Monday, July 22, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance joined 82-year-old Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) ...

... in requesting membership in The Squad.

This is your early edition of the once-a-week roundup of the best of the left of and about Texas.  More will be added to this post later today (or maybe tomorrow morning).

Texas Southern University will host the third Democratic presidential candidates debate, scheduled for September 12 and 13, and broadcast by ABC News and Univision.

The two-part debate will be held at TSU’s Health & Physical Education arena, which has 7,200 seats ... The candidates and debate moderators have yet to be announced. To qualify, candidates must amass 130,000 unique donors and receive at least 2 percent support in four qualifying polls.

Houston City Council Member Amanda Edwards joined the US Senate Democratic primary, just ahead of state Senator Royce West's expected announcement on Monday.  The field includes former Cong. Chris Bell, Air Force veteran MJ Hegar, and activist Sema Hernandez, among others.

Dos Centavos scoffs at the weak Republican response to Trump's latest racist diatribe.

Better Texas Blog urges a vote against HJR38, the anti-income tax constitutional amendment.

Kuff reads the Chronicle's article on the millenials running for Houston city council, then pulls out a spreadsheet that reveals the Bayou City municipal electorate "tends to be pretty old" in order to justify the premise that these aren't the candidates the voters are looking for.  Or something.  Frankly it all smacks of ageism.

With the 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 moon mission this past week, Texas Standard speaks to a historian about LBJ's role in the effort.

President Johnson (r.) speaks to NASA head James Webb in 1967.

In 1957, a Soviet satellite wasn’t a cosmic curiosity; it was a real threat -- a nuclear threat. The public imagination was gripped by the idea that the Russians could bomb the United States from space. A few days after Sputnik launched, Johnson got a memo from an aide named George Reedy, urging the Senate majority leader to push for more aggressive space exploration. He saw an opportunity for good public policy -- and good politics. John Logsdon is professor emeritus at the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University.

“That was Reedy’s message, that this was something that’s a good thing to do. Plus, it will be attractive to the public and position you, as Reedy said, and make you president,” Logsdon says.

Johnson ran with Reedy’s idea. He came to believe that control of space meant control of the world. For the next decade, Johnson worked to make sure that Americans were those controllers.

“Would we be on the moon without Lyndon Johnson? I think the answer is no,” Logsdon says.

SocraticGadfly shows and describes why Texas arts aficionados who have any chance to see the late-life Monet exhibit at the Kimball need to go.

The Lunch Tray wants a real federal response to lunch shaming.

And Elise Hu provides your Trader Joe's shopping list.  (I don't even know any rich people who shop at Trader Joe's.  Do you?)

Much more on the way in the expanded edition of the Weekly Wrangle!

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

A much easier Update this week than last, since everyone agrees on the front-runners, and since I don't do much of the weekly shifts in polling and none of the fundraising horse race.

After 'The Draw' last night I thought I would title the first of week-after-next's pre-debate posts "White Night".  But there's always something better.

Had Bernie and Liz wound up on Wednesday, it could have been 'Progressive Night', with Tuesday being 'Centrist Central'.  Anyway, it's a good mix, and kudos to CNN for both the method and the manner in which they were able to create suspense and build excitement.

It's a pisser that they excluded the Gravelanche, though.  He saw it coming.

More from Gravel in a moment; here's something interesting from Christopher Hass about this cycle's emphasis on the number of donors.

I saw firsthand the power small-donor fundraising can have, working as part of the teams that helped Obama raise record amounts of money in 2008 and again in 2012. But as more candidates adopt this approach, we’ve also seen the rise of an industry custom-built to deliver small donors, for anyone who can afford it. Candidates with a large, established base of support like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden will likely meet any donor threshold the DNC sets. For everyone else, the new rules are an invitation -- and maybe even a requirement -- to buy your way onto the stage.

Advertising firms have reportedly been quoting a cost of $40 and up for campaigns to acquire a single $1 donor. In practice, this amounts to a massive transfer of campaign funds directly to online ad platforms -- 2020 candidates are collectively paying more than $1 million a week to Facebook alone. Not only have fundraising appeals become more numerous, they’ve become increasingly desperate. Kirsten Gillibrand plays beer pong to earn donations. Julián Castro’s mom pleads, “I’m humbly asking for $1 to help my incredible son, Julián, qualify for the Democratic Presidential debates.” As a recent Vice News headline summarized: “2020 Democrats Are Literally Begging for $1 on Facebook.” Even Bernie is offering up copies of his latest book (cover price $27.99) for a buck.

In the end, all 20 candidates in the first debate qualified by polling (with 14 meeting the donor threshold as well). For the third round of debate in September, the threshold will double (to 2% polling and 130,000 donors), and candidates have to meet both criteria. Because each new donor is harder to bring in than the one before it, expect the desperation (and spending) to ramp up exponentially.

There’s a lesson or two in all of this about unintended consequences. There’s also a larger question the Left will need to continue to grapple with moving forward: Do we really want money to be the measure of a good candidate?

If we want a politics focused on building mass movements, then the price of entry should ultimately be participation and solidarity. What we don’t need is to encourage politicians to become better hucksters, offering a brighter future for the low, low price of just $1.

Food for thought.  Back to Gravel and his debate plan.

Why, it's almost as if someone is actually reading this blog (scroll to the bottom).  Speaking of Jay Inslee (click the previous link), Egberto Willies called him out for some unacceptable conduct at last weekend's Netroots Nation.  Sounds really shitty to me.

Some light reading:

-- Yes, Beto is faltering, and even Chris Hooks has figured it out.

Nice ratio, guys.  The replies to this Tweet are more entertaining than the comments under Hooks' article, just sayin'.

Beto is doubling down on Iowa despite currently polling at 1% there.  He's banking -- pun intended -- that his retail politicking effort to shake every single person's hand in the Hawkeye State will have the same result as a slightly better result than his 2018 Texas Senate bid.

Expect him to go after one of the front-runners on the first debate night.

-- 'Sanders and Warren voters have astonishingly little in common'.  It's a classic elitist versus commoner comparison.  I wouldn't anticipate a debate showdown between these two; they need each others' supporters at the time of the eventual winnowing too much.

-- And since both stand in solidarity for M4A, you can expect Boot Edge x 2 to attack that, along with some of the others (Delaney, Frackenlooper, etc.).  Tuesday the 30th might shape up as 'Capitalist Democrat' Night.

-- Just don't expect pushback against Status Quo Joe's Almost Affordable Healthcare plan on Wednesday night from Kamala.  I don't think she's come to agreement with herself on that yet.

-- And don't ask Steve Bullock about his custom alligator boots.

-- We're in the thick of the News Media Primary, and as someone really smart said back here, don't let them pick your president for ya.  Anybody at this stage of the game is capable of winning the nomination, and everybody ought to be electable against the worst incumbent president ever.  It's just the middle of July, after all.  Who's got any business ruling anybody out?!  (This is the hope Betomaniacs are hanging their hats on.)

-- In their new book United States of Distraction, Noah Higdon and Mickey Huff blame the media once again for helping Trump get elected.  But the Texas Observer's Michael Hardy in his review makes a good case for why that is a tired excuse.

-- What's the heaviest baggage the top seven are schlepping into the debates?  Some valuable oppo research if you're into that social media/geek fighting thing.  Kamala keeps adding carry-ons.  "McKinsey Pete" is a pretty pointed nickname.

-- Marianne Williamson is right about our elections.

-- The qualifiers for the Houston debate in September will almost certainly weed out some of the stragglers.  That's when talk of Gravel's climate debate will intensify.

-- And the Green Party's Howie Hawkins is on pace to qualify for federal matching funds.  The GPUS is holding their national meeting in Salem, MA the weekend before the second debates.

Monday, July 15, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance knows that #SilenceEqualsCompliance, whether it is Republicans refusing to condemn the remarks of a racist president, or a House Speaker who won't adequately rise to the defense of the four Congresswomen at whom Trump's bigoted tirade was directed.

As the pre-announced #ICEraids in ten US cities including Houston (postponed in New Orleans due to Hurricane Barry) were scaled back due to mass protests, Dos Centavos kept an eye on what Houston officialswere saying about them.  Texas Standard sees volunteers from across the state stepping up to address the humanitarian crisis  at the border.  And Better Texas Blog has the crazy idea that our state should treat asylum-seeking migrant families with respect and dignity.

Legal matters occupied Texas bloggers' and news reporters' thoughts this past week:

-- The TexTrib and Off the Kuff wrote about the Obamacare hearing at the Fifth Circuit.

-- The San Antonio Current posted about Ken Paxton's defeat in state court of parts of his 'sanctuary cities' lawsuit.  A couple of days later, a federal appeals court gave the Trump Administration a victory in a similar-yet-different case.

-- In the state's capital city, the treatment of homeless persons has enraged Republicans.

An Austin City Council decision to rescind local prohibitions on sitting or sleeping in most public areas has kicked off a dispute between state and city leaders about the best way to handle homelessness in urban areas in Texas.

In the weeks since the policy was adopted, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has made multiple threats to pursue actions at the state level to overturn Austin’s decision.

The Travis County Republican Party expressed support for state intervention in a news release on Wednesday, titled: "Homeless given more rights than property owners under new camping policy."

That statement was rated False by Politifact Texas.

-- And SocraticGadfly says the most egregiously wrong ruling of this Supreme Court term was not the gerrymandering case, but seven justices -- including two liberals -- ruling against First Amendment religious freedoms.

Silas Allen at the Dallas Observer documented the increased recruiting efforts of white supremacists on Texas college campuses and around the country.

Houston Public Media compiled a list of the more than 70 Space City candidates for mayor and city council.  John Coby at Bay Area Houston is tracking campaign finance reports.  TXElects has a smattering of 2020 declarations from across the Great State.

HD10 open: Waxahachie title company executive Ryan Pitts, son of former Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie), announced he would seek his father’s old seat, which is being vacated by the retiring Rep. John Wray (R-Waxahachie). Midlothian business owner and former Naval fighter pilot Jake Ellzey officially announced he would seek the seat. Ellzey unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for open HD10 in 2014 (16%) and unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for open CD6 in 2018, losing the runoff to Ron Wright, 52%-48%.
#TXSEN: Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) has scheduled a July 22 news conference during which he is widely expected to announce his challenge of U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R). West has served since 1993 and was re-elected in November. His seat is not on the ballot in 2020, which means that he does not have to leave the state Senate to run for U.S. Senate.
Texas Supreme Court: Bellaire attorney and Court of Appeals Justice (Dist. 14, Pl. 3) Jerry Zimmerer amended his campaign committee for a potential challenge of Chief Justice Nathan Hecht (R) as a Democrat. Zimmerer won the Place 3 seat on the 14th Court of Appeals in 2018 by ousting Justice Brett Busby (R) (now a Supreme Court justice himself) in the 2018 general election, 51%-49%. Zimmerer unsuccessfully sought the 1996 Republican nomination for a place on the 1st Court of Appeals, finishing third with 29% of the vote.
CD26: Highland Village author and minister Jack Wyman established a campaign committee for a potential primary challenge of U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville). Wyman served two terms in the Maine legislature and ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate (1988) and governor (1994) there.
El Paso County: County Attorney James Montoya and El Paso attorney Yvonne Rosales announced they would run to succeed retiring District Attorney Jaime Esparza. Rosales narrowly lost the 2016 Democratic primary to Esparza, 51%-49%. The district includes Culberson and Hudspeth counties.
Fort Bend County: Sheriff Tony Nehls (R) announced he would not seek re-election. Nehls explored challenging U.S. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Humble) in the 2018 Republican primary but ultimately did not enter the race. At the time, he said he would wait until 2020. Nehls said a decision on a potential congressional race would come in a few months.
Orange County: Bridge City council member and former Mayor Kirk Roccaforte was appointed to the vacant P3 seat on the Commissioners Court by outgoing County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. The Court will appoint Thibodeaux’s successor, widely expected to be former P3 Comm. John Gothia, who resigned to seek the position. Whoever is appointed will be the third county judge to serve this year.
Houston: The Houston Retired Firefighters Assoc. endorsed mayoral challenger Dwight Boykins.

Our state's leaders want to revisit the question of electing judges in partisan primaries.

After a punishing election for Republican judges, state leaders are set to take a long look at Texas’ often-criticized judicial selection system -- a partisan election structure that Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht has described as “among the very worst methods of judicial selection.”

This summer, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law creating a commission to study the issue -- signaling that the GOP-led Legislature could overhaul the system as soon as 2021. That move comes after Democrats killed a sweeping reform proposal that Abbott had quietly backed.

In Texas, one of just a few states that maintains a system of partisan judicial selection all the way up through its high courts, judges are at the mercy of the political winds. They are required to run as partisans but expected to rule impartially. They are forced to raise money from the same lawyers who will appear before them in court. And in their down-ballot, low-information races, their fates tend to track with the candidates at the top of the ticket.

That means political waves that sweep out of office good and bad, experienced and inexperienced judges alike. And while sweeps are perennial problems for the judiciary, 2018’s elections “set records,” said Tom Phillips, a former Texas Supreme Court chief justice.

Democrats, riding on the coattails of Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke, left the election with majorities on appeals courts where they had previously held zero seats. Republicans were entirely shut out of major urban counties. Voters, largely uninformed about judicial races, differentiated very little between well-funded, experienced candidates and those who had done little but throw their hats in the ring. The judiciary lost hundreds of years of experience.

“Make no mistake: A judicial selection system that continues to sow the political wind will reap the whirlwind,” Hecht warned lawmakers in January, exhorting them to change the system.

But reform is similarly fraught with politics. Voters don’t like having choices taken away from them, even if vanishingly few recognize judicial candidates’ names on the ballot. And any new system has to win the approval of both parties, as a two-thirds majority in each chamber is required for the constitutional amendment needed to change the system.

Those challenges have stalled reform attempts for decades. Then another sweep comes and another effort launches.

“When one of the political parties thinks they’re always going to win, they don’t have any incentive to change -- why would they?” Hecht said in an interview earlier this spring. “There’s got to be enough doubt … about which way the state is going politically, and then some stand-up people.”

This year, for the first time in many, there is at least some doubt about which way the state will go politically. And advocates for reform -- a group that includes Democrats and Republicans, vast swaths of the state bar and a number of former high court judges -- are optimistic. This year, their cause has more wind in its sails: It has drawn the attention of Abbott, a former Republican justice on the Texas Supreme Court.

The Rivard Report commemorates 80 years of Planned Parenthood in San Antonio.

The Longview News-Journal interviewed some of its residents about that New York Times story suggesting they, and other areas of rural Texas, had been passed over by the 'Texas Miracle'.

Michael Barajas at the Texas Observer writes about one of the worst racial purges that took place in the post-Reconstruction era: the 1910 Slocum massacre in East Texas, and the efforts of one survivor's descendants to unearth the violent history.

The Laredo Immigrant Alliance will host an asylum seeker teach-in this week.  LareDOS:

The purpose of the teach-in ... is to dispel misconceptions about the extensive process of gaining asylum and the immigration policies that determine asylum status.

“Seeking asylum is a legal process. There are local organizations that offer families support while seeking asylum,” said (Pastor Mike) Smith. “We urge asylum seekers to join us so that they can be better informed of the process and of local support,” he added.

The Houston Blues Museum archives have found a home at Rice University.

Known for hits like Shirley Jean, Big Walter “The Thunderbird” Price is one of the legends of Houston blues. And his original recordings, cuff links, recording contracts and other treasures were some of the first items that the Houston Blues Museum delivered to its new home at Rice University on June 19.

And Texans said goodbye to Ross Perot (founder of EDS Systems, originator of the 'no pass, no play' policy in public schools, and 'spoiler' for Bill Clinton in 1992, among other accomplishments) and Rip Torn (Artie, Zed, Judas, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and in real life Sissy Spacek's cousin, Geraldine Page's husband, Norman Mailer's assailant, and a few other things)  and Jim Bouton, Astro-for-two-seasons when his book Ball Four "scandalized" major league baseball, according to then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn.

Bouton used (the) knuckleball in 1969 with the expansion Seattle Pilots and the Houston Astros. All season long, he jotted down thoughts and stories whenever inspiration struck -- on air sickness bags, dry-cleaning bills, hotel stationery, all of it now held at the Library of Congress in Washington.

Teammates were suspicious but figured Bouton’s book would be a typically vanilla account by an athlete, not an open invitation for readers to look behind the sanctified walls of the clubhouse. Ballplayers, Bouton revealed, could be boozing, womanizing, pill-popping, ball-scuffing rascals -- overgrown teenagers, that is. But they could also be thoughtful, curious, sensitive and vulnerable.

In other words, they are human beings like the rest of us. Not so scandalous, really.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

So much has happened over the past seven days that I'm not certain I got it all posted here.  If you saw news that I missed, hit me up in the comments.

-- Many observers, including me (as you know if you've been following these Updates for awhile) see the race coalescing around a five-member top tier -- which Nate Silver has separated into two -- followed by a handful of second-level players; the kind of candidates whose fortunes can turn on debate performances, like our native sons Julián Castro and Beto O'Rourke, for example.

I won't excerpt Silver because you should read it all and also because for the first time this cycle, I believe he's got it mostly right.  As Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money blogged, I might also put Castro up with Cory Booker and not tied with Beto and Amy Klobuchar, based on the first debate and the fact that I doubt Bob has a comeback left in him, no matter what his new money man may be planning.

In order to emphasize my minor differences with the stat nerd formerly known as poblano, my top group is, in order and matching the most recent post-debate polling: Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Bernie Sanders.  In fifth, and almost on a tier by himself: Pete Buttigieg.  And then Booker and Castro.  And then the rest.

I'll profile the top seven after I get past some of these breaking developments.

-- Go deeper with that NBC/WJS poll here.  Again, if this is your bag, the datapoints and crosstabs are revealing.  I'll touch on some of them below in the frontrunner capsules.  If you like your polls aggregated and graphed, then RCP is the best source for that.   

Don't forget that these national horse race polls cannot accurately reflect the way we elect our presidents, by state Electoral College vote.  They are a product of the corporate media and the establishment, political consultant world in order to create a narrative, generate spin and momentum, manufacture consent (or dissent, as the case may be), etc.  We can't change this system without a bonafide revolution, one that starts by getting all the money out of our politics. /rant

-- As Eric Swalwell checked out, Tom Steyer checked in.  (I haven't seen any compelling reason to reference Joe Sestak to this point.  Have you?)  Here's nine things to know about Steyer besides his teevee ads urging Trump's impeachment, and a short interview he conducted with Rolling Stone.  He has also proposed national referenda voting, which is true democracy-style stuff.

It’s part of Steyer’s new structural reform plan, which also proposes fairly novel ideas like 12-year term limits on members of Congress, a national vote-by-mail system, public campaign financing, giving the Federal Elections Commission more teeth and different composition, and imposing independent redistricting commissions to tackle gerrymandering.

Swalwell barely made last month's debate, edging out Steve Bullock, who is probably the one who replaces him on the stage in Detroit at the end of this month.

-- Let's get to those second debate details:

(As of July 5), 21 candidates have passed a modest qualification threshold for the July debates, either hitting 1 percent in three qualifying polls or getting 65,000 donors. That’s one more candidate than the Democratic National Committee has said it will allow on stage across the two nights, meaning someone has to get cut.

The DNC’s tiebreakers prioritize candidates who hit both the polling and financial thresholds, followed by candidates who only have the polling benchmark, sorted by poll average, and then candidates who have hit only the donor mark.

Fourteen candidates have crossed both of the thresholds, according to a POLITICO analysis, virtually guaranteeing their spot on stage on either July 30 or July 31: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

One of those 21 was Swalwell.  So Bullock has a lane to a podium; I'm not sure if he's worth it.

CNN put out the new rules for Rounds 3 and 4.

The upcoming Democratic presidential debates will feature opening and closing statements and two hours of debate time each night, representatives for more than 20 candidates competing in the primary were informed (earlier this week) by CNN.

CNN is airing the much-anticipated Democratic National Committee-sanctioned debates live from Detroit at 8 p.m. ET on July 30 and 31. Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper will serve together as the moderators for both debates.


The window to determine debate eligibility closes on July 16, and candidates will be informed the next day if they will be invited to participate in Detroit. On July 18, CNN will air a live draw to determine the specific candidate lineups for each debate night.

More at the link about colored lights and no 'show of hands' questions and penalties for interrupters (looking at you, Senator Gillibrand).

-- The biggest local news was that H-Town gets the third debate in September.  This might be our consolation prize for losing the DNC convention to Milwaukee.  Even with a culled field, we ought to see this event super-charging our municipal elections.  Let's just hope there isn't a hurricane.

Okay then ... on to the leaderboard.

1. (and still wilting) ... Joe Biden

He lost half of his support among African Americans after his geriatric debate performance.  Some speculated as to whether he has a hearing loss.

And yet ... he still leads the field, is still perceived to be the strongest opponent to Trump.  It does make you wonder about all those Teds out there.

The Bidens' tax returns revealed them to be multi-millionaires in just two years after they left Washington.  A similar development didn't affect Bernie (though his income was much lower) and I suspect this will have no impact on Uncle Joe's standing.  In an interview earlier this week Biden claimed that Kamala Harris taking him to the mat in the first debate over busing was something "the American people didn't buy".  That's false, as plainly evidenced in the polling.   If he had said 'old, white, Catholic, conservative Democratic-voting Americans', he'd have been correct.

If Joe flops again in Detroit, there are two women ready to grab the lead.

2. Elizabeth Warren

First, Warren is scooping up some of the voters that Biden is losing, not just Harris.  Second, Warren and Biden have some history as antagonists that is a simmering pot, waiting to boil over.  Watch CNN's debate draw (on July 17 18 at 7 p.m. Central), because if the two of them wind up going on the same night, this will be the story.  Warren also criticized, albeit very delicately, her relationship with the Obama administration when she created the CFPB but was passed over as its first director, prior to being elected senator.   From The Nation:

“But it is the case that I see a government that increasingly works for a thinner and thinner slice at the top and leaves everyone else behind. Until we take that on and break the stranglehold that the obscenely rich and powerful hold over our country, we can’t straighten out much of anything else.”

(Author Joan Walsh) noted that she had worked in Obama’s administration for a while and that, for all the good he did, he didn’t break that stranglehold, either. Why? She paused. “I tangled publicly with the administration over trade and over the regulation of big banks. Tim Geithner and I” -- here she chuckled -- “had battles that spilled onto the public stage.” In (Warren's book) A Fighting Chance, she laments, “The president chose his team, and the president’s team chose Wall Street.” But now she defended Obama, arguing simply, “Barack Obama stood up for the consumer agency when a lot of folks in his administration didn’t want to, when others were willing to throw it under the bus.”

Warren is the only front-runner appearing at Netroots Nation this weekend.  The Washington Times' take is a pretty funny read.

One last thing about voters of color: it was four years ago at Markos Moulitsas' annual gathering of high-income, expensively educated, overly centrist white liberals when Black Lives Matter activists stormed a stage where Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley were speaking, and chanted "Say Her Name", just days after Sandra Bland had died in the custody of the Waller County Sheriff's Department.  And O'Malley said, "All lives matter."

Warren is probably better prepared for a demonstration, just in case.

3. Kamala Harris

I still think Kamala is not doing anything with her pin of Biden at the first debate.  She did get that nice polling bump, but she has walked back her position on busing, and her waffle on Medicare For All is just ridiculous.  That was last week's news, though, and I just don't have much of anything that seems relevant reported about her for this week, except for Chris Cillizza and Harry Enten's ass-munching and this, which has received extremely little attention.

I'm with Caity Johnstone: I believe Harris is an oligarch's wet dream.

4. Bernie Sanders

Plenty of haters still want to write him off.  As regards his poll numbers, I feel that his base is under-represented in the sampling.  Here's a few statistics that don't get reported much by the corporate media that lead me to that premise.

And this Tweet encapsulates my full contempt of campaign finance reporting.

With respect to polling that matters -- early primary states -- Bernie and Warren are neck-and-neck in New Hampshire.  This will be the fish-or-cut bait moment for one of them ... depending on Iowa's results previously and South Carolina's polling.

5. Pete Buttigieg

His standing among black voters even in South Bend, Indiana now obvious to all, Mayo Pete released his 'Douglass Plan' to fight racial discrimination in the US.  And Change Research -- a pollster with a C+ record as scored by -- has Boot Edge Edge suddenly leading Iowa by seven points.  Feels like an outlier, but should he pull off this upset, it truly scrambles the race.  (What does Biden do if he loses both early states?  The same thing Kamala does: push all in on South Carolina.)

Still don't see anything for Buttigieg but strategic influencer in 2020, but, you know, shit can happen.

6. Cory Booker, Julian Castro

The second debate at the end of this month gives both a fresh chance to score some points on those ahead of them.  Between now and then, they have a chance to improve on their standings.  Castro went to Milwaukee for the LULAC convention where he joined Beto, Bernie, and Warren as they spoke to delegates, televised by Univision last night.

After the town hall, viewers were asked to declare their favorite.  The only Latino in the race came in fourth out of four.

Harsh.  Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer also delivered his blistering critique of Castro's tenure at HUD, and Branko Marcetic of In These Times reposted his neoliberal record as San Antonio mayor.  This is what happens when the media suddenly perceives you as having a realistic chance of winning.  Castro has always been too centrist for me, but I keep thinking he's going to break through at some point.  The #Destino2020 poll, Internet-based though it is, can't be too encouraging.

I couldn't find anything newsworthy or noteworthy to post here about Booker.  He's not coasting but he's not grabbing any headlines, either.  Treading water in sixth place out of more than 20 isn't bad at this stage, but Booker is another guy I thought would be doing a little better.

7. Beto O'Rourke 

Like Biden, I'd like to see him go away, but we're stuck with him for awhile longer.  I just don't have anything left to to say about O'Rourke, good or bad, that hasn't already been said.  I think that with both Chris Bell and Royce West's (pending) entry into the race against Cornyn, all that is left to him is to endorse one of the two runoff participants -- which I will mark today as West and Sema Hernandez -- at some point next spring or summer.  Maybe the winner of the presidential nomination taps him as running mate and makes Texas really competitive for next year.

Couple more things worth mentioning:

-- Howie Hawkins is leading a Green Party charge for ballot access across the country.

Related: Texas Greens joined Texas Libertarians in a lawsuit against the high filing fees -- and short signature-gathering period -- that the Legislature mandated when it granted them ballot access in 2020 by lowering the percentages in past elections for qualification.  Gadfly has the press release.

-- Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan, who quit the GOP on July 4th because Trump is a lunatic and Pelosi won't impeach him, won't rule out a presidential bid.  The Libertarians would soil themselves if he would run under their flag, but he seems to have other plans.

In an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, he did not rule out a rumoured run for the White House.

“I believe that I have to use my skills, my public influence, where it serves the country best,” he said. “And I believe I have to defend the constitution in whatever way works best.”

Such a campaign from the right could complicate Trump’s hopes of re-election in 2020. On CNN, Amash defended his role as a founder of the hard-right Freedom Caucus, a key support bloc for the president on which many place much of the blame for deadlock in Congress.

Amash also said he believed he could win re-election as an independent.

The most likely Libertarian nominee IMO today would be John McAfee.  If Amash runs only in Michigan, he ruins Trump's re-election chances.

-- A really excellent development:

Six states plan to use ranked choice voting (RCV) for their 2020 Democratic primaries or caucuses, including for all early voters in Iowa and Nevada, and all voters in Alaska, Hawaii, Kansas and Wyoming. These states will adapt RCV to Democratic Party rules: last-place candidates will be eliminated and backers of those candidates will have their vote count toward their next choice until all remaining candidates are above the 15 percent vote threshold to win delegates.

State parties made this change because they realize allowing voters to rank their choices -- especially in a crowded field that includes many experienced and well-funded candidates -- makes everyone’s vote more powerful. RCV has the additional advantage of putting an end to vote splitting, the problem of “spoilers” and even the possibility of a nominee who lacks majority support inside the party.

It’s a bold move, and it comes at a time when many presidential candidates including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bennet, William Weld, Andrew Yang, Seth Moulton and Beto O’Rourke have indicated they support RCV.

Iowa and Nevada will also do caucus by phone.

Democrats in the early presidential contest states of Iowa and Nevada will be able to cast their votes over the telephone instead of showing up at their states' traditional neighborhood caucus meetings next February, according to plans unveiled by the state parties.

The tele-caucus systems, the result of a mandate from the Democratic National Committee, are aimed at opening the local-level political gatherings to more people, especially evening shift-workers and people with disabilities, whom critics of the caucuses have long said are blocked from the process.

*whew*  That's it.  What do you have for me?

Monday, July 08, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance fondly recalls the story of Washington crossing the Jersey Turnpike to surprise the British at the Battle of Newark Airport as it brings you this week's roundup.

With ten White House hopefuls converging on the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston last Friday for the NEA national convention, it was a reminder that Harris County is going to be pivotal to Democrats' hopes of flipping the state and the nation in 2020.

The surge in fundraising (from Houstonians) mirrors what has happened at the ballot box. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry lost Harris County by more than 100,000 votes. Four years later, Barack Obama won Houston by just over 19,000 votes. Even though she lost the state, Hillary Clinton won Harris County by 161,000 votes in 2016. Last year, in his U.S. Senate race, O’Rourke won Harris County by over 200,000 votes.

The dramatic shift of Harris County from a red county to blue is a major reason some politicians and pollsters are wondering if Texas is close to turning blue. According to a Quinnipiac University survey of Texas in early June, President Donald Trump trailed Biden by four percentage points. The president had 44 percent of the vote compared to Biden's 48 percent.

Texas also plays a big role in the Democratic primaries. After the traditional first four states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina) vote in February 2020, Texas will be next up, along with 14 other states voting on Super Tuesday, March 3. If those first four states haven’t decided the race, Texas and its haul of delegates will put those who have been cultivating Harris County votes in a prime position.

Egberto Willies was on the scene and got a quick minute with Liz Warren, also posting the full video of her remarks at her town hall on the campus of the University of Houston later that day.  The Texas Signal noted that many of the presidential candidates used Betsy DeVos as a punching bag to loud applause.  Stace at Dos Centavos was impressed by Julián Castro's talk at HCDP's speaker series a week ago.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs updated his regular Friday 2020 Donkey post on Saturday to include the candidates who spoke at the #EssenceFestival in New Orleans.  And  Progress Texas also picked out its top ten moments from the two Democratic presidential debates.

From the state capital, Scott Henson at Grits for Breakfast is amused by the accidental decriminalization of pot by the Lege.  Karil Blakinger of the Houston Chronic, via Texas Standard, also explains why officials will have a difficult time prosecuting cases.  The Statesman profiles former Greg Abbott lickspittle David Hodge, who is now in the (very lucrative) Austin lobbying business.  And Better Texas Blog tracks Ken Paxton's legal attack on Obamacare, with opening court salvos beginning Tuesday morning.

The migrant crisis at the southern border prompted nationwide protests to #CloseTheCamps, and David Collins was on location outside John Cornyn's River Oaks-area Houston office, where protestors stormed the streets.

Christopher Hooks, writing for Texas Monthly, decries the purposeless cruelty of our immigrant detention policies.  And Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib, via Progrexas, points out the obvious regarding the reason our Republicans in charge show no interest in solving the problem.

(Sometimes it's hard to believe the senior senator from Texas is such an ignorant hypocrite; thankfully he reminds us on a frequent basis.)

The destiny of south Dallas may be written, according to Jim Schutze at the Observer, by two people -- new mayor Eric Johnson and old kingmaker Ray Hunt -- and one thing: the bullet train, aka Texas Central Railway.  And Juan Pablo Garnham at the TexTrib explains why the homeless population in Dallas is increasing while Houston's is going down.

Following up on climate news reported in last week's Wrangle, Amal Ahmed at the Texas Observer writes about the court decision against Taiwanese chemical giant Formosa Plastics and their "enormous" Lavaca Bay-area 'nurdle' pollution.

Off the Kuff follows the off-again, on-again census citizenship question litigation.

Socratic Gadfly says regarding some actions of the so-called "antifa" that violence is not the answer.

Therese Odell at Foolish Watcher catches up on the E. Jean Carroll accusation.

Charles L. Watson with Texas Rural Voices reports that lawmakers may consider lowering the legal blood alcohol content limit in order to reduce the nearly 1,000 drunken driving-related fatalities across the state every year.

Monica Roberts at Transgriot rewrites Frederick Douglass' speech about the meaning of the Fourth of July for black trans Americans.

Leah Binkovitz at Urban Edge has the numbers on cyclist and pedestrian deaths around the country.

And two Houston authors have new novels out that are set in the Bayou City: Mike Freedman's King of the Mississippi and Pete Vonder Haar's Lucky Town.  Put both on your summer reading list.

Friday, July 05, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

*Updates throughout.

I am as full of polls as Joey Chestnut is -- or was -- with hot dogs, so this Update is light on that news until they calm down.  Looking ahead, today and this weekend, let's see what the names on everybody's leaderboard are up to.

-- Biden was on CNN this morning crapping on AOC, and everything else 'soshulist'.

Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed deep skepticism of the leftward tilt of the Democratic Party in an exclusive interview with CNN airing Friday.

Biden, speaking with CNN's Chris Cuomo in Des Moines, Iowa, suggested that Medicare for All is irrational, argued that the majority of Democrats are "center left" not "way left," and said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, while "brilliant" and "bright," did not represent Democrats who can win a general election in a competitive district or state.

The interview made clear that Biden, who is facing criticism from the left of the party amid an increasingly contentious Democratic primary, does not feel the need to sway to the left to capture the party's base and, instead, hopes to set himself apart by embracing his moderation.

Biden backed up that confidence by pointing to the 2018 midterm elections, where a host of swing districts were won by more moderate Democrats.

-- Ten candidates are in Houston today for the NEA forum.

-- Elizabeth Warren is having a town hall afterwards this evening at UH, her alma mater, and my state rep, Shawn Thierry, is moderating.

-- Kamala Harris is carrying on her feud with Biden about busing, now a week old, and oddly keeps walking back (i.e., flip-flopping) her position on it, as she has done w/r/t M4A.

^^This is a Twitter thread you should read all of.

Her repeated inability to stand for something without wavering is a chronic problem for the California senator, and by my view is squandering her debate momentum.  She has the charisma and the debate chops down pat, but there are indications that black female voters don't really trust her.

-- This reflects Mayo Pete's hard ceiling as well.  No matter how much money he raises, he won't get on the ticket -- top or bottom, no pun intended -- because of his inexperience and his problems with African Americans.  What he will be is one of the Democratic nominee's most valuable assets, in terms of fundraising and getting out the vote for the demographics with which he is so popular.  He might be the Donkeys' most valuable kingmaker this cycle.

Speaking of shoring up bonafides with the black community ... Buttigieg, Harris, a "reeling Beto O'Rourke" (I believe that was the word I used) and Cory Booker will all be speaking at the Essence Festival in New Orleans on Saturday afternoon.

-- So many in the media have tried to write Bernie off despite the evidence that contradicts their premature reports of his political demise.

-- Marianne Williamson made lemonade out of the lemons virtually everyone on social media and late night teevee squeezed on her.

She also clapped back at Vogue for leaving her out of the picture of Democratic women running for president by Photoshopping herself in.

-- And some Green Party developments, which Gadfly has already mentioned and were first reported on IPR, document internal strife over the inordinate preference shown Howie Hawkins by the GPUS.

David Collins had blogged just a few days prior:

... GPUS is not showing any pronounced preference for a particular candidate. Howie Hawkins, the many-time candidate for Governor of New York, may have the nationwide name recognition, but Dario Hunter and Ian Schlakman have strong followings, especially among young Greens.

(Hawkins and Hunter both spoke at the Texas Green Party state meeting last month.)

While the bickering rings of Hillary Clinton's minions denying Bernie Sanders the 2016 Dem nom, it's obvious to this observer that intra-party politics -- irrespective of party -- is riven with these Hatfield & McCoy feuds.  It's not dissimilar from what's happening locally.

More on the latest next Friday!