• House Passes H.R. 4
• The Census Has Some Good News for Democrats
• Poll: Floridians Do Not Want DeSantis to Run for President
• Kristi Noem Opens Her 2024 Campaign in South Carolina
• Eric Schmitt Sues to Block Mask Mandates
• Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, Who Is the Trumpiest of Them All?
• Business Are Starting to React to Biden's Call for Companies to Get Tough on Vaccines
• Israel's Prime Minister Will Visit Biden Today
• Kinzinger's Goose Is Cooked
The 1/6 Select Committee chaired by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) wants to know what happened in the run-up to the coup attempt on Jan. 6. Consequently, it has sent out a large number of requests to federal agencies asking for documents, records, and internal communications that might shed light on the Executive Branch's role in the insurrection. The requests went to the National Archives, the Departments of Justice, Interior, Defense, and Homeland Security, the FBI, and the DNI. The agencies were given 2 weeks to supply the requested documents.
Thompson wants to see all communications involving Hope Hicks, Robert O'Brien, Peter Navarro, Kayleigh McEnany, Steve Bannon, Michael Flynn, Rudy Giuliani, Roger Stone, and Kimberly Guilfoyle. And Melania Trump, although probably she knew nothing. Also everything involving all the Trump kids except Tiffany. Trump's dislike for her, because he thinks she is too fat, may save her "fat little ass" (which isn't fat at all).
Thompson has specifically asked the DoD whether Trump or any of the above persons wanted to learn more about the Insurrection Act or martial law. From DHS he wants to know if Trump was interested in any ways to stop the inauguration. He also wants to know more about the sudden firing of Chris Krebs, who ran DHS' cybersecurity agency until Trump fired him for defending the integrity of the election. No doubt Krebs will be a witness for the Committee sooner or later.
The list goes on and on. Thompson is asking for a huge number of documents from a large number of agencies. Since Joe Biden has no problem with uncovering the truth here, he has no doubt ordered all the agencies to comply with Thompson as quickly as they possibly can.
Thompson also plans to subpoena phone records of members of Congress. That way, in some cases, when member [X] says that he had no contact with Trump on Jan. 6, Thompson will say: "Odd. How come the phone company says you called him at 7:04 p.m. and talked for 9 minutes? Mind telling me what you discussed? Was it about urgently renaming a post office in your district, perhaps?"
One thing is already crystal clear: Thompson is taking his job as chairman extremely seriously and he has assembled a highly competent staff that is planning to leave no stone (including Roger) unturned. (V)
The House has now officially passed H.R. 4, the new Voting Rights Act named after voting rights activist and late congressman John Lewis. The vote was entirely along party lines, 219 to 212.
Republican politicians, down to the last man and woman, oppose H.R. 4, nominally because they believe the states and counties should run elections, not the federal government. In reality, they know that if Black people can vote, it will be much harder for Republicans to win elections.
If enacted into law—and that is a very big if—the bill would update the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court gutted in the 2013 case Shelby County v. Holder. And in June 2021, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that two new Arizona laws that restrict voting do not violate the Voting Rights Act. Thus it is clear that six of the justices see the old VRA as obsolete and not enforceable any more. Their nominal argument was that the old law was based on patterns of voting discrimination from the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, and thus it is now outdated.
The new formula sets a 25-year look-back period for voting rights violations. If there have been 15 documented court cases of voting rights' violations by counties in a state since 1996, then the state must get preclearance before changing its laws. If the state as a whole committed the violations, then it takes only 10 cases to trigger the requirement for preclearance. The Supreme Court would have a tougher time of striking this down as obsolete while keeping a straight face.
When the bill comes up for a vote in the Senate, Republicans will filibuster it. What the Democrats do then is up to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). If he just says: "That's the way the cookie crumbles," there will be no bill, Republicans will probably capture the House in 2022 and keep it for several cycles (or more). If he relents and says it is time for some filibuster reform, then it might pass, possibly after a full reading of the Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas telephone books—assuming their respective senators can find actual telephone books to read. (V)
The newly released detailed census data will allow the Republican gerrymanderers in Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and other states to get to work trying to capture the House in 2022. On the other hand, while demography isn't destiny, there is also a rather unpleasant message in there for Republicans, long term. Basically, the bluest parts of the country are gaining population (which ultimately means House seats) and the reddest parts are losing population (which ultimately means losing House seats). Over a period of 10 or 20 years, this could turn the Republicans into a regional party.
As a whole, the national population grew by 7.4% since 2010, but the growth was not uniform. FiveThirtyEight has worked out an urbanization index that tells how urban or rural a county or state is, somewhat analogous to Charlie Cook's partisan voting index, which compares states and districts on partisanship. Those areas with a UI below 8 (which relates to the natural logarithm of the number of people living within 5 miles of a given resident) lost 3% of their population. Another way of putting this is that the 1,430 most rural counties lost 3% of the people. These counties overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in 2020 (1,302 of the 1,430). In contrast, the 264 fastest growing counties in the country went largely for Biden (194 out of 264). Most of these are suburban. All things considered, it is better for a party to dominate in places that are growing rapidly than in places that are bleeding people, however slowly. If you want to check the math, you need to check the article on FiveThirtyEight, but even without hurting a single natural log, this chart should make clear what the Republicans' problem is:
Clearly the densest counties (which are mostly blue) are growing rapidly and the sparsely populated counties (which are mostly red) are losing population. When it becomes time to draw the 2030 map, the mapmakers will have to put all the Democrats in the dense blue counties somewhere. And districts have to have roughly equal populations. That may necessitate creating an extra district in blue cities. Similarly, if red districts keep losing people, they will have to be expanded with more counties to get enough people to qualify as a district, and that means there will be fewer districts that can be drawn.
The article also gives some examples of the effect in 2020, as it is already having an impact. Upstate New York districts, which are red, will have to grow in area, meaning fewer of them in the same geographic space. On the other hand, the blue districts in and around New York City have gained population, making it easy to create an extra (blue) district there. Maybe Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will lose part of Queens in her district, but that hardly matters because the Bronx part of it is so blue. The same holds for other House members representing big cities.
This principle even applies in red states where the Republicans control the process. In North Carolina, for example, the state picked up an extra House seat, but the growth is in NC-02 (Raleigh) and NC-12 (Charlotte), which are very blue. This will be a huge challenge to Republican mapmakers, because they have to stuff all those Democrats somewhere. Similarly, while Texas will gain two seats, much of the growth is in places like (very blue) Austin. It will take some very creative mapmaking to avoid making districts that Democrats can win. Nevertheless, Republicans have full control over 43% of all congressional districts while Democrats control only 17%, so right now it is advantage Republicans. That may be far less so in 2030, just due to where population is growing and where it is shrinking. (V)
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows that 59% of registered Florida voters do not want Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to run for president in 2024. That includes 96% of Democrats, 61% of independents, and 24% of Republicans. His biggest handicap is that he is botching the way the coronavirus is being handled. His approval numbers are barely above water, with 47% approving of his performance and 45% disapproving of it. This is reflected in the horserace numbers for 2022. Only 48% want him to have another term and 45% say it is time for someone new. The poll exhibited a wide partisan divide, as expected. Republicans like him a lot more than Democrats. (V)
The 2024 presidential campaigns are underway and sightings of hopefuls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada are going to be increasingly common from here on out. In particular, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) was the featured speaker at the 10th Annual Faith and Freedom BBQ in Anderson, SC. The event is hosted every year by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) and is popular with Republican presidential wannabes. This year over 2,000 people attended, few of them wearing masks.
Noem bragged that as governor she didn't shut down businesses or mandate masks. She also bragged that liberals called her irresponsible, as she knows full well that "owning the libs" is a requirement for any potential Republican presidential candidate. She also knocked Joe Biden for the mess in Afghanistan. She did note that life for girls and women in Afghanistan is about to get a lot worse under the Taliban, but fortunately she has a plan: pray for them. However, it is not known if her god has jurisdiction over that country. People going that route might want to try praying to multiple gods, just in case. However, we doubt she will make foreign policy the main part of her platform. After all, she knows nothing about foreign policy, and can't even see Canada from her front porch.
One of the items being sold at the barbecue center was labeled "Vaccine passport" on the outside. But on the inside, it was a pocket copy of the U.S. Constitution. During his speech, Duncan held it up and said: "This is the only passport that matters."
If we had to guess at this early date, we think her chances of getting the Republican presidential nomination are very close to zero. We also think she knows this. But she probably also realizes that if she runs and does respectably in a number of states, she could be the vice presidential nominee on a ticket with Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, or Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX). Sarah Palin broke that particular barrier in 2008 so women are now acceptable to Republicans for positions not worth a bucket of warm piss. (V)
Missouri AG Eric Schmitt (R) has filed suit in Boone County to block school districts from requiring students to wear masks. The filing does not specify exactly whether he did this in his capacity as Missouri attorney general or in his capacity as a Senate candidate trying to prove to The Donald how Trumpy he is in order to get the former president's endorsement. In the lawsuit, Schmitt is asking the county judge to ban mask mandates statewide, which a county judge probably can't do (although a state appeals court likely could).
The lawsuit marks an escalation of the would-be senator's campaign. He has already sued other school districts in the state, but this one is a class action and could potentially affect many school districts, certainly on appeal. He has already gone after Kansas City, but that has the problem that some of the school districts in that area are actually in Kansas, not in Missouri. One member of the Kansas City Public Schools board, Manny Abarca, said: "It's clear that the attorney general is doing all he can to get his name in the press to run for U.S. Senate at the expense of public health and kids being safe as they return back to school." He also emphasized that the lawsuit has no legal basis and Schmitt was just abusing his authority to score political points.
Schmitt was promptly called out by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, who said the president thinks putting kids at risk to score political points is completely unacceptable. From Schmitt's point of view, the more publicity he gets, the better—ideally on Fox News, so Donald Trump might see it. He did respond to Psaki, tweeting that he "won't let Washington dictate what we do in Missouri." That comes very close to the principle that states can overrule federal law, an issue that some people thought was settled around 1865. (V)
The mirror is not talking, but the Republican Senate candidates in Ohio are all screaming: "Me! Me! Me!" Or maybe a better analogy would be three or four puppies in a pet store looking longingly up at a customer with big eyes, pleading "Please pick me. I'll be very obedient and will be fully devoted to you." Such is the Ohio Republican senatorial primary so far. This will continue until The Donald has picked a puppy...er, a candidate to take home and love.
Former state Treasurer Josh Mandel claims to be the first statewide official in Ohio to have backed Trump in 2016. Former Ohio GOP chair Jane Timken boasts that she was personally selected by Trump to run the Ohio Republican Party. Author J.D. Vance has cast himself as a convert to Trumpism and thus more zealous than everyone else. Millionaire investment banker Mike Gibbons proudly notes that he co-chaired Trump's Ohio fundraising committee in 2016. Bernie Moreno, a local businessman, is also Trumpy, but has less overt proof than the others.
Tensions flared when Mandel, Timken, Vance, and Moreno sat down with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in a kind of bake-off (Trump-off?). Specifically, Mandel and Timken had it out with each other and haven't stopped since. Timken recently called Mandel a career politician and a failed one at that (Mandel has run unsuccessfully for the Senate twice before). Mandel has asked where Timken was when he was supporting Trump back in 2016. The sniping has gotten much stronger now, with no signs of dying down. Internal polls taken before Vance jumped in show Mandel first and Timken second, but as soon as Trump picks his puppy, that could change.
Democrats are enjoying the Republican primary. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) described the event thusly: "it's like a bunch of 12-year-olds on a playground that are sticking their tongues out at each other and saying: Donald Trump loves me more than he loves you." He also said that the voters are interested in the future, not the past. Maybe that is true for Democrats, but it does appear that a lot of Republicans are indeed more focused on the past than on the future.
Ohio used to be the ultimate swing state, but that may not be true any more. Barack Obama won it twice, but so did Donald Trump. Also, the Democrats lost seats in the state legislature in 2020. Trump carried Mahoning County, a labor stronghold, in 2020, the first Republican do to so in 50 years.
A lot depends on how bloody the Republican primary is. If the winner comes out bruised and broke, the Democrats have a chance. Two Democrats are running for their party's nomination, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), who has the backing of the establishment, and Morgan Harper, an attorney who has the backing of some key progressives. Ryan is white and Harper is Black. Ohio is 71% non-Hispanic white, with Black citizens being only 17% of the population. (V)
As soon as the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, Joe Biden started jumping up and down encouraging private companies to require employees to get vaccinated and/or to punish them for not doing so. It took Delta Airlines about a day to get the message. Yesterday, an internal memo leaked out that said:
- Unvaccinated employees will have to get tested for COVID-19 every week.
- Unvaccinated employees will have to wear masks indoors.
- Unvaccinated employees on the company's health plan will have to pay $200/mo. more in insurance premiums.
- Unvaccinated employees who get COVID-19 will not be paid.
The memo didn't specify whether being in an airplane at 35,000 feet was considered indoors or outdoors. This is not exactly what Biden asked for. The airline is not going to fire unvaccinated employees (at least right now), just make it unpleasant and expensive for them not to be vaccinated. The $200 per month insurance surcharge is no different from a fine from the employee's perspective, so it will test how much (in dollars) the "freedom" not to be vaccinated is really worth.
Public-facing companies like Delta have a clear interest in reassuring the public that their employees are healthy—more so than, say, manufacturing companies. Delta said that 75% of its employees are already vaccinated, but that it wants to bring that number as close to 100% as it can.
Delta is the second major airline to start pressuring employees to get vaccinated. Even before Comirnaty was fully approved, United Airlines had announced that all employees must get vaccinated. So have CVS Health, Microsoft, Tyson Foods, and Walt Disney. If the trickle becomes a flood, this could be the mechanism by which herd immunity is finally achieved. (V)
Afghanistan isn't the only foreign hot spot Joe Biden has to deal with. There are also Israel and Palestine, as usual. However, the love-fest between Donald Trump and Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) is no more. One of those men may soon be on his way to prison, and Netanyahu has legal issues as well. These days, the major players are Biden and Israel's new (albeit temporary) prime minister, Naftali Bennett. That makes all the difference. Bennett is visiting the White House today and is a completely different kind of guy from the hawkish Netanyahu.
Bennett was born in Israel, the son of American immigrants from San Francisco. After serving in the Israeli special forces, he started a software company that he eventually sold for $150 million. His English is even better than Netanyahu's (which was essentially perfect). But in other ways, he couldn't be more different from Bibi.
Specifically, while Netanyahu clashed with previous presidents, especially Barack Obama, Bennett absolutely wants to avoid that. He wants to focus largely on areas where Israel's interests and the U.S. interests are exactly the same. In particular, both countries want to make sure Iran is reined in and does not develop nuclear weapons. He also wants both countries to forge better relations with friendly Arab countries, especially the Gulf States, and cooperate more with them on intelligence, digital and on the ground.
Also unlike Netanyahu, Bennett wants to make progress on the Palestinian issue. He doesn't want a full-blown two-state solution right now, but would prefer to take small steps, such as granting West Bank Palestinians more authority to run their own local affairs and encouraging more economic development there with the help of outside players. If the Gulf States (and maybe even Saudi Arabia) were to invest there, build factories, and create jobs, the local population might come to believe that peace is better than war. He also has no problem having the West Bank and Gaza being governed together, something Netanyahu opposed.
Biden definitely does not want Netanyahu to return to power. He'd probably prefer Bibi to be locked up in prison for corruption, but he knows he can't get involved in the former prime minister's trial. What Biden can do, and will do, is make Bennett look like a strong leader, and give him things that he can show off to the Israeli public to demonstrate how well he gets along with Biden. Being able to get along well with the U.S. president is something that is very helpful to any Israeli politician. Biden knows this and also knows that "making progress" on peace in the Middle East is something that will help both of them. When the Republicans scream: "You botched Afghanistan," he wants to be able to say: "That didn't go so well, but look at the great progress we are making on 'peace in the Middle East.'" He needs Bennett's cooperation for that and Bennett understands that full well and will do what he reasonably can on that front. His problem is that his government is a patchwork of parties from left, center, and right, all of which want different things. That said, he did manage to cobble together a majority coalition, so he does know a thing or two about Israeli politics. It will be interesting to see what comes out of today's meeting, but expect smiles rather than fireworks. (V)
With friends like these, who needs enemies? Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) is one of the two House Republicans who is helping the Democrats on the 1/6 Commission try to nail Donald Trump's scalp to the wall. Democrats appreciate his help. So, what are they doing? Trying to make sure he is unemployed come Jan. 3, 2023. It's not that they are deliberately trying to screw him, it's just that his district is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Here is the map of Illinois congressional districts. His is IL-16, in the exurbs south and west of Chicago.
Kinzinger's troubles start in Texas, Florida, and Georgia, where Republicans are in charge of redistricting and are going to work mightily to squeeze every possible House seat out of the new maps. The only big states where Democrats can try to counter this a little bit are New York (which is losing a seat) and Illinois (which is losing a seat). Consequently, Illinois Democrats sure want to make sure it is a Republican seat they are losing. Besides Kinzinger's 16th, the other Republican-held districts are downstate (12, 13, 15, and 18). None of them are good candidates for elimination.
Worse yet for Kinzinger, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) is retiring on account of her disastrous role running the DCCC in 2020. Her district, IL-17, will thus be an open seat bordering IL-16. With a little help from some clever mapmaking software, the more Democratic parts of the (R+8) IL-16 could be merged into the (D+3) IL-17, to make it safer for whichever Democrat wins the primary there. The more-Republican parts of IL-16 can be added to IL-02, which is D+29 and thus can absorb large numbers of Republicans without causing Rep. Robin Kelly (D-IL) to lose any sleep. If even more IL-16 Republicans have to be stuffed somewhere, they could go into (D+27) IL-01, without hurting Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL).
Thus the Illinois mapmakers are going to have to sacrifice Kinzinger instead of one of the downstate Republicans, just due to the way the map is, even if they feel a tad guilty about it. What is Kinzinger going to do? He could switch to a different district and challenge an incumbent. Members of Congress don't have to live in their district. It is not required, although anyone running far from home is going to be called a carpetbagger. He could run for governor against Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) or Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) in 2022, but in such a blue state as Illinois, he would be a deep underdog.
Another problem for him is that to run for any office, he would first have to win the Republican primary against Donald Trump. Trump wouldn't be literally on the ballot, but his specter would be. In short, it is hard to see any future in politics or even on K street, since he has no influence to peddle. Maybe he could run for mayor in some suburban town with college-educated Republicans who don't like Trump. Maybe a job in aviation? He is a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard and flew KC-135 Strato Tankers when he was in the Air Force. He said he'll see what the future holds for him. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug25 What's Next for the Taliban?
Aug25 They Have a Deal
Aug25 SCOTUS: Refugees Must Remain in Mexico
Aug25 Walker Will Run
Aug25 Another Republican Is Sued for Defamation
Aug25 One-and-a-half Million Votes
Aug24 In Arizona, No News Is...No News
Aug24 Pfizer Vaccine Gets Full FDA Approval
Aug24 Should He Stay or Should He Go?
Aug24 House Leaders Herd Cats on Both Sides of the Aisle
Aug24 New York Has a New Governor
Aug24 In California, Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures
Aug24 56,000 North Carolina Felons Regain the Right to Vote
Aug23 Republicans Have Done Well in Special Elections This Year
Aug23 Pelosi Wants to Pass Infrastructure Bills by Oct. 1
Aug23 Austin Speaks the Truth
Aug23 Foreign Policy Performance Is a Poor Predictor of Elections
Aug23 H.R. 4 Is about Court Reform
Aug23 Trump Campaigns for Brooks in Alabama
Aug23 Redistricting in the Midwest and Mountain West
Aug23 Democrats Are Trying to Put Together a Strategy for the State Legislatures
Aug22 Sunday Mailbag
Aug21 Saturday Q&A
Aug20 Biden Holds Forth on Afghanistan
Aug20 Three Senators Test Positive for COVID
Aug20 Man Arrested for Threatening to Bomb Capitol
Aug20 In California, the Drama Intensifies...
Aug20 ...And in Arizona, the Drama Nears Its Denouement...
Aug20 ...While in Texas, the Drama Ends
Aug20 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Aug19 The Blame Game Heats Up
Aug19 Democrats Can't Govern
Aug19 Democrats Want to Try to Pass Voting Rights Bill within a Week
Aug19 Red States Are Fighting Their Blue Cities--over Masks
Aug19 Anti-mask Rules Are Creating a Backlash
Aug19 Republicans Give Up on Blocking Gay Rights
Aug19 Judge Grills Lawyers in Smartmatic Lawsuit
Aug19 Mixed Polls on Florida Senate Race
Aug18 Future Tense
Aug18 Proof of Concept for Fox
Aug18 Today's Rachel Maddow News...
Aug18 Abbott Is Diagnosed with COVID-19
Aug18 And So It Begins
Aug17 Send in the Clowns
Aug17 You Win Some, and You Lose Some
Aug17 Toobin Advocates No Federal Prosecutions for Trump
Aug17 Fox Definitely Has Its Candidate
Aug16 "This Is Not Saigon"