Monday, June 7, 2021

Last Call For (Un)Vaccination Nation, Con't

Texas naturally joins Florida by banning businesses requiring employees to have or even to ask about COVID vaccination status, making it a criminal act punishable by huge fines.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas is now open 100% — without any restrictions or limitations or requirements on businesses.

In a Monday tweet, Abbott — who has fiercely pushed for opening businesses during the pandemic — said he would sign legislation prohibiting businesses in the state from requiring COVID-19 vaccine “passports” or any other information.

Abbott said back in April that he wouldn’t allow government-mandated proof of vaccination cards in order to travel.

“Government should not require any Texan to show proof of vaccination and reveal private health information just to go about their daily lives,” he said in a video posted online. “We will continue to vaccinate more Texans and protect public health and we will do so without treading on Texans’ personal freedoms.” 
Expect more red states to make this happen. The question is how businesses respond to this, and the bigger question is how the courts respond.


The Manchin On The Hill, Con't

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent argues that Sen. Joe Manchin's position on Republican intractability on legislation is politically, morally, and logically untenable.
By now you’ve heard that Sen. Joe Manchin III has essentially declared he has consigned us to a future of minority rule. In a new piece, the West Virginia Democrat says he’ll vote against his party’s voting rights legislation and will never, ever vote to “weaken” the filibuster.

This appears to lock Manchin into a position that guarantees efforts to protect democracy will fail. But it also locks Manchin into a position that will soon grow untenable for him, at least if his own words have any meaning.

That’s because at the heart of Manchin’s stance is a question he cannot answer: What happens when Republicans fail to support any voting rights legislation, including legislation Manchin himself wants?

In his piece for the Charleston Gazette-Mail and on the Sunday shows, Manchin stated three essential propositions:

  • Acting in defense of voting rights is urgently necessary to defend our freedom
  • Yet protecting voting rights must only be done on a bipartisan basis, or it cannot happen at all
  • Therefore, Democrats must continue seeking Republican support, which will ultimately materialize, precisely because the urgency of acting is so great

If all those are true, what happens when that Republican support does not materialize? Should Democrats not act alone at that point? If so, by Manchin’s own lights, our freedom will be in jeopardy, yet they must continue constraining themselves from acting to defend it.

Manchin says in his piece that he supports the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore federal preclearance requirements for changes in voting rules gutted by the Supreme Court.

Manchin declares this acceptable, because it has “bipartisan support,” as it’s backed by one Republican senator, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. But he will vote against the sweeping voting rights protections that passed the House, because no Republicans support it:

I believe that partisan voting legislation will destroy the already weakening binds of our democracy, and for that reason, I will vote against the For the People Act.

If rewriting voting rules on a “partisan” basis will destroy our democratic bonds, we already live in that world. GOP state legislatures are passing such changes largely on party lines across the country, including voter suppression, efforts to take control of election machinery to potentially overturn outcomes, and preparations for extreme gerrymanders.

Manchin does not explain why Democrats acting on partisan lines to blunt those changes — as the For the People Act would — will destroy our democracy in a way that allowing those Republican changes to proceed on similarly partisan lines would not.

What’s remarkable, however, is that Manchin holds this position even as he agrees those GOP changes threaten our freedom. Asked by CBS’s John Dickerson why GOP senators would support even the John Lewis measure, given that it would make it harder for GOP legislatures to pass those measures, Manchin said:

The fundamental purpose of our democracy is the freedom of our elections. If we can’t come to an agreement on that, God help us.

Because of what’s at stake, he added, Republicans will “understand we must come together on a voting rights bill in a bipartisan way.”

And when 10 Republicans don’t do this? By Manchin’s own declaration, the “freedom of our elections” is on the line, and failing to defend them — God help us — will be a calamity.

At that point, how does Manchin continue arguing that Democrats must do nothing, on the grounds that voting rules changes cannot be partisan, when this will allow partisan Republican rules changes to proceed undisturbed in a way that Manchin himself declares a threat to freedom
Well, at that point Manchin is either revealed as a fraud or villain. The thing is Manchin has made multiple previous statements on bipartisanship, and every time he revises the bar for what qualifies downward towards to Republican side.

Logically and morally it's already untenable, but it remains politically feasible because of all the power Manchin has leveraged being the 50th Dem senator. He plays this game as well as Susan Collins has on the GOP side. Kyrsten Sinema tries, but she's inexperienced at it. Manchin though is a master of maverick kabuki theater.

As long as it remains politically tenable for him, nothing changes. That's the key. What will make it so? I'm not sure. Short of throwing Manchin out of the party or forcing his retirement, which would immediately allow GOP Gov. Jim Justice to appoint a Republican and either way give the Senate back to Mitch McConnell, nobody on the Dem side can really call his bluff.

Dems need another senator or two. Unfortunately, unless Manchin changes his mind now, that will be far too late.

Election Projection, Con't

CNN's Harry Enten posits that if Joe Biden can remain broadly popular like he is now, that the Democrats have a decent shot at keeping both the House and Senate in the 2022 midterms.

Democrats have to defy history to hold onto the House in the 2022 midterms. As I've noted before, the president's party almost always loses House seats in the midterms. History, though, is a guide, not a fortune teller. 
This week's special election in New Mexico's 1st congressional district is part of a larger trend that shows us that if President Joe Biden remains as popular as he is now, Democrats have a fighting chance to maintain House control. 
Democrat Melanie Stansbury beat Republican Mark Moores by 26 points in the special election to replace Deb Haaland, who represented the district until she joined the Biden administration as interior secretary earlier this year. She did so in a district that Biden won by 23 points in 2020, Haaland took it by 16 points that same year and Hillary Clinton won by 17 points in 2016. In other words, Stansbury didn't just match but slightly exceeded the baseline Democratic performance in the district. 
Of course, this was just one special election. But there have been a slew of special elections, mostly on the state legislative level since Biden became president, that seem to indicate something similar. Look at these specials using the past two presidential elections (giving more weight to 2020) as a baseline. 
Democrats seem to be doing 2 points to 5 points better than you'd expect in a neutral political environment, depending on whether you look at all special elections involving at least one Democrat and Republican or those taking place with only one Democrat and one Republican. 
This 2 to 5 point Democratic advantage matches pretty much what we saw in the national congressional generic ballot. It is also pretty much identical to the results we witnessed in last year's election. Biden won by 4.5 points nationally, and Democrats were victorious in the national House vote by about 3 points. 
The common thread through these special elections is that Biden is popular. His approval rating has been north of 50% throughout his entire presidency. When we limit ourselves to only polling that asked voters (i.e. not all adults), Biden's approval rating is still above 50%. 
Presidential approval ratings aren't all that matter during midterm elections -- but they do matter. There have been six presidents who have lost House majorities during a midterm in the polling era. All but Dwight Eisenhower (a war hero who always seemed to do worse politically than his approval rating indicated) had an approval rating below 50%.
In other words,  Biden being Teflon is what the Dems need in this polarized era. Worked for Reagan after all.
I think the Dems can pull it off, but either way, it's going to be generally as close a margin in the House as it is now. Where the Dems might actually pick up seats is in the Senate.  We'll see.


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