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Biden: I'll Sign Bipartisan Bill without Reconciliation Bill

On Saturday, in a 180-degree reversal of what he said 2 days earlier, Joe Biden caved to pressure from Republicans and said he would sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill without having the Democrats-only reconciliation bill right next to it, ready for signing 10 seconds later. This is a huge change in a very short time interval, something more characteristic for the impulsive Donald Trump than an experienced politician like Biden.

Announcing Thursday that he would sign the bipartisan infrastructure bill only if the reconciliation bill had already passed was a blunder that Biden shouldn't have made, as he violated one of the most fundamental rules of politics: Don't say the quiet part out loud. Yes, Biden needed to reassure Senate progressives that he wouldn't sign the weak bipartisan bill, declare victory, and leave it at that. But he should have done that by calling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and telling him to convey that quietly to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and the others.

Biden's Thursday announcement created a problem for him. Republicans started demanding that he promise to veto a reconciliation bill if he gets one. But if he gives in to that, progressives may torpedo the bipartisan bill in an attempt to force him to get the whole shebang in a reconciliation bill with no Republican input. If he doesn't give in to Republican demands, he may not get the 60 votes to pass the bipartisan bill. No matter what he does, his unforced error is going to put him on the hot seat for a couple of weeks. Remember, most Republicans don't actually care about the bill one way or the other. What they want is for Biden to fail and their 2017 tax-cut bill to be untouched.

Biden tried to recover by saying on Saturday: "So, to be clear: our bipartisan agreement does not preclude Republicans from attempting to defeat my Families Plan; likewise, they should have no objections to my devoted efforts to pass that Families Plan and other proposals in tandem." But you can't put the cat back in the bag/the horse back in the barn/the genie back in the bottle (pick one).

Making that statement seemed to work for the moment. Yesterday, gang members Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Rob Portman (R-OH), went on television to announce that they were happy Biden wasn't insisting on a reconciliation bill, without which he wouldn't sign the bipartisan bill. Now the two bills are officially decoupled.

It is all for show. Nothing changed. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) also announced Sunday that he was happy with the state of affairs and would vote for the bipartisan bill and also the reconciliation bill that will contain all the items Biden wants that are not in the bipartisan bill. Manchin also said he would support raising the corporate tax rate to 25% and the capital gains rate to 28%. But he did issue a warning that the reconciliation bill had better not be too big. So it now looks like there will be two bills that Biden gets and signs on separate days. Biden will probably get most of what he wants and the Republicans will end up helping Biden get credit for being bipartisan while he also gets credit for a big, bold reconciliation bill. To us, it seems like they got rolled, but they had a weak hand to play. After all, if the Democrats had behaved like the Republicans did in 2017 with the tax-cut act, then they could have cooked up a $6 trillion reconciliation bill in the dead of night, including corporate tax increases, and then passed it at 7 a.m. the next morning on a party-line vote without even showing the bill to the Republicans.

Are people going to be confused by all the fake outrage? Probably not. The one thing that will save Biden here is that most people don't follow the daily ins and outs of politics the way we do. If in the end, two bills are passed, one bipartisan and one unipartisan using reconciliation, most people will react to the bills themselves, not the process and not who got angry with whom when. Still, Biden was foolish to say on Thursday that he would insist on the two bills being signed in tandem. He should have just focused on the bipartisan bill, saying it was a great bill due to the bipartisanship. When asked about a possible reconciliation bill, he could easily have said: "I can't comment on a bill that hasn't been written yet, whose contents I don't know, and which may not even pass." Maybe this will be a learning experience for him, as he almost blew it. (V)

Donald Trump Wants to Make the 2022 Elections about ... Donald Trump

Cicadas aren't the only thing emerging from a long hibernation. So is Donald Trump, although his rest period was more like 17 weeks rather than 17 years. The cicadas are making a lot of noise right now, and so is Trump. On Saturday, Trump gave a speech in Ohio repeating his lie that he won the election and hinting about a 2024 run. He said: "We won the election twice and it's possible we'll have to win it a third time. It's possible." Note that his statement is neither a promise nor a denial. It just says he might. The idea was to keep the crowd excited, without committing himself to a run he might not be able to make (because, for example, he is in prison). The Ohio rally is just the first of many expected in the coming months. Trump never really liked being president and doing all the things presidents have to do (like run the government, pay attention to legislation, not break the law, etc.). What he really does like is holding rallies with thousands of adoring supporters cheering him. Now he is free to do that all day, except when his lawyers really need to talk to him about upcoming legal proceedings against him and his company.

Trump's schedule for rallies is fairly predictable. He is not going to go where the Republican Party most needs his help—for example, in Pennsylvania, where the seat of retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) is in great danger. He is going to go where he can try to extract revenge against Republicans who voted to impeach or convict him, or voted to accept the electoral votes that showed that he had lost. In many cases, those races aren't the important ones. For example, he was in Ohio to support a primary opponent to Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH), who voted for the second impeachment. The district, OH-16, is moderately Republican (R+8), but in that kind of district, the incumbent party is better off running the incumbent, rather than having an open-seat election that it could lose. Trump is also going to spend time in places where the Republicans are going to win, no matter what, like Alabama and Wyoming, rather than in places where his presence might be able to fire up the base enough to bring out a few more votes and flip a race. On the other hand, everywhere he goes also fires up the local Democrats, so maybe the Party is better off if he spends all his time in Wyoming campaigning against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), because the Republicans will hold that seat with or without Cheney. At least there, he doesn't do any damage, which he might do by campaigning in, say, North Carolina, which is going to have a real barnburner of a Senate race.

One thing that may be different in 2022 is that Trump is endorsing candidates who might lose (and opposing candidates who might win). In the past, he waited until the outcome was fairly certain and then endorsed. By Dec. 2022, it will be obvious to both Democratic and Republican politicians how powerful his endorsement is. If he bets on the wrong horse in many races, his ability to scare anyone will be greatly diminished and so will his power. Specifically, if he does, say 50-50 or worse in 2022, ambitious Republicans (say, the current and previous governors of Florida), may decide to jump into the presidential race early and dare him to follow. Running against candidates whose slogan is: "Trumpism done right" or "Trumpism without the baggage" would be a new experience for him. (V)

Two States Undercut Secretaries of State for Not "Finding" Votes for Trump

When Donald Trump asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to "find" more votes for him, Raffensperger refused. The Republican-controlled Georgia state legislature apparently considered that a perfectly reasonable request, so it passed a law that allows the state legislature to take over the process of counting the ballots if it wants to.

Now Arizona is about to do the same thing. The Republican-controlled state legislature there just passed a bill that strips the secretary of state of the power to defend election lawsuits, as is the case under current law, and hands it to the state AG. Just coincidentally, the secretary of state is Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, and the AG is Mark Brnovich, a Republican. Oh, by the way, the law is effective only until Jan. 2023, when Hobbs will be out of office (she is running for governor in 2022). Gov. Doug Ducey (R-AZ) will happily sign the bill this week.

In case this is too complicated to understand, let's try it in simpler terms. The legislature is transferring power over election lawsuits from a Democrat to a Republican, but only until 2023, at which time the legislature is free to see which party controls which office, so it can decide again who gets to defend lawsuits, based on the 2022 election results.

The Arizona law opens a whole new field of play in states where Republicans control the trifecta but Democrats nevertheless win some of the statewide offices. Once the election results are known, the legislature can strip statewide offices that Democrats won of their powers and transfer them to offices Republicans won—but only for 4 years just in case the results are different next time. What could be simpler? Why didn't someone think of that before? (V)

Dept. of Justice Sues Georgia over Voting Law

The Dept. of Justice has sued the state of Georgia over its new restrictive voting law. The DoJ claims that it is targeted to make it harder for Black voters to cast their ballots, something that violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, Kristen Clarke, head of the Civil Rights Division, said that the law makes absentee voting more difficult, forcing Black voters in urban counties to vote in person, where they will have to wait for long periods of time in line, something much less true of thinly populated, mostly white rural counties.

Although the case is not hopeless, in the end it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide. Even without the new Trump appointees, the Court has not looked favorably on plaintiffs fighting new election laws. A key issue will be whether a law that is race-neutral on its face but has the de facto effect of making it harder for Black people to vote is constitutional. Needless to say, the Constitution is silent on issues like this, since the Fourteenth Amendment doesn't get into second-order impacts, so the justices will be on their own and it does not look good for the Dept. of Justice. But it gets a merit badge for at least trying.

We may get a preview of the results as soon as this week, which is pretty fast for a suit announced on Friday. Another case, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, was argued earlier this year and a decision is expected any day now. In that case, the issue at question is the part of the Voting Rights Act known as the "results test." It says that if a state law is not discriminatory on its face, but results in affecting minorities more than whites, then it violates the Voting Rights Act. In Brnovich, the issue is whether an existing Arizona law that says votes cast in the wrong precinct don't count is discriminatory. Experience shows that disallowing ballots cast in the wrong precinct affects Latinos more than whites.

Also at issue is a provision of the Arizona law that makes it a crime for any person to collect multiple absentee ballots and turn them in. The latter provision mainly hurts Native Americans who don't have a car and who live on a reservation that is tens of miles from the precinct they are supposed to vote in. Traditionally the tribe appoints someone to collect all their ballots and turn them in, so de facto the law makes voting very difficult for many Native Americans. This case will show how seriously the Court takes the "results test." (V)

Barr Dumps on Trump

Former AG William Barr is trying desperately to salvage what is left of his reputation, something he mauled rather badly during his (second) time running the Dept. of Justice. ABC's chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl is writing a book about the Trump administration entitled Betrayal. For the book, he interviewed many people, including Barr. Yesterday, The Atlantic published an excerpt from the book. In the excerpt, Karl reports that Barr betrayed Trump on Dec. 1, 2020, during an on-the-record lunch with AP reporter Michael Balsamo in the AG's private dining room. Between bites of his salad, Barr told the journalist: "To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election." Balsamo couldn't believe his ears and asked Barr to repeat it. Barr repeated it. Balsamo then wrote a story saying that the Dept. of Justice could not find any evidence for the claims Trump was making that the election was stolen from him. In effect, Balsamo was quoting Barr by name calling Trump a liar. Balsamo's story went out right after lunch.

When Trump got wind of the story, he blew a gasket. Witnesses said that he had "the eyes and mannerism of a madman." He confronted Barr. The conversation went like this:

Trump: "Did you say that?"
Barr: "Yes."
Trump: "How the f**k could you do this to me? Why did you say it?"
Barr: "Because it is true."
Trump: "You must hate Trump. You must hate Trump."

Barr thought Trump was trying to control himself, but he was angrier than Barr had ever seen him before. And by then, every cable channel except OANN was covering Balsamo's story. Trump kept peppering Barr with all kinds of claims, and then switched to old grievances like Barr not prosecuting Hunter Biden and James Comey. He told Barr that he was worthless.

Karl also related that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), ever the coward, was afraid to come out and say that Biden won and Trump was lying. Instead, he wanted Barr to do the heavy lifting so all of Trump's ire would be directed at Barr, not himself. Well, it wasn't only that McConnell was a coward. He was also afraid that if he (McConnell) came out and said that Biden won, then Trump would be so angry with McConnell that he (Trump) would sabotage the Republicans in the Georgia runoffs they needed to hold the Senate. So by letting Barr be the fall guy, McConnell hoped to salvage the Senate. It didn't work, of course.

Barr also told Karl that he wasn't surprised by the election outcome. He had expected Trump to lose. When Trump started whining, Barr said it was all bulls**t. He did look for fraud, but there wasn't any. For example, Trump's allies had videos of boxes and boxes of ballots from Wayne County being trucked to the TCF Center in Detroit. Aha! Ballot box stuffing! But upon investigation, Barr learned that, unlike other Michigan counties, Wayne County always trucks the ballots to a central location for counting, so this was completely expected.

He also looked into allegations that the voting machines were rigged against Trump. From the start, he thought the claims were bulls**t, but after the hand counts done later agreed with machine counts, he was positive they were. (V)

Axios: J.D. Vance Will Announce a Senate Run in Ohio This Week

Mike Allen of Axios, who is about as plugged-in to politics as anyone not named Maggie Haberman, has written an item saying that J.D. Vance, author of the bestseller Hillbilly Elegy, is going to announce on Thursday that he is running for the Ohio Senate seat from which Rob Portman will retire in 2023. His campaign will focus on the culture wars (especially cancel culture, critical race theory, and Big Tech), immigration and economic populism. Vance, who is 36, has long been using social media to rally conservatives and irritate liberals. He was born in Middletown, OH, and went to Ohio State University before getting a law degree from Yale. He also served in the Marine Corps.

He has never run for public office before, but the money is already rolling in. Peter Thiel put $10 million in a super PAC that was created to support Vance. Robert Mercer also threw in an undisclosed amount. Vance has already trekked to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the...ring of Donald Trump. But even if he gets Trump's endorsement, Vance is no shoo-in for the GOP nomination. Six people have already entered the Republican primary, two of them serious contenders. One of those is Josh Mandel, who was state treasurer from 2011 to 2019, so he has twice won statewide election in Ohio. The other is Jane Timken, until recently the chair of the Ohio Republican Party, who is obviously very well known in Republican circles, albeit less so with the voters. More candidates are likely to jump in since the primary is more than a year from now.

Earlier this year, Trump was considering endorsing Timken, but aides talked him out of it. If he ends up doing it, it will be quite a race, with one candidate (Timken) backed by Trump, one candidate (Vance) backed by the billionaires, and one candidate (Mandel) who has actually run for and won statewide office twice.

So far, the only Democrat in the race is Rep. Tim Ryan. (V)

Democrats Have a Gerontocracy Problem

Which of these is true?:

  • Democrats are young
  • Democrats are old

The correct answer is: both. It is a strange dichotomy. Democrats do very well among young voters and less well among old voters. But the leaders of the Democratic Party are Joe Biden (78), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA; 81), and Chuck Schumer (70). Other top figures are House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD; 82), House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC; 80) and Bernie Sanders (79). There is not a lot of youth at the top there, but no one seems to be moving aside to allow the next generation to take over. Everyone wants to die in the saddle. It's probably not the best way to run a party focused on younger voters.

As an aside, you don't have to be pushing 80 (from either direction) to run a country. Here are the ages of the folks who just showed up at the G7 meeting: Emmanuel Macron (43), Justin Trudeau (49), Boris Johnson (57), Ursula von der Leyen (62), Angela Merkel (66), Suga Yoshihide (72), Mario Draghi (73), and Joe Biden (78).

The age issue is especially important now because both chambers of Congress are so closely balanced. One or two severe illnesses or deaths and the Democrats could lose their trifecta. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), whose best days are far, far behind her, turned 88 last week. Her death wouldn't change the balance of power, though, because Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) could just appoint a Democrat 40 or 50 years her junior to the seat (although he might also pick an older Black woman as a placeholder until 2022 to avoid having a dozen Senate wannabees angry with him). Some Democrats want Biden to appoint Feinstein's husband (a major Democratic donor) as ambassador to Japan, just so she can follow him and leave now gracefully.

Someone whose continued service presents a real risk for the blue team is Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), who is 81 and running for his ninth term. If he goes up to that big chamber in the sky, Gov. Phil Scott (R-VT) could appoint a Republican to the seat and then schedule the required special election as far into the future as the law allows, possibly giving the Republicans the Senate majority for many months. Oh, and while we are on the subject of octogenarians, Justice Stephen Breyer (82) is not exactly a spring chicken.

Another factor that is roiling the Democrats is that it is not just about age. Younger Democrats, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), tend to be much further left than their elders. Replacing the old guard, which is largely white, with a more ethnically diverse and much more progressive set of leaders would really shake up politics. Given the country's polarization, that could force the voters to choose between left and right, with no mushy middle, with unpredictable results.

That said, folks like AOC are only "far left" by American standards. By the standards of other industrialized democracies, she and Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) are considerably closer to the political center than Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA). Further, the policies that Democrats support, including the lefty Democrats, tend to be pretty popular, particularly when they are not explicitly linked to a (D). So, it could be that in elections 10-20 years hence, the question will be whether voters prefer "left" or "right." However, what it might actually be is whether the Democrats are able to counter the narrative that their ideas are nutty, radical, extreme, communist, etc. We shall see what happens, but every day there are more and more voters who did not grow up during the Cold War, and for whom "socialism" is not a dirty word (see below). (V)

Socialism Is Not a Bugaboo with Young Voters

Continuing on that theme, whenever the Republicans can't think of a good way to attack the Democrats, their fallback position is to yell: "SOCIALISTS!" As time goes on, they may need to start researching a new fallback position. A new Axios/Momentive poll shows that 41% of all U.S. adults view socialism in a positive light and 52% view it in a negative light. Among men, that is 36% positive and 59% negative while among women it is a near tie, with 45% seeing socialism as positive and 46% seeing it as negative. And every year socialism gets slightly more popular. If this keeps going, it will be a tie in 5 years.

The term "capitalism" fared better, with 68% of men seeing it as a positive and 28% seeing it as a negative. Among women the margin was much smaller, 48% to 43%. Overall that comes down to 57% positive and 36% negative. When Republicans yell "socialist!," they probably think that is like yelling "child rapist," and everyone will recoil in horror. In reality, capitalism is still ahead of socialism, but only by a modest amount. The lead is not overwhelming.

However, the real message of the poll is that young people (18-34) view capitalism as positive by a margin of only 49% to 46%. With young people and women not really such big fans of capitalism any more, Republicans are clearly increasingly tied to older men. The poll didn't break the results down by race, but we suspect that it is mostly older white men who are big fans of capitalism.

Also relevant here is that the poll asked whether the government should try to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. Here 66% are in favor of the government reducing the gap and 30% are against it. Among men this is 62% to 34% and among women it is 69% to 24%. So when you remove the labels and ask about one of the key policy differences between socialism and capitalism, there is a strong majority for the socialist policy. The message here is that Republicans should stick to name calling and Democrats should emphasize the policy differences without using any labels. (V)

Voting Machines Are Black Boxes--and So is the Entire Voting Industry

With voting machines often in the news, and Fox News and others being sued by two major voting-machine vendors (Smartmatic and Dominion Voting Systems), Politico decided to research and publish a long piece about the machines and their milieu. Turns out that the world of voting machines is probably the murkiest and most inscrutable part of the civilian private sector. Everyone knows lots about the companies that make cars and airplanes, and a fair bit about the major players in the smartphone market (Apple and Samsung), but the voting-machine industry and its products are extremely secretive.

This lack of transparency is especially troubling because (1) voting machines are so important to democracy and (2) the industry is completely government funded, much like the defense industry. The two voting-machine companies named above have never released their customer lists, but we suspect that other than states, counties, and cities (and their foreign equivalents), they don't have many customers. Probably zero. So taxpayers are completely supporting them, but know little about how the industry works—and not much about how the products work, either.

One person, a former Wharton student, Matthew Caulfield, tried to pierce the veil when a Wharton professor gave him a research assignment: How big is the elections industry? He went after it with a vengeance. He learned that big firms were gobbling up small firms like there was no tomorrow. Now there only three major players left and together they have 90% of the market. But it was an odd business model, at least domestically. There are only about 3,000 or so potential customers and the companies know exactly who they are.

One thing Caulfield learned early on is that when he called the vendors, they didn't want to talk. In contrast, when his classmates called, say, a coffee bean producer, they were overjoyed that someone from the prestigious Wharton School was interested in their industry. Caulfield eventually got the idea to file public records requests with the state of Maryland and managed to get a single useful number: how many employees one of the companies had. That's all. As a business student, Caulfield wasn't so much interested in whether the machines were secure, but more how the industry functioned, and that was a closely guarded secret. As time went on, he found it unnerving that the fate of democracy rested on a very secretive industry.

He eventually wrote a report on the little bit he discovered. At Wharton, it was just another industry report, of which there were many, but in the world of election administration, it went off like a bomb. One thing he noticed was that the companies were selling machines to one county at a time and the counties were represented by people who had no experience negotiating with big companies and practically no budget. Consequently, the vendors were forced to keep prices low. If you have only 3,000 possible (domestic) customers and none of them have any money, you aren't going to become a big profitable company that can afford to innovate. And each vendor had only two competitors. So none of them did.

Caulfield's first thought: "Why doesn't some big tech company get into the market, produce a superior product, and wipe out the three existing vendors?" Then he learned that after the 2000 election fiasco in Florida, a spate of byzantine certification laws were passed. The three existing companies knew them and outsiders didn't. In one case, an outside company spent $12 million on certification before giving up.

One thing that Caulfield finally managed to piece together is that the entire size of the elections industry in the richest country in the history of the world was about $350 million. This is comparable to the R & D department of the Go Pro camera company. It wasn't even 10% as big as a single contractor like Martin Marietta (annual revenue: $4 billion). The market was so small that vendors threatened to sue when a county switched vendors. This is like Coca-Cola suing some middle school for switching from Coke to Pepsi.

His report made Caulfield a celebrity in election administration circles. He was asked to give speeches and join lawsuits as an expert witness. He got many job offers but he decided to stay at Wharton and get a Ph.D. In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences asked him to join a commission that was investigating the American voting system. It was cochaired by the president of Columbia University and had as members people like Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA. At a big hearing someone asked: "How much does a voting machine cost?" Fifty people looked at Caulfield. He said: "I don't know." Despite several years of research at this point, he hadn't been able to answer this basic question. County clerks knew what they had paid, but no one knew what any other county clerk had paid. In the end, the commission never figured it out.

In 2019, Caulfield started a second investigation, to find out what the voting machines cost. He quickly learned that all the numbers being bandied about were made up. In desperation, he assembled a team of students who were assigned the job of asking county clerks for copies of their contracts. Most of them didn't have them and didn't know what they had paid. Some got angry and alerted the vendors to his project.

Nevertheless, the team eventually acquired data from 387 jurisdictions representing 44 million voters. They plotted the price vs. number of voters in a jurisdiction to see if bigger ones got discounts for buying more machines. The results were completely random, as shown in this semilog plot:

Price of voting machines as a function of jurisdiction size; there is absolutely
no pattern to the data, the data points look like someone dropped a handful of confetti on the graph

From the data, it appears that the same machine sold for prices varying from $4,300 to $6,950, with no correlation between number of machines sold in a contract and the price. What seemed to matter was how much money an individual county had in its budget for the machines. Caulfield discovered that there was no logic at all to who paid how much. Sometimes neighboring counties got wildly different price quotes, for no obvious reason. One tentative conclusion is that smaller and poorer counties tended to get a smaller discount than bigger and richer ones. In other words, the companies gave richer counties bigger discounts because they had to. They charged smaller ones more because they could.

So how did the companies make money? What he learned was that they made their money off service contracts, maintenance, and annual software licenses. Over time, these often added up to more than the cost of the machines, in some cases even double. Caulfield quickly realized that since the companies were making most of their money from after-sales services, they had no incentive to make machines that were simple and maintenance free. Nor did they have much incentive to innovate. This is a rather common business model when there's a duopoly or triopoly and the barriers to entry into the industry are significant.

In March, Caulfield's study was published on the Verified Voting website. The upshot is that many people have concluded that the elections industry is completely broken and needs to be thrown out. What some people are envisioning is a model in which all the software is open source and it runs on generic PCs. A perfectly adequate PC can be had for $500 and a perfectly suitable monitor costs about $125. There are certification issues, but they are not insurmountable and the machines would have to be sealed so that any tampering could be easily detected. If the PCs did not have modems, Ethernet cards, WiFi cards, or Bluetooth, it would be impossible to hack them remotely. It could be a promising way to go, especially if all the machines in the entire country ran the same verified software. And it would save money, to boot.

If you are quite knowledgeable about computer technology and want to see one of the many proposals that have been made to make voting secure, (V) has coauthored papers on how to do it, including this one published in IEEE Computer. (V)

Former Alaska Democratic Senator Mike Gravel Dies

As we've noted a few times, Alaska wasn't always a deep red state (and Hawaii wasn't always a deep blue state). For a generation or so, Alaska was a blue-to-purple state, with significant elements of populism (which doesn't slot into the standard right-left dichotomy very well). Democrat Mike Gravel represented the state in the Senate from 1969 to 1981. And he wasn't just a Democrat, he was a strongly anti-war Democrat. He once did a one-man filibuster during which he read 4,100 pages of the leaked Pentagon papers into the Congressional Record at a time when newspapers were under court order not to publish them.

On the other hand, when Jimmy Carter wanted to designate large portions of Alaska as national parks, wildlife refuges, and conservation areas, he opposed Carter, largely because the measures prevented his constituents from exploiting the land. He also supported the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline which brought oil all the way from the Arctic Ocean to the all-year port of Valdez, on the southern coast of Alaska. What this illustrates is that Gravel, though pretty lefty at heart, was also a pragmatist who knew what a deal-breaker issue looked like. Similarly, he always got his highest ACU scores (how conservative a politician is) in election years, and his highest ADA scores (how liberal) in the years immediately following an election.

After he was defeated for a third term, Gravel dropped out of politics for 25 years. Then in 2008 he ran for president. His platform was letting citizens enact laws by referendum, slashing the defense budget, and ending the military-industrial complex. It was for that campaign that the famous "Rock" ad was created; the avant-garde spot shows the former senator staring down the camera for a while, then turning around, picking up a rock, dropping it in a lake, and walking away. Famous ad or no, he never got anywhere with the Democrats. So he switched horses and tried to get the Libertarian Party nomination. That didn't work either. He ran again in 2020, returning to the Democratic fold. Nope again. He eventually gave up and endorsed Bernie Sanders. In short, Gravel was a most unusual Democrat. He died in California at 91 on Saturday. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun27 Sunday Mailbag
Jun26 Saturday Q&A
Jun25 As the Infrastructure Turns
Jun25 Pelosi Makes It Official...
Jun25 ...As Does the New York Bar
Jun25 DeSantis Cements His Claim to the Trump Lane
Jun25 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Jun25 COVID Diaries: The Origin Story
Jun24 We Have a Deal, Part 29
Jun24 Supreme Court Justices Are Earning Their Paychecks
Jun24 The Day After
Jun24 Another Proposal for Fixing the Filibuster
Jun24 Biden Nominates McCain for U.N. Post
Jun24 We Have Our First Redistricting Map...and Our First Redistricting Map Squabble
Jun24 Newsom to Face Recall Election
Jun23 It Ain't Over Til It's Over
Jun23 Pelosi Reportedly Ready to Move Forward with 1/6 Commission
Jun23 Manchin Plays Ball
Jun23 Democratic Super PAC Will Pour $20 Million into Voting Efforts
Jun23 Some States Are Making Voting Easier
Jun23 Democrats Vow to Reach Out to Minority Voters
Jun23 Senate Committee Takes Up D.C. Statehood
Jun23 Labor and Green Groups Urge Biden to Reject Watered-Down Infrastructure Plan
Jun23 Judge Rules Against Protesters in Lafayette Square Case
Jun23 Will the Free Market Make Bernie Sanders Obsolete?
Jun22 Sinema Lays Out Her Filibuster Views in Black and White
Jun22 Polling News, Part I: Adams Remains the Favorite
Jun22 Polling News, Part II: DeSantis for President?
Jun22 Trump's Risky Endorsement Strategy
Jun22 Tucker Carlson, Male Prostitute
Jun22 Big News Times Two from the World of Sports
Jun21 More Democrats Are Yelling "Go, Joe, Go!"
Jun21 Catholic Bishops Vote to Draft a Statement That Will Rebuke Biden
Jun21 Garcia and Yang Gang Up on Adams
Jun21 North Carolina Republicans Want to Throw Out Ballots Arriving after Election Day
Jun21 Georgia Will Soon Purge 100,000 Voters from the Rolls
Jun21 First Hearing Is Scheduled in Smartmatic's Suit against Fox News
Jun21 Trump Endorses in Alaska Senate Race
Jun21 Democrats Are Not Wild about Nikki Fried
Jun21 Poll: Chuck, Time for You to Pack Your Bags and Leave the Senate
Jun20 Sunday Mailbag
Jun19 Saturday Q&A
Jun18 SCOTUS Takes Center Stage
Jun18 McConnell Promptly Shuts Manchin Down
Jun18 American Racism, Past and Present
Jun18 Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part I: Immigration
Jun18 Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part II: Trump for Speaker
Jun17 Biden and Putin Met and Nothing Happened
Jun17 Manchin Is Open to a Mini-H.R. 1 Bill
Jun17 Schumer Is Following Two Paths on Infrastructure at the Same Time