Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update, post-debate edition

This one won't be another 'who won, who lost' post that you've surely consumed enough of.  My top ten ranking follows, but it's even more loose than usual because of the fallout from Kamala's third flip-flop on eliminating private insurance companies, Uncle Joe's explanatory presser yesterday afternoon, Beto and Julián's dueling parties in Austin last night, and a lot more shit that will happen today and tomorrow before we get some actual polling on Monday ... that we can promptly throw out the Overton window.

1. Elizabeth Warren

It's a shame for Bernie that she stole them all from him, watered 'em down a little in that capitalistic kinda way, and is pawning them off as originals to gullible Donkeys.

Bernie Lite won't fly.  Berners will accept no substitutes.  And if she can't find a satisfactory answer to the Pocahontas insult, Trump will thump her should she ultimately wind up the nominee.

2. Kamala Harris

While the Birtherism Hydra has raised its foul multi-heads once more against her, the Cop Rocket is falling back to Earth based on her own gaffes and not a false racist smear.

3. Bernie Sanders

Bernie was the same guy he always is Thursday night -- the same guy he has been for fifty freaking years -- and that guy lifts his supporters and enrages those who oppose him.  I have an ominous feeling that the establishment powers are gathering strength to again prevent him from winning the nomination.  I'm #Resisting the paranoia, but the coincidences are too many to ignore.

I really don't want to be right about this.  Things will end badly for everyone if I am.  It is still confounding to me that the Democratic Party cannot execute democracy within their party.

4. Pete Buttigieg

Mayor Pete's debate performance was sound enough for his base to stay in love with, and solicited enough empathy for his racial screw-ups that he won't lose any ground.  In fact, there's already chatter about a Kamala-Pete ticket (heavy fucking sigh).

5. Julián Castro, Cory Booker

JMO but I think that these two winners from Fight Night One have some wind at their backs, enough so that I rate their medium-range prospects ahead of ...

7. Joe Biden

8. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand

Fair enough performances for both, but not good enough to move up.  Gillibrand lost some style points on others' scorecards for interrupting a lot.

10. Everybody else.

Beto is canceled.  I honestly thought it would be the laughingly ignorant war tax that would end his campaign, but Castro killed it quicker and more mercifully.  Bennet and Swalwell had a few moments but really don't need to be on the stage in July.  Hickenlooper, Delaney, and Ryan can just stop the charade, please.

Inslee was a little too "I'm on the only one on this stage" for Amy K, who deservedly slapped him down on women's reproductive rights.  He's very much on the razor's edge.

I'd like for Tulsi to hang around for her value in pissing off the centrists, and de Blasio (hasta la victoria, siempre!) for comedic worth.  Yang and his Gang are going to continue to be a pain in the neck for some time.

That leaves "Cosmic Sorceress" Marianne Williamson.

Just watch the first two minutes.  That's all I ask.

Friday, June 28, 2019


Alternate headline: "My time is up."

Biden's after-debate party doesn't sound like it was much fun, either (two more Tweets in the thread below, and a reply from Biden's deputy campaign manager).

So other than that, Mrs. Lincoln ... ?

#PassTheTorchJoe seems proper (all kudos to Eric Swalwell).

Although once Gropey Joe gets last rites, Swalwell and the Sanders haters will start using it on Bernie.  #LetYangSpeak is not the right hashtag.

Anyway ...

Joe Biden has been running for president on the idea that he’s the best equipped to beat Donald Trump. Tonight’s debate shed considerable doubt on that premise. If this is how he performs against his opponents on the same side of the aisle – clinging desperately to the legacy of an administration he didn’t lead – then how do we think he’ll fare against the most talented bully in American politics?

Other candidates performed impressively. Bernie Sanders had the clearest ideas on how to improve the lives of people in this country and take on vested interests hoarding wealth and power. But Kamala Harris delivered the night’s and possibly the cycle’s most powerful moment when she challenged Biden on his history of supporting racist policies and politicians. In response, he got as defensive as a grandfather going up against his kids at a Thanksgiving table, taking pains to clarify precisely which type of desegregation he opposed in the 1970s. America deserves better.

Kamala joins Julián and maybe Booker as the underdog winners of Round One.  Harris and Warren, obviously, stand to gain the most -- followed by Bernie -- once it dawns on people that old Uncle Joe is just not up to the job.  I think Castro and Cory move up to replace the plummeting O'Rourke.
Buttigieg will soldier on a while longer because he is well-liked despite his glaring inexperience; Gabbard for similar and yet different reasons (higher negatives among centrists, for starters).  The fates of Gillibrand and Klobuchar, second-tier candidates who met expectations, are yet to be written.

The biggest losers beside Biden and Beto?  The two on each far side, both Wednesday and Thursday evening.  Culling this crowd down to six on two nights would be much better for everybody.  And then Jay Inslee can organize a climate change debate for the also-rans.

I'll do my Weekly Update later, possibly tomorrow, in order for the spinning to slow down and the dust to settle and maybe an early poll that reveals something.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Fight Night 2 (The A-Team)

From left, the roster
(onstage, not in the picture above) is:

  • Author and activist Marianne Williamson
  • Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris
  • New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
  • California Rep. Eric Swalwell

Due to the luck of the draw, this is effectively the marquee night for the debate -- with frontrunner Biden, second-place Sanders, and tied-for-fourth-place Harris and Buttigieg all onstage.

And all eyes will be on Biden. He’s certainly no stranger to the format; his first presidential debate was 32 years ago, and he was in several more during his 2007 campaign, as well as general election vice presidential debates in 2008 and 2012. Still, for the clear frontrunner, the pressure will be on, and his rivals will be sure to pounce on any misstep.

Sanders, for instance, will have an opportunity to make the case that his vision for the presidency would be far different -- he wants a political revolution, whereas Biden emphatically does not. Harris and Buttigieg, too, could argue that new leadership is needed for the party. But it’s not clear just how aggressive these candidates will be in attacking Biden; they could decide it’s a mistake to go too negative this early.

The two Democratic candidates without experience in political office will also be onstage on this night. Williamson, an author who has written on spirituality, has recently tried to backtrack from comments she made criticizing vaccines. Meanwhile, entrepreneur Yang will tout his plan for a universal basic income of $1,000 a month.

With most of the top-polling contenders as well as Williamson and Yang on this night, it may be more difficult for the other politicians onstage -- Gillibrand, Bennet, Hickenlooper, and Swalwell -- to stand out.

Like last night, I will put down the phone and step away from the laptop and just let the experience wash over me without feeling the urge to interact with a second, small screen.  Old school, '90's style, not so much sifting and sorting of wheat from Twitter chaff.

Seems to give me a clearer perspective for the morning-after take.

Voy a patear te el culo

"I'm going to kick your ass".

The former San Antonio mayor had been running below the radar -- WAY below the radar -- until Wednesday night. That is likely to change after his performance, in which he was able to carve out a remarkable amount of speaking time for a candidate polling somewhere between 0% and 1%. (An hour into the debate, Castro had spoken as much as Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who is in the midteens in national polling, according to a count kept by the Washington Post. Hugely helpful!) Castro's battering of Beto O'Rourke on immigration was hard to watch (especially if you were related to O'Rourke), but a clear win for Castro.

Even the TexTrib poll, reported in the Wrangle ten days ago, showed Castro tied with Tulsi Gabbard here in Deep-In-The-Hearta, with 3% apiece.  This is -- should be -- the moment we mark as Beto's final mistake.  He was never tough enough to take on Ted Cruz, and when Julián punched him in the nose last night, he reeled around the ring and toppled over.  Good night, Bob.

Tulsi also whipped some white man culo.

Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran and frequent critic of U.S. foreign policy, shot back at (Ohio Cong. Tim) Ryan after he said the United States needs to stay "engaged" in hotspots like Afghanistan.

"As a soldier, I will tell you that answer is unacceptable," Gabbard said, urging the U.S. to pull back and focus on America.

"When we weren’t there, they started flying planes into our buildings," Ryan replied. "If we go in there and say we want to withdraw from the world -- that’s what President Trump is saying."

Gabbard noted it was Al Qaeda, not the Taliban, that attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, and said, "The Taliban was there long before we got in and will be there long after we leave."

(What is the 'Rachel Madcow smear'?  Glad you asked.)

So while Trump, Joe Biden, and Liz Warren -- the elephants in the room -- escaped unscathed, some people won by not losing.  Not Chuck Todd, however. 

Some of these ten will now fade away (we all hope).

Look for a preview of Fight Night 2 later this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Fight Night (hopefully not Fright Night)

Arranged from left (with the best-polling candidates in the middle), the lineup for Wednesday night’s first debate is:

  1. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
  2. Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan
  3. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
  4. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  5. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  6. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke
  7. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  8. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  9. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
  10. Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney

Recent polling suggests that a shitload of Democrats don't know who these candidates are, much less what they stand for.

Only 22% of Democrats registered to vote say they know a lot about the candidates’ positions, while 62% say they know a little. And only 35% say they’re paying close attention to the campaign, with almost two-thirds saying they’re paying some or no attention.

“It’s kind of a blur,” said Maggie Banks, 32, of suburban Denver, who has two young children and only has a chance to glean a few details about the race while listening to National Public Radio during her commute.

Banks said she has only a “vague” idea of who’s running and didn’t realize her state’s senior senator, Michael Bennet, or former governor John Hickenlooper were in the race.

Odds are we'll get to late October 2020, and the media will find a few 'Muricans in a Walmart parking lot who, when asked, scratch themselves and look confused and say, "I'm undecided" about whether to vote for Trump or whichever Democrat gets nominated.  And the rest of us will scream, or roll our eyes, or grit our teeth, or react in some way that communicates our full disgust.

Ultra-low information voters might be the bane of democracy's existence.

But here, among the allegedly well-informed in early primary season -- the 'changing room' segment of the cycle -- everyone who cares about what the Donks are doing could at least be open-minded enough to try on different candidates for a good fit.  Yes or no?

I mean, if you're "vote blue no matter who", then why do you care who wins the primary?

-- Do policies matter ... or just 'defeat Trump'?  Of those ten facing off tonight, Warren is most certainly demonstrating the former premise is the right path.  Even if her policies originated as *ahem* someone else's.

-- Is So-and-So just too grouchy, or out of touch, or inexperienced, or old, or young, or too conservative or moderate or liberal or progressive for me?  What's my 'Goldilocks zone'?

Yes, the media will pick the president if you let them.  The corporate talking heads inform, but also distort with their own bias.  That's why you might be better off with CSPAN whenever they are an option.  (They are not, tonight and tomorrow night.)  Maybe turn off the post-debate spinmeisters, and ignore the Thursday morning quarterbacking ... which, naturally, I'll be doing.  (Calling the game, not passing over it, that is).  With regard to social media, Twitter is a cesspool, and also invaluable for the very latest breaking news and often the most insightful analysis, as well as being wickedly sharp, brevity being the soul and all that.

CNN sucks, except when it doesn't.  MSDNC is a bunch of cheerleaders except when they aren't.  Fox is Fox unless you're watching Sheperd Smith.  Anybody been checking FrontPageLive, former Fox reporter-turned critic Carl Cameron's new venture?

Your personal, customized filters are automatically engaged, but for Doorknob's sake be aware of your biases and try not to get stuck in your silos.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance needs this weekend to recover from its Pride partying this past weekend to be ready for the long Independence Day weekend.  Weekend after next.

Here's your round-up of the best of the left of and about Deep-In-The-Hearta from last week!

Wednesday evening's first Democratic debate features the two Texans, Beto O'Rourke and Julián Castro.  Both have some work to do to move into the first tier of front-runners.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs updated his regular weekly post about the primary race on Sunday, after the South Carolina Democratic convention took place.

State Sen. Royce West remains the leader in the hottest rumored 'next contestant' parlor game in the run-up to the "Beat John Cornyn in 2020" sweepstakes.

Asked for comment Friday (June21), West said in a text message, "I'll make a decision whether to run next month."

Texas Monthly's "Best and Worst Legislators" contained few surprises to those of us who followed the past session closely.

News about the wretched conditions that migrants being held by Trump's ICE are forced to endure continues to be a national topic.  A Twitter war broke out over whether 'concentration camps' was the right phrase to describe the facilities, an indication that the moral, Christian, Golden Rule values espoused by the administration are a fraud.  But some organizations are pitching in to help.

The 2020 Census will be the next big test for Texas children, writes Better Texas Blog, and as the Lone Star State continues to be among the ten worst for kids in the nation in overall child well-being, an undercount will leave more children underserved.

Texas Latinos will soon be the state's largest ethnic group, Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer blogs, which helps explain why the TXGOP is working so hard to suppress their vote.

Off the Kuff laments the sweetheart deal Ken Paxton keeps getting from the criminal justice system.

Socratic Gadfly notes that -- as most recently illustrated by the Assange arrest -- the media, the courts and the public all alike are often selective in their support of all five freedoms of the First Amendment.

Jef Rouner stays on top of the Communism situation in The Woodlands.

Bill Dawson at Texas Climate News says these hot summer nights we're experiencing across the state are getting hotter as climate change progresses.  Christopher Collins at the Texas Observer reports that nearly 500,000 Texans live in communities with contaminated water, and our Congress critters aren't doing much about it.

Laredo residents will be able to participate locally in the award-winning film preservation program "Texas Film Round-Up" in July.  LareDOS has more details.

Through a partnership with the Texas Film Commission, the Texas Film Round-Up provides free digitization for films and videotapes, including local commercials, home movies, industrial films, and educational documentaries to preserve Texas media heritage. To qualify for free digitization, the films and videos must be Texas related, and participants must be willing to donate a digital copy of their materials to the project. The materials will be digitized in Austin and returned by mail to the owners, along with a digital copy.

Texas Leftist debuts posting a transcript of his Ingressive Voices podcast.

Zachery Taylor publishes his summer reading list of books from the progressive underground.

Harry Hamid has a tale of being auctioned as a slave by King Cicada.

Mariann G. Wizard at The Rag Blog posts about the memorial service for Austin newspaper publisher Akwasi Evans, who passed in April and whose life was celebrated yesterday.

Akwasi Evans, right, and Mariann Wizard at Marilyn Buck benefit, June 25, 2010, in Austin. 
Photo by Alan Pogue / The Rag Blog

In Texas Standard's news round-up of June 21, authorities in the Dominican Republic say that a Texas man is the accused ringleader of the shooting of baseball star David Ortiz, and that Ortiz was not even the intended victim.

Finally, Susie Tommaney at the Houston Press has a long list of Fourth of July events in the and around the Bayou City.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

(Ed. note: This Update replaces Friday's post, abbreviated by Trump's Iran bombing fake-out.)

The gloves came off last week, but everybody played nice to a greater degree at yesterday's #ClyburnFishFry in Columbia, SC.  That news -- owned by MSNBC to the consternation of everybody else, including CPAN -- fills up the blanks in my earlier-posted Top Ten.  I'll have more no later than Wednesday morning to preview Debate Night #1, a post Thursday morning that highlights the best and worst of the kids' table scrum along with an advance of the main event that evening, and then next Friday's usual Donkey Scramble update.

1. Joe Biden

It sure looked like Abe Simpson was losing his grip on the lead, but South Carolina's black Democrats are saving Uncle Joe's bacon grease.

Former Vice President Joe Biden faced a torrent of criticism from his Democratic opponents and elsewhere this week after he evoked his past working relationships with two well-known segregationists as proof of a time when politics had more “civility.”

Sen. Kamala Harris said she was “deeply” concerned by Biden’s comments. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said they showed Biden was “out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said while she would not criticize her fellow Democrats, it was “never OK to celebrate segregationists.” Sen. Cory Booker demanded an apology.

Miles White, 61, would like Biden to explain himself a bit more. But he doesn’t think Biden’s comments were malicious, and he certainly isn’t ready to take Biden out of his list of top presidential candidates.

“At this point, I give him the benefit of the doubt,” White said. “I don’t think he meant them the way they came out.”

White, a black man, was one of thousands of South Carolinians who attended House Majority Whip James Clyburn’s 'World Famous Fish Fry' in the state capital on Friday evening. The annual event drew more than 20 Democratic presidential candidates, who each hoped to win over not only South Carolina voters, but also Clyburn, the highest ranking African American in Congress.

For now, Biden remains the clear front-runner in South Carolina, where Democratic primary voters are predominantly black. He received the support of 37% those surveyed for a recent state poll, down from May but still far ahead of Warren, who trailed in a distant second at 17%.

Biden played up his South Carolina bona fides on Friday. He referred to Clyburn as the “highest ranking African American in the history of the United States of America, other than the guy I worked with for eight years,” and noted it was his third time at the fish fry and that he has already been all over the state.

“It seems like I’ve lived in South Carolina,” Biden added.

At the fish fry, voters seemed largely excited for and forgiving of Biden. At the start of the event, Biden received one of the largest applauses of the night. Afterward, he took selfies long into the night.

More on Biden's staying power from Politico, the WSJ, and Yahoo.

2. Elizabeth Warren

Yep, she's passed Bernie, and not just in South Carolina, and not only at his polling expense.  Let's read Chris Weigant (I disagree with many of his assessments, but not this one):

(T)he much more interesting dynamic -- one that will play out over the next four or five months, no doubt -- is between Warren and Bernie Sanders. Sanders has also lost a bit of support over the past few weeks, although not nearly as dramatically as Biden's slump. And, once again, the only candidate to pick up such support seems to be Warren. This could turn out to be much more significant in the long run. Sanders and Warren are clearly targeting the same ideological voters within the Democratic ranks. Many progressives are already torn between the two. Bernie started the revolution, but he's also got a lot of baggage by this point (such as how former Hillary fanatics still feel about him). Warren is fresher, but has stumbling blocks of her own to overcome. [...]

Warren's recent surge has put her into direct competition with Sanders. In a handful of state polls and at least one national poll, Warren has emerged in second place to Biden. Sanders is still close behind her in third, but the fact that Warren is now so competitive is indeed newsworthy, because so far she's the only one to break into the top ranks in such a fashion.

To date, only four Democrats have even registered in double digits in the Real Clear Politics polling averages. Biden and Bernie, of course, have always been far above 10 percent. Kamala Harris managed to get into the low teens during her announcement bump, but then slid back down into single digits. But last week, Elizabeth Warren broke the 10 percent barrier for the first time, as her trendline turned sharply upwards. She's still behind Bernie in the rolling average, but not by that much. And, notably, she's scoring second place finishes in the polling in some of the key early-voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina.

So, heading into the first debates, the contest stands as Biden still far out front, followed by a contest between Sanders and Warren for who will emerge in second place.

To be clear, everything I excerpted I find accurate, and nearly everything else at Weigant's link I do not.  For example, there are demonstrable and, I submit, insurmountable differences between Warren and Sanders on policy and ideology.

See ^this man's Tweet timeline^ for more examples.  It is either ignorant or disingenuous to say there are no differences, or that the differences are negligible, between the two.  Nevertheless, that's becoming a narrative.

Liz Warren won't be a compromise candidate for Bernie Sanders supporters.  If you don't like the man because he's old, or grouchy, or because you've indoctrinated any variety of the lies being repeated about him -- "hezenoddaDemuhcrat' being the most pernicious -- that's one (maliciously stupid and wrong) thing.  But try to be smart enough to understand the actual differences.

Chris Weigant is right about something else: it's a shame Bernie and Elizabeth aren't sharing a stage next week.  Oh, and Slate's Surge is more than a little dumb beyond 1 and 2.

3. Bernie Sanders

Bernie maintained his torrid pace of events and speaking and television appearances throughout the week and weekend.  Still, his high negatives among Democrats for reasons mentioned above keep him from adding to his support, and in fact are resulting in the slow leakage in polling we're seeing.

The Sanders campaign has responded with a narrative that features the poll numbers that reveal Bernie consistently defeating Trump head-to-head, going back to 2016 (which, as you might suspect, scratches open a scab for the #StillWithering).

As with every other candidate, his debate performance is pivotal.  But perhaps even more so than anyone else, considering his unique position in this primary.

4, 5, 6. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg

My perception is that just since Friday morning, Booker has gained a little and Buttigieg has lost a little.  Cory made the most hay out of Biden's segregationist gaffe, and Kamala wasn't far behind.  Mayor Pete, meanwhile, is having more racial problems at his day job.  Buttigieg had another awkward on-camera moment regarding this matter yesterday.  Not good.

Black Americans will decide the nominee.  And if Creepy Uncle Joe ever screws up enough to make the olds abandon him, it's going to be a real scramble.

7. Beto O'Rourke

Still trying to find his lane.  If Buttigieg continues to reveal himself as the flash in the pan I've always thought he was, O'Rourke seems like the natural beneficiary.  You know; white, calf-crampy in that non-threatening kind of way, liberal but not too liberal, and so on like that.  The whole bland, milquetoast, Goldilocks moderate package.

8, 9. Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand

Klobuchar is in stable condition.  Gillibrand wins on a viral Tweet.

Be sure and read the replies there, where even Kamala Harris' husband gives kudos to Kirsten for her candor.  (Too much alliteration?)

10. Rest of the field.

Sunday Funnies

Biden promises cure for cancer if elected president; so does Trump

Monday, June 17, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance marks 50 years of Pride with its LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

The first pride parade was a riot.


The Stonewall riot of 1969 earned the badge as the turning point in the modern gay rights movement. And as such, June - gay pride month - is in full swing. An annual reminder of the struggles as well as celebrations of the fight for equality, it's only fitting to mark the 50-year anniversary with a a touch of pride and a humble yet necessary recognition of the power to rise above adversity.

Houston events this week listed here.and also here (slideshow).  Dallas celebrated the first weekend in June, but Tarrant County is rolling this weekend.  San Antonio goes the last weekend of this month, and Austin will wait until August.

The Texas Tribune, in partnership with the University of Texas, released their poll of Lone Star voters regarding Trump's re-elect numbers, and the Democrats running to face him next year.

Half of the registered voters in Texas would vote to reelect President Donald Trump, but half of them would not, according to the latest University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.

Few of those voters were wishy-washy about it: 39% said they would “definitely” vote to reelect Trump; 43% said they would “definitely not” vote for him. The remaining 18% said they would “probably” (11%) or “probably not” (7%) vote to give Trump a second term.


“That 50-50 number encapsulates how divisive Trump is,” said James Henson, who runs the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and co-directs the poll. But, he added, the number is not necessarily “a useful prediction for an election that’s 16 months away.”


“The most interesting and more consequential thing, this far out, is that amongst independents, 60% say they will probably or definitely vote for somebody else,” said Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research for the Texas Politics Project. “Overall, Texas independents tend to be more conservative than liberal and tend to look more like Republicans than like Democrats ... and things have gotten worse among independents.”

There was news from the SCOTUS this morning regarding partisan gerrymandering, but the Virginia case was not conclusive.

A decision in another case, with potentially nationwide effects, should be coming soon ...

... as well as the justices deciding whether there will be a citizenship question added to the US Census.  Which, as FiveThirtyEight posits, may result in Texas losing a Congressional seat.

In a matter of days, the Supreme Court may dramatically change the census. The court is slated to rule on whether the Trump administration can add a question about citizenship to the 2020 form. When the case was argued back in April, many court-watchers predicted that the court’s five conservative justices were ready to side with the administration. The proposal sounds innocuous enough, but social scientists and civil rights advocates worry it will deter vulnerable populations — particularly undocumented people, other immigrants and their families — from answering the census. If that happens, many people from these groups will be at risk of not being counted and huge swaths of American life will be affected. The results of the count determine everything from where grocery stores are placed to how congressional representatives are distributed.

News about 2020 Congressional races captured Texas bloggers' attention, with the Texas Signal following up on former Rep. Allen West's apparent pre-announcement that he will enter the Republican Senate primary against John Cornyn.  Gromer Jeffers at the Dallas News ponders the possibility of state Sen. Royce West joining the race for the Democratic nomination (a rumor this blog heard two weeks ago).

West has not spoken publicly about his plans and has shrugged off questions about the timing of his decision. But he's been making the rounds in party circles, getting pledges from colleagues in the Legislature and testing whether he can raise the money needed not only to get past (announced Democratic candidate MJ) Hegar, but also beat Cornyn.

Gadfly doesn't think West will do it.  Meanwhile, Kuff throws a hissy fit at national writers who are clueless about which Democrats are running against Cornyn (which is comical, considering his own stubborn refusal to acknowledge declared candidates).  Vox has a piece about Henry Cuellar's primary challenger from his left, and the HouChron covers Lizzie Fletcher's GOP contenders.

Many Texans lost their minds over the news that the family owners of Whataburger would sell out to  a Chicago investment bank.

Latino Rebels writes about the thousands of asylum-seekers being 'metered' at the border, and Bob Moore at Texas Monthly reports that conditions at one facility in El Paso where migrants are detained are a "human dog pound".

The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express News' six-part investigative series, 'Abuse of Faith' -- about the hundreds of sexual abuse cases by Southern Baptist clergy, employees, and volunteers -- was completed two weeks ago, but a recent coda had to be added for Grace Baptist Church pastor Stephen Bratton of Cypress Station.

(Bratton) was charged Friday with continuous sexual abuse of a child, Senior (Harris County) Deputy Thomas Gilliland said Saturday. The 43-year-old is accused of inappropriate touching that escalated to “sexual intercourse multiple times a day or several times a week” from 2013 to 2015, Gilliland said.

Texas Standard reveals that the 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico -- produced by fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi River that depletes oxygen levels and suffocates marine life -- is on track to be one of the largest ever.

Christopher Collins at the Texas Observer notes a Fayette County hospital is in danger of shutting down after local anti-tax activists successfully defeated its public funding mechanism last week.

If St. Mark’s (Medical Center in La Grange) closes, patients will have to travel 20 miles to Smithville or 26 miles the other direction to Columbus to find the next nearest emergency rooms.

SocraticGadfly, through words and pictures from his many trips there, celebrates the 75th anniversary of Big Bend as a national park.

David Collins updates on Texas Green Party developments after their state meeting in Killeen recently, with an eye toward the 2020 statewide elections.

And tributes poured in for Texas author Bill Whitliff after his passing was reported.

Bill Wittliff, the writer known for the acclaimed 1980s miniseries “Lonesome Dove” and feature films such as “The Perfect Storm” and “Legends of the Fall,” died Sunday. He was 79.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

The twenty who are debating in two weeks.

Update: And here are the lineups. Warren is the only front-runner going on the first night, Wednesday, June 26th.

Her expectations might be higher than usual considering her competition.  She'll certainly be subjected to a few extra potshots from the trailers.  But I'll be more focused on Thursday evening's cage match.

There's been a shuffle in my front-runners this week: Biden is still slumping but remains the leader, barely holding on atop the heap. Warren has effectively pulled in to a second-place tie with Bernie. Mayor Pete holds down fourth, and Kamala, Beto, and Cory Booker round out the top seven.

1. Joe Biden  momentum: slipping

Another lousy week for Gramps.  But some pundits are beginning to muse that his gaffes are just part of his charm, and that they may even be his Teflon shield.

Joe Biden, the Democratic front-runner, has had a peculiar couple of weeks: The points on which he’s been historically weak—women’s rights, mass incarceration, and plagiarism—have surfaced again, as weak points are bound to do, but if his responses on all three fronts have muddied his record, they haven’t done much damage to his vaunted “electability.” He’s reiterated his support (before retracting it) of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds like Medicaid from paying for abortions. He’s defended his 1994 crime bill, which contributed (many believe) to America’s mass incarceration problem. Asked at a recent event whether he’d “commit to reducing the prison population by half,” Biden claimed that the woman asking -- whom he addressed as “kiddo” -- had been “conditioned” to say it was a bad bill. But “we should not be putting people in prison for drug offenses,” he added, omitting that he was one of the architects of the war on drugs and had specifically criticized then-President Bush’s plan because it didn’t “hold every drug user accountable.” Finally, his campaign was found to have plagiarized some policy language

Go read the whole thing, please.

Any politician with a record as long as Biden’s has to tell this “evolution” story convincingly and well. Biden’s success on this score is spotty. His appeal despite that makes it interesting. In a weird way, his frankness about his self-contradictions --“I make no apologies for my last position. I make no apologies for what I’m about to say,” he said Thursday as he reversed himself on the Hyde Amendment -- bestows upon him a kind of flexibility that allows him to claim (for example) that he won’t accept donations from corporate lobbyists, and then kick off his campaign with a fundraiser held at the home of the head of lobbying for Comcast

At some point you'd like to think that Democrats are smarter than Republicans; that they will wise up to this hypocrisy and abandon the flip-flopper for someone who tells the truth, at least more often than not.  Jemelle Hill isn't convinced; she sees African American voters doing the same thing that far too much of the rest of the Donkey base is doing.

When it comes to looking ahead to the 2020 presidential election, many black voters aren’t focused on race, gender or who can out-progessive who. They’re focused on ousting Donald Trump from the White House.

That’s according to the Los Angeles Times, which notes that while the more progressive nature and strong black base of the Democratic Party could have one thinking the next Democratic nominee will be a person of color or a woman, many black voters are setting aside thoughts of racial or gender pride to focus on who can best beat Trump at the polls.

“They are so sick and tired of being sick and tired of Trump, there’s this almost unconscious feeling they’re going to go with the candidate that is more likely to beat him,” Ron Lester, a Washington pollster who studies the attitudes of black voters, told the Times.

For many, Lester added, “that is probably a white male,” the Times reports, “given their deep-seated belief ‘that America is still a very racist place and a very misogynistic place and that a candidate who doesn’t get any white votes is probably going to lose.’”

In the Update posted two weeks ago, I led with this electability fallacy.  Markos Moulitsas blogged about it this week.

We are a polarized nation, and as such, the actual candidates themselves hardly matter anymore. We could nominate a mealworm, and it would get numbers similar to these, according to the latest general-election matchup poll by Quinnipiac University:

Biden 53, Trump 40

Sanders 51, Trump 42

Harris 49, Trump 41

Warren 49, Trump 42

Buttigieg 47, Trump 42

Booker 47, Trump 42

The key here isn’t the Democrats’ number (those are mostly driven by name recognition): it’s Trump’s. He’s maxed out at 42%. And with universal name recognition and a polarized electorate, how does he rise above that?


Bottom line? Support whoever you like, and not because you think someone will or won’t run better against Trump.

Now you're welcome to grumble that "itzerly" like Kuffner, or that polling can be akin to toilet paper, as I have repeatedly in the past.  But for the love of Dishrag, make a choice on the basis of something that appeals to you about a candidate or their policies and not a nebulous, poorly defined adverb.

Every single Democrat running for President in 2020 that is currently leading the field -- the top seven of 24 -- ought to easily beat Trump.  Except maybe for Joe Biden.  We'll see how he comports himself in these upcoming debates.

2. (tie) Elizabeth Warren  momentum: surging

(I was tempted to list Bernie here due to my bias, so I'm just trying to be fair.)

Warren showed up second in a handful of polls, national and state, released this week, for which she gets the credit as the candidate on the biggest roll.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has pulled ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., thus far her chief rival for the mantle of progressive alternative in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries, in a trio of recent polls.

The first result comes from a recent Economist/YouGov poll, which finds Warren ahead of Sanders by a margin of 16 percent to 12 percent nationwide. Thus far, Warren has been trailing Sanders in national polls as both candidates grapple for the same base of progressive voters. If this trend breaks, it will be a sign that Warren could be winning over that key demographic. Both candidates still continue to trail former Vice President Joe Biden.

A second poll — this one involving an early nominating state rather than the nation as a whole — also showed Warren pulling ahead of Sanders. In the Monmouth poll of Democrats likely to participate in the Nevada caucuses, which is scheduled to follow the Iowa causes and New Hampshire primary next year, Biden is leads with 36 percent, followed by Warren with 19 percent and Sanders with 13 percent.

And that was not the only good news for Warren. A new UC Berkeley-Los Angeles Times poll of California found Biden again ahead with 22 percent of likely Democratic primary voters, but he was closely followed by Warren with 18 percent and Sanders with 17 percent.

To be clear, these are not the first polls to show that Warren is steadily making gains over other Democratic candidates. Earlier this week, a survey for the Iowa caucus conducted by the Des Moines Register and CNN found that Warren had 15 percent support, behind Biden at 24 percent and Sanders at 16 percent and ahead of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 14 percent. This was a major sign of progress for Warren, who during a survey by the same group in March was only at 9 percent in Iowa.

She won Kos' straw poll on Tuesday, first time Bernie's lost that in a long while.

Elizabeth Warren won the inaugural 2019 Daily Kos straw poll back in early January. Two weeks later, riding the high of her announcement speech, Kamala Harris won the poll. But once Bernie Sanders announced, it’s been all him, since way back in February. But this week, in convincing manner, Elizabeth Warren has retaken the top spot.


The straw poll and public polling are in agreement. There are five serious contenders in this race: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris. All the other 19 declared candidates combined can only muster around 8% of the vote. ...

Warren is riding on a high after her viral moment from the MSNBC town hall, the one where she made mincemeat of Biden’s support for the Hyde Amendment. Her rallies are drawing thousands. Her “I’ve got a plan for that” catchphrase is landing. And yes, they may both be white women, but no one is comparing her to Hillary Clinton anymore.

In a comment yesterday on the site, community member Fatherflot wrote, “Fair or not, (Warren) needed to create a clear identity for herself that drew a sharp distinction with Hillary. Instead of the aloof insider-technocrat, she is promoting herself as a kind of ‘Mary Poppins’ figure -- the cheerful, exuberant, uber-competent woman who simply gets things done and makes everyone feel included and proud.”

I’ve got to say, 'Mary Poppins figure' is really landing with me. I think it nails her vibe, and why we’re seeing a surprising dearth of “Is she likable?” stories and memes about her.

The Daily Kos denizens don't see the differences between Liz and Bernie, and remain of the "he's not a Democrat" persuasion anyway.  This collides with the view of the Berners I hang out with, not to mention my own.  Anyway, the progressive wing -- comprised loosely of Sandernistas and Warrenites -- is most certainly ascendant right now.

2. (tie) Bernie Sanders  momentum: holding

The Week offered a theory about Bernie's speech defining democratic socialism.

On Wednesday, Sanders gave a lengthy speech outlining what he means when he says he's a "democratic socialist." It was chock full of historical references and mentions of President Trump, but, as some Sanders supporters and Democratic strategists suggest, may have been more aimed at Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Sanders and Warren are often seen as progressive equivalents, except for when Warren declares herself a capitalist and Sanders sticks to socialism. Despite that ideological difference, Warren has seemingly been the only Democratic presidential candidate gaining steam over the past few weeks, and it has largely come at Sanders' expense. In fact, an Economist/YouGov poll released just an hour before Sanders' Wednesday speech showed Warren had 19 percent support in the 2020 race over Sanders' 15 percent. Sanders had been at a solid second place to former Vice President Joe Biden before that.

This the first major poll where Warren has managed to pass Sanders, and to Democratic strategist and former White House Communications Director Jen Psaki, it's just what Sanders was worried about. His Wednesday speech "is a pretty clear indication he is feeling the heat from Elizabeth Warren's recent momentum among progressive voters," Psaki told The New York Times, calling it Sanders' "attempt to reclaim the anti-capitalist mantle he ran on in 2016."

Even before Wednesday's poll debuted, it didn't seem Warren was too worried about whatever socialist rhetoric Sanders had cooked up. When The Atlantic asked her about Sanders' forthcoming speech the other day, she laughed

Vox thought it was about Trump.  I just thought it was about something that most people don't really understand, despite it being defined repeatedly over the course of the past year.

Republicans salivate, centrist Dems fret, but the truth is that the disinformation campaign, i.e. fear-mongering, Red-baiting, scape-goating etc. will happen no matter what.  Bernie is simply being honest and owning it.

4. Pete Buttigieg  momentum: gradually rising

Mayor Pete's constituency as reflected in most polls is right around ten percent.  He's raising money, staffing up in Iowa -- rising in the polling there -- and continuing to slowly grow his support.  I continue to hold that his appeal will be capped by a variety of factors and that the best he can expect is a Cabinet position, not even VP, but hey, I've been wrong before.  His debate performance alongside Biden, Sanders, and Harris will either significantly add to his momentum, or slow his roll.

5. Kamala Harris  momentum: holding

Like Buttigieg, there was no significant positive or negative development for her this past week, unless you count her slipping to fourth in recent polling of California.

The poll serves as a blunt warning for Harris, who is banking on a surge of home-state support after a strong showing during the back half of early voting -- in neighboring Nevada, and South Carolina, where African American voters form a decisive bloc. Organizationally, Harris is working to make up ground with Warren in Iowa, where the Massachusetts senator has built a formidable team. Harris is planning a hiring spree there that calls for bringing in 65 people.

In the California poll, Harris performed well across ethnic and demographic groups, and voters there consistently selected her as their second choice. But similar to her standing in the early states and nationally, she hasn’t caught fire with likely voters in the first few months of the race.

Harris just seems to be getting out-worked, or out-hustled, or outdone in some form or fashion every time I have taken a deep look lately.  Is it her emerging reality that she winds up as nothing better than someone's veep?  Her debate performance will either cement or break that impression.

6. (tie) Beto O'Rourke  momentum: holding

Beto became the first to slap Biden around.

“You cannot go back to the end of the Obama administration and think that that’s good enough,” the former Texas congressman said at the end of a lengthy interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “As much of a horror show as Trump has been -- his racism, the disaster of his foreign policy, his punishment of farmers and workers here in this country -- we had real problems before Donald Trump became president.”

Asked, “Is Joe Biden a return to the past?” O’Rourke answered bluntly, "He is. And that cannot be who we are going forward. We’ve got to be bigger, we’ve got to be bolder. We have to set a much higher mark and be relentless in pursuing that.”

That's rougher than I recall him ever being on Ted Cruz.

I'm ranking him tied for sixth not only for that, but for last week's Texas poll showing him second to Creepy Uncle Joe in the Lone Star delegate chase.  Despite the fact 60% of those surveyed in the same poll want him to drop out of the run for the White House and take on John Cornyn (something I still anticipate he will do).  If/when Biden deflates -- and should Beto not take everybody's advice and actually win our Super Tuesday primary next March -- he sits pretty for at least another month or so of presidential primaries and caucuses.

6. (tie) Cory Booker  momentum: slightly rising

Booker has twelve signatories on his reparations legislation, including several of his competitors for the Dem nom.

The bill, officially titled “HR 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (pdf),” would establish a commission to study the impact of slavery on African Americans and suggest proposals that would help repay descendants of slaves for the costs of centuries of racial discrimination.

The bill’s 12 co-sponsors are U.S. Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).

Along with Warren, Booker was reviewed favorably at last weekend's Iowa cattle call, the Cedar Rapids Hall of Fame dinner.

In the early state where field organization has traditionally mattered the most, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Elizabeth Warren have quietly and patiently concentrated their resources toward building grassroots machines designed to power them on caucus night.

It showed here on Sunday as 19 Democratic presidential candidates converged for the first time in one venue to make their five-minute pitch to the party faithful. The gathering, designed to honor Iowa Democrats in a Hall of Fame dinner, offered the first glimpse of a sprawling Democratic primary field — and the organizational strength and enthusiasm each campaign could muster.

Booker and Warren weren’t the only presidential hopefuls to stand out. The senator from next door in Minnesota, Amy Klobuchar, also put on a show of force both inside and outside the Cedar Rapids Doubletree Hilton Hotel, where the dinner took place.

Biden was not in the state.  Sanders marched outside with the McDonald's workers, who were on strike for a $15 minimum wage.  Eighth place in my rankings would probably go to Klobuchar.

And FWIW, the WaPo's Pundit Power Ranking has Liz in a tie with Joe for first, Bernie third, Buttigieg and Harris tied for fourth, Klobuchar in sixth, Booker in seventh, and Beto in eighth.

Gonna wrap this week with Howard Schultz and Howie Hawkins.

Starbucks billionaire Howard Schultz told campaign staff that he is making significant cuts to his team, as he suspends his political plans for the summer.

Schultz came into the office Wednesday for the first time in months and met with the staff, according to a person in the room. He announced that he was letting everyone go except those in senior leadership positions, adding he would not make a decision about running for president until after Labor Day.

Shortly thereafter, Schultz sent an email to supporters, saying that medical reasons had taken him out of commission for months, and he still needed time to recover.

“While I was in Arizona, I unfortunately experienced acute back pain that required me to cut my travels short,” he wrote. “Over the following two months, I underwent three separate back surgeries. Today, I am feeling much better, and my doctors foresee a full recovery so long as I rest and rehabilitate. I have decided to take the summer to do just that.”

Go play lots of dodgeball, Howard.

And finally: