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Protecting Our Democracy Act Passes the House

Last Thursday, the House voted to protect the U.S. democracy. It took a vote on H.R. 5314 220-208, with all but two Democrats voting for it (Reps. Stephanie Murphy, D-FL, and Elissa Slotkin, D-MI, were not present for the vote). Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) was the only Republican to vote for it. Four Republicans (Brian Babin, R-TX; Jeff Fortenberry, R-NE; Mark Green, R-TN; and Clay Higgins, R-LA) did not vote. Every other Republican voted against the bill. That includes Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the Democrats' new-found favorite Republican.

What is so objectionable about the bill that Republicans despise it? Some of the provisions include the following.

  • It puts some teeth in congressional subpoenas to prevent targets from running out the clock
  • It bans presidential self-pardons
  • It requires the Dept. of Justice to turn over to Congress all materials relating to all pardons
  • It requires presidential and vice presidential candidates to disclose their last 10 years of tax returns
  • It stops the statute-of-limitations clock for offenses committed by the president while in office
  • It limits how presidents can misuse the National Emergencies Act to bypass Congress' power of the purse
  • It limits contacts between the president and the Dept. of Justice on enforcement matters
  • It prevents the president from impounding money Congress has duly appropriated
  • It beefs up the powers of the inspectors general to investigate malfeasance
  • It creates a process to enforce the emoluments clause of the Constitution
  • It increases penalties for violations of the Hatch Act

Slightly ironically, the first president this bill would affect is Joe Biden. It would put a bunch of restrictions on him and prevent him from misusing his powers. This could be especially important in 2023-2025 if Republicans capture the House and block everything Biden wants. In that case he might be tempted to push the envelope (e.g., use money Congress has appropriated for Defense and repurpose it to fund free pre-K). This bill would prevent that.

So why did exactly one of the 213 House Republicans vote "yea" for the bill and 208 vote "nay"? The reason (of course) is that Donald Trump is wildly against the bill and all Republicans except Kinzinger are scared witless of him. Even Liz Cheney. So Republicans are now on record as opposing preventing a president from misusing the powers of the office.

The bill has zero chance in the Senate. The Republicans will filibuster it to death. Does it have any chance in the future? Conceivably, but it would require Biden to get out of his comfort zone. If the Republicans take the House in 2022, then Joe Biden won't be able to get any legislation through Congress and will be limited to issuing executive orders, most of which the Supreme Court will probably strike down. What he could do is take money out of some program intended to subsidize rural farmers and spend it to enforce COVID vaccine mandates. Then Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who is the sponsor of the Protecting Democracy Act, could reintroduce the bill. The then-speaker could possibly bring it up for a vote to curb Biden. But if the speaker declines, then Biden could legitimately say: "Apparently Congress has no problem with my spending plans so I will continue with them." This might infuriate enough Republicans to demand a vote on the bill and then vote for it. But this is not Biden's style. Of course, the House Republicans could then amend the bill to have it sunset on Jan. 20, 2025. But if they did that, Senate Democrats would vote it down or filibuster it, so if the Republicans really wanted to block Biden, they would have to swallow the entire bill as currently written. (V)

What Can People Do If the Supreme Court Repeals Roe v. Wade?

Sometime late next spring, the Supreme Court will announce whether it is going to scrap Roe v. Wade entirely or merely cripple it. Chief Justice John Roberts clearly would prefer weakening it to the point of being meaningless rather than formally repealing the 1973 decision, but it is not his call anymore. If the other five Republican appointees want to make it go the way of Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson, they can do that, although he could grudgingly vote with them in order to assign himself the job of writing the opinion and trying to tailor it to his wishes as much as he can.

But suppose the Court strikes it down completely. Then what? Is it game over for pro-choice supporters? Not entirely. There are other things they can try:

  • Congress: Democrats in Congress could introduce bills to guarantee any woman who asks for an abortion to be allowed to have it (possibly with some restrictions, such as "not after the point of viability"). It might pass the House, although probably not. But it would put every member of Congress on the record. That wouldn't matter for members in deep red or deep blue districts, but it would put the squeeze on members in swing districts. It would have no chance whatsoever in the Senate, but here too it would put every senator on the record. If Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted for it, would her colleagues dare kick her out of their conference if Donald Trump demanded it?

  • Direct action: Pro-choice advocates can start direct action campaigns. Having a million women march for a pro-choice law would dominate the news for several days. But more important would be organizing boycotts of states that banned abortions entirely. When North Carolina passed its notorious "bathroom bill," companies like Deutsche Bank and PayPal canceled expansions in the state, even though North Carolina is a major financial hub. The NCAA moved tournament games out of state. The NBA yanked the All-Star Game. These moves cost the state economy hundreds of millions of dollars. And abortion policy affects a whole lot more people than transgender policy does. Big boycotts could really hurt states and put a lot of pressure on them. Just imagine the uproar if a major sports team or a major corporation announced it was leaving some state on account of the state's abortion law.

  • State races: Many Democrats are only vaguely aware of the fact that all state legislators are actually elected by the people of their states. Republicans know this very well. But suppose the supposedly woke Democrats actually woke up and there were huge battles for races for state senator and state representative, with correspondingly large amounts of money going into state races in order to elect state legislators who promised to repeal state laws against abortion. That could become a major issue—maybe the major issue—in 2022. The biggest effect would be in swing states, of course, but flipping legislative chambers in half a dozen swing states could be a specific goal with the corresponding funding.

  • State courts: Many states have provisions in their Constitutions that could be used to fight state laws banning abortions. State lawsuits are likely in those states. In about 20 states, state Supreme Court Justices must stand for election statewide, so they don't benefit from gerrymandering. These could suddenly become top races with super PACs, TV ads, and the whole nine yards. It would make these races very political, but that's life. It's easy to imagine a candidate saying: "I believe our state Constitution guarantees an abortion to any woman who requests one." If a majority of the justices in a state believed that, they could strike down state laws that they felt violated the state Constitution. Given that large majorities of voters believe abortion should be legal, politicizing state Supreme Court races could work in purple states and maybe even some reddish states. Here is the lay of the land for the top state courts (note that Texas and Oklahoma each have two of them):

    State court Justices Method of selection Term length
    Alabama Supreme Court 9 Partisan election 6 years
    Alaska Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 10 years
    Arizona Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 6 years
    Arkansas Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 8 years
    California Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints 12 years
    Colorado Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 10 years
    Connecticut Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 8 years
    Delaware Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 12 years
    Florida Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 6 years
    Georgia Supreme Court 9 Nonpartisan election 6 years
    Hawaii Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 10 years
    Idaho Supreme Court 5 Nonpartisan election 6 years
    Illinois Supreme Court 7 Partisan election 10 years
    Indiana Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 10 years
    Iowa Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 8 years
    Kansas Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 6 years
    Kentucky Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 8 years
    Louisiana Supreme Court 7 Partisan election 10 years
    Maine Supreme Judicial Court 7 Governor appoints 7 years
    Maryland Court of Appeals 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 10 years
    Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 7 Governor appoints Until age 70
    Michigan Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 8 years
    Minnesota Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 6 years
    Mississippi Supreme Court 9 Nonpartisan election 8 years
    Missouri Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 12 years
    Montana Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 8 years
    Nebraska Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 6 years
    Nevada Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 6 years
    New Hampshire Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission Until age 70
    New Jersey Supreme Court 7 Governor appoints 7 years; until age 70
    New Mexico Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 8 years
    State of New York Court of Appeals 7 Governor appoints via nominating commission 14 years
    Supreme Court of North Carolina 7 Partisan election 8 years
    North Dakota Supreme Court 5 Nonpartisan election 10 years
    Ohio Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 6 years
    Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 6 years
    Oklahoma Supreme Court 9 Governor appoints via nominating commission 6 years
    Oregon Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 6 years
    Pennsylvania Supreme Court 7 Partisan election 10 years
    Rhode Island Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission Life term
    South Carolina Supreme Court 5 Legislative election of judges 10 years
    South Dakota Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 8 years
    Tennessee Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints 8 years
    Texas Court of Criminal Appeals 9 Partisan election 6 years
    Texas Supreme Court 9 Partisan election 6 years
    Utah Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 10 years
    Vermont Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 6 years
    Supreme Court of Virginia 7 Legislative election of judges 12 years
    Washington State Supreme Court 9 Nonpartisan election 6 years
    Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia 5 Nonpartisan election 12 years
    Wisconsin Supreme Court 7 Nonpartisan election 10 years
    Wyoming Supreme Court 5 Governor appoints via nominating commission 8 years

    The states where the justices are elected are shown in purple. A partisan election means there is a (D) or an (R) after the candidates' names. A nonpartisan one does not have that, but there is nothing prohibiting a nonpartisan candidate from advertising his or her views on whether the state Constitution addresses abortion (or on any other aspect of the state Constitution).

    As an aside, Oklahoma has a very interesting system that is, perhaps, applicable to many other offices. The first term is for one year. Subsequent terms are for 6 years. Imagine that cabinet officials were initially appointed for 1 year and then had to undergo a second confirmation after a year. Then the senators could say: "Excuse me, secretary, a year ago you told me you would do X. I haven't seen any evidence of you doing X so far. Please explain."

  • Mail-order abortions: There could be campaigns to inform people in states that have banned abortions that they can order abortion pills online (after an online consultation with a doctor in a blue state). Red states could pass laws against that, but there is no way for Alabama to stop a pro-choice group based in California from operating a website explaining how that works with a link for setting up an appointment with a doctor and another link for selecting one of possibly dozens of online pharmacies in 15 states that provide abortion pills by mail in plain brown wrappers. Tampering with the mail is a federal felony, so any local postmasters who might want to open packages to see what was in them would be subject to federal prosecution if they tried. Pro-choice groups could even subsidize the cost of the pills for poor women in red states.

Would any of these things work? None of them would restore Roe, but they could move the needle somewhat. (V)

Pack the Court

Joe Biden set up a commission to advise him what to do about the Supreme Court. It wrote a report explaining what the Court is and what it does. However, it didn't recommend anything. Not all the members are happy about it copping out. In fact, two of them are sufficiently unhappy that they co-wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post giving very specific advice, namely: expand the court with more justices. The two are Laurence Tribe, a professor emeritus at the Harvard Law School who appeared before the Supreme Court many times, and Nancy Gertner, who served as a federal judge for 17 years.

The first sentence of the op-ed is: "We now believe that Congress must expand the size of the Supreme Court and do so as soon as possible. We did not come to this conclusion lightly." The rest of it explains why.

Their views evolved over time. At first they favored term limits for the justices (which would probably require a constitutional amendment) but later migrated toward expanding the court (which merely requires Congress to pass a law doing so).

Their first argument is the "dubious legitimacy" of how some of the justices were appointed. No names are mentioned here, but probably they were thinking of things like how then-Senate-Majority-Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to even allow hearings on Barack Obama's appointment of Merrick Garland to replace the late Antonin Scalia. And maybe they were thinking of how the Senate handled the allegations that Brett Kavanaugh had committed a felony (sexual assault), basically not really looking into it. Or maybe they were thinking of how McConnell said that when a justice dies in the last year of a president's term, the people should get to vote before the confirmation vote is held—except when a Republican president is doing the nominating. So the legitimacy of all three of Donald Trump's appointees is questionable.

Their second argument is what Justice Sonia Sotomayor called the "stench" of politics hovering over the Court and how it could damage the Court's reputation as an impartial body applying the Constitution and the laws Congress has passed, rather than acting as a nine-person mini-legislature.

Their third argument is the antidemocratic decisions the Court keeps making on voting rights, gerrymandering, dark money, etc. It's not like the justices consult with McConnell before voting on a case. They don't have to. They know exactly what he would like and do it without even asking. They say the U.S. is careening from a defective (but still hopeful) democracy towards a corrupt system in which the few govern the many, and from which there may be no return. And that is with the Supreme Court as an all-too-willing accomplice in the process.

The two authors concede that adding new justices wouldn't solve all the problems and subsequent presidents may lobby for further additions, making the Court unwieldy. Having 25 justices and letting the chief justice pick, say, nine to hear any case would be even worse than what we have now since the chief could pick his "friends" for all the political cases and let the others handle patent disputes and how much water Arizona and California can each take from the Colorado river.

They conclude with: "Hand-wringing over the Court's legitimacy misses a larger issue: the legitimacy of what our union is becoming. To us, that spells a compelling need to signal that all is not well with the Court, and that even if expanding it to combat what it has become would temporarily shake its authority, that risk is worth taking." (V)

Democrats Are Losing the Culture Wars

Or maybe the headline above should have read: "It's not the economy, stupid." Ronald Brownstein, whose insights are generally worth reading, has a new piece in The Atlantic about how the Democrats might actually learn something from Bill Clinton. In the 20 years since he left office, he has become a bit of an embarrassment for many in the party—maybe not James Buchanan territory, but not good, either. Clinton was too centrist for modern tastes, and didn't fight for racial equality or economic equality, either. On the other hand, he was twice elected president by substantial margins, the first time by beating a sitting president (George H.W. Bush) and the second time by beating a highly respected Senate majority leader (Bob Dole). That's nothing to sneeze at.

Brownstein notes that the Democratic Party has moved substantially to the left since Clinton left office, and though it has won the popular vote seven of the eight most recent presidential elections, more than half of its margin comes from a single state: California. If the Democrats want to control the Senate, (and the Electoral College) they need to do much better in red states. And that means winning over people in red states.

A number of left-of-center journalists, including Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Jonathan Chait, as well as election analysts such as David Shor and Ruy Teixeira, have noted that merely emphasizing economic issues doesn't seem to do the trick of winning over noncollege white men in red states. Without their support, winning in places like Ohio, Missouri, and Indiana is going to be tough. And without some senators in reddish-purplish states, controlling the Senate will be very difficult. There aren't enough blue states to do the job and rolling up massive margins in California doesn't help with the Senate.

The problem is that while many voters in reddish states don't have a lot of beef with the Democrats on issues like jobs and the minimum wage, they don't feel the Democrats share their values on noneconomic issues like religion, crime, and welfare. Clinton dealt with that by attacking hip-hop artist Sister Souljah for promoting hatred of white people. That showed cultural conservatives that he hated her as much as they did. A big internal battle (at least among Democratic consultants) is whether to revive that strategy.

For example, should Democrats try to rip the bark off people like Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) for saying she wants to defund the police? Going after her might convince some voters that the candidate was with them on that issue. Pollsters like Stan Greenberg are arguing that being right on economic issues isn't enough. If the voters feel that Democrats are a mixture of overeducated affluent urban elites and undereducated poor urban minorities, neither of which shares their values, the Party is not going to get much credit with red-state voters even if its economic programs do help them. Teixeira, for one, believes that Democrats have to actively denounce other Democrats who want to defund the police or loosen immigration controls. Otherwise, they won't have enough credibility with the voters they need. However, if the Democrats go after people like Rep. Bush, they are going to get quite a bit of what electrical engineers call negative feedback.

A big part of the Democrats' problem is that the electorate is much more conservative than they want to admit. They are aghast at the fact that after 4 years, Donald Trump did better with Latinos in Texas and Blacks in Florida. They can't conceive of these voters liking him or what he was selling since they abhor him. But somehow he did. Some studies have shown that Trump made gains with young Black and Latino men, possibly because they admire his machismo. This is tough for the Democrats to take because they absolutely know how bad this is and how could the voters not see this?

Shor, Teixeira, Greenberg, and others have said the Democrats have moved to the left faster than the country, and if they write off all the noncollege white men whose views of the world don't jibe with their own, they are not going to be able to hold the Senate for much longer. And the losses among Latino and Black men show that the problem isn't (entirely) racism. Some of these men aren't as progressive as Democrats think they ought to be on issues from immigration to transgender bathrooms. Maybe there is a way to get through to these people, but the Democrats don't seem to have found it yet. (V)

Democrats Are Also Losing the Generic Poll

Continuing with the theme of the previous item, a new CNBC generic poll shows that Americans prefer Republicans to Democrats 44% to 34%. That's up from a 2-point lead for the GOP from a month ago. That is the first time ever that the Republicans have had a double digit lead in any generic poll from NBC or CNBC. While candidates matter, having your party be that unpopular to start with is not a good place to be.

In the poll, Joe Biden's approval rating is almost as bad as the Democrats' is, with 41% approving of him and 50% having an unfavorable view of him. Among people who voted for him, his approval has dropped from 80% in April to 69% now. There have been notable declines in his popularity among 18-34-year-old voters and suburban voters. Urban ring counties closely surrounding cities have gone from D+8 to R+5. The reasons aren't clear, but a combination of inflation, failure to get COVID under control, and endless bickering in the Senate are prime suspects. The Democratic pollster for the survey, Jay Campbell, said if the election were tomorrow, it would be an unmitigated disaster for the Democrats. They would probably lose dozens of seats in the House and maybe lose control of the Senate as well.

Biden doesn't have much control over some issues, like inflation and COVID, but he could be far more visible, for example by addressing the nation once a month from the Oval Office to explain what he is doing. Just making it clear that he is in charge, is aware that people are suffering, and he is doing his best to get things done would help a lot. Think: Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats. While Bill Clinton was mocked a lot for saying: "I feel your pain," a lot of people felt he "got it." That's less true of Biden.

The endless squabbling in the Senate makes Biden look like a weak leader and Americans hate weak leaders. He can't be LBJ because he doesn't have the Senate majority LBJ had or his domineering personality. But the inconvenient truth now is that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is in the driver's seat. There is no way around that. What Biden could have done months ago is have a long talk with Manchin and find out what he is willing to support and then put together a program based on that. Then he could have talked to the progressives in his party and told them: "I know you are terribly disappointed, but the votes simply aren't there for what you want. If you want more progressive policies, elect more progressive senators, especially in red states. This is all I can give you. I'm sorry. Take it or leave it." Then hold a vote. If the progressives had sunk it, then they would have gotten the blame. But the optics of dragging it out for a year are just horrible and in the end Manchin will get want he wants anyway. Once he is on board, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), who can be pressured much more than Manchin, is unlikely to be the vote that takes Biden down. She used to be in the Green Party. She's not a lifelong "moderate" like Manchin. (V)

Georgia Republicans Take Aim at Atlanta

Georgia Republicans were stunned at Joe Biden's carrying the state and then, 2 months later, they watched in dismay as the voters sent two Democrats to the Senate. With high-stakes races for governor and senator in 2022, the Republicans went into action in an attempt to dismantle the Atlanta-based engine that is starting to turn the state blue.

The first step was passing one of the nation's most restrictive voting laws. It was aimed squarely at making it difficult—or, at least, less convenient—for people to vote. Republicans know that their voters are very dedicated and will not be deterred by mere inconvenience, whereas Democrats are more sensitive to that.

The next step was gerrymandering the map. Georgia didn't gain or lose any House seats, so the legislature could have left the map mostly alone, correcting only for population shifts, but it didn't. The new map takes Cobb County, once a Republican stronghold that has trended Democratic in recent years, and split it among four congressional districts to dilute its effect. Specifically, it will force Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA) and Carolyn Bordeaux (D-GA) to run against each other, removing one of them from the House. State Rep. Erick Allen (D), who is running for lieutenant governor, said: "I mean, they have broken communities of interest's voices and diluted their political voice a tremendous amount."

The third prong of the Georgia Republicans' attack on democracy was changing rules and procedures. Gwinnett County, a suburban county northeast of Atlanta, has also become more Democratic. The county leaders are now all Black. The legislature responded by doubling the number of members on the county commission. It's not quite like packing the Supreme Court, but the goal is analogous: reduce the power of the people already there. And in this case, the districts are now set up to make it likely that the new members are white Republicans. The legislature also made the school board, which Democrats control, nonpartisan. By taking away control of local bodies, the legislature hopes to control their membership.

Also in this vein, under a new law, the legislature can disband a local election administration office and replace it with a superintendent appointed by the state. But the law doesn't apply to all of Georgia's 152 counties. It applies only to Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, and DeKalb Counties, which together comprise the Atlanta metro area. The state-appointed superintendent would have the power to challenge election results, hold up certification, and investigate the election—but only in the four counties that produce most of the Democratic votes. The heavily Republican counties—whose elections are administered by Republicans—would not be affected.

Other rule changes that disproportionately affect the four Democratic counties include limits on drop boxes, shortening the absentee voting timetable, and more stringent voter ID requirements. Latosha Brown, cofounder of Black Voters Matter, said: "I think we were made vulnerable with what happened with the dismantling of the voting rights, and all of those things have been smaller, kind of like death by 1,000 cuts." No one change dooms the Democrats, but collectively they will make it much harder for Democrats to win any statewide election in Georgia. She also said what is happening in Georgia is a microcosm of the whole country. (V)

California Copies Texas

Back on Aug. 31, we had an item headlined "Under the Roe-dar," about Texas' new law that provided a $10,000 bounty for anyone ratting on an Uber driver who took a pregnant woman to an abortion clinic. In that item we had the sentence: "What if a blue state passed a law that said that any citizen can sue a gun owner for $10,000 unless that gun owner can prove they are a member of a 'well-regulated militia'?" We didn't get it quite right, but we were close. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) has directed his staff to work with the legislature and state AG to draft a law allowing private citizens to file lawsuits for $10,000 against anyone who manufactures, distributes, or sells an assault weapon or ghost gun kit/parts in California. We don't claim we thought of this idea first. It was inevitable that some blue state would do this. California is just where things happen first.

This is clearly an attempt to mimic the Texas law by taking the enforcement power away from the state and giving it to private citizens, just as the Texas abortion law does. It will also put the Supreme Court in a bind. If it were to rule that Texas can effectively deputize everyone in the state to catch people aiding and abetting abortions (which are legal under federal law) but California can't deputize everyone in the state to catch people making military weapons (which are legal under federal law), the backlash against the Court would be enormous and the demand for packing it would go way up. Of course, the Court could rule that both laws are unconstitutional, thus killing the Texas law. If that ploy worked, Newsom would be happy to take credit for killing it, even if his gun law had to go as well.

However, there is one other issue to consider here: standing to sue. You can't just sue anyone you want to and expect the courts to hear the case. The plaintiff must first convince the judge that he or she has been injured in some way and that the defendant was (at least partly) responsible for the injury. That may be hard in the Texas case but gun manufacturers would probably have a strong case in suing to overturn the California law. (V)

Pelosi Will Run for Reelection in 2022

Speaker Nancy Pelosi previously said that this term would be her last one. She seems to have changed her mind and is now planning to run for an 18th term in the House. Her district, CA-12, is D+37 and covers much of San Francisco (including a former military base in the middle of the Bay). In 2020, she beat another Democrat in the general election 78% to 22%, so she is pretty safe. Accordingly, she said she would spend much of next year raising money for other House Democrats.

She is without a doubt one of the most powerful speakers in modern history. It is not surprising. She was spoon-fed politics from birth. Her father was a congressman and later mayor of Baltimore. Her brother was also mayor of Baltimore. She is also a prodigious fundraiser, which partly explains her hold on her caucus. If she likes you, the money will flow. Otherwise, you're on your own.

Nevertheless, her grip on her caucus is slipping. She has faced several rebellions from progressives, and some moderate members have refused to vote for her for speaker. She could have kept her promise and at 82 gone out in a blaze of glory. If she runs in 2022 and the Democrats lose a few dozen seats in the House, she will certainly get some of the blame as Republicans always use her as a boogeywoman. It's not clear why she isn't going off into the sunset now, especially since it seems unlikely that she will be elected speaker in Jan. 2023.

Part of her problem is that there is no natural successor. The #2 Democrat in the House is Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD), who will be 83 at the start of the next Congress. The #3 Democrat is younger than Hoyer...he will be just 82 at the start of the next Congress. If the Democrats want to project a youthful vigorous leadership, these might not be the folks to do it. Katherine Clark (MA) is #4. She's a mere stripling at 58, but she has been in the leadership for only 10 months.

Clark is at least a possible, as is #5 Hakeem Jeffries (NY). But whoever the new leader is, he or she will not have anywhere near the power of Pelosi—especially if the Democrats take a real shellacking next year. If that happens, the moderates will be blaming the progressives and the progressives will be blaming the moderates and it will be chaos. In interviews with members, CNN repeatedly heard Democrats saying "we have to stop eating our own." But the reality is that some progressives see the moderates as the enemy, not just the Republicans. And some moderates see the progressives as the enemy, not just the Republicans. Maybe Pelosi will try to hang on for one more term just to get her successor set up, either Clark or someone else. Pelosi might just be the only person who can hold the fractious caucus together. (V)

What If Biden Doesn't Run in 2024?

Continuing the theme of what might happen if the leader steps down, Democrats are hoping that Joe Biden runs again in 2024. But if he doesn't, for whatever reason, there is no Plan B. At the meeting of the Democratic Governors' Association in New Orleans this past weekend, Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) said he wanted Biden to run. Then, 3 minutes later, Cooper began explaining why he would be a pretty good candidate to succeed Biden if the President chose to call it quits in 2024. As in the House, there is no clear #2 who everyone agrees on. Yes, Kamala Harris is nominally next in line, but every Democrat knows that Republicans absolutely hated the first Black man to be president and equally hated the first white woman who almost got the job (in 2016). They don't expect that a Black woman, especially one who ran for president in 2020 and flamed out very fast, is the answer to their prayers.

Consequently, there is a lot of speculation about who might run in 2024 if Biden decides not to, in part because he would be 82 on Election Day. None of the potential candidates want to talk too much about their chances for fear of offending Biden, who has said he will run. Still, the ideal candidate would probably be a fairly (but not too) progressive young white man with a lot of charisma. Basically, Jack Kennedy II. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg is interested (after all, he ran in 2020) and would be the youngest president yet. However, he is openly gay, which might be a plus in the primary but almost certainly would be a minus in Ohio and Missouri and Iowa and a bunch of other red states in the general election. But maybe not fatal.

That's why there was a lot of buzz at the DGA meeting. The governors provide a bigger pool of potential candidates, all of whom have had some executive experience. An obvious possibility is Gavin Newsom. He checks most of the boxes and if California holds its primary early on, he could grab a huge number of delegates on March 1, 2022, and have a massive lead that might be impossible to overcome. Cooper is another possibility, having twice won in a key swing state when Trump was on the ballot. Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) won reelection in a bad environment, so he is another potential candidate. Also, he was formerly ambassador to Germany in the Obama administration, so he has foreign policy experience. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D-IL) is a billionaire who could put some of his own money in the primary race to give him a leg up. A governor who tried in 2020 but didn't make it, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), also checks many of the boxes, although he would be 74 on Election Day, so maybe too old.

Turning to women governors, probably the top prospect—assuming she is reelected easily in 2022—is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). She will be 53 on Election Day and hails from a key Midwest swing state. Her argument would be something like: "I can bring in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania and put up a strong fight in Iowa and Ohio as well."

Of course, people other than governors might also be interested in the job, but if the mood of the country is grouchy in 2024, an outsider might have an edge over a D.C. insider. Then again, Biden might run, making all the speculation at the DGA meeting moot. (V)

Chris Wallace Will Leave Fox News

Chris Wallace, one of Fox News' few actual journalists, is leaving the network effective immediately. Wallace is the son of famed 60 Minutes reporter Mike Wallace. Wallace the younger worked for ABC News for 15 years before he joined Fox News in 2003. At the time he joined, he had management promise that no one would interfere with any guest he booked or any question he asked. He said yesterday that management kept that promise.

In 2020, Wallace tried to moderate the first debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden. Trump just talked all the time, yelling at Wallace and not letting Biden answer any of the questions. The debate was such a disaster that it prompted the organizers to install a mute button on each candidate's mic for the next ones. Trump had COVID-19 at the time of the second one, so the organizers wanted the debate to take place by video. But Trump refused because he knew if the moderator or production staff could kill his mic and the camera feed, he couldn't run rampant over Biden, so he was a no show. During the third debate, the mic of the person not holding the floor was muted part of the time, but not all of it.

Wallace later said he asked himself what he could have done better. If he had known that Trump had tested positive for COVID-19 and could have killed both Biden and himself, he would have insisted on all three of them taking COVID-19 tests before the debate.

Wallace is moving to CNN but not necessarily to be a political journalist. He said he wants to try out some other ideas. Fox and CNN played the stories a bit differently. Fox ran it in the left-hand column as the 10th and last item in small letters. Here is the Fox website shortly after Wallace went public with the news.

Fox News announcement of Wallace departure; the
story is buried deep on the left side of the page

In contrast, CNN put it as the #2 item in the right-hand column, just after a story about the president of South Africa testing positive for COVID-19. Here is the CNN page:

CNN announcement of Wallace departure; it's
way up on the right side of the page

With Wallace now gone following Shep Smith's exit in Oct. 2019, Fox News no longer has any actual journalists on the staff. In any event, we wish Wallace good luck on his new job and may he do better than that other Chris—namely, Chris Cuomo—who no longer works at CNN. (V)

A December to Rhymember (Parts 13-14)

It's a weekday, so you know what that means. Here are the previous entries:

We'll take our inspiration today from the news that Nancy Pelosi is hanging around. First, here's L.B. in Friendswood, TX:

There once was a woman named Nancy
Whom Republicans just couldn't fancy.
With a spine made of steel
She passed bills with zeal
And in high heels did a victory dance-y.

And then, from N.C. in Gibsons, BC, Canada:

A leader named Nancy Pelosi
Trump sees worse than Bela Lugosi
She's still under his skin
And his triple roll chin
He still whines like a loser morosely

No surprise that someone might build a limerick around 'Nancy' rhymes. Building one around 'Pelosi,' rhymes, by contrast, is quite the feat. We conferred with the poet laureate and, in view of that, she said she'll allow "morosely" as a rhyme for "Pelosi." (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec12 Sunday Mailbag
Dec11 Saturday Q&A
Dec10 Big News Out of New York
Dec10 Unhappy Legal News for Trump...
Dec10 ...and for Georgia Republicans
Dec10 Senators Are Still Playing Nice
Dec10 German Readers Weigh In
Dec10 This Week in Schadenfreude
Dec10 A December to Rhymember (Parts 11-12)
Dec09 Debt Ceiling Crisis Averted?
Dec09 Senate Pokes Biden in the Eye
Dec09 Meadows, 1/6 Commission to Fight It Out in Court
Dec09 North Carolina Primary Rescheduled
Dec09 Perdue Says What Everyone Already Knew He Was Thinking
Dec09 Meanwhile, Trump Has a Decision to Make in Missouri
Dec09 Angela Merkel Passes the Baton to Olaf Scholz
Dec09 A December to Rhymember (Parts 9-10)
Dec08 Biden Warns Putin Not to Invade Ukraine
Dec08 Biden's Pick for Bank Regulator Withdraws
Dec08 Now Meadows Is Not Cooperating with the Select Committee
Dec08 Democrats Are Getting Tired of Waiting for Godot
Dec08 Manchin and Sinema Are Starring in Pennsylvania
Dec08 The Courts Are Getting Involved in Redistricting
Dec08 Former Democratic Representative Will Run again for Staten Island Seat
Dec08 Democrats Are Having a Problem with Latinx
Dec08 In Defense of Lauren Boebert
Dec08 A December to Rhymember (Parts 7-8)
Dec07 The Walls May Be Closing In
Dec07 Perdue Will Challenge Kemp
Dec07 It's All about the Grift?, Part I
Dec07 It's All about the Grift?, Part II
Dec07 Diplomatic Boycott of the Winter Olympics Is a Go
Dec07 A Date Which Will Live In Infamy
Dec07 A December to Rhymember (Parts 5-6)
Dec06 Manchin and Sinema Are Still Not on Board the S.S. Biden
Dec06 Secretary of State Races Will Get Top Billing in 2022
Dec06 Eastman Takes the Fifth
Dec06 Steve Bullock: Democrats Need to Get Out of the City More
Dec06 Maybe "Roe" Won't Save the Democrats
Dec06 Does Fox News Matter?
Dec06 Some Advice for the Democrats from a Lifelong Conservative Republican
Dec06 More Republicans than Democrats Are Dying of COVID-19
Dec06 "Democracy Has Failed"
Dec06 Truth Social Raises $1.25 Billion
Dec06 Bob Dole Is Dead
Dec06 A December to Rhymember (Parts 3-4)
Dec05 Sunday Mailbag
Dec04 Saturday Q&A
Dec03 Surprise! Crisis Averted!
Dec03 Republicans Stand for Nothing