Friday, May 31, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

Mike Lux, Crooks and Liars:

“Electability” is the hottest word of the moment, on every Democrat’s mind for sure. ... (The Democatic Party) is united around one thing and one thing only: beating Donald Trump. ...

But there are lots of myths about electability, and Democrats need to separate the myths from the facts to make a rational decision about who to support. Various candidates' strategies represent far more than one sensible school of thought about the best pathway to electability. Biden personifies the comfortable-as-an-old-shoe theory; Cory and Kamala's aim is to maximize the people of color vote; Bernie's focus is maximizing the youth vote and progressive energy (and minimizing the protest vote); Beto and Buttigieg are the fresh face/opposite of Trump candidates; Elizabeth Warren is running the "big ideas" campaign; and Inslee is prioritizing a bold transformation to a green economy. I’m not going to go over all those theories in detail because a lot of other people have done that and you probably already have a sense of what they are, but suffice to say they all have both some logic and some decent numerical analysis to back them up.

What I want to do instead is tell you some of the most important things you should know about the whole electability topic:

1. The conventional wisdom is almost always wrong. That conventional wisdom about who the most electable candidate was over the last several open cycles -- Hillary in 2016, Hillary in 2008, Kerry in 2004, Gore in 2000 -- has not tended to turn out well ... and the conventional wisdom about who could never win -- Trump in 2016, a black man with an African-Muslim name in 2008, Bill Clinton after his womanizing, draft dodging, and not inhaling problems in the 1992 primary -- have generally proven to be false as well.

2. Most of the time, the early frontrunner in the polls loses. At this time in (their respective) election cycle, the following candidates were the overwhelming favorite in the polling: LBJ in ’68, Muskie in ’72, Teddy Kennedy in ’76 and ’80, Mondale in ’84, Gary Hart in ’88, Mario Cuomo in ’92, Gore in 2000, Hillary in 2004, 2008, and 2016. Only 3 times in all those elections did the early frontrunner win, and 2 of those 3 times (Mondale and Hillary in 2016), they had a far tougher fight than expected. I will also note that most of the candidates who did beat those frontrunners were at about 1% about now in the national polls. Early polling matters less than anything I know of in presidential politics.

3. No one is doomed to lose the general election, and no one is sure to win. Democrats, especially this cycle, tend to get themselves 100% focused on the electability thing, and quickly convince themselves that their preferred candidate and path to victory is the only one that wins the general, and therefore other candidates have no chance. This is simply not borne out by any polling, historical measures, or other sensible analysis. Take a look at 2016: she would have won PA, MI, and WI (and thus the presidency) if there was a higher level of African-American turnout; or if she had won most of the Jill Stein voters; or if she had gotten a higher percentage in small towns and rural areas; or if more Bernie voters had turned out to vote; or if a higher percentage of young women voters had turned out to vote. Hillary all by herself had several different paths to victory demographically, not to even mention message-wise.

Keep in mind as well that diametrically opposed kinds of Democratic candidates (older white male conservatives as opposed to young black progressives) in both Georgia and Florida last year won almost identical numbers of votes. One can make the case that at least in some regions, partisan voting patterns are so aligned that all the hullabaloo over exactly what kinds of candidates to pick is a little overblown.

The fact is that Democrats have several different ways (to win) this race, and are in fact capable of electing a candidate who is capable of winning in a lot of different states. In addition to those 3 Rust Belt states mentioned above, Democrats are right on the cusp of winning NC, GA, FL, and AZ. Texas might even be in play depending on who the nominee turns out to be. If Sherrod Brown were on the ticket, maybe Ohio would come back into play. If Bernie is the nominee, maybe we lose some higher income older suburbanites who are scared of the word 'socialist', but we make that up with a big surge of young voters and/or people of color, combined with the Jill Stein voters who voted for Bernie.

At the same time, nothing is a sure thing. Even the supposedly safest candidates make mistakes, and those safe candidates may not turn out young folks or people of color (see Hillary Clinton).

Whoever our nominee is, we should go into this election assuming very little, neither over-confident nor despairing, because both can be fatal.

My advice to all of you Democrats who care about beating Trump is to ignore the conventional wisdom. Instead pick the candidate you think has the most compelling narrative and message, is the best at telling stories and building a strong positive identity that can withstand brutal attacks, is running most strongly on kitchen table issues, and who seems to be the most successful at getting the young people you know interested and excited. At the end of the day, these are the things that are going to matter the most in beating Trump.

And with that blogged, let's take a look at the candidates' climate report cards.

And the latest on the first debate, coming up in a short four weeks.

The first 2020 Democratic primary debate, aired on NBC and MSNBC, will be held over 2 nights on June 26 and June 27, 2019. The debate will feature back-to-back evening broadcasts on consecutive nights to ensure each candidate gets access to a primetime audience.

So far, 19 candidates have qualified:

Biden, Booker, Bullock, Buttigieg, Castro, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Harris, Hickenlooper, Inslee, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Ryan, Sanders, Swalwell, Warren, Williamson, Yang

Learn more about each candidate on our 2020 candidate list. Candidates will have until late June to meet the qualifications needed to attend the first debate.

And since I can't report any shift in my top five ranking again this week, let's be liberal and add back some of the second- and third-tier candidates' activity over the past seven days.  In alphabetical order:

Michael Bennet

The senator from Colorado faces uncertainty on whether he will qualify for the first debate in June. He has yet to reach the 65,000-donor threshold and still needs to crack one percent in another qualifying poll in the next month. He stated this past week, however, that he will keep going even if he does not qualify for the first debate and will hold out until the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary next year.

This weekend, he is making his first stop in South Carolina since launching his presidential bid.

Joe Biden

Biden released the first major plank of his platform this week on public education. His proposal would boost federal funding for low-income school districts, increase teacher pay, make preschool universal, and increase investment on mental health services for K-12 students.

This happened here in town, and Grampa Joe drew consternation once more for his hands-on attention paid to an underage female audience member.  (Go to that link for more Tweets, video, etc.)

Biden will also make his second campaign trip to Iowa on June 11th -- the same day Trump is scheduled to visit the state for a fundraiser.

Is Biden's Bounce Over?

Cory Booker

Booker called for impeachment proceedings against Trump for the first time following Mueller’s public statement on Wednesday.

“Robert Mueller’s statement makes it clear,” Booker tweeted. “Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”

The senator has previously expressed hesitation in calling for impeachment, even as other Democratic presidential contenders approved of such a step. This week, Booker also made his third trip to Nevada to appeal to swing voters.

Steve Bullock

The Montana governor who declared his candidacy earlier this month is working to catch up to other campaigns, especially in Iowa. This past week, Bullock hired ten more staffers in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to help build grassroots support.

Pete Buttigieg 

On ABC’s This Week, Buttigieg told Martha Raddatz that “there is no question” that the president used bone spurs as an excuse to avoid service.

“I think to any reasonable observer that the president found a way to falsify a disabled status, taking advantage of his privileged status in order to avoid serving,” he said.

Buttigieg also criticized Trump for meeting with Kim Jong Un, saying it gave the North Korean government “legitimacy.” “The way diplomacy works, the way deals work, is you give someone something in return for something … it hasn’t worked at all,” he said.

On the topic of impeachment, Buttigieg moved closer to calling for it than he had previously, tweeting, “This is as close to an impeachment referral as it gets. Robert Mueller could not clear the president, nor could he charge him -- so he has handed the matter to Congress, which alone can act to deliver due process and accountability.”

Julian Castro

Last Thursday, Castro pledged to refuse contributions from oil, gas, and coal industry executives,  tweeting, “Since day one, my campaign refused contributions from PACs, corporations, and lobbyists. Today I announced we’re also refusing contributions from oil, gas, and coal executives -- so you know my priorities are with the health of our families, climate and democracy.”

The former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development is also set to participate in a Fox News town hall on June 13. Many Democratic presidential contenders have wrestled with the decision to participate in events hosted by the news network, but Castro will be the fifth to do so.

Bill de Blasio

During CNN’s State of the Union this past week, de Blasio said that Biden’s 1994 crime bill was a “huge mistake” citing a “mass incarceration crisis” in the country.

“That crime bill was one of the foundations of mass incarceration in a very painful era in our nation’s history,” said de Blasio. “The (former) vice president and anyone else has to be accountable for every vote they take and what’s on their record, and I think that was a huge mistake.”

De Blasio also said that he understands Trump’s tricks and strategies better than other Democratic candidates and can “get under his skin.”

“I know something about Donald Trump that’s different from the other candidates because I watched him for decades.”

John Delaney

Delaney has been in the race longer than any other Democrat running for president and has been to Iowa far more times than any other contender. He has made the cut to participate in the first debate, having met the polling threshold, but he has not met the 65,000 donor threshold. This could complicate his chances to participate if more than 20 candidates qualify as candidates who meet both thresholds (will have their spots secured first).

On ABC News’ The Briefing Room, he declared that the debates are “really important” to his campaign’s ability to gain traction and blasted “the crazy DNC methodologies” which might keep him off the debate stage.

Delaney also released a $2 trillion infrastructure plan that would create seven new infrastructure funds and increase the size of the Highway Trust Fund.

Tulsi Gabbard

Earlier this week, Gabbard, who served in the medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard, criticized some politicians who she said, in a statement to ABC News, exploit the real meaning of Memorial Day.

“So nothing angers me more than the hypocrisy exhibited every Memorial Day by warmongering politicians and media pundits feigning sympathy for those who paid the ultimate price in service to our country, while simultaneously advocating for more counterproductive regime change wars and the new Cold War and arms race,” she said.

The Hawaii congresswoman has made foreign policy a centerpiece of her agenda, highlighting her credentials as a veteran. She also recently signaled during an interview with Fox News that she would reverse course with the Trump administration on the Iran nuclear deal, and re-enter the agreement if elected to the White House.

Gabbard heads to the West Coast this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention, among other events across the state.

In a week when Bob Mueller finally broke his silence, Trump reacted in typically neurotic fashion, the questions swirling around "to impeach or not" seemed to gain intensity, and with the recent news about Julian Assange's declining health and Reality Winner's media blockade, it's important to be reminded that Gabbard publicly declared two weeks ago that she would drop the charges against Assange and pardon Edward Snowden (to my standing ovation).

Kirsten Gillibrand

Mueller’s public statement Wednesday moved Gillibrand to explicitly support steps to remove the president.

“It’s time for Republicans and Democrats to begin impeachment hearings and follow the facts wherever they may lead,” she said in a statement. “We cannot let this president defy basic accountability measures built into our Constitution.”

In an early and significant show of support in the first-in-the-nation primary state, the New York senator also landed her first New Hampshire endorsement this week, from state Rep. Sue Ford, who said she’s “the best person” for the White House.

Kamala Harris

Earlier in the week, Harris stopped by Wofford College in South Carolina for an MSNBC town hall to outline her plan to confront the spate of anti-abortion laws sweeping across the country.

“Are we going to go back to the days of back-alley abortions? Women died before we had Roe v. Wade in place. On this issue, I’m kinda done,” she said. Harris is one of several co-sponsors of the Women’s Health Protection Act, a bill currently stalled in the Senate, but if passed, would vet laws passed to restrict access to abortion services.
Harris also joined Booker and Gillibrand in calling for impeachment, tweeting, “Now it is up to Congress to hold this president accountable. We need to start impeachment proceedings. It’s our constitutional obligation.”

Harris returns to her home state this weekend for the California Democratic Party convention and the MoveOn Big Ideas Forum.

John Hickenlooper

Amid the wave of states like Alabama, Georgia and Missouri passing highly-restrictive anti-abortion laws, Hickenlooper unveiled a new proposal to “protect the reproductive rights” of women by proposing a federal expansion of long-acting reversible contraception.

“I think that it’s a fundamental inalienable right that women should have control over their own bodies,” Hickenlooper told MSNBC of his newly-announced plan. “What’s going on in Indiana and even Missouri now, I mean so many states, is horrific.”

On Thursday morning, Hickenlooper echoed the newest slate of 2020 candidates in calling for impeachment proceedings, telling CNN, “After listening to Mueller, and I wanted to hear what he had to say, I think of myself as an extreme moderate. But I think he laid the responsibility clearly at the doorstep of Congress.”

“I think we have to begin an impeachment inquiry,” he said.

Former Colorado Governor And 2020 Candidate Urges Distance From 'Socialism'

Jay Inslee

Inslee announced this week he crossed the 65,000 donor mark, virtually ensuring himself a spot on the debate stage next month, making him one of a dozen candidates to qualify for the first debate based on both the DNC’s polling and fundraising criteria.

At a campaign stop in Nevada, the Washington governor endorsed Marie Newman, a progressive Democrat who is staging a primary challenge in the Illinois 3rd to oust one of the few pro-life Democrats still left in Congress. Inslee joins Gillibrand as the only other 2020 Democratic candidate to weigh in on the race. Gillibrand endorsed Newman back in April.

Inslee is also set to address the California Democratic Party State Convention in San Francisco this weekend.

Amy Klobuchar

At a campaign stop in Iowa over the weekend, Klobuchar recounted to a crowd the day of Trump’s “dark inauguration,” sitting between Sen. Bernie Sanders and the late Sen. John McCain.

“John McCain kept reciting to me names of dictators during that speech because he knew more than any of us what we were facing as a nation,” Klobuchar she said. “He understood it. He knew because he knew this man more than any of us did,” she added.

This prompted a response from McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, who asked Klobuchar to leave her “father’s legacy and memory out of presidential politics.”

Wayne Messam

Messam reiterated his call for impeachment on Wednesday, writing in a tweet, “Congress must now do its job of oversight and do what Mueller wasn’t allowed to.”

Seth Moulton

Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer, disclosed this week that he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home from Iraq in 2008 -- as he announced a new plan to expand military mental health services for active-duty military and veterans.

“I had some particular experiences or regrets from the war that I just thought about every day, and occasionally I’d have bad dreams or wake up in a cold sweat,” Moulton told Politico in an interview.” He added that, “But because these experiences weren’t debilitating … it took me a while to appreciate that I was dealing with post-traumatic stress and I was dealing with an experience that a lot of other veterans have.”

Moulton unveiled his plan as part of a “Veterans Mental Health Tour” Tuesday night in Massachusetts and will continue his tour in Nevada this weekend.

Moulton, Tim Ryan, and Eric Swalwell all get a CNN town hall hour this Sunday evening.  Just don't call it the "White Bread NeoLib Power Three Hours".

Beto O’Rourke

The former Texas congressman rolled out a sweeping immigration policy proposal this week that would among other things, establish a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S., invest $5 billion in foreign aid to “Northern Triangle” countries in Central America, and increase the number of immigration lawyers at the southern border.

“The current administration has chosen to defy this American aspiration, drafted into our Declaration of Independence, welded into the welcome of our Statue of Liberty, and secured by the sacrifices of countless generation,” a memo from the campaign read.
“Instead, the current administration is pursuing cruel and cynical policies that aim to sow needless chaos and confusion at our borders.”

Tim Ryan

Ryan tiptoed closer to calling for impeachment proceedings, without explicitly calling on Congress to open an inquiry.

“The President, no President, is above the law,” Ryan wrote on Twitter. “And it’s Congress’ job to make sure we are true to our founding principle that the President is not a King and must answer to the American people.”

Bernie Sanders

Before a series of negative headlines about the progressive senator’s second attempt to capture the presidency emerged, Sanders returned to his home state of Vermont earlier this week for a rally in Montpelier, and went on the offense, turning his attention to taking on Trump.

“The underlying principles of our government will not be racism, will not be sexism, will not be xenophobia and will not be religious bigotry -- and all the other mean-spirited beliefs of the Trump administration,” a fired-up Sanders told the crowd.

Sanders’s campaign also took on Biden in emails to supporters. Sanders’s campaign manager Faiz Shakir had previously attacked the Biden campaign for their “high-dollar” fundraisers but now, he’s once again criticizing the former vice president’s fundraising efforts.

“These are not grassroots fundraising events. These are high-dollar functions hosted and attended by corporate lobbyists, health care executives, a Republican casino-CEO, and a union-busting lawyer among others,” the email reads. “We can win elections without begging those people for money. And, indeed, we are more likely to win with a candidate who does not.”

Last night in Nevada, Bernie rolled out his comprehensive immigration reform plan.

Eric Swalwell

Swalwell stated that as a white man, he understands when to promote the voices of others.

In a video interview with Vice News, Swalwell stated, “A white guy who doesn’t see other identities or understand other experiences should not be president.”

“I do,” Swalwell continued. “And where there would be gaps in my knowledge or my experience, I will pass the mic to people who do have that experience.”

And after Mueller’s public statement Wednesday, Swalwell told MSNBC that he warned other House members to be prepared for impeachment proceedings, without explicitly calling for the start of a probe.

“‘Prepare for impeachment.’ That’s what I’ve told my colleagues,” he said.

Elizabeth Warren

Asked if she believed Mueller might be convinced to testify before Congress or be drawn to speak out against comments from the president this morning, Warren said on ABC’s The View Thursday that she didn’t take Mueller for someone who would act on impulse.

“I think Mueller’s got a slow pulse. He knows what he’s doing. I don’t think rage is how he rolls,” she told the co-hosts. “I think he’s one of those people who says read the footnotes.” Warren added that she thought this wasn’t about politics for Mueller, saying, “It’s about the Constitution. It’s not only about this president, but it’s about what are the rules for the next president and the next president?”

The Massachusetts senator has also not shied away from her policy to break up big tech companies ahead of her visit to the Bay Area this weekend for the California Democratic Convention, which will take place, of course, on many of the nation’s most powerful tech companies’ home turf. On Thursday, Warren unveiled a billboard that her campaign put up in San Francisco. It says “BREAK UP BIG TECH” next to a photo of her.

Andrew Yang

On Tuesday, Yang signed a pledge to end the “Forever War,” which calls for the end of continued American involvement in military conflicts overseas in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We’ve continued in a constant state of war for the last seventeen years, and it has cost us tremendously in American lives as well as billions of dollars that could have been used to help families here at home,” Yang said in a statement.

The tech entrepreneur joined fellow 2020 hopefuls Sens. Warren and Sanders, and former Sen. Mike Gravel in signing onto the pledge.


Allllllllllrighty then.  There's some fresh third-party news to report:

Howie Hawkins makes exploratory campaign official, will run for President 
as Green Party's nominee in 2020

Releases Budget for an EcoSocialist Green New Deal

Howie Hawkins announced in Brooklyn today that he is seeking the Green Party nomination for president.

The centerpiece of Hawkins’ campaign for president is an ecosocialist Green New Deal. He is calling upon the nation to declare a climate emergency and mobilize a crash program to convert the economy to 100% clean renewable energy with zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. He said that will require social ownership and democratic planning of key sectors, including energy and railroads.

Hawkins’ announcement comes on the heels of a surge in votes for Green parties in the elections for European Parliament over the weekend. “The European Greens campaigned for a Green New Deal of climate action, social protections, and strengthened democracy. The Green New Deal is the program of hope that we can rally around to beat the ultra-right’s program of fear based on racism, xenophobia, religious bigotry, fact-free irrationalism, and authoritarianism. It’s how we beat the politics of Trumpism,” Hawkins said.

During his announcement, Hawkins released a blueprint and budget for an ecosocialist Green New Deal that he intends to advance as the standard against which the presidential campaign debate on the Green New Deal should be measured.

The budget covers a broad range of economic and environmental policies and programs, with their costs, the jobs created, and the sources of funding. The bottom line numbers show nearly 23 million new jobs created, including nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs, by investing about $2 trillion a year in reconstructing the energy and other productive systems for ecological sustainability over the next 20 years. A multi-layered web presentation of the budget that provides documentation and background information is on Hawkins’ campaign website at

Gadfly with a bit.  Since the Greens will be on the ballot in Deep In the Hearta -- unless Greg Abbott vetoes the bill, that is -- there will be a progressive option at the top of the ticket if Bernie, by some cruel quirk of fate, gets cheated again by the DNC doesn't win the Donkey nomination.  Hopefully the locals can work out their disagreements with each other in time to field a united slate.

Last but by no means least, this indy candidate intrigues.

That's all for this week!

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The Sine Die Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance waves adios to the Texas Legislature until January of 2021 (with any good luck).  Now our lawmakers watch, along with the rest of us, to see which of their hard-worked, hard-argued, hard-fought bills become law -- or not -- by the pen of Greg Abbott.

The Texas Tribune, always with the most comprehensive coverage, has a photo gallery and a list of winners and losers from the 86th session.  The Dallas News' Texas Tracker aggregated their Lege reporting (which subscribers can customize to their interests).

Here's just a sampling of the latest from yesterday and the holiday weekend from those two sources:

Gunsense  and gun-nonsense bills made it through at the deadline.  Criminal justice reform advocates ran into one final roadblock in the Texas Senate, as a watered-down amendment was stripped out at the last minute.

After the fate of (House Bill 2754) was decided, state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, added a more limited version of the provision as an amendment to Senate Bill 815, which was a fairly uncontroversial bill relating to the preservation of criminal records. The House approved the bill, with Moody’s amendment about Class C misdemeanor arrests, in an 81 to 52 vote. But the Senate didn't approve the change, and Moody's amendment was taken out of the bill in a compromise report proposed by a group of lawmakers from both chambers.

Moody partly blamed the amendment's downfall on the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT) -- one of the top police unions in the state -- who he said "stabbed me in the back and waged an outrageous campaign of outright lies and character assassination." He added that "pressure from the top down" in the Senate ultimately killed the bill.

Grits for Breakfast had the early analysis on this clusterf.

The most significant legislation of the session, the bill that reduces property taxes and adequately funds public schools, reached bipartisan consensus (and self-aggrandizement to the point of overkill).

Lawmakers also signed off on the state's two-year, $250-plus billion dollar budget.

The approved $250.7 billion, made up of state taxes and fees, local property tax dollars and federal funds, marks a 16% spending increase over the two-year budget approved by lawmakers in the tight-fisted 2017 legislative session. ... Facing a cautiously optimistic fiscal forecast, lawmakers expect to have an additional $10 billion or so to spend over the next two years, compared with the previous budget cycle. They agreed to allocate $6.5 billion in new state funding for schools and $5.1 billion to buy down Texans’ local property taxes, which state dollars supplement to pay for public education.

Pay raises for teachers -- not the $5000 across-the-board increase Dan Patrick had promised, though -- and a 13th pension check for retired teachers are included.

Texas Freedom Network made note of the fact that 2018's blue wave, and another one looming in 2020, made divisive legislation more difficult to pass.  Better Texas Blog enumerates five good bills that passed, five bad bills that failed, and five missed opportunities.  Environment Texas also scores the Lege's results as mixed.  Texas Vox blogged that lawmakers punted on taking any action with respect to the chemical fires Houston has recently suffered from.  And the Texas Observer's Candice Bernd wrote that despite efforts to soften the penalties for protesting against pipelines, the Lege passed the bill designating them as felony offenses.  (IANAL, but I would not expect these laws to withstand legal/judicial/constitutional muster.)

There was a raft of election law developments that was good news/bad news: SOS David Whitley caught all the blame for the ill-fated voter roll purge and went unconfirmed by the state Senate, thus forcing him to resign.  Many of the worst bills meant to intimidate voters were similarly defeated; SB9's failure was one of Progress Texas' best moments of the session.  But Houston Public Media reported that Harris County remains one of the most difficult places in the United States for people to both register and vote.

“Registration rates in Texas are among the lowest in the United States. Yet voter registration rates in Harris County are far lower, and increasingly so,” said University of Houston researcher Suzanne Pritzker. “If we look between 2010 and 2016, we see that the voter registration gap between Texas and Harris County has been increasing.”

Meanwhile, Texas Public Radio reported on Bexar County's $11 million dollar acquisition of new voting machines that include a paper trail.

Several bloggers opined about the bill that enables the Texas Green Party to be on the 2020 ballot.  David Collins has been tracking its progress; it's now awaiting the governor's signature.  Socratic Gadfly also had some thoughts prior to passage.  Kuff's take is just as elitist as you would expect from a Democratic establishment suck-up, but at least it's not as whiny as it could have been.  And in other third party developments, Ballot Access News says that an Odessa Libertarian Party member has won a seat on the Ector County Hospital Board.

(Gadfly also looked at the latest woes of the Dallas Morning News.)

Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer has the news about CBD oil's legalized usage for certain medical conditions, but most experts agree that the Lege made the barest measurable expansion of cannabis decriminalization.

There's some 2019 and 2020 election news that Texas blogs and news sources had last week.  First: Joe Biden makes a campaign and fundraising appearance in Houston today.  He's running precisely as you'd expect the front-runner would.

Hillary Clinton also spoke at the Harris County Democratic Party's Johnson Rayburn Richards luncheon last Friday, and in what must have created some awkward moments, it was revealed by Justin Miller at the Texas Observer that Tony Buzbee, a Houston mayoral challenger to Sylvester Turner who donated over $500,000 to two of Donald Trump's PACs in 2016, also gave the HCDP $5000 as a "White Pantsuit" sponsor for the JRR fundraiser.

Early voting begins today in most Texas jurisdictions with municipal runoff elections on June 8.  The Rivard Report highlights the nastiness of the mayoral runoff in San Antonio.  Mark Jones at Rice's Kinder Institute (Urban Edge blog) reminds us that there are less than six months until Houston holds its city elections.

US Rep. Chip Roy single-handedly delayed a $19.1 billion disaster aid funding package, including Harvey relief, that John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, and Donald Trump had all approved, drawing universal condemnation.

Texas Standard also reported that Galveston Bay's oyster harvest was halted shortly after the ITC chemical fire caused a benzene spill into the Houston Ship Channel two weeks ago.

Last weekend at Crystal Beach, a Jeep rally got so out of control that even the libertine, libertarian locals were terrified and appalled.  John Nova Lomax at Texas Monthly:

Nobody knows for sure how many Jeeps, lifted trucks, ATVs, side-by-sides, and four-by-fours descended on the Bolivar Peninsula - -a narrow spit of storm-wracked sand between Galveston and Port Arthur -- during last weekend’s chaos. One estimate pegged the number at no fewer than 40,000 vehicles, many with intoxicated drivers zigzagging beaches with no marked lanes or navigating a two-lane highway with lots of construction zones, often with up to a dozen people riding unsecured in the backs of pickups.

Galveston County authorities made at least 100 arrests (most for alcohol-related offenses) as Jeep enthusiasts converged for Go Topless Weekend, an annual car show and campout in Crystal Beach. Of eighteen wrecks in the area, eight were deemed serious. EMS dispatchers were barraged with more than 600 calls for service, and one of the accidents snarled traffic on Highway 87 -- the sole east-west thoroughfare and only way to drive on or off the peninsula --for about six hours. Videos of the weekend’s drunken brawls have been posted to YouTube. A young man emerged from a coma on Monday after his head was run over by a truck from which he’d fallen, and at least a half-dozen injured passengers were evacuated by helicopter to the UTMB hospital in Galveston.

Yet it’s far from just Jeep owners who are to blame for the mayhem. The event coincided with prom weekend for many schools in Deep East Texas, leading to the presence of hordes of young people arriving in jacked-up trucks and zipping around on dirt bikes and four-wheelers. Thanks to a swirl of teenage hormones, copious amounts of alcohol, and the revving of high-powered engines, fights inevitably broke out, and some young women took the event’s invitation to Go Topless literally. The Texas Patriot Network’s MAGA Beach Bash was also taking place nearby, near the town of Port Bolivar, adding to the crowds on the peninsula. On top of it all, a whim of Mother Nature—an abnormally high “bull tide”—forced all this humanity into a narrower and narrower slice of drunken, thrown-together life, hemmed in by saltwater on one side and dunes on the other.

Finally, Pages of Victory has some voting advice for progressives, while Harry Hamid contemplates his reality.

Friday, May 24, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

With a month to go before the first debate, 19 Democrats have qualified at the minimum standards for the two-night contest, including Marianne Williamson but not Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, Mike Gravel, Wayne Messam, or Seth Moulton (yet).

Update: And Jay Inslee makes 20.

However ... it's possible that the qualifiers may need to do better than the minimum, and if that's the case we may only see these twelve on the stage.

Note that list leaves off Kirsten Gillibrand, among other high-profilers.  I don't think that will happen, but there might be a tiebreaker for the twentieth spot.


Democrats getting at least 2 percent support in the polling average will be randomly and evenly split between the two nights, which will each feature 10 candidates, according to the formula obtained by POLITICO. Candidates below that threshold will also be evenly and randomly divided between the two debate lineups.

"The final list of debate participants, after any tie-breaking procedure is executed if necessary,  will be divided into two groups: candidates with a polling average of 2% or above, and those with a polling average below 2%," the rule reads. "Both groups will be randomly divided between Wednesday night (June 26) and Thursday night (June 27), thus ensuring that both groups are represented fairly on each night."

The rule will not keep any two candidates from appearing onstage together. But it will prevent random chance from loading one night with polling leaders and the other night with less well-known presidential candidates. ...

Eight candidates have a polling average at or above 2 percent right now: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. With the newly announced rule, four would be guaranteed to appear on the first night, and four would be guaranteed to appear on the second night.

Last week I culled out the top six: Biden, Bernie, Warren, and in a tie for fourth, Kamala, Mayor Pete, and Beto.  You can scratch our Texas boy Bob off your scorecard; he rolled out his reboot this past week and promptly faceplanted.

Democratic presidential primary candidate Beto O'Rourke went on CNN for a town hall Tuesday evening in an attempt to breathe some life into his struggling campaign, but all he did was earn the ire of progressives after delivering a less than ambitious answer to a question on Medicare for All.

O'Rourke declined to endorse the popular policy by host Dana Bash as a follow up to a question from the audience on drug prices. Bash asked the former Texas congressman why he supports the Medicare for America plan put forth by Democratic Reps. Rose DeLauro (Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.) instead of Medicare for All.

"They don't have time for us to get to the perfect solution," O'Rourke said, referring to audience member Diane Kolmer, whose struggles with the disease multliple sclerosis prompted her to ask about healthcare, and a man O'Rourke claimed to have met named "Joey."

"If we were to start from scratch, maybe we would start with a single payer," added O'Rourke, "but we've got to work with the system that we have here today."

That's a deal-breaker for me, and perhaps for 70% of Americans.  And that was before people tuned out of Beto's town hall in droves.  I don't see where he has any place to go except back home and run for the Senate against Cornyn.

In other online prognosticator rankings, Cillizza/Enten at CNN are, IMO, a little off.

Markos and Nate Silver (scroll down for his tiers) agree with me (I posted ahead of them).  This may not be a good thing, as both are approaching worthlessness in my view.  Despite this, I can't see any reason to adjust my top five.

1. Joe Biden

Though he is finally starting to slip in terms of polling numbers, he maintains a lead.  How large and how solid is still dependent on polling methodology.

Let's do our first check-in with's round-up.

At a campaign rally in Philadelphia last weekend, Biden defended his bipartisan outlook on governance, pitching his experience of working across the aisle and arguing that it isn’t too late to unite Americans across the political spectrum.

Biden brought in over $2 million through a pair of fundraising events in Miami and Orlando this week, showing a willingness to engage with big-money donors from which much of the Democratic field has shied away.

The former vice president’s campaign took part in a back and forth with North Korea after an opinion piece that was posted on the website of KCNA -- the North Korean news agency -- said Biden was “misbehaving” and criticized him as someone “who likes to stick his nose into other people’s business and is a poor excuse for a politician.”

Biden’s campaign responded, saying that “it’s no surprise North Korea would prefer that Donald Trump remain in the White House.”

The Norks also called Biden "an imbecile bereft of elementary quality as a human being" and a "fool of low IQ".   I was disappointed they did not recycle 'dotard'.  Say this for them: they have a command of the English language for insults that far exceeds our Stable Genius president.

2. Bernie Sanders

The Vermont senator rolled out a comprehensive education plan that would halt federal funding for charter school expansion, set a teacher pay floor at $60,000, and provide universal free lunches, among other investments.

At a South Carolina event announcing the plan, Sanders drew a connection between education reform and social injustice, noting that changes to public education in recent decades have disproportionately affected African Americans and increased school segregation.

Bernie is also attending the Walmart shareholders meeting week after next.

The massive retail chain has been a focus of Sanders' pro-worker push — he even introduced the pointedly titled Stop WALMART Act to Congress last November. Now, the 2020 candidate is arguing that hourly Walmart workers should have a guaranteed seat at the shareholders meeting each year, and he'll make his case right to those shareholders' faces, The Washington Post reports.

Walmart's annual meeting of "a dozen wealthy executives from companies like McDonald's and NBCUniversal" is coming up on June 5 in Bentonville, Arkansas, the Post writes. That's where Sanders will tell shareholders that "if hourly workers at Walmart were well represented on its board, I doubt you would see the CEO of Walmart making over a thousand times more than its average worker," he tells the Post. Walmart pharmacy technician Cat Davis introduced the proposal, which reads that "hourly associates can guide a more fair, inclusive, and equitable corporate ecosystem that bridges differences," and invited Sanders to deliver the message.

He also joined McDonald's workers yesterday by video as the fast food giant held its corporate meeting in Dallas ...

... as did most of the top ten Democratic contenders, some who marched on picket lines in other states, some who Tweeted support.

3. Elizabeth Warren

Warren's (latest issues proposal), a platform aimed at protecting women’s reproductive rights ... would “block states from interfering in the ability of a health care provider to provide medical care, including abortion services,” according to her policy rollout.

The senator had a viral moment when she responded to a Twitter user who asked her for relationship advice. “DM me and let’s figure this out,” Warren replied.

The senator apparently went on to call a number of Twitter users asking for advice. “Guess who’s crying and shaking and just talked to Elizabeth Warren on the phone?!?!?” one user tweeted.

Liz is methodically building support, and her steady polling rise reflects it.

Warren, who had been lagging with just 4 percent in a March Quinnipiac University poll, reached 13 percent in their latest survey, nearly matching Sen. Bernie Sanders at 16 percent with Biden in the lead at 35 percent.

Looking across multiple polls paints a clearer picture of Biden’s lead -- but also the Massachusetts senator’s rise. The former vice president is averaging nearly 40 percent in national primary polls, coming down a bit after a surge upon announcing his own candidacy this month. Sanders has seen his support drop lately while Warren, the rising bronze bar in this Real Clear Politics’ chart of 2020 polling averages over the last several months, has seen a steady uptick.

Link to current RCP shows Biden's lead still shrinking today.

I'll putt down a marker here.  After the first debate, and of my top four today -- Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg -- someone(s) will emerge with momentum and someone(s) will lose it.  Uncle Joe could commit a gaffe or show his age; so for that matter could Bernie.  Liz and Mayor Pete could, and should, both shine.  Kamala Harris really needs a breakthrough moment, because Warren is beginning to erode her demographic advantage.  It's still difficult for me to fathom that the race may quickly winnow to three white men and one white woman.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

4. Pete Buttigieg

Buttigieg garnered headlines for his performance in a Fox News town hall last weekend, renewing the debate over whether it is beneficial for Democratic candidates to appear on the news network that is often criticized for its conservative bent.

During his appearance, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, took aim at a pair of the network’s right-wing commentators, arguing that Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham were “not always there in good faith,” pointing specifically to their views on the ongoing immigration policy debate.

After stops in Florida, New York and Washington, D.C., this week, Buttigieg will campaign over the weekend in New Hampshire, with events in Londonderry, Exeter and Keene on Friday and Saturday.

Mayor Pete has loyal fans, much like Bernie's (let's not be calling nobody's a cult, okay?).  I won't ever be one, but at this point and almost no matter what else happens in this race, he will remain a factor.  There is a subculture of weirdo centrists still criticizing going on Fox, which makes even less sense than it did when they were on Bernie's ass about it.

5. Kamala Harris

She's flailing, which makes the CNN third-place rank all the more puzzling.  Their own snapshot gives me no reason to believe them as to why she should be ahead of Warren or Buttigieg.

Just like O'Rourke, the junior senator from California seems intent on rebooting her campaign. Harris has stalled in recent months as her left-leaning campaign has run into a classic clown-car problem: Almost everyone in the race is running left. She now seems to be trying to split the difference between those on the left (Sanders and Warren) and those closer to the center (Biden). Can this "Goldilocks" campaign work? Or is Harris going to just be this year's version of Marco Rubio (i.e. trying to satisfy all and satisfying few)?

Still without policy positions posted to her website, she's free to flip-flop on things.  I don't see this as a winning strategy, but YMMV.

Here's a few links.

-- Who White Democrats Vote For In 2020 Could Be Shaped By Why They Think Clinton Lost

Primary efforts:

-- The Candidates Who Are Going All In On Iowa Or New Hampshire

-- Inside the 2020 Democrats’ survival strategies

Bernie Sanders must win New Hampshire. Julián Castro is letting it all ride on Nevada. South Carolina is essential to Cory Booker’s chances.

The 23 candidates chasing the Democratic presidential nomination are piling up events and plowing resources into the four early-nominating states, telegraphing which states they’re prioritizing and which ones they’re writing off.

^^Your best and deepest dive.

Finally ...

Hundreds of unheralded hopefuls file paperwork every four years to vie for the biggest prize in electoral politics

According to Ballotpedia, a website that tracks the daily entry of FEC records, of the 713 candidates who had filed by (May 3), 241 filed as Democrats, 89 as Republicans, 25 as Libertarians and 14 as Green candidates. A great many others self-identified as nonpartisan, independent, or listed no party affiliation.


James Peppe of Montgomery, Texas filed in February as a Republican challenger to President Trump. According to the FEC filings, he’s received $5,665 in total campaign receipts, including $2,865 in individual contributions, $2,800 in candidate contributions. The campaign is also the beneficiary of $20,000 worth of loans made by the candidate.

A licensed financial investment advisor, Peppe said on his campaign website that he’s “a regular American, NOT a professional politician or wealthy celebrity.”

A brief stint working on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., shortly after graduating from Yale in 1988, whet his appetite for politics. He ran unsuccessfully in 1992 for a seat in the Minnesota state Senate, retreating after that loss to a business career and steering clear of politics.

But Donald Trump’s election triggered him to get back involved in the political game. As he notes on his website:

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 awoke Peppe’s passion for service with a flood of mixed emotions. On the one hand, he was excited to witness the upending of the political establishment that for so long had promised so much to so many and delivered so little. On the other hand, he was stunned and disappointed to see America invest its hopes in a self-promoting individual of such questionable character as Trump.

In a campaign appearance earlier this month at Keene State College in New Hampshire, Peppe predicted he would shock the world by beating Trump in the GOP primaries, and then deliver a “50-state landslide” in the general election. That’s tall talk for a virtually unknown personality with 591 Twitter followers.

Best of luck to Mr. Peppe.

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

Welcome to Hell Week.

Here at the beginning of a week in which most bills in the Texas Legislature will die, the big priorities set out at the beginning, in January, are still alive: school finance, property tax reform, school safety and responses to Hurricane Harvey.

Lots of other proposals are fading fast.

As of Friday, just over 5% of the 7,324 bills filed in the House and Senate this session had made it all the way to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk. That tells you a bit about what will happen in the next few days. When this is over, when lawmakers have gaveled out on Memorial Day, that percentage will have jumped considerably. Two years ago, 18% of the filed bills made it to the governor. Four years ago, it was 21%. And in 2013, it was 24.4%.

But don’t just look at success; that won’t explain the dramatic tension of the next few days. Look instead at the overwhelming failure rate. Only about 1 bill in 5 -- 1 in 4 in a good year -- makes it out of a regular session alive. Everything else (that hasn’t found new life as an amendment to other legislation) meets its final end in the final week -- when procedural deadlines form a bottleneck that most of the stampeding legislation doesn’t survive.


The Texas Legislature’s Doomsday Calendar -- the dramatic name for the deadlines that stack up at the end of a regular legislative session -- only has a few squares left.

Four of those are red-letter days:

  • Tuesday, May 21, the last day Senate bills can be considered for the first time in the House.
  • Wednesday, May 22, the last day the House can consider Senate bills on a local and consent calendar, which is for uncontested legislation, for the first time.
  • Friday, May 24, the last day the House can decide whether to accept or negotiate Senate changes to bills.
  • Sunday, May 26, the last day the House and Senate can vote on final versions of bills they’ve been negotiating.

The last day -- the 140th -- gets a Latin name, but not a red border. It’s sine die, the last day of the 86th Texas Legislature’s regular session.

Another clock starts then, marking the time between the end of the legislative session and Father’s Day -- June 16 -- the last day Abbott can veto legislation passed by the House and Senate.



David Collins and the Texas Tribune have the latest on HB 2504, the bill that would put the Texas Green Party back on the ballot for 2020.  Spoiler (see what I did there?): Its prospects for becoming law are very good.

Many more updates throughout the week, appearing in the Twitter feed, top right column.

Last weekend's developments saw the death of SB9, but everyone remains on high alert for a zombie amendment to living bills.

And sure enough ...

Meanwhile, Progress Texas brings the good, the bad, and the ugly of the bills that remain among the living.  Kuff analyzes the relentless Republican attack on local control this session.

In news away from the Pink Dome ...

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar
warned against elected officials who fuel Islamophobia and pit religious groups against each other at an Iftar dinner Saturday night in Austin, just days after Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller called on Austin Mayor Steve Adler not to attend the event.

Omar, 37, was the keynote speaker at the Annual Austin Citywide Iftar Dinner, a ceremonial meal to break the fast during Ramadan. Adler, who (is Jewish and) has attended each of the previous city-wide Iftars, was the guest of honor.

A Dallas woman who was beaten two weeks ago in a parking lot outside her apartment was found shot to death on Sunday afternoon.  She wasn't just another random killing.

Debbie Nathan at The Intercept writes about the vigilante militia defending an imaginary southern border near El Paso.

Socratic Gadfly, with help from political scientist and author Corey Robin, explains that Trump is not a fascist but rather a schematically predictable variety of president.

The Texas Signal notes Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner's suddenly-easier path to re-election now that Prop B has been declared unconstitutional (by the same district judge that ordered he and the firefighters union into mediation, which failed).

Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer sees all the power players err, zombie endorserati lining up behind one mayoral candidate.

John Nova Lomax, writing at Texas Monthly, takes note of the Bayou City's aggressive plan to make housing more affordable.

Downwinders at Risk is hosting a fundraiser just prior to after Memorial Day weekend.

Rachel Pearson at the Texas Observer flaunts her sorcery.

Harry Hamid blogs about Folli's recuperation (a metaphor for his own, by all indications).

Dan Solomon, also for TM, freaks out just a little at the prospect of Whataburger being sold.

Lisa Gray at Gray Matters (Houston Chronicle) calls on all Houstonians -- really, all good Texans -- to resist bad tacos.

Beyond Bones wants to tell you about Megalosaurus.

Finally, Jesse Sendejas Jr. of the Houston Press went to ZZ Top's 50th Anniversary Bash and had his top blown.  In the revival -- or perhaps last gasp -- of dinosaur rock legends, Cheap Trick and Bad Company opened the evening.