Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Last Call For Vote Like Your Country Depends On It, Con't

As I've said many times in this series, 2022 was a test run for massive voter nullification and disenfranchisement of tens of millions of voters in hundreds of races where Republicans control the levers of elections coming in 2024. In Texas, for example, Republicans like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are now calling for the entirety of Harris County and Houston to vote again, without any actual evidence of election fraud.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick this week joined other GOP state officials in calling for Harris County to redo its November 2022 election based on claims that voters were turned away due to alleged paper ballot shortages, though Patrick said he has no idea if any voters were actually disenfranchised.

Patrick's comments at a Magic Circle Republican Women's Club event on Monday were first reported by the Texas Tribune.

“How many people went to go vote that didn’t go back? We don’t know,” Patrick said at the event. “So we do need to have a new election.”

Now, let's dissect this.

According to Patrick, actual evidence of election malfeasance is not only non-existent, it's not even necessary for forcing Harris County and its 4.2 million residents to have an entirely new election because the theoretical hypothesis that someone in the county may have not gotten to vote is enough to nullify the entire actual, non-fraudulent vote that already took place.

This is like the Powerball or Mega Millions jackpot people saying "Well, your lottery ticket may be worth a billion dollars, but we're not going to pay out because someone out there may have been prevented from buying that winning lottery ticket with the same numbers and it's not fair to them. We have to have a new lottery drawing. Better luck next time!"

Keep in mind Harris County has 4.7 million people in it, roughly the same number of folks as the entire state of Kentucky. Imagine Kentucky saying "Well, we didn't like the way people voted, we have to hold new elections."

It would be absolute chaos. Which brings us to the next paragraph in the story as we resume.
A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office told the Texas Tribune only a court order could force a redo of an election.

Starting to dawn on you just how bad this is going to get, right? 

Asked how many voters Patrick believes were turned away and based on what evidence, Patrick's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Harris County Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis on Tuesday issued a response to Patrick's comments. "Election deniers will stop at nothing to stay in power, even if it costs us our democracy," he said. "The ongoing attacks on Harris County come from the same playbook that drove extremists to storm the Capitol."

Patrick's comments come a week after Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted a similar assertion. Abbott, without citing any evidence or estimate of disenfranchised voters, said a Harris County ballot paper shortage was "so big it may have altered the outcome of elections" and "may necessitate new elections."

In response to Abbott's claim, the Harris County elections office repeated the response it has offered since election night: that while some voting locations did run low on their initial allotment of ballot paper, "supplies of additional paper ballots were delivered to locations throughout Harris County on Election Day."

An election post-mortem report from Tatum's office found that 68 voting locations reported running out of paper, 61 of which received additional deliveries. At nearly one-third of the locations with reported shortages, election workers gave the county conflicting accounts with some saying they did not run out of paper.

According to the report, "many of them provided confusing answers and some declined to speak after reportedly being advised not to do so by the Harris County Republican Party."

Harris County Republican Party Chair Cindy Siegel denied that claim, saying the party told its election workers: "If they call you, our advice is to talk to them. There's no reason not to."

Siegel added Republican precinct chairs may have discouraged election judges from talking to the county, but the party did not.

Harris County has had a countywide voting system in place since 2019. In the November election, residents were able to vote at any of the county's 782 voting locations on Election Day.
Like I said, a test run for stealing 2024.  These assholes are normalizing the notion that the only possible "fair and just remedy" is making millions of Texans vote again because elections where Democrats actually win have to be fraudulent.

Twenty-two Republican candidates who lost their races have filed election contest lawsuits seeking new elections, including County Judge Lina Hidalgo's Republican challenger, Alexandra del Moral Mealer, who lost her race by 18,183 votes.

In November, Mealer quickly accepted the loss, tweeting a concession statement the morning after Election Day.

Mealer then reversed her position, filing an election contest petition on Jan. 6 that included no evidence or estimate of voters she said were disenfranchised. She went on to claim Harris County Elections Administrator Cliff Tatum "suppressed the voting rights of a not statistically insignificant number of Harris County residents residing or voting in high Republican turn-out locations" and "prevented eligible voters from voting.

What these assholes want is a roadmap to getting that court order in 2024 to redo elections in the most populous county in red state America, just ahead in population of Maricopa County in Arizona, and to provide that roadmap to other red states with large blue urban counties.

They're setting the table for massive vote nullification in 2024. Even if the corrupt Roberts Court somehow doesn't buy the legal theory that state legislatures, not voters, should determine presidential electors and elections, GOP-controlled states are going to do whatever it takes to disenfranchise their largest urban counties and cities in order to control local and state races too.

Oh, and the 2024 presidential race too.

To recap, the GOP Governor and Lt. Governor of Texas are calling for new elections in Harris County in order to normalize having the courts step in and nullify the 2024 elections in order to "redo" Democratic candidate wins, and to normalize the idea that "election fraud" doesn't need any actual evidence of fraud.

Imagine a twisted mirror of the Voting Rights Act, where a state like Texas decides that Harris County's election results (and Dallas County, and Bexar County, and...) are considered fraudulent until audited and "cleared" by the state, and that statewide elections (and local County elections) would not be determined until months after the actual election.

Imagine the impact that would have on turnout in those counties.

Again, are you starting to see where all this is headed in 2024 and beyond?

I hope you do. I really do.

Ridin' With Biden, Con't

When Democratic President Bill Clinton delivered his 1995 State of the Union address at the beginning of his third year in office, right after Republicans took control of Congress and his approval rating was languishing in the 40s, he pledged to cut spending: “We propose to cut $130 billion in spending by shrinking departments, extending our freeze on domestic spending, cutting 60 public housing programs down to three, getting rid of over 100 programs we do not need.”

When Democratic President Barack Obama delivered his 2011 State of the Union address at the beginning of his third year in office, right after Republicans took control of the House and his approval rating was languishing in the 40s, he pledged to cut spending: “I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.”

When Democratic President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union address at the beginning of his third year in office, right after Republicans took control of the House and his approval rating was languishing in the 40s, he did not pledge to cut spending.

Sure, Biden nodded toward the center—praising bipartisanship, offering more border security, delivering an ode to former President George W. Bush for his work to combat HIV/AIDS. But the president did not act like a worried politician looking to make an ideological pivot. A quintessentially confident Biden delivered this address, proudly defending his record and conceding nothing. He even managed to lock in a key concession from Republicans.

After Biden pointed to unnamed Republicans who “want Medicare and Social Security to sunset” (a reference to Senator Rick Scott’s plan to sunset every federal law and program every five years), Republicans interrupted with howls. Unrattled, Biden seized the opportunity. “As we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched.” Republicans applauded, including Speaker Kevin McCarthy from behind the podium. Surely Biden was aware that McCarthy had already said he would leave Social Security and Medicare out of budget negotiations, but his deft ad-lib made it look like he extracted the concession from the entire GOP conference.

We can’t definitively say whether Biden’s defiance is politically wise until the 2024 election. Say what you will about the strategic retreats on spending offered by Clinton and Obama, but they got themselves handily re-elected. And despite his unwillingness to offer concessions before negotiations, Biden may end up walking a path similar to his Democratic predecessors. It’s extremely hard to envision a budget agreement with the Republican-controlled House that doesn’t trim spending.

But in the short run, Biden’s easygoing confidence is precisely what he needs to keep the naysayers at bay. Thanks to a better-than-expected midterm performance, Biden avoided drawing an early primary challenge. However, murmurs of concern about his advanced age among Democrats are everywhere. You can feel the Democratic panic every time a poll crops up with Biden trailing Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis. Following this month’s ABC/Washington Post poll showing Donald Trump beating Biden by three points, Juli├ín Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who ran against Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2020, posted on Twitter, “this poll undermines Biden’s central argument for re-nomination.” A desperate and disjointed State of the Union address could have shaken the Democratic base and ignited a wave of ageist calls for a new nominee.

That’s not what happened. Biden didn’t just give a solid speech. He demonstrated agility, went off script, and ran circles around his hecklers. It echoed Ronald Reagan’s masterful moment during the second 1984 general election presidential debate when the 73-year-old president was questioned about his stamina. The Gipper cheekily responded, “I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”
As any dynasty-spanning coach will tell you after a championship win, "We played the game that we needed to play." President Biden gave the speech that he needed to give last night, and it was one for the history books. 

He put one over on the GOP on live TV, hit all the points he needed to, and then he stuck around congratulating his Democratic colleagues by name for more than an hour. In the end, Joe Biden really is the kind of gifted politician that gets things done. He doesn't have the raw charisma of Bill Clinton, nor the shining presence of Barack Obama (especially when he's in Preacher Mode™), but he does have the likeability of Joey from Scranton, and people respond to it.

He's also put in the work for the last four decades. He's earned it, and he's put things on the board that neither Clinton nor Obama could do on climate change, infrastructure, and jobs.

Having said that, it's ridiculous to not believe Americans when we say we can do better, and that GOP blocking everything they can doesn't have real world consequences.

Reflecting on their personal financial situations, 35% of Americans say they are better off now than they were a year ago, while 50% are worse off. Since Gallup first asked this question in 1976, it has been rare for half or more of Americans to say they are worse off. The only other times this occurred was during the Great Recession era in 2008 and 2009.

On the other hand, today’s “better off” percentage is not unusually low, having descended to 35% or lower during other challenging economic times. This includes the late 1970s and early 1980s, the early 1990s, and from 2008 through 2012. In those periods, a higher percentage than today’s 14% volunteered that their finances were “the same” as last year.

I'm better off than I was a year ago, but times are still tough. Luckily, Biden gets that.

The last guy certainly didn't.

Might want to keep that in mind.

The Circus Of The Damned, Con't

WaPo's Greg Sargent convincingly argues that the Democrats have to go on the offensive against House Republicans led by Kevin McCarthy and his Circus of the Damned, with Rep. Jim Jordan's "hearings" getting underway starting this week.

House Republicans are planning a long-running extravaganza of hearings designed to dramatize the notion that the “deep state” is persecuting conservatives. In one sense, this will find a receptive audience: A new Post-ABC News poll finds that 55 percent of conservative respondents believe federal agencies are “biased against conservatives.”

But among all American adults, only a measly 28 percent believe this, and solid majorities of independents and moderates do not. Therein lies a trap that could prove dangerous for Republicans — if Democrats properly exploit it.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has subpoenaed top Justice Department officials, supposedly to investigate the department’s suppression of information about the persecution of conservative parents. Republicans have long alleged that federal jackboots have terrorized parents for protesting at school board meetings about covid-19 restrictions and teachings about race and sex.

Democrats will no doubt respond by noting that this claim has been decisively debunked. But Democrats should use these hearings not just defensively but also affirmatively: to show that GOP rhetoric, much of it degenerate nonsense, has helped fuel a toxic atmosphere of threats and violence toward educators that has no business anywhere near your child’s school.

I asked Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the Judiciary Committee, how far Democrats might go in this regard. Swalwell suggested they would treat such GOP oversight as a “committee to obstruct justice,” in that it seems designed to chill law enforcement efforts to deal with actual threats made against educators.

“They don’t want the FBI to investigate people on their side who they’ve spun up over frankly bulls--- claims,” Swalwell told me of Republicans. “You have a right to say just about anything you want, but you don’t have a right to threaten violence.” Swalwell added that under the circumstances it was reasonable to want the FBI or local police to investigate genuine threats.

Republicans appear determined to bury this aspect of the story. Their subpoenas seek documents related to “alleged threats posed by concerned parents at school board meetings.” Note the word “alleged,” as if threats didn’t actually happen.

Republicans also want documents relating to a 2021 letter by the National School Boards Association to President Biden, which detailed numerous specific threats against school officials and referred to them as “equivalent to a form of domestic terrorism.” This led Attorney General Merrick Garland to direct the FBI to work with those officials on strategies to address threats, which Republicans magically transformed into proof of FBI persecution of parents.

The Post fact-checking team has exhaustively demonstrated that this reading is nonsense. While the school boards association did use language that would be indefensible if applied to parents, many threats actually did happen, and lurid claims about FBI overreach haven’t been borne out: The FBI focused on those threats, not on conservative speech.

Regardless, if Republicans think they can prove FBI harassment of conservatives, let’s air this out. But Democrats can’t function just as fact-checkers, accusing Republicans of “conspiracy theories” and complaining they are “stoking the culture wars.” That could make Democrats seem defensive and responsive, which isn’t sufficient in an environment that’s increasingly shaped by full-blown information warfare.
Democrats will get the opportunity to fight back, and fight back they should, using every minute that they get to go after Republicans here. Making it clear that Democrats stand for something is just as important as what the GOP is against.
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