The Math Path to the Senate
Nov. 16, 2020, 4:52 p.m.
Biden War Room
Which voter were you in 2020, the one who would walk across broken glass to vote for Joe Biden (or anyone on a ballot who isn’t Donald Trump), or the sort of voter who can generally take or leave politics, and maybe even voting?In every election, there are voters, Democrats and Republicans, of the first type. They don’t miss an opportunity to vote in any type of election, for President, or every two years for Congress, in primaries, or in state and local races. These are the voters who select the best candidate from disappointing options; they’re the ones that vote for a great candidate who has no chance of winning. If you’re that person, and you’re a Democrat in Georgia, we really need you now. Your vote is the foundation of Democratic progress. You already know the importance of these two Senate seats.If you’re the second type, a person who votes once in a while, then we owe you an awful lot if you voted for Joe Biden this time around. Several of the states Joe Biden won could have gone either way. Yours was the incremental vote, the vote that beat the polling errors, the vote that kept Donald Trump out of cheating distance, and the vote that made the difference in November.Now it’s time to focus on the Senate, Georgia’s Senators in particular. Two events placed Georgia front and center in November’s election. The first is that Joe Biden is the first Democrat to win Georgia since Bill Clinton and the first Democrat who is not a Southerner to do so since JFK in 1960. It’s hard to overstate how great that is.The second event is that both races for the US Senate are going to a runoff. It’s a lot like a “blue moon”, which is technically when a full moon appears twice in the same calendar month. A blue moon actually happened on Halloween night. Two Senate elections on the same day in the same state is an even rarer occurrence. Maybe the blue moon will lead to a blue Senate.The first of these Senate races began on a normal schedule, because Republican Senator David Perdue’s six-year term is up. His challenger is Democrat Jon Ossoff. Neither candidate crossed the 50% threshold of votes on November 3rd, so they’re trying again.The second election is “special” because Republican Kelly Loeffler was appointed when another Senator from the state retired. The seat will come up again in 2022, but we’re focused on keeping it warm until then. Like Arizona’s Martha McSally, this Senator has not yet been elected. Let’s keep it that way.This is an uphill battle for both Democratic candidates. Democrats are probably outnumbered by Republicans in the state, but voters don’t register with parties, so we only know partisanship by how they vote. It appears for now that Georgia is still a red state. Red states are a challenge up and down the ballot.Not long ago, red-state Alabama’s Senate seat went (in another special election) to Doug Jones, an unblemished Democrat running against Roy Moore. Doug Jones, the Democrat, had successfully prosecuted two KKK members for a church bombing that killed four black girls. Roy Moore has a known penchant for sexually assaulting teenage girls. Doug Jones won the race by only 50-48 against the child molester. He lost in 2020 to someone who later misidentified the three branches of government, mischaracterized the reason for World War II, and thought that Al Gore had been president-elect for 30 days. Alabama is really red.Georgia is pinker than that, maybe even peach-colored. But the challenge is there. Turnout was high in this election, but turnout isn’t the main reason Joe Biden won. We know that because Donald Trump also got better turnout in 2020 than he did in 2016.Part of the reason Joe Biden won is that he was running against Donald Trump. This is a guy that increased the turnout from people who like him and from people who hate him. That’s an interesting accomplishment.For example, he got some votes from disaffected Republicans and right-leaning Independents. That’s similar to the Doug Jones victory in Alabama against the child molester.But we don’t have Donald Trump to run against this time. It shouldn’t matter, but it makes the job harder. One more thing that works against the Democrats: many voters prefer split government, which might favor the two Republicans in this election. Split government generally sounds fine in theory, but it has resulted in partisan gridlock for the last two years, including an unconscionable desert of economic stimulus after the first pandemic stimulus package ran dry in mid-2020. Some proponents of split government are having second thoughts.If even one of the empty Senate seats goes to a Republican, Mitch McConnell runs the Senate, and getting the job done becomes a bigger challenge for Joe Biden. What’s the difference in Senate operations for these Georgia contests? Two seats don’t sound like a big deal. They are.With a Republican majority, Mitch McConnell gets to decide what laws even make it to the floor or a vote. In its first year of a majority, the Democratic House passed about 400 bills, which have been lying around unattended on Mitch McConnell’s desk. A Democrat in that job would try to govern.In a 50/50 Senate, bills that make it to the floor and then get to a tie vote are decided by the Vice-President (and VIce-President-Elect Kamala Harris will work with her former colleagues as did Vice-President Biden in the Obama administration.) With a majority in the Senate, the committee membership makeup reflects their proportion. In a 50/50 split, the committees are balanced, and that means that their work activities are nuanced. With a Republican Senate majority, expect to see investigations designed to hurt Democrats instead of progress. In an evenly-divided Senate, the committee chairs are selected by the Vice-President.A tie in the Senate is never a real tie. It’s effectively a majority for the President’s party. Put another way, these Senate races give Georgia a chance to turn Mitch McConnell into a senator that hardly matters.If you want President-Elect Biden to get his choice of Cabinet members, as have all presidents until now, a Senate tie is the only way to muzzle McConnell. He has made it known that President Biden’s Cabinet nominees must be moderate enough to meet his tastes. (He didn’t think Judge Merrick Garland met that test.) Similarly, the Senate has traditionally given Presidents of both parties a wide berth in selecting qualified judicial picks. That’s where the future Supreme Court starts out. It goes without saying that a Republican Senate can craft a Supreme Court to its own specifications by manipulating the process (as Mitch McConnell did at the beginning and at the end of the last four years.). A tied Senate would improve that situation for Joe Biden, whenever judicial appointments occur.So those are the stakes. How do we win?Turnout, turnout, turnout.Forget the catchphrases: red state, blue state, polls are even, polls are behind. None of that matters with enough turnout. That’s how Joe Biden won Georgia. The key is to register and turn out the sort of voter that generally chooses the Democrat. Youth voters made up more than a fifth of all Georgia votes, according to a group at Tufts University. About 800,000 new voter registrations, many enfranchising Black Americans, were made possible through the tenacious efforts of Stacey Abrams. The math is simple. More voters means more votes.The opposite of this approach is voter suppression, either enticing your opponents not to vote or suppressing their opportunities. In the past, Georgia has been the poster child for suppression efforts in the past, through voter purges, long lines, and delaying voter registrations. To the state’s credit, the Republican-led management of the 2020 presidential election has been exemplary so far.Here’s how turnout beats polling. Let’s say the state poll is even for two candidates, just to keep it simple. So half of voters like Candidate Blue, and half like Candidate Red. If the number of voters who cast ballots is also the same for both candidates, the result is a tie. Let’s say that Candidate Blue got 1000 votes, and so did Candidate Red.But what if great campaigning gets 100 more Candidate Blue voters to turn out than Candidate Red does? Then Candidate Blue wins by a hundred votes, 1100 to 1000. Total turnout for Candidate Blue is 1000 + 100. That’s bigger than Candidate B’s 1000. It’s just math.What can you do now to make this happen?If you live in Georgia, it’s time to vote. If you aren’t registered, or if you know someone who will turn 18 by January 5, even if they aren’t 18 yet, register to vote or help them register. The deadline is December 7, but please don’t wait. If you know anyone who didn’t vote on November 3, or voted for a third-party candidate, make sure that they understand the importance of their vote now. Make sure your right-leaning friends understand that the job is not yet done, that the Trump enablers will still be tied to him with marionette strings tugged on Twitter. Voters make a difference.Request an absentee ballot, or vote early (early voting begins December 14.) Learn more about early voting locations or ballots on Georgia’s My Voter Page.Election Day is the day you get your ballot, or it’s the day you vote early in person (stay safe). But the very last Election Day for this runoff is January 5, 2021. Don’t forget: there are TWO Senate races, and you want to vote for Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock.If you don’t live in Georgia, and even if you do, and you’d like to help more:Donate to each campaign individually, for Jon Ossoff, and for Reverend Raphael Warnock. You might donate to national organizations like SwingLeft, or local groups like:Fair Fight Action: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/fair-fight-1 | https://fairfight.com/Black Lives Matter: https://blackvotersmatterfund.org/donate/ | https://blackvotersmatterfund.org/New Georgia Project: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/new-georgia-project-1 | https://newgeorgiaproject.org/The campaign websites also provide volunteer links for events, text or phone banking, in-person opportunities, and more.Some people think that only elections for President matter, but don’t underestimate these contests. They’re big, and the eyes of the nation are on them. Keep in mind, if Democrats vote by mail again and Republicans vote in person, an Election Night “red mirage” might again ripen into a blue victory.Author Jim Butcher is credited with the following maxim, but no matter where it originated, it applies to the importance of turnout in these Georgia Senate races.“You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”Let’s outrun them.
We're Not Finished Yet
Nov. 9, 2020, 4:28 p.m.
Biden War Room
Remember how you felt when you went to bed on Tuesday night, like the world was a horror movie? That is, if you went to bed? That was a night even chocolate couldn’t fix.We might still be feeling like that, if not for what you did. This election will be close in the states that made the difference. It’s hard to fathom, but Donald Trump might very well have won reelection, and he didn’t, because of you and others like you. Thank you.You've helped to make a miracle. You are part of America’s proud and sustained tradition of electoral integrity.Joe Biden, competent and decent, unseated someone who seems committed to dismantling our democracy, norm by norm, and law by law. You wouldn’t think that making this happen would be hard to achieve, but it was.You also contributed to America’s extraordinary turnout and engagement. You made a commitment by performing your civic duty and lifting your voice. And you did it in the face of a pandemic, while fighting off the rhetoric of a narcissist, and in some cases, overcoming both obvious and subtle institutional voter suppression activities intended to keep you home.Even if all you did was vote for Joe Biden, you've done your part. Wisconsin is blue only because of about 20,000 voters, and it might have been the tipping point state.Maybe you were even a bigger part of the movement that has created this excruciatingly slow landslide. If your only incremental contribution was to retweet someone's “VOTE” video, you can be proud.Maybe you helped in a big way. If you were a poll worker, maybe you helped someone vote instead of abandoning a half-filled Joe Biden ballot at the polling station. If you've phone-banked, text-banked, or door-knocked, you might have found enough voters to hold a state legislature, increase the minimum wage somewhere, or something even more significant. You have helped to change our history.This is a landslide, but not an avalanche. We maintained a small majority in the House of Representatives, but a simple majority is all we need, and for now we have that. But House seats are fragile.The Senate, for now, remains in Republican hands. But the Republican majority could become a tie because of this election, and much of the credit for that goes to Stacey Abrams, who registered 800,000 new voters in Georgia. That state’s electors for President — remarkably — could end up in Joe Biden’s column, and that isn’t even the most important event that happened in the Peach State.It’s this: Georgia is putting the Senate within reach for Democrats.Donald Trump was able to enact much of his agenda — of no additional economic support to COVID, tax cuts for the wealthiest, and yes, replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court with a woman who is her opposite — because of his enablers. Many of them are in the US Senate.Let’s just review the power of the Senate in Joe Biden’s immediate future as President:The Senate Majority Leader decides whether or not bills passed by the House of Representatives get to the Senate floor. Bills don’t get passed and sent to the President unless the Senate concurs in their importance. If you’ve been wondering why there has been no more money to help those devastated economically by coronavirus, this is the reason.The Senate confirms the President’s Cabinet choices. Mitch McConnell has already hinted that he will break with norms and require President-Elect Biden’s Cabinet choices to meet McConnell’s own definition of “moderate.” McConnell was just re-elected in Kentucky, because every vote matters, and Amy McGrath didn’t get enough of them. He’s 100% important now, but if Democrats controlled the Senate, he would be just one vote out of a hundred. That would be better.Even with a Democratic majority, legislation will still need to meet a 60-vote Senate filibuster threshold, but many of Biden’s plans could attract enough Republicans for passage. Other bills will face a 50-50 tie, and ties are broken by Vice President-Elect Harris. In short, the difference between change and gridlock rests with control of the Senate.In the longer term, the majority party in the Senate gets to choose the committee chairs, and decides whether or not to investigate government wrongdoing. And of course, it goes without saying that Joe BIden’s Supreme Court picks, if there are any, face a more sympathetic confirmation process (or any process at all), if a Democrat is the Senate Majority Leader. These two Georgia runoff wins would produce a tie, and other Senate seats don’t always wait for scheduled elections. A majority in the near future is in reach.It’s out there. But this won’t be easy. Georgia isn’t suddenly a “blue state”. We can thank Donald Trump for being so appalling that independent voters and even Republicans in Georgia came out to remove him. Republicans, even the ones who dislike Trump, still want to have a Republican Senate. This is part of the reason that many down-ballot Republicans like Senator Thom Tillis (NC) outperformed Donald Trump in their states.We don’t have the advantage of the Trump drag on the ticket in the two upcoming Senate races, and we don’t have a lot of time to build support to elect two Democratic Senators from Georgia. We need to find Georgia voters who didn’t show up in November, but will vote for two Democratic senators. One place to find them: anyone who wasn’t old enough to vote in November but will turn eighteen before the January 5 election and will register to vote before December 7.On the plus side, the new Senators would be seated with plenty of time to help Joe Biden enact his agenda, the one we worked so hard to make happen.When Democrats turn out, Democrats win. The battle over mailed ballots and the timing of counting created an unusual situation that might be repeated in the Georgia special elections. Maybe there will be another “red mirage” and maybe there will be another blue shift.That feeling you had on Tuesday night, when every state seemed to show an insurmountable lead in favor of Donald Trump? Don’t forget that feeling. Leverage it into energy and resolve.If you live in Georgia, make sure everyone you know understands this: the Senate elections in Georgia are nearly as important as the vote they just cast for President. We’ve learned that we can accomplish so much without leaving the couch.Georgia voters can request an absentee ballot until November 18, and early in-person voting begins on December 14.If you don’t live in Georgia, you can help. Donate to the campaigns of Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock. Sign up to phone bank for the candidates.One thing we have learned from the last two general elections: polls aren’t destiny. And that’s especially true in Georgia. We are destiny.As Georgia’s revered Congressman John Lewis told us, “The right to vote is precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool or instrument in a democratic society. We must use it.”Now’s the time for some more “good trouble”.
Oct. 31, 2020, 6:38 p.m.
Paul Sullivan, BWR Team
So, if you’re a typical American, you’re feeling pretty anxious about the election right now. You might be waiting to vote on election day, or you might already have cast your ballot. In either case, you’re probably sitting around at home in quarantine, your anxiety building, but convinced that you’ve done or will do the only thing that you can. But here’s the good news; there is more you can do - especially if you live in a state with a Senate election this November. But before we talk about that, let’s set the stage. Right now, there’s a global pandemic that’s killed over two hundred thousand Americans; the nation is currently in the middle of the worst economic recession since 1929; climate change-induced wildfires are rampaging across the West Coast; our traditional allies have begun to abandon us; and, to top it all off, the man who is supposed to be leading the nation is incapable of doing anything other than rage-tweeting about his political opponents and refusing to accept even a shred of responsibility for the disaster he created. I know that the present looks dark, folks. But there are reasons to be hopeful. Because Joe Biden’s running for President, and he’s got a plan to build back better. He’s got a plan to fix our crumbling infrastructure; he’s got a plan to stop climate change; he’s got a plan to fix our broken economy; and he’s got a plan to end this pandemic and end the perilous division that has wracked our nation for the past four years. But Joe can’t do it alone. When Barack Obama was inaugurated, way back in 2008, Mitch pledged not to work with the new President, and not to govern like a responsible statesman but to obstruct him at every turn. And, even though Obama is no longer in the White House, Mitch has continued this obstructionist strategy. In 2019, the House passed almost four hundred bills aimed at helping everyday Americans. Some of the stockpiled bills would reduce the price of prescription drugs, raising the minimum wage, and protecting people with preexisting conditions. All of them are aimed at helping the American people. But McConnell has refused even to bring these bills to a vote on the Senate floor. This is how he operates, America, and if Republicans hold the Senate this fall, they will do everything in their power to block Biden’s vision. So we need to make sure that we flip the Senate this fall. If Republicans loose their Senate majority, Joe Biden will be able to enact his vision for America. And we’re already at work on that front; in Colorado, John Hickenlooper is busy showing Republican Corey Gardner the door, while Mark Kelly is trouncing incumbent Martha McSally in Arizona. But flipping the Senate won’t be easy, and we’ll need every single seat we can get. Here’s the races where you can chip in this fall. You can donate money, you can make phone calls, or, if you live in one of the following states, you can simply tell your friends to make sure they vote this fall. Let’s get to work, America. Georgia: Kelly Loeffler vs. Raphael Warnock After “winning” a widely-contested election, one of the first things Georgia Governor Brian Kemp did was appoint GOP megadonor Kelly Loeffler to fill a vacant Senate seat. Loeffler, who bills herself as “more conservative than Atilla the Hun,” has since become nothing more than a yes-woman for Trump, and has voted with the President 100% of the time. She has accused the Black Lives Matter movement of being a “Marxist” organization that is out to “destroy” America. And she has also trumpeted an endorsement from conspiracy theorist and Qanon enthusiast Marjorie Taylor Greene. Oh, and she may have used her position to commit insider trading. Fortunately, Loeffler may have met her match. The Reverend Raphael Warnock grew up in public housing in Savannah, Georgia. His father was a veteran, and his mother picked cotton and tobacco. But he didn’t let his humble beginnings stop him from aspiring to greater things. He got a PhD in theology, and soon became the senior pastor at the Ebenezer Baptist Church - the same church where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started his career. And now, he’s running for Georgia Senate. He’s going to help fix our broken healthcare system, save our deteriorating environment, and so much more. And with your help, he’ll become Georgia’s next senator this November.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/warnock-for-georgia_web?refcode=website&amount=25 Volunteer: https://secure.warnockforgeorgia.com/page/s/website_vol Also Georgia: David Perdue vs. John Ossoff Also up for re-election this year is Georgia Senator David Perdue. Perdue, just like his colleague, Loeffler, has come under scrutiny for insider trading. Despite calling himself pro-life, he told people to pray for Obama’s death. He’s been a Trump toady who votes with the President almost 95% of the time, and, just last week, he made a racist jab at our Vice Presidential nominee, Kamala Harris. But his bigoted dog whistles don’t stop there; he’s also deployed anti-Semitic tropes against his Democratic opponent, Jon Ossoff. Ossoff is a former investigative journalist who made his bones exposing the widespread atrocities committed by ISIS. Ossoff, unlike his opponent, supports protections for people with preexisting conditions, and will vote to make sure that every Georgian has access to affordable, high quality health insurance. He’ll fight for Georgia; but we need to fight for him first. Donate: https://electjon.com/donate Volunteer: https://go.electjon.com/page/s/web-volunteer Maine: Susan Collins vs. Sara Gideon Susan Collins has long called herself a moderate independent. But, over the last four years, she’s become nothing more than a stooge for President Trump’s radical, right wing agenda. She also voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, even after watching him perjure himself under oath. And, despite Trump’s repeated displays of lawlessness and bad behavior, she has done nothing more than meekly insist that she is, indeed, concerned by the administration’s pattern of norm-breaking. Maine deserves a senator who will actually fight for the state’s residents. Fortunately, there’s an actual leader running for the Maine Senate seat this fall. Sara Gideon has long been a voice for everyday people in Maine. She’ll help Joe rebuild our economy after the pandemic, and, unlike Collins, she’ll actually vote to protect a woman’s right to choose. She’s going to help protect our environment and our seniors. And, with your help, she’ll kick Collins to the curb this November.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/gideon2020Volunteer: https://saragideon.com/take-action/Iowa: Joni Ernst vs. Theresa Greenfield Joni Ernst has been in the Senate for just six years, but during that time, she’s accumulated quite a track record. She’s been a firm ally of Iowa Representative Steve King, who is best known for endorsing Neo Nazis and promoting white nationalism. And she’s so anti-Obamacare that she said that officials who attempted to implement the program should be arrested. But Ernst isn’t only opposed to providing Americans with affordable healthcare; she also wants to deny them access to education and clean air, saying that she wants to eliminate both the Department of Education and the EPA. Ernst likes to say that she’s opposed to these agencies because they represent wasteful government spending. However, her record shows that she’s done virtually nothing to actually curb the ballooning federal deficit. She’s also opposed one of Joe Biden’s signature accomplishments, the Violence Against Women Act. Fortunately, Theresa Greenfield is standing up to Joni Ernst. Unlike her opponent, Greenfield knows that healthcare is a right for all, not a privilege for the few. She grew up on her father’s farm in Iowa during the 1980s farm crisis, so she understands the plight of the millions of Americans who have fallen upon hard times during this pandemic. As Iowa’s future senator, she has pledged to pass another stimulus package that will ease the burden of the pandemic and help get America back on its feet. And, unlike Ernst, Greenfield knows that it’s Democrats, not Republicans, who know how to balance a government checkbook. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/tg-website-2020?refcode=web Volunteer: https://secure.greenfieldforiowa.com/page/s/sign-up-to-volunteer Texas: John Cornyn vs. M. J. Hegar. Texas has long been stereotyped as a “red state” where Democrats shouldn’t even bother trying to win. Fortunately, M. J. Hegar is used to breaking down barriers. She joined the Air Force and elbowed her way into the male-dominated Air National Guard, where she became a combat helicopter pilot. She was then deployed to Afghanistan, where she flew multiple combat operations and was shot down by the Taliban. But that wasn’t her last battle; far from it. In 2012, she sued the Department of Defense to end its policy against allowing women to serve in combat roles - and won. And now she’s ready to fight for Texas and all its residents as the Lone Star State’s next senator. Her opponent is Senator John Cornyn, a three-term Republican incumbent. In the past, he’s supported Trump’s misuse of military resources to build his border wall, only to suddenly claim that he’d never supported the wasteful endeavour at all. He claims to support protections for preexisting conditions, but his voting record shows the exact opposite. After years of deriding the ACA, he admitted earlier this year that the legislation was, in fact, a good thing. Cornyn can’t be trusted to look out for Texans; so let’s show up for Hegar. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/mjh_website?refcode=website-nav Volunteer: https://mjfortexas.com/get-involved/volunteer/ Alabama: Tommy Tuberville vs. Doug Jones Alabama is another so-called “Red State” where Democrats aren’t supposed to be able to win elections. But Doug Jones changed all that in 2017 when he ran for Senate - and won. Jones is a lifelong public servant. In 2001, he successfully prosecuted the Klansman who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church. During his Senate career, he’s been committed to ensuring that everyone has access to quality education and healthcare. And he’s been a staunch advocate of LGBT rights - something that he says is partly because of his openly gay son, Carson. His opponent, meanwhile, is former football coach Tommy Tuberville, whose qualifications for the US Senate include involvement in not one, not two, but three Ponzi schemes. Tuberville also seems to know very little about the office he wants to hold. So far, he’s refused to even debate Jones, and has steadfastly refused to answer even the most basic questions about his campaign. Jones has won once, and with your help, he can do it again. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/jones-homepage1 Volunteer: https://www.onealabamaaction.com/ North Carolina: Thom Tillis vs. Cal Cunningham Thom Tillis is known for a lot of things — most recently, for taking his mask off and catching COVID at one of Donald Trump’s superspreader events. Now, Tillis has since admitted that he was wrong to do so, but it’s not the first time he’s stumbled on public health; just recently, he made the bizarre and racist claim that Hispanics were driving North Carolina’s COVID numbers. And he’s previously said that he opposes forcing restaurant employees to wash their hands. Cal Cunningham, by contrast, understands the serious risk that Covid-19 poses — especially for those without health insurance. Cal’s always been about serving his country; at age 27, he became the youngest state senator in North Carolina’s history, but enlisted in the army after 9/11. He was deployed three times, and served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Cal’s gonna fight to make sure that people are protected during these trying times; but he needs your help to do it.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/cal-website?refcode=cal-website Volunteer: https://www.calfornc.com/get-involved/ South Carolina: Lindsey Graham v. Jaime Harrison For a long time, Lindsey Graham was viewed as a principled conservative, who was known for his friendship with the maverick Senator John McCain. Back in 2016, he called Donald Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic religous bigot.” But as time went on, his tune changed. Nowadays, he’s Trump’s very own lapdog. Despite the fact that Trump has repeatedly insulted McCain, and denigrated the deceased Senator’s war-hero status, Lindsey has stuck by Trump, his earlier criticisms forgotten. And now Graham, who previously insisted that he would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee in an election year, has changed his mind once again. He’s voting to confirm Trump’s disastrous nominee Amy Coney Barrett - a judge with ties to right wing extremist groups who would likely vote to repeal Obamacare. His opponent, Jaime Harrison, is a different sort of man. He knows a thing or two about keeping his word. And that’s exactly what he’ll do if he’s elected to the US Senate this fall. If he becomes South Carolina’s next Senator, he’s pledged to fight for paid family leave, so that parents won’t have to miss out on a much-needed paycheck if their child is sick at home. He’s pledged to protect and grow the middle class, so that every American can have access to a good paying job. And, unlike Lindsey, he’ll fight for the criminal justice reform that this nation so sorely needs. Jaime already has quite a bit of support, but he needs all the help he can get if he’s going to defeat Graham this fall. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/adopt-jaime-harrison Volunteer: https://jaimeharrison.com/get-involved/ Alaska: Dan Sullivan vs. Al Gross Way back in 2016, Dan Sullivan was one of a few Republican senators who was willing to condemn Trump from time to time. That’s all changed now; he’s blatantly refused to even comment on Trump’s non-denials of white supremacy, but he always finds time to praise the President. And when Trump diverted federal funds from Alaska to pay for his fantasy border wall, Sullivan backed him up. But flip-flopping is par for the course with Dan; in 2016, he said that the American people should have a choice in their next Supreme Court justice; but that principle has quickly become a thing of the past. However, there are a few people who still trust Dan. Pebble Partnership executives seem pretty certain that he’ll vote to open up a new mine in Bristol Bay — a project which would surely destroy the local fisheries. But voters can trust his opponent. Dr. Al Gross, an Alaska native, is running for Sullivan’s seat. As a former orthopedic surgeon, he knows just how important and expensive healthcare is. As a commercial fisherman, he knows just how important and vulnerable Alaska’s fisheries are. And, unlike his opponent, he understands that sex education is far better at preventing abortions than a ban. Dr. Al might be an independent, but he’s our kind of guy. Help make sure he unseats Sullivan this fall!Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/algross-2020?noskip=true&refcode=website Volunteer: https://www.mobilize.us/dralgrossak/event/325488/ Montana: Steve Daines vs. Steve Bullock Now, I know what you’re thinking; Montana’s a red state where Democrats have no business trying to win. But Steve Bullock’s done it before; twice. And now, the two-term governor is taking on Senator Steve Daines this fall. Unlike Daines, Bullock understands what it means to be a leader, and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic proves it. Bullock acted early and swiftly to close down schools and bars, and managed to save his state from the worst of the pandemic. Daines, meanwhile, has been little more than Trump’s own little footsoldier, refusing to call out the President for his egregious behavior. And if his constituents ever try to ask him about his positions, he’ll always be conveniently out of town. Montana deserves a Senator who will actually serve his constituents; it deserves Steve Bullock.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/sb-homepage?refcode=scb_web_header-button Volunteer: https://stevebullock.com/get-involved/ Michigan: John James vs. Gary Peters John James doesn’t like to talk about himself all that much. In fact, he won’t even tell the people of Michigan what party he’s from. But make no mistake, James is a Republican who supports Trump “2000%” — but he won’t tell you about that either. And, despite his stated position that Obamacare is a “monstrous” law that needs to be replaced, he won’t tell you what he would replace it with. And he certainly won’t tell you about his close ties to Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. When it comes to his opponent, Gary Peters, you don’t need to wonder. Peters is a proud supporter of the Affordable Care Act, and wants to help strengthen the law even more. He’s also committed to protecting the Great Lakes from further environmental damage. He’s proved that he can fight for Michigan, but now we need to fight for him.Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/gary-peters-2?refcode=button Volunteer: https://petersformichigan.com/volunteer/ Kansas: Roger Marshall vs. Barbara Bollier Barbara Bollier hasn’t been a Democrat for very long, but she’s had some very good reasons to switch sides. She watched as the Kansas GOP instituted disastrous policies that ran the state into the ground. And, like many Americans, she’s watched with mounting horror as the Republican party has wholeheartedly embraced Trump. As a doctor, she’s an ardent supporter of Medicaid expansion. And, she takes this pandemic seriously - as opposed to her opponent, Roger Marshall, who takes hydroxychloroquine to protect himself from coronavirus. Marshall is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Trump tax code, which is based on the same disastrous policy that sent Kansas into a nosedive. Marshall bills himself as fiscally responsible, but his record shows that he is anything but. If elected to the Senate, he’ll continue voting for the same policies that have utterly destroyed his own state. Make sure that doesn’t happen, and vote him out this November!Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/bb4ks-web?refcode=sitemenu&amount=25 Volunteer: https://bollierforkansas.com/action/ Mississippi: Cindy Hyde-Smith vs. Mike Espy Mississippi is another state where Democrats - and especially black Democrats - aren’t supposed to be able to win elections. But Mike Espy has defied those odds. In 1986, he became the first African-American congressman from Mississippi since Reconstruction. In 2018, he ran for Senate and lost by single digits to Cindy Hyde-Smith. And now, he’s trying again. Since that race in 2018, Mississippi has started to rise above its past, voting to remove the confederate battle emblem from its flag earlier this year. But Cindy has remained rooted in the past. She has said that Confederate soldiers should be valorized for “defending their homeland,” and, in a state with a history of lynchings, has said that she’d like “front-row” seats to public hangings. In a state that regularly feels the wrath of climate-change fed hurricanes, Hyde-Smith has voted to repeal environmental regulations designed to lessen global warming. Epsy, who was the Secretary of Agriculture during the Clinton administration, understands the threat that climate change poses. With your help, he can beat Cindy this november. Donate: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/espy-web-2020?refcode=espy-fr-web-nav Volunteer: https://secure.ngpvan.com/uF29pCoBokKmjNsDKzhM8A2 That’s all for now, America. Remember, with your help, we can flip the Senate, and send Mitch packing this fall. With him out of the way, Joe will be able to enact his bold vision for America. So let’s get to work.
I voted. I’m anxious. What can I do now?
Oct. 30, 2020, 7:18 p.m.
Biden War Room
Here’s some helpCongratulations. You planned, you voted, and if you’re lucky enough to live in Austin, Texas, you can get free stuff. But maybe you thought that the churning in your stomach would be gone after your ballot was out of your hands, and it isn’t. There are still some things you can do to reduce your stress level for the next few days, and some of them are as powerful as the vote you just cast.I don’t know the status of my vote.Track your ballot. You can track your vote in nearly every state, even if you voted in person. Check it after about 24 hours if you dropped your ballot off at an election office or drop box. You’ve probably heard about mail delays, but so far there don’t appear to be any reports of significant problems. In fact, this suppression tactic of delaying the mail was so widely reported that voters might just be voting earlier or in person, just to ensure that their votes are counted. Voting early also gave your ballot a clear shot to tabulation, because it avoided any signature-based shenanigans that might come up in important precincts. Give your ballot a week or so if you dropped it into a mailbox. If it isn't received soon, call your county office and ask about it. The people who work there are nice, even when they're busy. If it’s been received, keep watching every day. At some point, the site will probably tell you it’s been accepted…or discarded because it didn’t comply with your state’s rules. If it’s rejected, you know what to do. Go vote in person, preferably early. Worst case, you’ll be given a provisional ballot, which simply means that your vote will count once and only once. Then track your vote until it’s accepted. In some states, they can let you know it’s already been counted. That will allay some of your apprehension.Yay, my ballot was accepted. Now what?Corral your social circle. Time to make sure everyone around you is finished voting. Reach out to your parents, your friends, your aunts and uncles, and that barista in the coffee place where you order your brew. Ask them to track their own votes, or offer to track the ballot for them. It’s likely that your family includes lots of people who haven’t mastered their electronics. Lots of people who stare at their phones all day don’t know they can use them to track their vote. Offer to help them out. You might find that your Aunt Susan in the Philly suburbs loves Joe Biden, and in her zeal to vote, she forgot to use Pennsylvania’s secrecy sleeve. When she learns about her mistake, Aunt Susan can go to an early voting location and try again to get it right.For most ballot tracking, you only need to know the county, the voter’s name, and the birth date. This means that you could track your grandma’s ballot without needing to exchange microbes with her. Just find her birthday on Facebook (it’s your grandma, so you’d better know the year) and check out where her ballot stands. It’s about time Facebook gave you useful and personal information about someone rather than the other way around.I’ve checked on everyone I could. Can I do more?You can reach out. If you’re young, healthy, and inclined, you could help out by being a poll worker. You might join a text-banking team (they’re fun, and you don’t have to wear even Zoom-level clothes after your training session.) If you're a lawyer, you can help out, too. If not, Swingleft can help you find volunteer opportunities. You don’t have to spend money, and you don’t have to leave home to help. Volunteering feels good. It'll help the next few weeks go from interminable to interpersonal.We need a landslide. We need a mandate. We need some sleep. Each of us gets only one vote, but we can leverage our "I voted" status to help others achieve "I voted" closure. You can help push this over the November 3rd finish line, and make sure Donald Trump is over by November 4th.
Time to Fight Back Against Voter Suppression
Oct. 29, 2020, 2:11 p.m.
Nader Hussein, BWR Press Secretary
With early voting underway in 45 states and Washington D.C., voter suppression is already taking effect in the traditional ways as well as some new ones. The Republican Party has been working for decades to disenfranchise communities that traditionally vote for Democrats, especially Black and other minority communities. Closing polling stations in Black and Brown neighborhoods is ol' reliable for Republican-led states seeking to suppress minorities from holding them accountable at the ballot box. Long lines and waits of multiple hours are a hallmark of the electoral process, and it's not by accident.One of Donald Trump's senior advisors, Justin Clark, was caught on a recording telling a group of Wisconsin Republicans that voter suppression is a deliberate strategy used by the GOP to compete in swing states.“Traditionally it's always been Republicans suppressing votes in places,” Clark is heard saying. He continued, “that's what you're going to see in 2020. It's going to be a much bigger program, a much more aggressive program, a much better-funded program.”Of course, once his words were made public, he backed off and claimed he was taken out of context, but the evidence to support his claim is overwhelming. States like Georgia and Ohio, with Republican legislatures and governors, have seen wait times of up to 10 hours and lines a quarter mile long. In Ohio, this is a result of a 2006 state law limiting counties to just one early voting site per county. For Vinton County, with a population of about 13.5 thousand people, one polling station might be enough, but for Franklin County, which includes the capital of Columbus, nearly 1.3 million people are limited to one location.With the coronavirus pandemic still wreaking havoc in the United States, interest in voting by mail has increased tremendously, and now the Republican Party has been forced to come up with new ways to suppress people wishing to vote by mail. Donald Trump has railed against mail-in voting, despite using it himself and having no evidence of widespread fraud with the historic method. A number of states have used the mythological threat of mail-in vote fraud to engage in voter suppression. In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott attempted to implement a similar strategy to Ohio, limiting the number of ballot drop-off locations to one per county. To put that into perspective, Harris County, which includes Houston, has a population of over 4 million. Thankfully, a state judge has issued an injunction against the limitation, but there will likely be an appeal.In California, the state's GOP has taken a different route. Instead of removing ballot boxes, they are putting out fake drop boxes, despite being warned by the California Secretary of State. Some of the fake drop boxes have been labeled as “official,” despite having no affiliation with the county registrars tasked with collecting ballots. The GOP are defending their actions by claiming that they are merely ballot harvesting, but the status of the boxes creates issues with the chain of custody requirements for third-party ballot submissions.Directly interfering with people's ability to cast their vote is the most well-known method of voter suppression, but it is certainly not the only way. Another, more subtle way of suppressing participation is to try and convince people not to vote. Unlike the more traditional voter suppression practices, this one is not as limited to the right. Some on the fringes of the left have been trying to prevent people from voting in their best interests to serve their own purposes. Despite claiming to support things like expanding healthcare, protecting marginalized communities and increasing access to affordable housing, they will try and convince you not to vote for the only candidate that will address those issues, Joe Biden.One prominent example is Ryan Knight, a faux journalist with a prominent following on Twitter. Since the conclusion of the Democratic primaries, Knight has spent his time trying to dissuade Americans from voting in their best interests to push forward his hope of accelerationism. He likely hopes that the re-election of Donald Trump will cause a massive revolution in favor of his beliefs, disregarding the damage a second Trump term will do. While he asks for your money to fund his podcast and likely the rest of his lifestyle, he has no cares about LGBTQ+ people who will be kicked onto the street as Donald Trump's Department of Housing and Urban Development actively allow shelters to remove transgender individuals. In fact, it might be in Knight's personal interests for Donald Trump to win re-election, as his podcast and relevance would probably grow amid the chaos.In a display of absolute cowardice, he tries to avoid legitimate criticism by claiming that his vote or abstention will not have any effect as he lives in a safe Democratic state.“According to neoliberals, in the primary @JoeBiden was the most 'electable' candidate,” he tweeted on September 9. “But in the general my one vote in the safest blue state in the country is going to make him lose.”He disingenuously ignores the fact that he is trying to convince his over 366,000 Twitter followers to abstain or vote for someone other than Joe Biden. To put that into perspective, less than 80,000 votes swung the 2016 election to Donald Trump.While there are many more examples of prominent social media and celebrity personalities actively trying to suppress the coalescence of voters around Joe Biden, almost all of them have an incentive in Donald Trump's re-election.It is only right to clarify that people can have legitimate criticisms of Joe Biden and there is nothing wrong with trying to push him towards policies they support, but there is only one candidate that has shown a willingness to change and adapt. There is only one candidate who wants to help the poor, the working class, minorities and the LGBTQ+ community. There is only one candidate intent on expanding healthcare and affordable housing.These bad faith actors trying to dissuade you from voting are engaging in voter suppression. Like every other method, voter suppression should be called out and condemned. Voting in an election is a civic duty and a way to shape the future. Do not let them silence you. Make your voice heard. Vote.
"You're a senior. I'm a senior." Not exactly a policy, is it?
Oct. 21, 2020, 5:06 p.m.
Biden War Room
Donald Trump doesn’t relate well to people if they don’t look like him or if they don’t spend money the way he does.In 2016, Donald Trump tweeted out a photo of him pretending to eat a taco bowl — from Trump Tower Grill, of all places — with the comment “I love Hispanics!” He evidently thought that would endear him to the Latino community. It didn’t. Right now, he’s losing among Latinos 62% to 26%, about as poorly as he did in 2016.A few months ago, Donald Trump tweeted that the “suburban housewife” (in his own scare quotes) would vote for him. He said that if they didn’t, Senator Cory Booker would fill the suburbs with low-income housing.Suburban women aren’t afraid of Senator Booker, and they aren’t afraid of minorities in their neighborhoods. About a third of these suburban dwellers are minorities themselves. Trump’s talking points about minorities are as dated as his pickup lines for “housewives”. And Trump is losing suburban women 62% to 34%. This race-baiting isn’t lost at all on the people of color that Trump would love to court but hates to govern. Joe Biden leads Trump among Black voters by 90% to 5%. Furthermore, minorities are hit the hardest by COVID-19. For example, Latinos are 2.8 times more likely than white, non-Hispanic people to get the virus, and they don’t generally go to the Trump Tower Grill.You’d think that Trump would at least relate to people who are his own age. But Donald Trump is proving that he doesn’t relate well even in attributes he shares with other Americans. Learning that his support among older Americans was faltering, he decided to make a video directed toward seniors."I'm a senior, I know you don't know that,” Trump said. "Nobody knows that...but I'm a senior." When Trump says “Nobody knows that”, this usually signals that he’s just learned something new, like when he discovered that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican. He decided to share this newfound Lincoln trivia, with the National Congressional Republican Committee March fundraising dinner. “Does anyone know? A lot of people don’t know that. We have to build that up a little more.” The National Congressional Republican Committee probably did know that.“Great president”, he said, of Abraham Lincoln.Upon his COVID-oozing return to the White House, his talking points for seniors began by stating that seniors are “his favorite people in the world.”For a guy that asserts that seniors are his favorite, he doesn’t seem to care very much that they die at an alarming rate when they contract COVID-19. “It affects virtually nobody”, he asserts. “It affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems, that’s what it really affects,” he said recently, and many other times.Maybe his lack of concern is because he wants you to think that anyone who contracts COVID-19 can get the same care, and the same so-far-unapproved treatment that he got. Experts don’t agree how or even if the experimental cocktail used on Trump works.Upon his return from Walter Reed Hospital, Trump said, "You're gonna get the same medicine. You're gonna get it free. No charge. And we're gonna get it for you soon."None of these statements are true. And seniors would like our leaders to know something about them.Seniors don’t want to get COVID-19 and be admitted to the hospital and they don’t want to suffer this disease at home and have lifelong complications.While we’re on the subject, seniors don’t want to bury their parents and friends because of an avoidable pandemic. They don’t want to skip routine doctor visits and miss annual medical tests and preventive care. They don’t want to be afraid to see their children and grandchildren. They don’t want to cancel their travel, their movies, their dining with friends, and their sporting events. Seniors are very aware of lost time.And for those seniors who still need or choose to work, they don’t want to go to a job where they might catch a disease that could kill them, or stay home and lose a job that was paying their rent.Future candidates, take heed. Asking your constituents to “Die for the Dow” will not be a winning bumper sticker.“The whole concept of death is terrible,” the president said in March 2020 when he advocated reopening the economy by Easter. “But there’s a tremendous difference between one percent and four or five.” One percent of the US population is more than 3 million people. No wonder he’s currently delighted that fewer than half a million of us are projected to die on his watch.We all know that Trump talks, constantly. Even when he’s fatigued, he talks a lot. Rush Limbaugh had to shut him up after two hours of blather on the radio as if the US President was some long-winded cinematographer going over his allotted Academy Award time. What Trump doesn’t do is plan. Trump doesn’t do work. He just talks.You know who plans a lot? Joe Biden. Check out his website, for example.Joe Biden’s plan to help older Americans begins with the middle class. He doesn’t say, “I bet you didn’t know I am a senior”, because Joe Biden doesn’t think that governing is about him. He thinks it’s about us.He says instead, “Working- and middle-class Americans built this country. And, they deserve to retire with dignity – able to pay for their prescriptions and with access to quality, affordable long-term care.”His plan for older Americans begins with the following goals: Stand up to the abuse of power by prescription drug corporationsProtect and strengthen Medicare as we know it and ensure quality, affordable health care for all older AmericansPreserve and strengthen Social SecurityEqualize saving incentives for middle-class workersProvide help for older workers who want to keep workingJoe Biden understands how COVID-19 has affected older Americans. He also has seen the effects of the Trump Administration’s failure to act and its failure to follow the science. Here’s what Joe Biden said on Twitter on October 25, 2019, just about a year ago and months before the pandemic arrived in the US: “We are not prepared for a pandemic. Trump has rolled back progress President Obama and I made to strengthen global health security. We need leadership that builds public trust, focuses on real threats, and mobilizes the world to stop outbreaks before they reach our shores.” Prescient.Here’s what Joe Biden said on Twitter on February 1, 2020: “We are in the midst of a crisis with the coronavirus. We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering. He is the worst possible person to lead our country through a global health emergency.” Presidential.Joe Biden’s plans — just for dealing with COVID-19 — includes “evidence-based guidance”, a “National Pandemic Dashboard” to help Americans know the risks in their own neighborhoods, testing capacity (a fatal flaw, literally, in Trump’s failed approach), and boosts in Social Security and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).There’s a plan to keep nursing homes and long-term care facilities safe for those most at risk.The list of Joe Biden plans starkly illuminates all the things we could have done if the pandemic was approached from scholarship instead of self-interest. Instead, worried about his electability and his stock portfolio, Donald Trump let people die. “It is what it is,” Trump said, without any remorse.As for the Biden plans that aren’t COVID-related, they’re described in-depth on his website. Stand up to the abuse of power by prescription drug corporationsFor prescription drugs, he’d ensure that price negotiations include Medicare and its bargaining power. He’d limit monopolistic pricing for new drugs and price increases for existing drugs to the general inflation rate. He’d allow consumers to import drugs from other countries, and he’d limit tax breaks for drug advertising and improve the supply of quality generics.Protect and strengthen Medicare as we know it and ensure quality, affordable health care for all older AmericansFor healthcare, he’s committed to protecting the Obama-Biden achievement, the Affordable Care Act, under relentless Republican attack, which harms older Americans who are not old enough to qualify for Medicare. Strengthening the ACA will also provide seniors with the assurance that their children and grandchildren will have unconditional and affordable healthcare. He’d maintain Medicare’s separation from other programs to protect its funding. He’d provide tax relief for long-term care and provide assistance for caregivers.Preserve and strengthen Social SecurityJoe Biden’s plan will protect Social Security. When Donald Trump teases a payroll tax holiday, and promises to cut these taxes permanently if reelected, he’s cutting the funding mechanism for Social Security and Medicare. Joe Biden’s plan puts Social Security on a much-needed path to long-term solvency, will shut down Republican efforts to privatize it, and will provide protections for the oldest Americans.Equalize saving incentives for middle-class workersMiddle-class workers today will have new tax benefits to promote retirement savings. Caregivers who don’t receive wages for their work will qualify for the tax breaks available to paid workers, and small businesses will be encouraged through tax breaks to help workers save for retirement.Provide help for older workers who want to keep workingFor older Americans who are still working, the Biden plan will protect these employees from age discrimination, experienced by more than half of older workers. Furthermore, he will expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) that helps low-wage workers so that it will be available to workers over 65.It’s our choice. Seniors vote at a higher rate than all other age groups. Seniors have quite a lot to gain and quite a lot to lose, because government policies — whether it’s Social Security and Medicare, pharmaceuticals, or the quality of healthcare — depend on our votes. And the success of these programs will depend on planning. If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a solution. The year 2020 will serve as a reminder of that forever.But 2021 could be the beginning of our recovery — our return to health, the revival of our economy, and our path to unity. It’s a cliché to claim that seniors hold wisdom, but there’s no doubt that seniors hold power. It’s time for seniors to wield their power. Vote early and wisely. Vote for Joe Biden and his plan to rebuild our country. It will be nice to have a family celebration again.
Institutional Reform Begins with Joe Biden
Oct. 20, 2020, 5:20 p.m.
Biden War Room
Donald Trump is a threat to our institutions. There is absolutely no doubt about this. From international norms to domestic precedents, Donald Trump’s presidency has led to the weakening of institutions that have been sacred to the American system. Countless articles in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, and The Atlantic underline this very fact. Academics from Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University and Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute have lobbed scathing critiques of Donald Trump’s reckless attacks on American institutions. In the wake of Trump’s four years in office, public trust in the government has collapsed, international allies have started to retreat from the United States, and the Executive Branch has seen internal bickering as the president attacks his own intelligence agencies.To truly understand the damage caused by Trump, it is first important to define what the term “institutions” means. According to the Department of Political Science at Duke University, norms are “the formal and informal rules, practices, and regularities at both the domestic and international level that guide and constrain political choices and activities.” This framework is crucial in guiding our understanding. Institutions, therefore, include the underlying organizations running our government. This encompasses the CIA, the DOD, and even the DMV, but they can also include civil society organizations that run on the ground and parallel to government functions. Think the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. However, institutions are not just these types of organizations. The other half of the definition includes the “formal and informal rules,” or what we call norms. These include concepts like electoralism and federalism.Taken as a whole, it becomes clear how Donald Trump has eroded the institutions that make up the United States and the dangers this phenomenon poses. Perhaps the most salient examples of this erosion come from Trump’s lack of a coherent foreign policy. Trump has consistently attacked multilateral institutions that have been the basis for the unprecedented era of peace seen since the end of World War 2. He has criticized the United Nations, pulled out from the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, and has enabled autocrats to push against the liberal international order that was upheld by previous administrations. Consequently, this has resulted in a weakening in global stability. War has flared across the world as the United States retreats from institutions and norms it once defended. From the battles between Armenia and Azerbaijan, to skirmishes between India and China, the world has become a more unstable and unpredictable place. In the wake of these developments, leaders across the world have begun to look away from the United States for international leadership.In the realm of domestic politics, Donald Trump’s most vicious attacks have been on key institutions whose main functions are to keep government accountable. Constant attacks on journalists and scientific experts have eroded public trust in these groups, and as such the very concept of truth comes at risk. Meanwhile, Trump’s desire to “drain the swamp” has seen little in the way of fixing corruption. Instead, low-level bureaucrats and government workers have borne the brunt of Trump’s crusade. Trump has made personal attacks against state governors and career civil servants. Such acts are unprecedented and have ultimately led to a further weakening in the American government’s institutions. These actions have manifested themselves in very consequential ways. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald Trump’s inaction has resulted in an unfathomable number of needless deaths, with more to follow. Equally alarming is Trump’s noncommittal position in accepting the results of the upcoming presidential elections, a stance that undermines the core concept of electoralism that guides the United States. However, it is also important to understand that Trump’s attacks on American institutions comes at the back of other institutions that he abused to get to his current position. In fact, much of this stems from historical precedence before Trump’s 2016 campaign. Shortly after the election of President Barack Obama in 2009, Republican leadership found itself facing a crisis. GOP leaders like Reince Preibus analyzed the outcomes of that election and asserted that the Republican Party needed to focus on demographic changes to remain competitive. Some leaders however believed otherwise. Just after President Obama’s inauguration, Mitch McConnell invited key Republicans to a private dinner on January 21. There they discussed a new pattern of politics. Rather than follow Priebus’s ideas of embracing demographics, the Republicans would use a handbook of opposition and minority rule.By acting as a bloc, Republicans abused American institutional systems to make governance impossible. Over the years, Congress became a polarized system of impotence, with Republicans refusing to cooperate with Democrats on issues like health care or the stimulus package. They actively used the filibuster to prevent substantive discussion, while gerrymandered redistricting has ensured Republican victories in key districts for years to come. This point is clear. The Republican Party is interested in forgoing norms like popular electoralism and majoritarian rule. Republican leaders like Senator Mike Lee have said this outright. Instead, members of the Republican Party are actively seeking to use broken institutions to cement their rule, while destroying those institutions capable of reversing such actions. This can be best seen in the rush to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat. Such actions come at the expense of institutional credibility. From the Supreme Court to Congress, the actions of the Republican Party have once more resulted in delegitimization and a sharp erosion in public trust. More and more individuals are showing their anger and frustration at the perceived lack of progress and justice by the federal government. It is little wonder, then, why civilians have searched for other ways to demonstrate their grievances. Anger at the institution of policing and the systemic racism within it has led to the racial justice protests seen all summer.A Joe Biden presidency is important because it represents a stop in institutional degradation. Biden has made it clear that his goal is to restore America’s image on the international stage by reengaging the country into wider institutions and agreements. On the domestic front, he hopes to bring decency, rationality, and trust back into politics and governance. These are important steps in fixing America’s institutional problems. However, such actions are only part of the equation. A Biden victory also represents a crucial opportunity to reform faulty institutions before they become further cemented in our government. From the filibuster to congressional districting, a Democratic win in 2020 represents the greatest opportunity at restoring majoritarian rule and democracy back into the United States of America. On the other hand, another four years of Trump represents a dangerous turn. The ramifications of this go beyond Trump the man and his administration, and instead tread into the waters of American rule of law. Joe Biden is the only candidate that represents an opportunity at revival and reform for America’s broken institutions.
George Floyd, Educator
Oct. 12, 2020, 6:11 p.m.
Biden War Room
“Grief is a heavy burden to bear – and It’s even harder with the eyes of the world watching.” That’s what Vice President Biden said.Joe Biden went to Houston on June 8 to grieve with the family of George Floyd. You can find some photos of his visit, but he didn’t go there for press attention. He went to Houston to mourn, to express his sympathy and share his compassion with the family for what they lost, for what we have all lost, and what we have learned about George Floyd the man, and what we have learned about ourselves. And what we need to change.More from Joe Biden: “But that burden is now a purpose – to change the world for the better in the name of George Floyd.”Eric Garner. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. Walter Scott. Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Stephon Clark. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Daniel Prude. And now Jonathan Price. This is a timeline only since 2014. And no doubt there are more.The death of George Floyd is teaching us the lesson we already knew. And this is one of the reasons Joe Biden is running for President. It’s because he has already thought about what we need to do about it. Winning the Presidency would authorize Biden to fix our inequitable criminal justice infrastructure. Winning by a landslide would empower him to get it done.Those who can deliver justice are keenly aware of the suffering of victims like Jacob Blake, paralyzed in Kenosha, Wisconsin by police. The pursuit of justice doesn't yell. It soothes. It reaches out. Jacob Blake Sr. said that when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris called him to ask about his son, they spoke on the phone for an hour. “It was like talking to my uncle and one of my sisters.”Vice President Biden has a far-reaching plan to help our Black community so that they no longer face the disparities that continue to fester within the way our government works. George Floyd’s death has made us all confront once again that justice is not always just to the Black community.A foundation of Joe Biden’s plan is to reduce systemic racism within the criminal justice system. In poll after poll, we see that Americans know that our systems are unfairly administered. Our polling is clear: we already know what’s wrong. And we want to make America work equally for everyone. Joe Biden has proposed enacting solutions for our biggest problems in criminal justice as a whole. Among the many proposals:Creating a $20 billion competitive grant program to encourage states to prevent and reduce incarcerated populations.Addressing systemic misconduct in police departments and prosecutors’ offices.Investing in public defenders’ offices.Eliminating the death penalty and mandatory minimums.Ending the federal crack and powder cocaine disparity.Decriminalizing the use of cannabis and ending incarceration for drug use alone.Ending cash bail and private prisons.Investing $1 billion per year in juvenile justice reform.Partnering mental health experts, social workers, and other advocates with police departments to reduce incarceration for those needing only social services.Ending racial and ethnic disparities through evidence-based criminal justice policies.What do all these criminal justice issues have in common? The system’s victims are disproportionately Black. And Joe Biden has always looked out for those who have been left out of the America in which we believe.The disparities don’t end with what happened to George Floyd. It isn’t only the criminal justice system that takes a deeper toll on Black Americans compared to everyone else.How about entrepreneurship and income? The Center for Responsible Lending estimated that more than 90% of minority-owned businesses have been shut out of the initial COVID-19 relief program, because we have systemic disparities in our lending practices that have been allowed to endure. At the same time, this same community lacks the financial cushion of their white counterparts for the present and holds much less in savings for retirement in the future.One study of the 2016 election found, using cell phone location data, that voters in predominantly Black neighborhoods waited 29% longer than voters in white neighborhoods, and 79% more likely to spend more than 30 minutes at their polling place. Why do so many long lines and broken voting machines seem to be in the majority-Black districts? Can you feel like an equal citizen when it appears that you are routinely disenfranchised?Even COVID-19 itself is ravaging the Black community at rates exceeding the rest of the population. A virus doesn’t vote, and it doesn’t know about politics, but most of that inequity comes from our failures as a society to meet the needs of African Americans at the level taken for granted by whites.Black Americans are more likely to be uninsured. They are more likely to live in communities exposed to high levels of air pollution, which exacerbates health issues. And in our frightening COVID environment, African Americans are often the ones employed to serve their neighbors and their extended communities, keeping them safe, keeping them fed, and caring for the sick. A report published in April by McKinsey found that Black Americans are overrepresented in “nine of the 10 lowest-paid, high-contact essential services.” They’re out there, exposing themselves to a disease that is more likely to kill them than others, taking care of all of us.We all know this. We need to make our caregivers as safe as we can. Everyone deserves equal treatment and equal opportunity. At long last, our society, through competent governing, needs to get this accomplished. We’re Americans, and that’s what we do for each other.“We are living through a battle for the soul of this nation”, Biden said on August 27, 2017. George Floyd, and too many others, are breaking through our consciousness, finally, to fix the inequities that make our Black brethren’s lives more fragile than the rest of America’s. Let’s win this battle by electing Joe Biden on November 3.
Investing in Opportunities, not Opportunists: The Biden Infrastructure Plan
Oct. 5, 2020, 5:27 p.m.
Biden War Room
There’s an internet meme that made the rounds for about two years after Donald Trump’s inauguration. It’s “Infrastructure Week.” It started out as a serious initiative, at least as serious as Donald Trump can be. Trump declared Infrastructure Week as if it were “a very special episode” of his presidency for Sweeps Week.The first real proposal for “Infrastructure Week” took place in early June, 2017. Granted, it might have gotten more attention if it hadn’t occurred at the same time as fired CIA Director James Comey’s damning Congressional testimony describing the Trump campaign’s “relationships” with Russian intelligence.Looking back, it’s tempting to wonder whether that first Infrastructure Week was merely a distraction to divert America’s attention from the Comey testimony. Indeed, every revival of Infrastructure Week appeared to coincide with some unprecedented new Trump scandal. In fairness, maybe the distractions were only coincidences. After all, there hasn’t really been a week without an unprecedented Trump scandal.At the time, optimists hoped that some Democrats would cross the aisle to support investment projects that would produce jobs. Instead, as is now a recognizable pattern, Trump’s recommendations focused on fattening the wallets of investors rather than improving the lives of Americans, leaving the crumbling bridges and roads behind.What was Donald Trump’s first “infrastructure” initiative? He proposed privatizing Air Traffic Control, not a new idea, and likely doomed from the start. The plan was chock full of tax breaks for private investors in construction projects, the only legitimate business within the nation’s entire GDP that Donald Trump has ever actually witnessed.Criticism of the plan began immediately, and Trump responded with his next jobs program, “apprenticeship week”. Unfortunately, that backfired, partly because people noticed that “Trump’s proposed budget would slash the Labor Department’s budget by a fifth to $9.6 billion and its job training programs by more than a third.” Maybe he confused “apprenticeship” with his TV show “The Apprentice” and assumed the program would be funded by commercial sponsors. Where is the My Pillow guy when you need him?Over time, “infrastructure week” became a meme on Twitter, used at times like this: “Trump insists that (some person who criticized him) should lose their job hosting a TV show.” During these tantrums (irrelevant to his actual responsibilities as leader of the free world), “Welcome to Infrastructure Week” would trend on Twitter. The whole notion of “infrastructure” has become a joke in which the punchline is Donald Trump’s incompetence.In comparison, who doesn’t know that Joe Biden rides the rails on Amtrak? His campaign motto, Build Back Better, recognizes the importance of infrastructure: “Build” is the foundation of roads, bridges, highways, public spaces, utilities, broadband access, and, of course, transit. “Back” recognizes that the pandemic has cut our national revenue stream, the fuel that funds infrastructure. It’s actually been declining for longer than just this year. In reality, politicians have systematically starved the mechanism that funds our foundation, so it needed to be built back before the pandemic even began. Lastly, “Better” recognizes that we now have the opportunity to use new technologies and set new goals for energy efficiency, retraining, and public health.Joe Biden was on the team that spearheaded the recovery of the US auto industry in 2009, and he sees this crisis as an opportunity to make the world better. He often says, “When Donald Trump thinks about climate change, all he can muster is one word: ‘hoax.’ When I think about climate change, I think of a word as well: ‘jobs.’”Campaign slogans don’t move mountains, but earth moving equipment does, and Joe Biden has outlined very specific plans, with their costs, to invest in American infrastructure. Here are the elements of the Biden Plan:Build a Modern InfrastructurePosition the U.S. Auto Industry to Win the 21st Century with technology invented in AmericaAchieve a Carbon Pollution-Free Power Sector by 2035Make Dramatic Investments in Energy Efficiency in Buildings, including Completing 4 Million Retrofits and Building 1.5 Million New Affordable HomesPursue a Historic Investment in Clean Energy InnovationAdvance Sustainable Agriculture and ConservationSecure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economy OpportunityJoe Biden promises to create well-paid union jobs that expand the middle class. These jobs will be filled by diverse, local, well-trained workers – including women and people of color. He recognizes the nation’s obligation to workers who built our infrastructure for now-outdated technologies. For these workers, Biden will establish a task force similar to one created in 2009 to help Detroit weather the auto crisis.This task force will “help these communities access federal investments and leverage private sector investments to help create high-paying union jobs based upon the unique assets of each community, partner with unions and community colleges to create training opportunities for these new jobs, repair infrastructure, keep public employees like firefighters and teachers on the payroll, and keep local hospitals open.”The call for infrastructure improvement is inextricably woven with the dire needs to address both the struggling economy and the climate crisis. The Biden plan will create the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure. This will deliver the clean energy future that is long overdue and boost the economy with jobs that will still be relevant and necessary in the future.The climate-centered approach will leverage innovations already emerging from our national laboratories and universities. This plan will build jobs in new industries and re-invigorated regional economies, and focus on manufacturing products in America.Infrastructure investment in sustainable technologies will “lay a new foundation for sustainable growth, compete in the global economy, withstand the impacts of climate change, and improve public health, including access to clean air and clean water.”Besides infrastructure, investments in the auto industry, transit, power, buildings, and housing will create jobs in the short term and create sustainability in the longer term. New jobs bring opportunities for workers entering the workforce as well as for experienced workers retraining for challenges in the new sustainable economy.The infrastructure program will require investment of $1.3 trillion over ten years. This investment will rebuild the middle class with competitive job skills, to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, and to make sure that economic growth is shared across cities, towns and rural areas across the country. Furthermore, the programs will prioritize the communities that have suffered the most from our inaction—low income rural and urban communities, communities of color, and Native communities. They’ll get 40% of the investments in housing, pollution reduction, workforce development, and transportation.Joe Biden described his plan in detail in a Wilmington, Delaware speech on July 14, 2020. “These investments are a win, win, win for this country, creating jobs, cutting energy costs, protecting our climate.”Now that’s how you have an Infrastructure Week.
A Revival of American Diplomacy
Oct. 5, 2020, 5:25 p.m.
Biden War Room
On September 22, Donald Trump gave a speech to the United Nations General Assembly. Much of it involved self-congratulatory statements, with Trump heaping praise after praise onto his own efforts. However, the most telling message came at the final minute. Staring intently at the camera, Donald Trump claimed that he had “rejected the failed approaches of the past.” He was “proudly putting America first” and calling on other nations to put “their countries first” as well. A few hours later, French President Emmanuel Macron addressed the UN assembly soberly. He directed criticism straight towards Trump, asserting that “no doubt there will be a cure for the pandemic… but there will be no miracle cure for the destructuring of the modern order.” Poignantly, Macron urged his European allies to join Macron in taking proactive steps. If the United States cannot be called on to support its allies across the globe, then its allies must forge a path on their own. These developments have been long-standing in the Trump administration. Many articles have been written about Trump’s destruction of the liberal world order, and many others have explored the growing strength of populist, right-wing movements in the aftermath of Trump’s election. This trend is alarming. In the years since 2016, we have seen an uptick in authoritarianism. Countries that Trump claims friendship with have embraced radical policies that have disenfranchised millions. Trump has praised Turkish President Erdogan, calling him a “good person.” Turkey, meanwhile, has imprisoned thousands of individuals as political prisoners, including activists and journalists. Trump has defended North Korean President Kim Jong Un, claiming that "he's got a great personality. He's a funny guy, he's very smart, he's a great negotiator.” North Korea continues to move populations into forced labor camps, and crackdowns on civil liberties remain common. From Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, there is no shortage of evidence for Trump’s support of dictators, autocrats, and right-wing populists. Under Trump, the country has been at the heart of global crises. From escalation with North Korea in 2017 to the abandonment of the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018, Trump’s actions on the world stage have lacked consistency, long term consideration, and care. While pandering to dictators and autocrats, Trump has also dismantled many of our closest relationships, insulting German Prime Minister Angela Merkel and United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May on separate occasions. This has forced many nations, as President Macron said, to consider a new world order without the United States. Joe Biden’s foreign policy is the complete opposite. His political career demonstrates his support for values utterly alien to Trump, such as the promotion of democracy and inclusive institutions. On July 23, 1986, Joe Biden gave us a direct look at his views on the world. There, he criticized the South African government and its promotion of Apartheid, calling it the “ugly, white regime.” He carried on, explaining that his support went fully to the marginalized members of South African society and criticizing then-Secretary of State, George Schultz, for “refusing to act on a morally abhorrent point.” He holds these values to this day. President Barack Obama selected Biden as his running mate because of his prowess in foreign affairs. Indeed, Joe Biden’s voting record shows how he has promoted liberal values throughout the world. The highest priority of his policy plan is restoring “dignified leadership at home and respected leadership on the world stage.” Key to this plan is the reversal of Trump’s isolationist and xenophobic policies. Joe Biden will end the discriminatory Muslim travel ban. Joe Biden wants to support political asylum seekers and refugees. Joe Biden wants to restore the State Department that has been gutted by the Trump administration. In every sense, Joe Biden wants to re-engage the United States with the rest of the world, bringing the country back into multilateral agreements like the Paris Agreement on climate change.However, these are only parts of Joe Biden’s plans on the global stage. Trump’s policies have caused long-term damage to America’s reputation. Joe Biden recognizes this. At the DNC, Biden made himself clear, declaring that “the days of cozying up to dictators is over.” He has called out foreign adversaries, telling Putin that he was “on notice.” In every way, Joe Biden professes a foreign policy that will return America to its former trajectory, and from there, Joe Biden hopes to utilize American leadership to affect positive change. From issues like climate change, global poverty, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Joe Biden has shown us a long-term vision. Cooperation is the only path forward. When we work alone, we are doomed to fail.
History of Voting
Oct. 5, 2020, 5:22 p.m.
Paul Sullivan, BWR Team
On January 31st, 1865, the Thirteenth amendment, abolishing slavery once and for all, was adopted by Congress. Though the amendment still had to be ratified by the states, that was more a formality than anything else. For all intents and purposes, slavery was legally dead in the United States. The mood in Washington that night was one of jubilation; the Republican congressmen who had fought tooth and nail to pass the amendment openly wept, and crowds of black and white people gathered in the streets to celebrate. Among the revelers was a Union army veteran named Charles Douglass, son of the famous abolitionist Frederick Douglass. He wrote to his father the next day, describing the scene. “I wish you could have been here,” he said, “such rejoicing I never before witnessed, cannons firing, people hugging and shaking hands.” The elder Douglass, while surely ecstatic at the news, took on a more somber tone. Just because slavery had been abolished did not mean that black people were truly equal before the law. That, he said, would not happen unless they were guaranteed the right to vote. “Slavery,” he later wrote, “is not abolished until the black man has the ballot.” Without the right to vote, Douglass said, the freedman “is the slave of society, and holds his liberty as a privilege, not a right.” In the immediate post-war years, Douglass’s activism was rewarded by the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments, which extend universal suffrage to all men, regardless of color or creed (women, much to the chagrin of the early suffragettes, were denied access to the ballot box). Soon enough, these amendments bore fruit. By 1867, 80% of all African American men in the old Confederacy had become registered voters. Less than three years later, these newly enfranchised freedmen sent the first black representatives to the US Congress. By 1876, around two thousand African Americans would be elected to various offices throughout the South. Douglass could not have been happier with these developments. It seemed as though America was finally living up to its founding creed — that all men were indeed created equal (though to activists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony, the words “all men” could scarcely have seemed more poignant). But in spite of this, dark storm clouds were on the horizon. The old guard of the Confederacy would not go quietly into the night. Determined to end this experiment in interracial democracy, the former rebels donned hoods, and branded themselves as “the knights of the Klu Klux Klan.” These men unleashed a wave of white supremacist terror upon the South, targeting African Americans and their white allies. Though President Ulysses S. Grant sent in troops to stop the slaughter, the Klan met with horrifying success. When President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew federal forces in 1877, over two thousand men, women, and children had been murdered in some of the worst political violence in American history. Douglass tried to remain optimistic in the face of this slaughter. “The sky of the negro is dark,” he told a crowd in 1883, “but not rayless.” One could be forgiven for thinking that this was a rather sunny portrait of the situation. Having successfully blocked freedmen from voting, black politicians lost access to their base of support and were summarily drummed out of office. White supremacist legislators replaced them, and passed the infamous Jim Crow laws. These, among other things, prevented black people from voting, turning practice into law throughout the South. But even this victory did not quench the bloodthirsty mobs of the postbellum American South — in 1883, an additional 77 African Americans met their deaths at the hands of lynch mobs. Douglass continued the fight for equal rights for the rest of his life, but his time was drawing to a close — in 1895, he died of a heart attack in his Washington, D.C., home. And though Douglass was gone, his fight was far from over. A new generation of activists stood ready to pick up the torch. One member of this new generation was an investigative journalist named Ida B. Wells. Born into slavery in Mississippi, the young Wells was already known as a firebrand activist for her efforts to halt lynchings throughout America. Her journalism about the horrors of voter suppression and white supremacist violence was the stuff of legends. “If the American conscience were only half alive,” Douglass had told her several years before his death, “a scream of horror, shame and indignation would rise to Heaven wherever your pamphlet shall be read.” Despite her newfound admirers, Wells found that her work had endangered her life, and fled the South for the relative safety of Chicago — then among one of the least segregated cities in America. Wells was convinced that lynchings would only be stopped once the right to vote was guaranteed; “With no sacredness of the ballot,” she wrote, “there can be no sacredness of human life itself.” Wells took particular comfort in the example of her home state of Illinois, where black voters and politicians successfully lobbied Governor Charles Deneen to pass and enforce anti-lynching laws. But, as a black woman, Wells found herself under attack from all sides; a devoted Suffragette, she was routinely iced out by the movement's white leaders. In 1913, at a Suffragist parade in Washington D.C., Wells and the other black attendees were told by the organizers that they would be relegated to the back of the march, out of sight and out of mind. Wells, infuriated by the idea of segregation at an event ostensibly dedicated to equality, refused. “Either I go with you or not at all,” she told the organizers. And, on the day of the parade, Wells donned a banner reading “Illinois” and marched alongside the white delegates. Shortly afterwards, Wells returned home to Illinois, where she and her newly founded Alpha Suffrage Club successfully lobbied the State to pass an equal suffrage amendment. The country as a whole would follow suit seven years later with the 19th Amendment. But while Wells’s women’s rights activism certainly paid off, her crusade for civil rights encountered far more difficulty; though lynchings were mostly on the decline in the United States, they still occurred with shocking regularity. In 1920, the same year the 19th Amendment was ratified, fifty three African Americans died to lynch mobs. Even Illinois descended into racial violence — in the Chicago race riots of 1919, twenty-three African Americans were killed by white mobs. Wells, however, never gave into despair. She fought for the right to vote and the end of lynching all her life, but lived to see neither. She died in 1931, at the age of 68. Once again, it was up to a new generation to continue the fight. That new generation found itself forged in fire on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific, where, despite the horrific segregation they endured at home, Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics took up arms to defend America from foreign foes. In Europe, these men encountered a society free of the segregation which kept them repressed in the States; bars seated them alongside white soldiers, greeting them as liberators irrespective of skin color. “Look,” said actor Burgess Meridith in the US Army film “A Guide to Britain for Americans,” “that might not happen at home, but the point is, we’re not at home.” Such a statement could hardly have rung truer for GIs of color, who suddenly had a taste of what life could be like without segregation — and now that they had sampled it, they would not be denied. Among those men who fought facsism in Europe was Staff Sergeant Hosea Williams. After nearly being blown to pieces by a German bomb, he was discharged and sent home to Georgia, where he was promptly beaten by a white mob for drinking from a fountain marked “Whites Only.” The beating nearly killed Williams — indeed, the only reason his attackers stopped was because they thought he was dead — but somehow, he cheated death a second time. This attack, and others like it, triggered the beginning of the civil rights movement. At the time, it had little support from white Americans. But change was coming, whether they wanted it or not. Throughout the mid 20th century, the civil rights movement continued to pick up steam, boiling over in a town called Selma, Alabama, on March 7th, 1965. Several weeks earlier, a young black activist named Jimmie Lee Jackson had been murdered by an Alabama state trooper in an incident which remains morbidly familiar to modern Americans. To protest the murder — and to advocate for voting rights — six hundred protestors, lead by Williams and an activist from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Comittee named John Lewis, planned to march to Montgomery, Alabama. Lewis was, by then, a seasoned activist who had spoken alongside the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. at the March on Washington. “‘One man, one vote,’ is the African cry,” Lewis had told the audience. “It is ours too. It must be ours!” But shortly after the march got underway, the protesters got in what Lewis might have called “good trouble.” They intended to cross the Edmund Pettus bridge - named for the Confederate General and Klansman who had participated in the murder of African Americans during Reconstruction. The marchers were greeted on the bridge by state troopers who attacked them with billy clubs and tear gas — once again, a scene depressingly familiar to the present-day US. Lewis himself suffered a fractured skull at the hands of a state trooper. Lewis’s and Williams’s activism, however, paid off. The display of violence in Alabama shocked the American conscience, which, if not yet half-alive, at the very least had a pulse. Scarcely three months later, President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, ending old Jim Crow with the stroke of a pen. But the fight was still not done, even as its warriors began to fall. King and Malcolm X, two of the movement’s strongest leaders, fell to assassin’s bullets. And while the forces of white supremacy had lost the day, they had not been entirely annihilated. They remained in the shadows, biding their time, and operating in far more insidious ways—through gerrymandering and voter suppression. Williams continued fighting all his life, but died in the year 2000. But John Lewis continued the battle, even as the other leaders of the civil rights movement lay silent in their graves. “There are forces — there are people who want to take us back,” he told an audience at the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington in 2013. “We cannot go back. We’ve come too far. We want to go forward.” But while none can doubt the progress that Lewis achieved, the momentum seemed, at times, stalled. While Lewis lived long enough to see the election of America’s first black President in 2008, he also lived to see voter suppression in Georgia defeat Stacey Abrams, and watched as President Trump, desperate to avoid an electoral thumping, used his powers to try to stop Americans from voting him out of office. Lewis did not live to see the end of the fight either. On July 17th, 2020, he died of pancreatic cancer. But while the warriors of yore have gone from the field, the battle rages on. It is up to a new generation of Americans to pick up the torch that was carried by men and women like Douglass, Wells, and Lewis, and, at long last, carry it to the finish line and sanctify that peculiar American motto; that “All men are created equal.”
How To Survive Election Night
Sept. 22, 2020, 3:20 p.m.
Biden War Room
On Election Night in 2012, the contest was close — between Barack Obama, who was running for reelection, and his challenger Mitt Romney. The votes for Ohio were pouring in, a state whose loss would be nearly insurmountable for Mitt Romney. Fox News had their journalists and analysts on board, including strategist Karl Rove, who had once been dubbed “Bush’s brain.”Every network has its numbers nerds, and the ones at Fox called Ohio for Obama. Rove was stunned and had a minor on-air meltdown. Megyn Kelly marched behind the scenes to make sure that the analysts were sure, and Rove continued to insist that the race was too early to call. Finally, he relented when it was obvious that the votes still uncounted were from Democratic strongholds.Here’s the takeaway. Election Night is stressful. The votes are reported one district at a time. If one candidate has a lead, even a small lead, in well-understood districts, an experienced analyst can look at the winning margins in the known places and you can guess the winning margins in the rest of the state. When the pros call races, it might still look tied to the rest of us. It might even look lost to the rest of us. (This could happen to either party.)Donald Trump, not known for sportsmanship, is already trying to undermine the election results because he believes he will lose a fair fight.He knows that mailed ballots are often counted after the polls close. The in-person votes are already known as soon as polls close. So the timeline works out that there will be news (in some states) that “with N percent counted, so-and-so-candidate looks like the winner.”But this year, one can predict that there will be a difference in the ways Biden voters and Trump voters cast their ballots. For many reasons, Biden voters are expected to vote by mail in a larger proportion than Trump voters. The Trump effort to keep Democrats from voting by mail (or voting at all) might be backfiring, and GOP operatives are working behind the scenes to recover. In some states, tabulating mail-in ballots will occur after the in-person votes are counted.Seeing RedEnter the new nightmare now described as “the red mirage.” Here’s how it works. Pennsylvania and Michigan voted for Trump in 2016, but they are potential wins for Democrats in 2020. Both of these states have historically tallied their in-person votes before they count the mailed ballots. So what if millions of ballots in Philadelphia, Detroit, and other cities aren’t in the earliest numbers? It will look like a Trump win, prematurely to millions of election watchers, and immaturely to Donald Trump himself.The reason it might be a mirage is that the closer you get to the end of this scenario, more and more votes would be tallied for Joe Biden. And if the early lead does turn out to be a mirage, the state’s electoral votes will go to Joe Biden. Great outcome, terrible narrative.In one frightening model, Trump could appear to be ahead 408-130 in an electoral vote mirage when as little as 15% of the vote is counted, only to lose to Joe Biden in a genuine 334-204 landslide.CNN reporter Marshall Cohen calls it the “blue shift” and uses the 2016 popular vote to make the point:“The "blue shift" in one image: Election night 2016, Trump won, and is declaring victory. But look at the graphics under Trump. He is leading the national popular vote by ~950,000. That was true at that moment. But weeks later, the final count put Clinton ahead by ~2.9 million.”(For a guy who just learned that he’s the President of the United States, Trump doesn’t look all that happy about it in this photo. Even today, he’s still harping on the fact that more Americans voted against him than for him in 2016.)It seems as though Americans disagree about just about everything this year, and whether to vote by mail is one of those areas. Significantly more Democrats (72%) than Republicans (22%) say that they plan to vote by mail. Let’s deconstruct this state-by-state. Different states have different rules for ballot counting. Here’s a list, sorted by estimated level of panic from a “red mirage” (or worse, no mirage).The scariest wait times:Michigan: More than 2 million Michiganders have requested mail-in ballots, a state record. Relaxed laws allowing no-excuse mail-in voting and fears about coronavirus have already resulted in 1.6 million absentee ballots cast in the August primary, and the state expects about 3 million mail-in ballots in November. The good news? This keeps voters safe and helps keep in-person voting less crowded. The bad news? Michigan doesn’t process or count mail-in ballots before Election Day, although the processing and counting might start before the polls close. It’s a state Trump won in 2016, and he’ll be watching it with great interest and lots of petulance if he loses.Ohio: Absentee ballot applications were sent to all 7.8 million registered voters in the state, a practice that has been in place since 2012. The state’s official positions on processing and counting timelines aren’t as clear as other states. Ohio’s Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican, has been very proactive in making sure that Ohioans are able to exercise their constitutional rights. For example, LaRose is trying to include postage-paid envelopes with the mail-in ballots. Processing ballots can start before the polls close, but details are unclear as to how early that might be.Pennsylvania: The state may begin to process ballots at 7:00 AM on Election Day, but valid ballots will arrive to be tabulated for another three days after the polls close. On July 29, the USPS warned Pennsylvania that its ballot mail recommendations did not allow for on-time delivery. In the June 2 primary (1.4 million mail-in votes statewide), for example, in Philadelphia alone, 14,600 completed ballots arrived after the deadline. Some areas were granted extensions, but others were not. Officials warned that voters might receive their ballots too late to return them. For November, an extension of three days will be available for ballots mailed before 8:00 PM on Election Day. That might not be enough for voters who wait until the last minute. Another problem for mail voters is that the ballot will be rejected if it’s missing the inside “secrecy envelope” and the voter is not notified that their vote won’t count. In early returns, that error is discarding about 5% of ballots, probably disproportionately voting for Joe Biden. For what it’s worth, the “blue shift” was worth about 22,000 Democratic votes in the last four elections. Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,000 votes or .7% . This is another state that could make Trump cranky on Election Night.Wisconsin: Mailed ballots will begin processing after the polls open on Election Day. There’s an ongoing dispute about whether failed third-party candidates should be added to the Wisconsin ballot, and this could result in counting delays if ballot delivery deadlines are extended beyond Election Day. The candidates in question are Kanye West, supported by Republicans, and the new, not-Jill-Stein Green Party entry, supported by the Kremlin. There are other challenges: 23,000 mailed ballots were rejected in the April primary, fewer than 2%, but more than Trump’s winning 2016 margin. With only five polling places open in Milwaukee, lines were long, and it’s likely that some voters stayed home rather than face the pandemic and the rain. The good news? The conservative-controlled state learned some lessons about potential voter suppression. That’s the bad news, too.Medium scary:Georgiaprocessed upon receiptIowaprocessed the day before Election DayMinnesotaprocessed upon receipt; opened 7 days before Election Day. MN has also waived the witness requirement and extended the ballot receipt deadline.Nevadaprocessed upon receiptLeast scary:Arizonaprocessed 14 days before Election DayColoradoprocessed upon receiptFloridaprocessed 22 days before Election DayNorth Carolinaprocessed fifth Tuesday before Election DayTexasprocessed upon receiptLandslide = BedtimeA chart compiled by Charles Stewart III depicts what time various states called the 2016 election. Swing states reporting well after midnight that year included Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, and Nevada, with Arizona and Michigan described as “later”, which could be a very long time. But the way processing and counting will work for 2020 is different from previous elections and could change later in the cycle.Nobody but Donald Trump wants an electoral mess (well, maybe Vladimir Putin).Associated Press political writer Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) sums it up this way: “Mail ballots will be counted late in MI, PA and WI. But they will be counted early in AZ and FL, which should counterbalance that somewhat on election night.” Arizona must have fixed whatever was wrong in 2016.Florida political strategist Steve Schale (@SteveSchale) says “We know if we win Florida it’s over. We also know we will know rapidly.” With 2.22 million Democrats registered to vote by mail, their enrollment exceeds Republican mail-in voters by 717,000, an 80-fold increase over 2016 numbers. With no evidence, Trump seems to think that Florida mail ballots are safer than they are everywhere else.Unforced errorsMore than 550,000 absentee ballots were rejected during the 2020 primaries. If you are voting by mail, especially if you’re voting absentee for the first time, make sure you get it right. Here are some of the most common problems you might face: (1) Improperly filling out your ballot (2) Forgetting to sign your envelope (3) Using a different signature from the version your state has on file (4) Not including required additional documentation (or the inner secrecy envelope, at least in Pennsylvania) (5) Sending your ballot back too lateIn North Carolina, mailed ballots for the general election November 3 are already being returned. A mid-September review of returned ballots indicated that Democrats were out-voting Republicans 59% to 12% by mail at that early point. The review also revealed that about 4% of those ballots have errors that can be tracked and fixed with the help of a new system called Ballottrax. Most states will give you a chance to “cure” a rejected ballot. New voters, young voters, and minorities represent a disproportionate number of rejected ballots. You don’t want to find yourself on the cutting-room floor. While we’re looking for a vaccine, it’s a relief to know there’s a “cure” for something.You can helpIf you live in Florida, you can help make Election Night an early bedtime. Vote early, whether by mail or in person. If you decide to vote by mail, track your ballot online. Call your friends and help them get their ballot right and track its progress. A Biden landslide in Florida is an early night and almost undoubtedly a decisive national loss for Donald Trump.If you aren’t a Floridian, watch the polls if you like, but never forget that national leads can tighten. Approval polls don’t matter. And of course, polls don’t vote.The national popular vote doesn’t count (Don’t believe me? Ask President Hillary, or President Al Gore). To prevail in the Electoral College, Joe Biden needs to win the popular vote within enough states, not in the aggregate, for it to matter. What can you do?For you, Election Day is the day you receive your ballot. Fill it out with the right ink, seal it, sign it, and send it (or deliver it). The sooner it gets into the system — no matter when your state begins to process or count — the sooner you can track it to learn whether you got it right the first time.If you get something wrong on your ballot, or if the state didn’t get it for some reason, in many states, you get another chance. Take advantage of that. Get a provisional ballot to mail again or drop off, vote early in-person, or vote on Election Day. Wear a mask. Be heard. Right now, voting for Joe Biden is the most important thing you can do for your country.