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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Biden Speaks in Tulsa
      •  Democracy in Danger
      •  To Trump or Not to Trump: The Democrats
      •  To Trump or Not to Trump: The Republicans
      •  RNC Is Already Whining about 2024 Debates
      •  Limbaugh's Empire Splinters
      •  Stansbury Elected to Succeed Haaland

Biden Speaks in Tulsa

Yesterday marked the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race massacre, the notorious 1921 incident where white citizens of the city put their white supremacist views into action, attacking and laying waste to 35 square blocks of the predominantly Black Greenwood District. Because the people in power back then did not see much value in documenting how many Black people might have perished, the exact body count is, and will always be, a mystery. The contemporary report was 26 Black and 10 white citizens dead; later analyses have put the total deaths at well over 100, and perhaps as high as 300.

Remarkably, there are three people who were living in Greenwood that day, and who are still living there today. They are quite elderly, of course, ranging in age from 101 to 107. Yesterday, Joe Biden visited the city to chat with that trio, to tour the museum dedicated to the massacre, and to deliver a few remarks in honor of the occasion. Here are the key takeaways:

  • Empathy: Biden does the empathy thing very well, certainly better than his immediate predecessor, and possibly better than the fellow before that. The President's abilities in this area were on full display yesterday. To take one example: "I come here to help fill the silence because in silence wounds deepen. As painful as it is, only in remembrance do wounds heal." The crowd responded very well to that one.

  • Narrowing the Wealth Gap: Biden may or may not be able to get anything through the Senate. Even if he can't, he still has executive orders at his disposal. On Tuesday, with an eye toward narrowing the wealth gap between white Americans and Americans of color, the President pledged that he would require 15% of federal contracts to go to minority-owned businesses, up from the current 10%. He will also steer $60 billion toward revitalizing minority neighborhoods, and will strengthen guidelines for interpreting and enforcing the Fair Housing Act. Those guidelines were significantly weakened under Donald Trump and HUD Secretary Ben Carson.

  • Another Job for Harris: The President also announced that he is tapping VP Kamala Harris to lead the administration's push to protect voting rights. She will have to fit that in between the other things that have already been added to her portfolio, including immigration policy, serving as liaison to a number of world leaders, whipping votes for the infrastructure bill, promoting vaccination, chairing the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, and chairing the National Space Council. Some of those jobs aren't too hard—even Dan Quayle was able to handle chairing the National Space Council, for example—but others are quite the challenge, indeed.

So, the speech was a pretty big deal, as these things go. There was also one bit of snark that we should probably mention. During his remarks, Biden said:

As for the act of voting itself, I urge voting rights groups in this country to begin to redouble their efforts now to register and educate voters. And June should be a month of action on Capitol Hill. I hear all the folks on TV saying, "Why doesn't Biden get this done?" Well, because Biden only has a majority of effectively four votes in the House and a tie in the Senate, with two members of the Senate who vote more with my Republican friends. But we're not giving up.

Hmmm. Hard to imagine which two Democratic senators he might have been thinking of. One wonders if one of them might decide to wear a special ring in Biden's honor tomorrow. (Z)

Democracy in Danger

The Tulsa speech was Biden's second in as many days. In his Memorial Day speech on Monday, he also had a fair bit to say, in particular sounding a warning about the future of democracy. Addressing a crowd at Arlington National Cemetery, Biden declared: "Democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world. What we do now, what we do now, how we honor the memory of the fallen, will determine whether or not democracy will long endure." For those who did not catch the reference, Biden is very clearly invoking the Gettysburg Address.

The President is not the only one who is concerned about the democracy. On Tuesday, over 100 university professors—members of departments of political science, communication, public policy, and international studies, among others, and all of them students of democracy—released a stark letter warning that the U.S.S. U.S.A. is in trouble. The opening paragraph pretty well sums it up:

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.

The conclusion of the letter lays out the course of action that these folks would like to see:

We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

In other words, pretty much everyone these days is calling out Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). For our part, we remain unconvinced that either of them are actually as committed to bipartisanship and/or to the filibuster as they claim to be. The likeliest outcome remains that they each play the roles they have crafted for themselves, and that they are eventually "forced" to surrender and join their Democratic colleagues in supporting H.R. 1 and H.R. 4.

That said, if Manchin and/or Sinema's positions are genuine, then they have some serious thinking to do. Are their careers and/or their desire to save one element of Senate procedure that is being misused worth the potential costs? (Z)

To Trump or Not to Trump: The Democrats

The 2022 election cycle is getting underway, which means it's time to think about strategy. One possible, and very obvious, strategy for the Democrats would be to spend most of their time framing the Republican Party as a subsidiary of the Trump Organization, and reminding anyone and everyone that pretty much all Republican politicians not named Cheney or Kinzinger do the bidding of the broadly unpopular former president. If the Democrats take this approach, then voters will be treated to a steady diet of reminders about the insurrection, the vote(s) on impeachment, the vote on the 1/6 commission, Trump's legal troubles, etc.

However, there is an alternate view that is emerging among many of the House members who are vulnerable next year, and who recall well how poorly the 2020 House elections went for the blue team. They argue that everyone already knows about the evils of Trump and about the GOP's kowtowing to him. They believe that voters are tired of hearing about all of this, and would much rather hear about past Democratic policy achievements (COVID relief, possibly infrastructure) and future Democratic plans. As Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) puts it: "Trump is a Republican problem and a Republican cancer that they need to cut out of their party. But that's their problem."

As far as political strategy goes, both sides have a pretty good argument. Keeping the focus on Trump didn't work so well for Hillary Clinton in 2016, or for an awfully large number of Congressional candidates in 2020. On the other hand, it worked very well indeed for Joe Biden and, thanks to the events of 1/6, Trump is even more radioactive today than he was in November of last year.

Obviously, this is not an all-or-none situation; the Democrats can adopt some mix of Trump criticism and policy advocacy. And, of course, individual candidates will tailor their message to their districts or their home states. Still, the Party is going to have to pick a central theme for 2022, and when it comes to whether that theme will involve Trump or not, well, your guess is as good as ours. (Z)

To Trump or Not to Trump: The Republicans

Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans have already made their choice, at least in the short-term: They are gonna Trump. For the moment, at least, they should really replace the elephant with a silhouette of The Donald:

Trump silhouette, from the side, looking to the left

You never realized how much he's shaped like Alfred Hitchcock, did you?

Many Republicans, however, are worried about the long-term effects of the Party's time—currently of indeterminate length—as the cult of Trump. One of those effects, of course, is that many young voters will be permanently driven into the Democratic fold. But the other, and the one that is the focus of the linked article, is that the Party's bench will be left with only one kind of candidate on it: Trump clones.

At the moment, pretty much any candidate who can be described as a "rising star" in the Republican Party is either a die-hard Trumper (Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA; Matt Gaetz and Ron DeSantis, R-FL; Lauren Boebert, R-CO, etc.) or, at least, is pretending to be one (Tim Scott, R-SC; Elise Stefanik, R-NY; Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, etc.). All the non-Trumpers are either retiring from office voluntarily, or are at risk of being forced out by Republican voters. For example, of the 293 Republicans who were serving in Congress the day Trump was inaugurated, 132 (45%) are already out of Congress, or have announced their intention to leave.

As long as Trumpism works for the Republicans, it's not a big problem to have a bunch of mini-Dons running around. But there will be a time when MAGA will lose its salience. Maybe that comes in 2022, thanks to the insurrection and other anti-democratic behaviors by Trump's base. Perhaps it comes once people tire of Trump populism, or once he departs the national stage, or once he dies.

Anyhow, when the time comes to pay the piper, the GOP is going to be left with a large number of basically unelectable candidates, no great presidential prospects, and, presumably, a lot of regrets. A sizable number of GOP pooh-bahs are scared witless of that day but, like witnesses to a car wreck unfolding in slow motion, they have little power to stop it from happening. (Z)

RNC Is Already Whining about 2024 Debates

And speaking of the GOP as a subsidiary of the Trump Organization, RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel looked at her calendar and noticed that there are less than 1,250 days to the first presidential debate of 2024. That leaves very little time to complain about how unfair the debates are to Republicans. And so, she promptly dashed off a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), warning that if they don't make some changes, then the RNC will advise their presidential nominee not to participate.

Among McDaniel's complaints:

  • The CPD's board members are too liberal, and some of them have said mean things about Donald Trump.
  • The first debate in 2020 was held after early voting commenced in some states.
  • The moderator for the (canceled) second debate in 2020, Steve Scully, was briefly an intern for Joe Biden 40 years ago.
  • The COVID-19-protective Plexiglas for the third debate in 2020 was installed poorly.

The letter is full of additional complaints and demands; you can read the whole thing here, if you wish.

Presumably, McDaniel is thinking one or both of two things: (1) the earlier she starts complaining, the better chance she has of putting pressure on the CPD; and (2) if Trump runs again, he will be pleased to have a built-in excuse to skip the debates, which don't work well for him.

It is improbable the CPD will pay McDaniel's letter any notice, as this is a classic "give them an inch and they'll take a mile" scenario. The moment the Commission gives any indication it's open to pressure, it will be bombarded from both sides of the aisle. Meanwhile, McDaniel's threat is ultimately pretty empty. Any non-Trump Republican would be foolish to throw away three hours of free, national publicity. And every Republican, Trump included, would be making a big mistake in ceding the stage entirely to Joe Biden (or any other Democrat), who would be delighted to turn the event into a town hall. (Z)

Limbaugh's Empire Splinters

Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh are, almost without question, the two biggest radio personalities of the last 40 years. When Stern left terrestrial radio for a different medium (satellite radio), his syndicators tried desperately to hold together the network he'd created, replacing him with one show in the West (Adam Carolla) and a different one in the East (David Lee Roth). The plan ultimately went up in flames, taking many of the radio stations that had carried Stern with it.

Now that Rush Limbaugh has also left terrestrial radio for something different, the same thing is happening. Limbaugh's syndicator decided that no single loudmouth could replace Rushbo, so they tapped a pair of them in Clay Travis and Buck Sexton to take over his show. The problem is that many stations don't want to pay Limbaugh rates for a pair of Rush clones. So, some of them have decided to develop their own, local programming, while others have decided to go with the lower-cost Dana Loesch show instead. Undoubtedly, there will be more settling of the dust, particularly if Travis and Sexton fail to pull Rush-like ratings.

Limbaugh, as we have noted many times, had a profound impact on the political landscape. However, as he and his audience both aged, he started to lose a fair bit of steam. Now, the right-wing radio/podcast landscape is going to be split, not only among Loesch, Travis, and Sexton, but also among Candace Owens, Ben Shapiro, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt, Dennis Prager, and others. Right-wing talk will still continue, of course, but none of these folks will exercise even a fraction of the influence that Limbaugh had. (Z)

Stansbury Elected to Succeed Haaland

Yesterday, the voters of NM-01 headed to the polls to choose a replacement for Deb Haaland, who left the seat in order to become Secretary of the Interior. The race did not get a whole lot of attention because there was pretty much zero drama; NM-01 has a PVI of D+9, Joe Biden won the district by 23 points, and Democrat Melanie Stansbury tripled the fundraising take of Republican Mark Moores. To the extent that there were storylines, they were these: (1) the Democrats wanted Stansbury to win by a bunch, so as to show strength heading into 2022; and (2) the campaign was a test of potential 2022 themes, as Stansbury ran a pro-environment campaign and Moores ran a Democrats-are-soft-on-crime campaign.

In the end, the blue team got what they wanted. Stansbury trounced Moores, 60.3% to 35.7%. That's even better than Biden did there last year, so the Democrats were able to show strength, as they wanted to do, while also getting some useful intel about messaging. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) now has a four-vote margin of error, which will be extended to five on Aug. 3, when voters in D+30 OH-11 choose a new Democrat to replace Marcia Fudge, who is now running HUD. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun01 3-D Chess, Texas-Style
Jun01 Voter ID, by the Numbers
Jun01 Bipartisanship, Huh, Yeah--What Is it Good For? (Absolutely Nothing...)
Jun01 This Is Not Fake News...Or Is It?
Jun01 Corporate America Gets Woke
Jun01 GOP Has a Greene-Sized Headache
Jun01 Flynn Appears to Be All-in on Military Coup
May31 Texas Senate Approves Draconian New Voting Bill
May31 Alaska Gives the Texas Law a Dress Rehearsal
May31 New Hampshire Republicans Are Working on Getting Around H.R. 1
May31 Time to Fish or Cut Bait
May31 Biden's Budget
May31 Check Your Calendar: It's 2024 already
May31 Will We Ever Know?
May31 Exhausted Voters, Exhausted Ballots
May30 Sunday Mailbag
May29 The Republicans' Line Holds on 1/6 Commission
May29 Saturday Q&A
May28 As the Senate Turns
May28 Many Republicans Would Like to Move On from Trump
May28 Trump Legal Blotter
May28 Something Else for Trump to Worry About
May28 Today's 2022 Candidacy News
May28 Vaxxpots Are Working
May28 COVID Diaries: The Numbers Are Dropping, in Spite of All the Things We Are Doing Wrong
May27 Schumer to Republicans: The Train is Leaving in July
May27 Trump Still Owns the Republican Party
May27 Is Wokeness Going to Destroy the Democratic Party?
May27 Ticket Splitting Is on Life Support
May27 Catherine Cortez Masto Is in for a Tough Race
May27 Missouri Congressman Met with Trump about Senate Race
May27 Yang Is Losing His Grip
May27 Former Virginia Senator John Warner Is Dead
May26 Trump Grand Jury Is Convened
May26 1/6 Commission Bill Speeds Up
May26 Infrastructure Bill Slows Down
May26 Newsom Looks Very Safe
May26 Don't Know Much about History, Part II: Marjorie Taylor Greene
May26 Santorum Just the Latest in the CNN Trump Talking Head Parade
May25 Whither the 1/6 Commission?
May25 Liz Cheney Is Still a Staunchly Partisan Republican
May25 DeSantis and Co. Lash Out at Social Media Platforms
May25 The Performance of "Infrastructure" Will Soon Close
May25 Today's 2022 Candidacy News
May25 Don't Know Much about History, Part I: Rick Santorum
May24 Biden Makes Concessions to Republicans
May24 Democrats See Republicans' Refusal to Investigate the Insurrection as Electoral Gold
May24 How Trump's Big Lie Continues to Affect Politics
May24 Jennifer Weisselberg: Allen Will Flip
May24 Why Is Arizona Really Recounting the Ballots?