Senate page     Apr. 27

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Sorry it's late! The end of the school year is nigh, and that means it's crunch time.

What about the Leprechaun Police?

Leprechauns are, if we may say so, a menace to civil society. They pull all kinds of tricks, invariably victimizing those who are not Leprechaun-American. They tease people with pots of gold that are always "just over the next rainbow." And don't get us started on how their cereal is making people sick.

Point is: It's about time the country established a police force to address the problem. True, leprechauns don't actually exist, but that's just a minor quibble. Widespread voter fraud also does not exist, either. But that did not stop the Florida legislature from approving, and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) from signing into law, the creation of a 25-person force tasked with investigating rogue, voter fraud.

The good news, such as it is, is that the Florida legislators temporarily got their spines out of storage, and refused to make the Office of Election Crimes and Security directly answerable to the governor. So, he doesn't have his own private goon squad, at least not yet. The bad news is that this will serve to further justify Republican claims that the 2020 election was crooked. After all, why would Florida need to create a police force if it wasn't? Never mind that the state was won by Donald Trump. That's just another minor quibble, the sort of thing you only bring up if you're a commie and a pedophile and you hate 'Murica.

The bill could not make clearer, incidentally, the DeSantis theory of political power. He doesn't want the federal government to tell Floridians how to do things, of course. So, he's a fan of local governance. Except that he also doesn't want Florida's counties and municipalities making decisions for themselves, either. The new bill, in addition to creating the Vote cops, also forbids the use of ranked-choice voting for any election in Florida, from deputy assistant dogcatcher on up. We're not actually clear why Republicans would dislike ranked-choice voting so very much; presumably they think it makes it much harder for an extremist candidate to win. Say, someone like Ron DeSantis.

In any case, DeSantis doesn't want the folks above him on the ladder to have the power, and he doesn't want those below him on the ladder to have power. Big Brother... er, the Governor wants to place all the decision-making in his own hands. Florida voters get their chance to weigh in on that approach later this year; we'll see what they do with it. Incidentally, the new police detail is not likely to be in place by November, though it should be fully operational in 2024, should it be "needed" to "help" anyone who might be running for president in that year. (Z)

Perdue's a Dead Man Walking

Since we're on the subject of southeastern governors, there's a new poll from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution/University of Georgia that must have Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) dancing in the streets and challenger David Perdue crying in his peach-flavored coffee. With the May 24 primary less than a month away, Kemp leads Perdue among likely voters, 53% to 27%.

It would be difficult to think of something that could cause a politician to lose a 26-point lead in 4 weeks. It's even harder to think of something that would be that kind of dealbreaker in the modern Republican Party. So, the real question is whether Kemp can actually clear 50% and avoid a June runoff. Technically, a runoff would give Perdue a lifeline, and a chance to consolidate the non-Kemp vote behind himself. It would also mean another month of the two Republicans trading punches, which would theoretically work to the advantage of the Democrats. However, the gap between the Governor and the wannabe governor is so great, and the voters are so uninterested in what Perdue is selling, that there's no lifeline that is going to save him. And if the primary were to be extended another month, the correct approach for Kemp would be to ignore Perdue, which he would surely do. So, a temporary "reprieve" for Perdue wouldn't actually change much.

The more interesting question is: How will this impact Donald Trump's endorsement power? He's gone all-in on Perdue, which makes this a very high-profile test of his muscle, and means he's about to suffer a huge failure. Will that deprive him of some of his influence? The new poll attempted to probe that question, noting that the only demographic where Perdue leads is those respondents who say Trump's endorsement matters to them. And even among that crowd, Perdue only leads 55% to 30%. Overall, only 27% of likely Republican voters say that Trump's support makes them "much more likely" to support a candidate, while 18% say it makes them "somewhat more likely." So, it would appear he has enough influence to affect a reasonably close Republican primary, but beyond that, he's pretty irrelevant. (Z)

Judge Gives Democrats Immigration Reprieve...

During the pandemic, someone in the Donald Trump administration—and again, if it wasn't Stephen Miller we'll eat our hat—discovered that Title 42 of the U.S. Code could be used to summarily expel would-be immigrants to the United States in the name of public health. So, Team Trump invoked the law, and the Biden administration continued the policy. But now that the elections are coming up, and the pandemic is evolving into an endemic (can that be used as a noun?), the White House wants to de-invoke (devoke? un-invoke?) the rule. The general idea is that the President would like the party to get somewhere north of six Latino votes in the midterms. However, the White House's plan caused many swing-state Democrats in tight reelection races to pitch a fit, since they don't want to be lambasted for being members of the (alleged) "open borders" party.

My enemy's enemy, as they say, is my friend. And those swing-state Democrats who would like to keep their jobs found unlikely allies in three ambitious Republican attorneys general, all of whom are interested in a promotion. The AGs filed suit against the Biden Administration, and—having chosen the generally conservative United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana—they got the case before Robert R. Summerhays, a very conservative jurist who was appointed to the bench by Donald Trump.

Summerhays considered the matter, and has ruled that the plaintiffs' case has enough merit that he's going to grant a temporary restraining order that will stop the White House from backing off of Title 42 for now. The administration already announced that, reluctantly, it will abide by the judge's order. And by reluctantly, we mean it took about 2 seconds after he made his decision public. Presumably, Team Joe will hope that Summerhays needs until, oh, the second week in November to make a final determination. Maybe they'll send him on a fact-finding mission to Tahiti, Hawaii, and St. Barts just to give him plenty of time to reflect. (Z)

...Though That Doesn't Stop Maggie Hassan from Making an Unforced Error

When it comes to immigration policy, a semi-permanent holding pattern, of the sort created by Robert Summerhays (see above), might be the best possible outcome for the Democrats. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), who is among those senators up for reelection this year, just provided a helpful demonstration that nearly any other option is a loser for the blue team.

Hassan's goal was to show Granite State voters that she's "tough" on border security. New Hampshire has an international border, of course, but nobody much cares about getting tough on Canadian immigrants (even if they should). So, the Senator instead traveled to the Mexican border for a photo-op. In case there was any question that was the plan, well, the primary product of her trip was a video she posted to her official Twitter account:

I just spent two days at our southern border, and it’s clear we need to make more investments in personnel, technology, and physical infrastructure to secure our border.


— Sen. Maggie Hassan (@SenatorHassan) April 11, 2022

You can see how concerned Hassan looks. Clearly, she's been getting advice on that from her colleague Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).

The trip, of course, did not go over well. Republicans have had some success in portraying it as an obvious and transparent stunt, and are mocking the Senator as "MAGA Maggie." Meanwhile, Latino and progressive voters in New Hampshire are outraged at Hassan's pandering, and many are threatening to leave the "senator" portion of their ballot blank in November. Given that polls have the race between Hassan and "generic Republican" as neck-and-neck, she really can't afford defections like that.

Meanwhile the fact that voters insist a U.S. senator—that is, a member of a body that has little control over border policy—and one from a state more than 2,000 miles from Mexico, have a "policy" on border security makes clear that this is basically a made-up issue. That's not to say that border policy isn't a real concern. It's to say that the form that the issue has taken—with walls and warnings of roving drug gangs and COVID-19 scapegoating and senators traveling 2,000 miles to film a Twitter video—is cartoonish. And when that's the case, it's no wonder that the Democrats can't find a winning stance to take. (Z)

House Republicans Are Shredding Each Other in Public

Yes, Democrats have their issues these days. But their colleagues across the aisle also have theirs. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has been caught, once again, saying things on tape that he really doesn't want made public. Last week's recording featured the Representative badmouthing Donald Trump, while this week's recording has him and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) excoriating Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and pondering whether they should insist that Gaetz shut down his Twitter account.

Gaetz would never, ever allow a chance to make a few headlines pass, and so as soon as he heard the news, he fired back at McCarthy and Scalise, using Twitter, of course:

— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) April 26, 2022

There could come a time, in the not-too-distant future, where Gaetz could use a friend or two. We guess he's decided he'll cross that bridge when he comes to it. And if it's an interstate bridge, he'll probably do it with an underage girl in tow.

These news stories are, obviously, a wee bit gossipy. However, we pass them along so that we might raise this question: If House Republicans have this much trouble getting along when they're in the minority, what's going to happen if they recapture control of the lower chamber? It's going to take a near miracle for them to unify on a speaker (presumably, McCarthy no longer has Gaetz' vote). It's going to take a second near-miracle for that speaker to actually stay on the job, instead of growing frustrated and chucking the whole thing, John Boehner-style. And these folks are going to tear each other limb from limb as they argue over impeachments and legislation that has absolutely no chance of making it through the Senate. In particular, the real Trumper vs. fake Trumper battles are going to be epic. It's not the best thing for democracy, probably, but it will be very good for popcorn sales. (Z)

March... Sadness, Part XIX (The Write-Ins)

Before we announce the winner at the end of the week (which will be a bit anticlimactic) and the various runners-up (which will be less so), we thought we'd look at some of the folks who didn't quite make the grade. And to start, we thought that readers might be interested to read about the write-in votes for the Consolation Bracket.

There were over 300 write-ins, in total. Several folks used that opportunity to vote for... us, with one write-in for "your website," one for "your mom," one for each of us by name, one for Otto the dachshund (what did he ever do?), and one for the staff mathematician. Someone also voted for "the person who should have given Linus Torvalds an 'F'," though it should be noted that Torvalds was never actually a student of the Votemaster. There were a couple of votes for God, which we will also take as a vote for us. In any case, it's always good to hear from fans.

Several foreign leaders got votes, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Queen Elizabeth II (specifically as titular monarch of Canada), Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, Australian PM Scott Morrison, Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. Interestingly, though the French election was all over the news this week, there were no votes for either Marine Le Pen or Emmanuel Macron.

One person wanted to vote for Ronald Reagan, but supposed that corpses are not eligible. That did not stop half a dozen others from voting for The Gipper, however. Others who got votes, despite having gone on to the Great Beyond, include Ayn Rand, Donald Rumsfeld, H. Ross Perot, Harry Reid, Paul Weyrich, Sheldon Adelson, Roy Cohn, and Rush Limbaugh.

There were a few celebrities who got votes, most of them right-wing talkers, including Laura Ingraham, Erick Erickson, Larry Elder, Sean Hannity, and the aforementioned Limbaugh. From the world of sports, former basketballer Dennis Rodman and current Pittsburgh Steelers coach Matt Canada got votes. Rocker Ted Nugent, who's now pretty wackadoodle, got votes. And there were several votes for Q.

Among the more unorthodox write-ins were Cal Cunningham, former Washington state senator Maralyn Chase (D), REDMAP mastermind Chris Jankowski, former cardinal Theodore McCarrick, anti-vaxxer Sherri Tenpenny, former congressman Tom DeLay, "my high school principal," "the poison golem known as Ben Shapiro," perennial write-in Vermin Supreme, and Terry Malloy. The latter, as far as we know, is a fictional character from a movie made three-quarters of a century ago. Certainly didn't expect him to get a vote.

And there were three folks who got far and away more write-ins than any other. Here they are:

And finally, a few comments on write-ins, for your amusement:

J.S. in Seattle, WA: If you include Mark Zuckerberg (who got one of my votes), you absolutely have to include Jeff Bezos on your list of also-rans. My reasons: He is the founder and face of Amazon, a monopolistic, anti-competitive company that has a history of abysmal treatment of its employees, not to mention its efforts to stifle labor union activity among those employees. In addition, Amazon is attempting to permeate—not to mention spy on—every aspect of the average person's life. I could go on and on, because there are many other reasons that he should be on your list, but I'll leave you with these.

M.A. in Austin, TX: While you specified to list only individuals, corporations should have been included as they've essentially been granted recognition as persons by the Supreme Court. I chose Facebook over Zuckerberg as it is the company, not Zuckerberg, that makes and is responsible for its decisions to place profits over truth, justice, ethics and integrity. Those decisions play upon and fuel the divisions in this country as well as in other countries. For that, it deserves a position with the other ignobles in the also-rans.

E.R. in Irving, TX: I was the write-in ballot with the lone vote for Paul Weyrich. While fewer and fewer people will recognize the name, anyone who understands the role he played in how we got to where we are should agree he's a podium-worthy contender.

M.M. in La Crosse, WI: I found it interesting that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) was on the list but Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) was not, so I wrote her in. Those two bear complete responsibility for allowing the Trumpublicans to run roughshod over the democratic process in this country. They have done as much damage as anyone else on the ballot except Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

B.W.S. in Pleasant Valley, NY: I only entered one vote, and it was for a write-in. I don't know how many people asked for Newt Gingrich in comments associated with early voting, but his absence from the bracket is glaring. He wrote the playbook, and it's been as durable as the punchability of his face. If any one man deserved a chance to go all the way, it's him.

R.H. in West Grove, PA: I wrote in Pat King. Anti-vaxxer; "white genocide" theory promoter; white, but claims to be indigenous; government pedophilia conspiracy theorist; Holocaust denier; organized the Ottawa blockade; denies COVID-19 exists, but used it as a reason for bail. And the coup de grace: Canadian (Ack! He even caused me to use French! Il est un bastarde vrai!)

J.E. in Gilbertsville, PA: Today's anti-democracy problems can clearly be laid at the feet of two people: Ted Turner for launching CNN, and with it the 24-hour news cycle, and Karl Rove for making the weaponization of social issues the primary plank of the Republican party. The former created a voracious appetite for political "news" and the latter found something to feed it. You only gave me one write-in option, so I chose Karl Rove because he clearly made the more evil choice. That said, neither one will win this type of competition, as my arguments are true but not terribly emotion-provoking.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA: Grover Norquist. By making all GOP candidates swear never ever to increase taxes, he weaponized the 'starve the beast' anti-government fever. Given his sarcastic remarks about small government, it would be ironic if Norquist drowned in his own bathtub.

T.B. in Bozeman, MT: I have enjoyed your grim contest. For years, I have kept an evolving list I call "the most evil people in the world". There is a great deal of overlap between my list and your contestants. One missing from yours, however, is a scoundrel high on my list: Christopher Rufo. He single-handedly has forged "BLM" and "CRT" into powerful GOP cudgels. More seriously, he has declared his intent to destroy the very notion of "universal free public education" in America. He makes Newt Gingrich look like a fat toddler playing in a sandbox.

If you haven't voted in the Championship Round, you have until Thursday night at 11:59 p.m. PT. And your comments continue to be welcome. (Z & V).

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