If Biden picks one of those two, he could end up aggravating the fans of the other.

    The good news for Biden is that all the stakeholders here dislike current Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia so much that any pick will be seen as an improvement.

  • Candidate 1, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): He would be the flashy pick, and would obviously send the progressive wing of the Democratic Party into spasms of delight. He talks a good talk, and he certainly has no fear of big businesses. He's also been lobbying, none-too-subtly, for the job.

    That said, although Sanders is using up a lot of the oxygen, he's a real longshot. The first problem is that his resignation from the Senate would put a Democratic Senate seat at risk. Not a lot of risk, but some. The second problem is that, unless the Democrats win both of the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, he would have a hard time getting confirmed. The third problem is that organized labor is very leery of him, in part because he has very little organized labor background, and in part because they worry he won't be able to get things done.

  • Candidate 2, Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI): Levin is one of the union-backed candidates. In particular, he has the backing of the United Auto Workers, the Communications Workers of American, and the National Nurses Union, all of which he interacted with a lot while serving for 11 years as assistant director of organizing for the AFL-CIO. Levin's also got some bureaucratic background, having run Michigan's No Worker Left Behind program, and having served briefly as acting director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth.

    The first debit against Levin is the problem noted above, that some unions are excited about him, and other decidedly are not. The second is that he's a white guy, and so doesn't advance the diversity of the cabinet.

  • Candidate 3, Mayor Marty Walsh (D-Boston): Walsh is the other union-backed candidate, favored in particular by the AFL-CIO and the American Federation of Teachers. Before beginning his political career, he had a long career (almost 30 years) as a union laborer, activist, and organizer. Like Biden, he's Catholic and has a (well-earned) blue-collar image. He's also something of a larger-than-life character, in the vein of a Richard J. Daley or a Fiorello LaGuardia.

    Walsh has the same liabilities that Levin does; he's a white guy and he's not the favored candidate of several very important unions. His centrism and public image probably give him a better chance than Levin to win over non-believers among organized labor. On the other hand, those same things make him the least favorite candidate of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

  • Candidate 4, California Secretary of Labor Julie Su (D): If Biden wants a long-serving bureaucrat with a track record of success, Su would be an excellent pick. She's a lawyer, an expert on workers' rights, and a recipient of a MacArthur "genius" grant who has gotten rave reviews for her service in California. In addition, Biden is certainly going to find a spot in the cabinet for an Asian American, and Su would obviously check that box. She'd be the second Asian-American Labor Secretary, following Elaine Chao (who held the job for eight years under George W. Bush). Speaking of Chao, she has spent the past 4 years as secretary of transportation and is highly competent. If Biden wants to win the normally stone-cold heart of Mitch McConnell (R-KY), he might try to find a slot for her in the cabinet as she has been married to McConnell for the past 27 years. She is also an Asian American (she was born in Taiwan) so she is a twofer.

    Su's first problem is that, as far as organized labor is concerned, even a talented bureaucrat is still just a bureaucrat. Further, she's not especially experienced in terms of playing politics, so many observers think she would be better suited to a more wonky/policy-driven and less public-facing position in the Labor Department.

  • Candidate 5, William Spriggs: If Biden wants a candidate who gives something to everyone, but who gives everything to no one, he might go with Spriggs. The current professor of economics at Howard University has organized labor experience, having served as chief economist to the AFL-CIO. He also has the sort of bureaucratic experience that the president-elect favors, as Spriggs served as Assistant Secretary of Labor during the Obama administration. If appointed, Spriggs would be the first Black man (and second Black person, following Clinton-era Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman) to hold the job, which would give the Congressional Black Caucus some of the patronage they want.

    The issue with "something for everyone" candidates is that they leave nobody really excited. Spriggs probably only gets tapped if Biden decides that the other options with strong support are just too hot too touch.

Ultimately, there's enough uncertainty here that close to a dozen names are being mentioned as "serious" candidates for the job. We're persuaded that the five listed above are the frontrunners, but other folks being mentioned include former deputy labor secretary Seth Harris, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Sara Nelson, DNC Chair and Obama-era Labor Secretary Tom Perez, Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA).

Up tomorrow, unless Biden pulls a real surprise and announces his pick for the job out of nowhere, is Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov30 Appeals Court Slaps Down Trump
Nov30 Biden's Lead in Wisconsin Grows by 87 Votes
Nov30 Biden Breaks a Record
Nov30 Biden's Top Five Challenges
Nov30 Supreme Court to Hear Census Case Today
Nov30 House Results Are Nearly Complete Now
Nov30 Republicans Came Back to Life in California
Nov30 Why Did the Democrats Do So Badly in House Races?
Nov30 The Senate Will Be Plunged into Uncertainty for Weeks Next Year
Nov30 Is Democracy Safe Now?
Nov30 Can the Democrats Win Again in 2024?
Nov30 Build That Wall!
Nov29 Sunday Mailbag
Nov28 Saturday Q&A
Nov27 Trump Says He'll Leave if He Loses the Electoral College
Nov27 How Long to Go from the White House to the Big House?
Nov27 Trump Complicates Things in Georgia
Nov27 Trump Foreign Policy More a Wrong Turn Than a Real Change in Direction
Nov27 The Last Gasp of Anti-Trans Politics?
Nov27 The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Commerce
Nov27 The Thanksgiving Angle
Nov26 Biden Hits 80 Million Votes
Nov26 Biden Rules Out Having Sanders and Warren in the Cabinet
Nov26 Jaime Harrison Is the Frontrunner for DNC Chairman
Nov26 Trump Pardons Michael Flynn
Nov26 Should Trump Be Prosecuted?
Nov26 Another Theory about Why the Polls Were Wrong
Nov26 Money Can Buy Ads, but Not Love
Nov26 How to Run a Proper Election
Nov26 All Hail to the Gerrymander
Nov25 Pennsylvania and Nevada Have Now Certified Their Election Results
Nov25 Here's What Biden's Transition Team Will Now Get
Nov25 People Are Pissed
Nov25 Trump is Salting the Earth as He Retreats
Nov25 Trump Is Also Making Life Difficult for Republicans
Nov25 Trump's Base Strategy Failed
Nov25 Charles Koch Has an Admission: I Screwed Up
Nov25 Loeffler is Attacking Warnock's Sermons
Nov25 Democrats Are Going to Have to Deal with a Much Smaller House Majority
Nov25 Virginia Gubernatorial Race Is On
Nov24 Trump Allows Transition to Go Forward
Nov24 Biden Unveils More of His Team
Nov24 The Biden Cabinet: Secretary of Agriculture
Nov24 Harris Could Hamstring McConnell
Nov24 California Senate News, Part I
Nov24 California Senate News, Part II
Nov24 Now That's a Useful Poll
Nov23 The Window for Trump Is Closing
Nov23 Senate Republicans Signal That Biden Can Pick His Own Cabinet
Nov23 Ten Things Biden Can Do without Senate Approval