Wednesday, July 31, 2019

#DemDebate 2nd night: What's Biden got left?

For those who may be rationing their free articles at the NYT, here's the Detroit Freep, setting up this evening's action.

After a contentious first night Tuesday, round 2 of the Democratic battle for the presidency -- with a second group of 10 candidates -- continues at Detroit's Fox Theater on Wednesday night.

The marquee matchup will be between two front-runners in the polls: former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who clashed during the first round of debates last month in Miami, creating the most talked-about moments so far of the 2020 election cycle.

But the rest of the field for the second night has some heavy hitters as well; (several) looking for breakout moments during the two-hour forum on CNN. Others in the Wednesday night lineup are: U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York; former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro of Texas, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and New York businessman Andrew Yang.

Kamala versus Sleepy Joe is a rematch, as we know, but Booker is coming loaded for bear, too.

“Joe Biden had more than 40 years to get this right. The proud architect of a failed system is not the right person to fix it,” Booker said in a statement released earlier this month.

The failed system Booker is referring to isn't healthcare or school busing, but the former veep's long record of bad choices and worse comments about race and criminal justice, going all the way back to 1994 and the crime bill he sheperded through the Congress when he was a senator from Delaware.

It's truly remarkable that African American voters are still standing by Old Joe.  Flanked tonight by Harris and Booker, if he can adequately defend himself or somehow turn the tables on his younger rivals ... well, it could be over for them.

“I got a past I’m proud of. They got a past that’s not quite so good,” said Biden, who refers frequently to his eight years as No. 2 to the first black U.S. president, Barack Obama.

But if he can't, it could be over for him.

To say that I'm pulling for the underdogs is an understatement.

Gillibrand's pitchfork is sharpened for Biden on women's issues.

“I’ve got to tell you, I’m really sick of it. I’m so freaking sick of it. I can’t tell you how angry I am that Democrats, Democrats turn a blind eye to sexual assault, sexual harassment and any reforms that value women in the workplace,” Gillibrand said. “And they play lip service to women and to women voters, but I promise you, every time the door of a negotiating room closes, women’s reproductive freedom, women’s rights, women’s equality is the first thing that’s thrown out the window to create a compromise, and that is compromise by Democrats and Republicans, both sides of the aisle in Congress.”

There's more and you should read it.

“My question to all of you as women, who do you want in the White House?” Gillibrand asked. “Do you want a woman who values you? Do you want a woman who will go to the mat for you every time? Not compromise on your women’s reproductive freedom? Not compromise on your worker’s rights? Not compromise on your ability to go to the workplace and not be sexually harassed?”

It's a strong argument, one that works not just on Gropey Joe but also the Rapist-in-Chief.

Anyway ... which Biden shows up?  The one who whipped Paul Ryan's ass in 2012, or the one who nearly fell asleep at the podium last month?

Even though the former vice president had a lackluster performance during the first Democratic debate in Miami, he still has a decent lead in all the polls taken since. When he cut himself off while responding to a contentious segment on race with the words "my time is up," many wondered whether he was talking about that segment or his time in the presidential race. (Supporters) expect Biden to walk a fine line of being aggressive enough to assuage worries that he's not up to the challenges of a campaign, but not too defiant to turn off some supporters. "I was probably overly polite" in the Miami debate, he said last week.

I can't wait to see if he can walk that line.

After several weeks of racist tweets from President Donald Trump regarding four Democratic members of Congress -- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Rashida Tlaib of Detroit and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota -- as well as tirades against U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the issue of race is sure to come up. And tonight's lineup includes three candidates of color: Harris, Booker, and Castro.

Biden's numerous gaffes about race over the years are bound to be referenced by one of his challengers.  But look for others besides those mentioned above to take a few swings at the hair-plugged pinata.

The fight will be on for the second- and third-tier candidates to break through and get some much-needed air time. Gillibrand, de Blasio, Gabbard and Inslee frequently tried to interrupt their way into the debate discussion in Miami, with varying degrees of success.


During the first debate, Castro landed some significant punches, especially on O'Rourke regarding immigration, and ended up getting a bump in the polls. But he appeared on the first of the two nights, when there weren't as many front-runners on stage. This time around, he'll probably have a larger audience and will be on the same stage with two of the leading candidates in the field.

It's make-or-break for Round 3 in H-Town after Labor Day, and more of these going tonight feel the stress of making that cut than yesterday's Mod Squad (thanks for that, Stace).

At stake is their future on the stage when it becomes harder for candidates to qualify. After the Detroit debate, candidates will have to rate above 2% in national polling and have contributions from at least 130,000 individual donors. Under that criteria, eight candidates -- Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Booker, Yang, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke -- have qualified for the next debate, Sept. 12-13 in Houston.

So pop your corn, get the pizza ordered early, settle in and watch the fireworks.


A handful of low-polling moderates hoped to break through in a crowded Democratic field during Tuesday's debate by confronting the top-tier candidates on stage, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Warren and Sanders withstood the attacks -- and counterpunched much harder.

The two most progressive candidates in the 2020 Democratic field struck inspirational tones, with Warren urging Democrats to be "the party of big, structural change." And they won over the crowd as they debated with moderate critics who tried to question their electability and the feasibility of their ideas, but failed to knock either candidate on their heels even once.

In the process, they could have eased primary voters' fears that their policy proposals would make ripe targets for President Donald Trump and the GOP in a general election.

You can read all the analysis and 'takeaways' you like.  Listen to the most ignorant talking heads (like Claire McCaskill, for one example) but none of it is going to be more accurate than this above.

I couldn't have scripted it any better myself.  And I'm certain that wasn't CNN's intention.  Ninety percent of the questions asked of every single candidate -- except one -- was some framing of "Do you agree with Senator Sanders' plan?"

Bernie: "You're wrong."  "I wrote the damn bill."  "(Healthcare) is not a business!"

Elizabeth: "I don't understand why anybody goes to the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can't do and shouldn't fight for."

Both: (Those are) "Republican talking points."

This was a TKO of Delaney, Ryan, Hickenlooper, and Bullock.  These losers should be considered surrogates for Biden, because the same beating is going to happen to him when he eventually winds up on a debate stage next to these two fighting progressives.

Beto and Klobuchar are barely being mentioned this morning, which tells you all you need to know about how their night went.  No breakthrough es no bueno.

That leaves Buttigieg and Marianne, who both had their moments of eloquence but are, in my humble O, equidistant in light years from the nomination.  Mayo Pete probably has a brighter political future as long as he can heal that racial divide that lives within him.

I expected the real fireworks to be tonight, as Castro, Booker, Harris, and maybe even Tulsi and Kristen could be counted on to treat Uncle Joe like a punching bag.  It's going to be a tall order to top last night for fun, but I think they can do it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Fighting for M4A and Climate Justice

The early skirmishing hopefully telegraphs tonight's feuds.  First, the preliminaries:

This week’s second Democratic presidential debate will be another two-night extravaganza like the first, on Tuesday and Wednesday in Detroit.

CNN’s coverage of the debate will begin at 8 pm Eastern on both nights, though it’s not entirely clear if the debate itself will begin exactly then, or a bit afterward. A live stream of the debate will air on

On Tuesday, the first night of the debate, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke will be the leading candidates participating.

Also onstage will be Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, author Marianne Williamson, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.

The pairing of Sanders and Warren will showcase the two major Democratic candidates who have eschewed big-dollar fundraising and who want to push the party much further to the left on economic issues -- though it is unclear whether they’ll focus on their areas of agreement or choose to spotlight their differences.

Of these ten, only the two progressives leading the field have advocated for Medicare for All.  As I have mentioned before, I expect Bernie and Elizabeth to be united in defending their plans, and their politics, against the onslaught of watered-down alternatives being offered by the others, onstage with them and also appearing on Wednesday.

All eight of these stragglers onstage tonight must score some debate points, so you should anticipate a bit of whining about 'soshulism', "we can't afford that", "running on tax increases will get Trump re-elected", and so on like that.

Sticking point.

If a robust defense of the death-for-profit health insurance companies and their multi-million dollar-compensated CEOs comes up, you might see a fissure break open between Sanders and the 'capitalist to her bones' Warren.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) pats Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on the back after Sanders spoke at a 
news conference on the Social Security system February 16, 2017, in Washington, DC. 
Win McNamee/Getty Images

For the first debate, by luck of the draw, Elizabeth Warren ended up on the first night with no other major candidates. This let her stand out as the preeminent candidate onstage, but it also prevented her from taking on any of her most important rivals face to face.

This time around, though, CNN’s random drawing resulted in Warren being paired with Sanders on the first night. The two agree on quite a lot -- they’ve condemned the influence of wealthy donors and the 1 percent, and generally want to push the Democratic Party further to the left on economic issues.

They also, however, have their differences. Sanders seems more focused on making Medicare for All a top priority and argues he can overcome entrenched interests by fomenting a people-powered “political revolution.” Warren is more inclined toward policy wonkery and an inside game of making change through the executive branch and regulatory policy.

Their campaigns have also had different trajectories up to this point, with Sanders’s support declining somewhat and Warren’s on the rise.

But while you might think that would spur Sanders to go on the attack and try to take Warren down a peg, CNN’s Gregory Krieg, MJ Lee, and Ryan Nobles report that the two candidates are expected to remain on friendly terms. When Sanders was asked what he’d expect from Warren on the debate stage last week, he answered: “intelligence.”

One potentially intriguing way this could play out is if Warren and Sanders unite to make a case that the Democratic Party needs to dramatically change its approach on economic issues -- and that the offstage Joe Biden wouldn’t bring such change.

Perhaps Bernie and Liz have been listening to Naomi Klein.  I and some number of Berners don't find ourselves in a place where we would be able to support Warren at this time, essentially due to her support of increasing Pentagon budgets and the genocide being practiced by Israel on the Palestinians.  But we may be just a noisy and inconsequential minority.  I suppose we'll see.

You can count on Boot Edge Edge -- one of the neoliberal whiners referenced above -- to parrot "Medicare for All who want it", and recent polling even seems to suggest his proposal is more popular than M4A.  But it is more accurate to say that the public is mostly confused and worried about change.  And the truth is that reforming healthcare is goddamned complicated, and that fact scares a lot of people.  (<<--Read every word here.)

As for climate change, climate chaos, and climate justice ...

Blighted home near the Marathon Refinery in Oakwood Heights, the southernmost neighborhood of Detroit, Michigan. (Photo credit: Julie Dermansky/Corbis via Getty Images)

Several 2020 presidential hopefuls are highlighting climate justice as a priority ahead of this week’s Democratic debates in Michigan, a state whose residents have faced persistent lead- and chemical-tainted water supplies along with dangerous air pollution and an impending, controversial pipeline project.

On Monday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the only candidate to build his campaign around climate change, released the final part of his five-prong climate policy proposal. Focused entirely on environmental justice, Inslee’s latest plan would direct $1 trillion over a decade toward a Community Climate Justice program to help low-income and minority communities deal with the impacts of local pollution and climate change.

Inslee would also shift the focus of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, renaming it the Council on Environmental Justice. The office, which oversees federal agency environmental reviews, would include representatives from pollution-impacted communities along with environmental organizations and business groups. An environmental justice office would also be opened at the Justice Department.

Also on Monday, The New York Times reported that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) will join Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to introduce the Climate Equity Act, which would require the federal government to evaluate environmental regulations and legislation for their impact on low-income communities. While Harris’ campaign has yet to release a dedicated climate proposal, the bill provides insight into her environmental priorities.

The bill would create an independent Office of Climate and Environmental Justice Accountability to represent vulnerable communities. A senior climate justice adviser also would be created at “all relevant agencies.”

The two proposals come after billionaire 2020 candidate Tom Steyer last week released his own “justice-centered” plan for addressing climate change. The wide-ranging plan includes a commitment to the Paris climate agreement -- from which President Donald Trump has pledged to withdraw -- a net-zero emissions goal of 2045, and a civilian climate jobs corps.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in April also unveiled a proposal he described as an environmental justice agenda, which includes working with impacted communities to strengthen environmental rules targeted for elimination or significantly weakened by the Trump administration.

According to the government’s own National Climate Assessment released last November, indigenous tribes, farm workers, and low-income communities of color are already bearing the brunt of climate change, and it’s set to get worse in places like Texas and Florida. Addressing this inequality is therefore critical to any climate action.

All those names in bold in this excerpt will be on Wednesday night's stage with the exception of Steyer, who's still left out altogether.  I'll preview more about them, and that, tomorrow after posting a recap of tonight's action tomorrow morning.

NPR suggests one other thing to watch for.

Though health care may be a prime issue, race has also dominated the run-up to the debates. The odd dynamic, by luck of the draw, is that all the candidates onstage on Night 1 are white. So how does race come up on an all-white stage?

It's certainly possible, as Buttigieg has been dealing with a controversy over race and police in his home town, where he's the mayor. And Warren has certainly put forward a comprehensive plan on racial equality and reducing racial differences in maternal mortality rates, for example.

Trump has made racial tension part of the 2020 GOP campaign platform.   If African Americans and Latinxs can't get motivated to vote after this ...

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance is busy popping corn for the debates this week.

Two North Texans took on new tasks this week.

A couple of legal matters were resolved last week: the Supreme Court ruled that Trump could defer funds earmarked for the Pentagon to build sections of his border wall.

The court’s five conservative justices gave the administration the green light on Friday to begin work on four contracts it has awarded using Defense Department money. Funding for the projects had been frozen by lower courts while a lawsuit over the money proceeded. The court’s four liberal justices (opposed). [...] The Supreme Court’s action reverses the decision of a trial court, which initially froze the funds in May, and an appeals court, which kept that freeze in place earlier this month. The freeze had prevented the government from tapping approximately $2.5 billion in Defense Department money to replace existing sections of barrier in Arizona, California and New Mexico with more robust fencing.

HPM brings news about the agreement between the parties in Harris County's bail lawsuit.

Harris County has reached a tentative settlement in its historic lawsuit over a bail system that put people in jail if they couldn’t afford to pay bail on misdemeanor offenses, like driving with a suspended license.

County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the agreement Friday, signaling that people arrested on misdemeanor charges would no longer automatically be held in jail if they can’t pay bail. Most people with misdemeanor charges — about 85 percent — would be released on personal recognizance bonds, meaning they wouldn’t have to pay a bail bond.

The controversial system that pitted poor people against the justice system has been subject to a lawsuit since 2016 and a federal judge ruled it “unconstitutional” in 2017.

Harris County Commissioners Court is scheduled to vote on the agreement at their meeting Tuesday.

But some law issues are still outstanding: with an assist from the Fifth Circuit and the Supremes, Attorney General Ken Paxton -- working on a change of venue for his own trial -- may very well succeed in killing Obamacare, but the rest of our leaders have no plan for what happens if he does.

It’s a strange thing: One branch of Texas state government is leading a crusade that, if successful, will cause another branch serious problems. (Not just about access to health care -- Pogue notes that the ACA provides $5 billion in subsidies to poor Texans to purchase insurance, money the state is unlikely to be able to pony up on its own.) That branch is watching events unfold without preparing for it.

Meanwhile, without any apparent basis in reality, everyone involved is telling the public: Everything is under control.

And as Democratic presidential candidates prepare to debate their healthcare proposals, a few other medical and health-related developments remain of concern to Texans.

In Great State climate reporting, SocraticGadfly invites you to be Simon and Garfunkel and picture the sounds of silence that a truly Green, Green New Deal on climate change would bring.

Houston Public Media, in a follow-up account to the ITC fire which burned for several days, also noted that the disaster created millions of gallons of waste water.

This March 18, 2019, photo shows firefighters battling the petrochemical fire at a facility owned by 
Intercontinental Terminals Company in Deer Park.

The cleanup of millions of gallons of waste and polluted water is far from over, four months after a large fire burned for days at a Houston-area petrochemical storage site.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC), the facility’s owner, must abide by a 31-page management plan that underscores how waste is sampled and identified, stored, and discarded.

The March 17 fire at the company’s Deer Park site ... triggered air quality warnings. More than 21 million gallons of potentially hazardous waste and contaminated water have since been collected from the tank farm and the Houston Ship Channel.

The Harris County district attorney’s office filed water pollution charges in April against ITC, alleging the fire caused chemicals to flow into a nearby waterway.

And in politics and elections ...

More from TXElects on Pete Olson's hitting the eject button, while John Coby waves goodbye to his Congressman.  Kuff did that thing he does with campaign finance reports from the Congress critters, and Stephen Young at the Dallas Observer noticed how one-note the Republican response to the Democratic Senate candidates is.

There is some confusion about Proposition Four, the state income tax prohibition constitutional amendment that will be on our November ballot.  Ballotpedia helps straighten it out, and Better Texas Blog explains why a 'no' vote is the right vote.

In the Metroplex, Glenn Hegar brags about the economy.

In El Paso, a group of ministers takes action on the humanitarian crisis.

Houston schools remain a topic of worry for educators, parents, and students alike.

Some new old bones were found in Big Bend.

Last: The Rag Blog's Jonah Raskin eulogizes Paul Krassner, and invites you to help celebrate Thorne Dreyer's 74th birthday this Thursday.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

Cillizza/Enten with their weekly top ten, which gets more wrong than right, so I'll cut to the nut.

Tuesday and Wednesday are going to be a very big deal for all 20 of the candidates on the stage. And with the Democratic National Committee raising the standards of qualification to make it into the third debates in September, this might be the last, best chance many of these candidates have to boost their support before it's curtains for their campaigns.

Some of the laggards have enough money to hang around without being debaters as long as they feel like spending it: Delaney, for example.  Yang, for another.  Some should have dropped out awhile back, as we know: Hickenlooper, Bennet, Ryan.  Some remain in the race -- and will long after next week -- for reasons still mostly unknown to anyone but them: Bullock, Williamson, and everybody who has yet to qualify for a debate.  I have some favorites among these, and I'm sure you do, too.  So we, and they, will soldier on into the fall and winter until, as Ann Landers used to write, they awaken to the aroma of strong coffee brewing.

That wasn't intended to be a lead-in to Howard Starbucks.  He's probably not running.

So with little to report other than the online quarreling pre-debate ...

-- One of the front-running five has been outspoken about the conclusions presented in the wake of the Mueller hearings.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Wednesday praised the NAACP for supporting the impeachment of President Donald Trump and took a jab at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) over her reluctance to do so.

The 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful addressed the annual NAACP convention in Detroit at the same time a House panel conducted a hearing with former special counsel Robert Mueller about his report on Russian influence in the 2016 election and whether Trump obstructed justice.

“I read the Mueller report the day it came out,” Warren told moderator April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks. “And when I got to the end, I did not stick my finger in the air and ask about the politics. I did not hesitate. I read it. I knew what it said and I concluded first that this is a man who has broken the law and he should be impeached.”

Warren in April became the first Democratic presidential candidate to call for Trump’s impeachment following the completion of Mueller’s lengthy report. Of the 235 Democrats in the House, at least 89 say they support opening an impeachment inquiry into the president.

Despite forceful impeachment calls from progressive Democratic lawmakers, Pelosi has so far shied away from moving forward with such an inquiry, stating it could serve to only further divide the country without enough bipartisan support.

But Warren on Wednesday urged Congress to take action now.

“We have to make clear: No one is above the law ― not even the president of the United States,” Warren said. “It is time to bring impeachment charges against him.”

Asked about Pelosi’s hesitation, Warren suggested the Democratic leader was playing politics by not moving forward with impeachment.

“l understand that there are people who for political reasons say it’s not where we want to be. But my view is some things are above politics,” she said, prompting applause from the audience. “And one of them is our constitutional responsibilities to do what is right.”

“My view is whether it would pass the Senate or not ... this is a moment in history and every single person in Congress should be called on to vote and then to live with that vote for the rest of their lives,” she added.

It really makes me wonder about establishmentarians such as Markos Moulitsas, who organized a fundraiser of hundreds of dozens of roses for Pelosi, and whose blog cultists are devoted to Warren's candidacy, as to whether this is creating any cognitive dissonance in their minds.

-- Uncle Joe is ready to start trading shots with his rivals.

Joe Biden is preparing for a confrontation with New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris.

Days from the second Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Biden has become more aggressive against his rivals on the campaign trail -- and a senior campaign official says Biden himself is the driver of his new approach.

Several advisers had encouraged Biden to be "more aggressive" earlier in the campaign, one adviser said. But after the debate -- which Biden rewatched afterward -- the former vice president told aides he felt he needed to fight back more.


At least some of the criticism awaiting Biden on the debate stage is already clear: In recent days, Booker has repeatedly attacked Biden over his role in the passage of the 1994 crime bill, while, in the first debate, Harris eviscerated Biden over his opposition to federally mandated busing to desegregate schools.

Biden will be sandwiched between the two on stage in Detroit on Wednesday night, the second night of the two-night debate hosted by CNN.

As Booker has ramped up his criticism, the Biden camp felt the New Jersey senator had presented "multiple mischaracterizations" of the former vice president, a Biden aide said.

That has fueled the Biden campaign's willingness to attack Booker. Beyond Biden's own words, his aides have increasingly taken aim at Booker on social media. On Thursday morning, Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield cited Booker's recent comments about the importance of engaging and exciting black voters, tweeting, "We couldn't agree more!" and highlighted a poll that shows Biden vastly outperforming Booker among black voters.

Biden has also notably sharpened his thinly veiled attacks on Harris on the issue of health care since the last debate. The official said Biden decided weeks ago that he wanted to "draw a line in the sand on health care and a defense" of the Affordable Care Act.

"He has drawn stark contrasts between himself and the other candidates specifically on this issue," the official said. "Sen. Harris just doesn't seem to know where she stands exactly when it comes to health care."

Drifty Joe still has lots of policy issues and gaffes to work through, but the polls are bouncing back for him, and as long as he's taking his Aricept, he ought to do okay next week.  If he has another debate performance like the last one, it's time to call A Place For Dad 

-- DeBlasio and Beto opened the week with their own dustup over Medicare for All.  Another fun Twitter exchange at this link (hey, I can't embed them all).

-- Kamala is also regressing to the polling mean, pre-first debate.  So she is going to need another moment or two next Wednesday evening to regain momentum.

-- As to fundraising: Biden, Harris, and Buttigieg cashed in big with Wall Street.

-- Bernie continues to be a hate magnet for the talking heads on corporate media.

It's been an ongoing issue with Sanders and MSNBC.

It's probably why you see polling numbers like this.

What becomes of this, I can't say.   Comedienne Kathy Griffin chose to pile on.

There's been pushback from the campaign and staff and supporters, but the toxicity of this venom being spit at a candidate with no basis -- a key difference in what the #StillWithering crowd claims in comparison to the 2016 effort against their Kween and these smears -- is going to be extremely difficult to overcome with low info, marginally interested kinda-sorta voters.

Which is why they are doing it.

-- There's going to be a climate town hall before the third debate.

CNN will host a Democratic presidential town hall in September focused on the climate crisis.
The event will take place on Wednesday, September 4, in New York City. CNN is inviting candidates who meet the Democratic National Committee's polling threshold for the September primary debate to participate, meaning they've reached at least 2% in four approved polls by August 28.
Eight candidates so far have met the polling threshold: former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Jay Inslee is unlikely to qualify for this debate, which is kinda bullshit in a way.  So is Kirsten Gillibrand, who released her plan -- 10 years, $10 trillion -- yesterday.

There is another scheduled after the third debate.

-- Tulsi Gabbard is suing Google for $50 million because it stopped her campaign’s advertising account for six hours after the first debate, on June 28.

-- And last, when Democrats arrive in Milwaukee this time next year for their national convention, they will have to endure some ' sewer socialism' taunts from the right.  Maybe they can start practicing their retorts for that now.

A very odd couple: Milwaukee's last socialist mayor Frank Zeidler (left),
 seen here with Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1948

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett announced March 11 that, for the first time in its history, the city will host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

In some ways, the choice was obvious. Wisconsin is a swing state whose demographics -- in terms of race, ethnicity, income, education and neighborhood composition -- closely reflect those of the United States as a whole. And the memory of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 snub is still fresh in the minds of many Midwesterners: During Clinton’s presidential campaign, her team (led by Robby Mook) decided that Wisconsin was such a safe Democratic stronghold, Clinton wouldn’t need to visit. She lost Wisconsin by around 23,000 votes.

The Democratic Party has clearly learned from this 2016 mistake as it considers strategies to turn battlegrounds like Wisconsin blue. But one can also make the case that, in choosing Milwaukee, the party is honoring the city’s unique political history. Milwaukee is the only major U.S. city to have elected three socialist mayors: Emil Seidel, Daniel Hoan and Frank Zeidler. They held office for a collective 38 years (between 1910 and 1960) and helped earn Milwaukee a reputation for being, as Time magazine reported in 1936, “perhaps the best governed city in the U.S.”

Mark Jefferson, executive director of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, seized upon this history as an opportunity to redbait: “No city in America has stronger ties to socialism,” he said in a statement about the 2020 Democratic convention. “And with the rise of Bernie Sanders and the embrace of socialism by its newest leaders, the American Left has come full circle. It’s only fitting the Democrats would come to Milwaukee.”

Jefferson was being snarky, but he’s arguably correct. Nearly all the Democratic presidential candidates have included policies in their campaign platforms that harken back to the city’s legacy of “sewer socialist” mayors (a phrase coined in 1932 that refers to the superlative public works projects created by Milwaukee socialists). Milwaukeeans didn’t seem particularly bothered by the term, though. “Yes, we wanted sewers in the workers’ houses,” Mayor Emil Seidel wrote in his 1944 memoirs, “but we wanted much, oh, so very much more than sewers. We wanted our workers to have pure air; we wanted them to have sunshine; we wanted planned homes; we wanted living wages; we wanted recreation for young and old; we wanted vocational education; we wanted a chance for every human being to be strong and live a life of happiness.”

Tom Perez, chair of the Democratic National Committee, seemed to suggest that Milwaukee’s progressive politicians embodied the party’s best impulses, stating at the March 11 press conference, “Where you hold a convention is a very strong statement of your values … of who we are as a party, and who and what we’re fighting for.”

Perez, whose wife grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs, is likely well aware of the city’s socialist history. His own politics around socialism are less clear: A well-respected labor secretary under President Barack Obama, Perez beat out the Left’s preferred candidate for DNC chair, Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison, who was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the Progressive Democrats of America, Friends of the Earth Action, Unite Here and many other progressive organizations.

The Milwaukee chapter of the DSA, for its part, intends to leverage the city’s history to elevate democratic socialists -- in particular, Bernie Sanders. They’re even thinking of leading a series of socialist history tours for politicians and delegates, with stops at local landmarks such as Turner Hall and the Riverwest Public House. In the meantime, residents continue to express interest in joining the chapter, which has seen its membership surge since the 2016 election.

As more and more Democratic voters, especially millennials, identify as democratic socialists, it feels momentous that Milwaukee, with its proud “sewer socialist” past, will be hosting the Democratic convention. Candidates vying for the nomination will have to ask themselves: Will they embrace socialism, or run from it?

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Weekly Wrangle

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

... in requesting membership in The Squad.

This is your expanded edition of the once-a-week roundup of the best of the left of, and about, our beloved Great State.  To the above, Bonddad gives a history lesson on how The Squad's members -- that's all of us, but especially the brave women pictured -- are direct ideological descendants of 1850s-era Congressional Republicans (if you saw the 2012 film Lincoln, which starred Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, then you have some additional insight here).

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

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

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

And former state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis declared her challenge to Republican Chip Roy for the right to represent the 21st Congressional District.

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

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

The biggest prize in next year's elections will go to the political party that controls the state's House of Representatives, writes Ross Ramsey at the TexTrib.

The idea animating many political candidates, consultants and donors in Texas in 2020 is one that’s way down the list of concerns for many Texas voters: redistricting.

The 150-member Texas House has 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, creating a GOP majority that could flip to Democrats if the minority party could wrest away nine spots.


The legislators elected in 2020 will draw the next set of political maps for the state’s congressional and legislative seats. Right now, Republicans hold the governor’s office and majorities in both the state House and Senate -- a trifecta that virtually ensures the resulting maps will favor their party.

Winning a Democratic majority in the Texas House would give Democrats some leverage over at least some of the maps the state will use for the next decade of elections. Specifically, it could break the GOP’s control over the congressional maps that will be drawn after the 2020 census. At the very least, it would allow the Democrats to prevent Republicans from drawing those maps -- and to throw the political cartography to federal judges instead of Texas politicians.

More from Michael Li of the Brennan Center:

“There are 17 seats that Republicans won in 2018 by 10 points or less,” said Michael Li, senior redistricting counsel at New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “And that seems to be a lot of opportunity for Democrats, because the investment that would be needed to flip those seats is relatively small compared to the prize of being able to have a role in help drawing 39 congressional districts.”

Kuff reads the Chronicle's article on the millenials running for Houston city council, then pulls out a spreadsheet that reveals the Bayou City municipal electorate "tends to be pretty old" in order to justify the premise that these aren't the candidates the voters are looking for.  (Or something.  Frankly it all smacks of ageism.)  For more enlightened reading, see David Collins, who has some very good questions for council candidates.

The state's largest county will have new voting machines, very likely with a paper trail ... but not until the May 2021 primary elections, according to HPM.

Harris County is set to replace its antiquated voting machines, which are based on 20-year-old technology. But the work won’t be done in time for the 2020 presidential election.

A prospective voter tries out an Election Systems & Software voting machine at the
International Association of Government Officials Conference Trade Show.

Photo by Andrew Schneider/Houston Public Media

The new voting infrastructure will cost $74 million, with the funding coming out of the 2020 budget. Speaking at a trade show on Tuesday, County Clerk Diane Trautman said it will take until March just to narrow down the selection of voting machines to the top two vendors. She expects to pick the supplier by July of next year.

“Actually just to make 5,000 machines will take months,” Trautman said. “So to get them back, put them in the field, teach the election workers and the voters how to use them ... our estimate is the May 2021 election before they can be used.”

(Recent reports indicate that machines like the one pictured above are still not safe from hackers, and the company that manufactures them has a record of questionable business practicesBrad Friedman, one of the nation's leading voices for paper ballots, would concur that the only safe ballot is one marked by hand and not by machine.  Clerk Trautman needs to be encouraged to carefully consider her purchase decision in this regard.)

And there remains some confusion about whether the state's hemp legalization law accidentally decriminalized marijuana.  Some county DAs are ending prosecution of petty weed crimes while others are not, and our tuff-on-crime governor weighs in on the question.

The University of Texas-El Paso followed the University of Texas-Austin in reducing the costs of tuition to zero for families of a certain income level.  This is probably a direct consequence of the debate among Democratic presidential candidates on this topic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Pages of Victory uses Tom Englehardt's voice as a stand-in for himself.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Weekly Twenty Twenty Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some light reading:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-- Marianne Williamson is right about our elections.

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

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