While it's only 2021, a major question facing Democrats this year and next will be what to do about the presidential nominating calendar and whether Iowa, in particular, should retain its prized place at the front of the calendar in 2024.
Iowa's decades-long lock on the nominating process has been under threat since last year's disastrous caucus, when results were delayed for days due in part to a faulty smartphone app that was supposed to make things easier for precinct captains when they reported results. Ultimately, the Associated Press never declared a winner in the contest due to problems with the vote count, which was administered by the Iowa Democratic Party.
Iowa's voters are also older, more rural and more white than many other states and it's seen as increasingly out of step with the Democratic mainstream, which increasingly relies on voters of color and young people for its support.
President Biden's newly-installed pick to lead the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison of South Carolina, will get a chance to shake up the calendar by appointing members to the party's rules and bylaws committee. Unlike past presidents, Biden didn't win in Iowa (he came in fourth, after former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) and owes no political debt to the complex caucus process.
"I think on its merits that the Iowa caucus falls short of the values that we espouse as Democrats," Julian Castro said. Castro served as Housing and Urban Development Secretary for former President Barack Obama and ran for president himself in 2020.
Castro, who dropped out of the race before the Iowa caucuses, made the argument during the campaign that 2020 should be the last year Iowa goes first and that a primary election run by the state makes much more sense than a caucus run by the party.
"You have one person, one vote instead of an archaic formula to figure out who wins the whole thing," Castro said.
While Castro says that former President Obama's 2008 win in Iowa that helped propel him to the White House was wonderful, it was an exception when it comes to promoting the candidacies of diverse candidates.
"The diversity of Iowa and New Hampshire simply don't reflect the diversity of either our country or the Democratic Party," said Castro.
Expect a lengthy debate about the nominating calendar, says DNC member Clay Middleton from South Carolina.
"President Biden is going to have a say in this too" Middleton, who is close friends with Harrison. "Who better than Joe Biden to provide his assessment having run for president a few times and not winning Iowa?"
Harrison, who unsuccessfully ran for Senate last year, comes from another one of the early states - and the one that provided the crucial victory that kept Biden's candidacy alive. Many South Carolina Democrats are also Black, as is Harrison, a vital constituency inside the party.
One idea would be to have all the early states go closer together, says Wendy Davis, a DNC member from Georgia.
"If you look at those the first four states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada," said Davis. "Put together they actually are a good picture of America, right? And the diversity that is in America."
Saturday, January 23, 2021
The dog had a lot of work to do.
He was co-starring in a political ad that had to showcase the candidate’s good-natured warmth. But the ad also needed to deflect an onslaught of racialized attacks without engaging them directly, and to convey to white voters in Georgia that the Black pastor who led Ebenezer Baptist Church could represent them, too.
Of course, Alvin the beagle couldn’t have known any of that when he went for a walk with the Rev. Raphael Warnock last fall as a film crew captured their time together in a neighborhood outside Atlanta.
Tugging a puffer-vest-clad Mr. Warnock for an idealized suburban stroll — bright sunshine, picket fencing, an American flag — Alvin would appear in several of Mr. Warnock’s commercials pushing back against his Republican opponent in the recent Georgia Senate runoffs.
In perhaps the best known spot, Mr. Warnock, a Democrat, deposits a plastic baggie of Alvin’s droppings in the trash, likening it to his rival’s increasingly caustic ads. The beagle barks in agreement, and as Mr. Warnock declares that “we” — he and Alvin — approve of the message, the dog takes a healthy lick of his goatee.
“The entire ad screams that I am a Black candidate whom white people ought not be afraid of,” said Hakeem Jefferson, a professor of political science at Stanford, who studies race, stigma and politics in America.
On Wednesday Mr. Warnock became the first Black senator ever from Georgia, after Democrats swept both the state’s Senate seats in the runoffs. The twin victories delivered Democratic control of the chamber and an enormous boost to President Biden and his chances to enact his agenda.
While there is no singular factor responsible for victories this narrow — Mr. Warnock won by less than 100,000 votes out of roughly 4.5 million and the other new Democratic senator, Jon Ossoff, won by even less — there is bipartisan agreement that the beagle played an outsized role in cutting through the clutter in two contests that broke every Senate spending record.
“The puppy ad got people talking,” said Brian C. Robinson, a Georgia-based Republican strategist. “It made it harder to caricature him because they humanized him.”
By the end of the campaign, Warnock aides saw dog references popping up in their internal polling, supporters hoisting up their own puppies at campaign rallies in solidarity and beagle-themed homemade signs staked into front yards. They even started selling “Puppies 4 Warnock” merchandise.
All of which would probably come as a surprise to Alvin. After all, he wasn’t even Mr. Warnock’s dog.
Yes, Donald Trump tried to oust Acting AG Jeffrey Rosen in early January and install a loyalist who would hand him the Georgia election as part of his planned coup in the first week of January.
The Justice Department’s top leaders listened in stunned silence this month: One of their peers, they were told, had devised a plan with President Donald J. Trump to oust Jeffrey A. Rosen as acting attorney general and wield the department’s power to force Georgia state lawmakers to overturn its presidential election results.The previously unknown chapter was the culmination of the president’s long-running effort to batter the Justice Department into advancing his personal agenda. He also pressed Mr. Rosen to appoint special counsels, including one who would look into Dominion Voting Systems, a maker of election equipment that Mr. Trump’s allies had falsely said was working with Venezuela to flip votes from Mr. Trump to Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The unassuming lawyer who worked on the plan, Jeffrey Clark, had been devising ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark.
The department officials, convened on a conference call, then asked each other: What will you do if Mr. Rosen is dismissed?
The answer was unanimous. They would resign.
Their informal pact ultimately helped persuade Mr. Trump to keep Mr. Rosen in place, calculating that a furor over mass resignations at the top of the Justice Department would eclipse any attention on his baseless accusations of voter fraud. Mr. Trump’s decision came only after Mr. Rosen and Mr. Clark made their competing cases to him in a bizarre White House meeting that two officials compared with an episode of Mr. Trump’s reality show “The Apprentice,” albeit one that could prompt a constitutional crisis.
This account of the department’s final days under Mr. Trump’s leadership is based on interviews with four former Trump administration officials who asked not to be named because of fear of retaliation.
Mr. Clark said that this account contained inaccuracies but did not specify, adding that he could not discuss any conversations with Mr. Trump or Justice Department lawyers. “Senior Justice Department lawyers, not uncommonly, provide legal advice to the White House as part of our duties,” he said. “All my official communications were consistent with law.”
Mr. Clark also noted that he was the lead signatory on a Justice Department request last month asking a federal judge to reject a lawsuit that sought to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the election.
Mr. Trump declined to comment. An adviser said that Mr. Trump has consistently argued that the justice system should investigate “rampant election fraud that has plagued our system for years.”
Self-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday.
While authorities have charged more than 100 individuals in the riot, details in the new allegations against three U.S. military veterans offer a disturbing look at what they allegedly said to one another before, during and after the attack — statements that indicate a degree of preparation and determination to rush deep into the halls and tunnels of Congress to make “citizens’ arrests” of elected officials.
U.S. authorities charged an apparent leader of the Oath Keepers extremist group, Thomas Edward Caldwell, 66, of Berryville, Va., in the attack, alleging that the Navy veteran helped organize a ring of dozens who coordinated their movements as they “stormed the castle” to disrupt the confirmation of President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral college victory.
“We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan,” co-defendant Jessica Watkins, 38, an Army veteran, said while the breach was underway, according to court documents.
“You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud,” a man replied, according to audio recordings of communications between Watkins and others during the incursion.
“We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paint balls. But we are in here,” a woman believed to be Watkins said, according to court documents.
A man then responds, “Get it, Jess,” adding, “This is . . . everything we f---ing trained for!”
The FBI said it recovered the exchange from Zello, a push-to-talk, two-way radio phone app.
FBI charging papers against Caldwell, Watkins and a third person, former U.S. Marine Donovan Crowl, 50, allege that Caldwell and others coordinated in advance to disrupt Congress, scouted for lodging and recruited Oath Keepers members from North Carolina and like-minded groups from the Shenandoah Valley. The group claims thousands of members who assert the right to defy government orders they deem improper. The plotters both anticipated violence and continued to act in concert after the break-in, investigators alleged in court documents. FBI papers also say that Caldwell suggested a similar event at the local level after the attack, saying in a message: “Lets storm the capitol in Ohio. Tell me when!”