Saturday, April 8, 2023

Last Call For Bringing Down Boebert

After barely missing beating GOP Rep. Lauren Boebert last November, she's at the top of the list of flippable seats for Dems going into 2024 House races.

Democrats are gearing up to challenge Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) again after nearly unseating her in one of the biggest surprises of last year’s midterms.

In a sign of her perceived vulnerability, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) this week highlighted Boebert’s district as one of 31 targets next year, even after former President Trump handily won it in the past two presidential elections.

For Democrats, Boebert’s high-profile media antics and close ties to Trump’s MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement make her a prime foil.

“One of our most effective comments that we talked about in the district was she’s not focused on the job, she’s focused on herself,” said Adam Frisch, the Democrat who nearly defeated Boebert last year and who is running again to unseat her in 2024. “I can’t believe she had almost the most embarrassing loss in 20 years and she hasn’t changed one iota. She’s actually doubled down on crazy.”

That sentiment is one that Frisch, a businessman and former city council member in Pitkin County, will continue to hammer home in the run-up to the general election next year.

Boebert’s firebrand style has resulted in a long list of controversies in her short congressional career, including a Democratic push to have her removed from House committees after her Islamophobic attacks on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her staunch support of Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

She emerged from her first election victory, defeating 10-year Republican incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton in the primary, as a star of the right wing of the GOP, tying herself closely to then-President Trump. Former Chair of the Colorado Republican Party Dick Wadhams remembered Boebert’s rabble-rousing speaking appearances ahead of the election, focusing on issues like gun rights and cultural issues.

“She took that very combative style to her everyday work in the U.S. House of Representatives,” Wadhams said. “I think it started the people in the third congressional district thinking that she wasn’t paying enough attention to the district as she was paying more attention to national politics.”

But the behaviors that Wadhams said may have pushed away some voters in the district also made her a national conservative media star and turned her into one of the GOP’s powerhouse fundraisers in Congress. She raked in nearly $8 million for the 2022 cycle.

“She’s always been a fundraising machine so she’s certainly going to have enough money,” Wadhams said.

But with national Democrats identifying the race as one of their priorities in 2024, Frisch, who in part self-financed his campaign with more than $2.2 million in loans in 2022, might be able to stock a campaign chest comparable with Boebert’s. Through the first quarter of 2023, Frisch raised more than $1.7 million in just over a month after announcing his campaign. Boebert has yet to release her fundraising numbers for the first quarter.

Frisch has pitched himself as an unabashedly moderate Democrat, focusing on agricultural and energy production issues. As the debate over an approaching debt ceiling rages in Washington, many Democrats have taken the stance that cuts to entitlement programs — like Social Security and Medicare — should be off the table as Republicans angle for spending slashes. Frisch ventured into territory that only a select number of Democrats have, arguing that while Congress should raise the debt ceiling, it does need to take a look at the long-term viability of entitlement programs.

“There are three or four big programs that control the vast majority of the budget, and then there’s everything else,” Frisch said. “So I think it’s hard to say we’re going to keep 85 percent of the budget off the table … even if you get rid of 600 percent of the 15 percent that’s left over, you might have a math problem.”

But Frisch will have to walk a tightrope in the run-up to 2024 in a district that Trump won by 12 points in 2016 and 6 points in 2020. Republicans have already tried to tie Frisch to what they say are the reckless crime policies of the Democratic Party.

“Extreme House Democrats lost the majority because they hammered families with crime, chaos and skyrocketing costs,” said Jack Pandol, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Why would voters change their minds after Democrats spent their time in the minority coddling violent criminals and opposing relief?”
"Extreme Democrats" almost kept the majority. With Trump on the ballot in 2024, Republicans are in dire trouble, and they know it. Trying to convince voters that Republicans are somehow the sane ones after the events of the last seven days, well, good luck with that.
Don't get me wrong, tens of millions of Americans will still vote for Republicans nationwide, and of course for Trump.
But they'll be outnumbered.

Florida Goes Viral, Con't

When Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced late last year that the state was officially recommending men under 40 to not get the COVID-19 vaccine because of a higher risk of heart problems than lives saved, Republicans went into a national crusade to outlaw the vaccine period.

Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo announced in October that young men should not get the COVID-19 vaccine, guidance that runs counter to medical advice issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

His recommendation was based on a state analysis that showed the risk of cardiac-related deaths increased significantly for some age groups after receiving a vaccine. It has been criticized by experts, including professors and epidemiologists at the University of Florida, where Ladapo is employed as a professor.

Now, draft versions of the analysis obtained by the Tampa Bay Times show that this recommendation was made despite the state having contradictory data. It showed that catching COVID-19 could increase the chances of a cardiac-related death much more than getting the vaccine.

That data was included in an earlier version of the state’s analysis but was missing from the final version compiled and posted online by the Florida Department of Health. Ladapo did not reference the contradictory data in a release posted by the state.

The Times’ records request asked for all previous versions of the state analysis made public on Oct. 7. The documents show that, before the final version was released, at least five drafts had been produced. One version included a data table showing the number of cardiac-related deaths from infection. The conclusion in four of the drafts provided a counterpoint to Ladapo’s assertion about the vaccine.

Four epidemiologists who reviewed the drafts said the omission is inexplicable and flawed from a scientific standpoint. They said that, based on the missing data, Ladapo’s recommendation should be rescinded.

Matt Hitchings, an infectious disease epidemiologist and professor of biostatistics at the University of Florida, said it seems that sections of the analysis were omitted because they did not fit the narrative the surgeon general wanted to push.

“This is a grave violation of research integrity,” Hitchings said. “(The vaccine) has done a lot to advance the health of people of Florida and he’s encouraging people to mistrust it.”

The surgeon general and the state’s health department have frequently questioned the safety of messenger ribonucleic acid or mRNA vaccines developed to counter COVID-19. Last year, Florida became the first state to recommend against vaccines for healthy children and it was the only state to not preorder coronavirus vaccines for children under 5.

Ladapo declined to answer specific questions about why the data showing the higher risk to Floridians from infection was removed. In an emailed statement, he said that he stands by his guidance and that this is not the first time he has faced criticism for his approach to COVID-19.

“As surgeon general, my decisions continue to be led by the raw science — not fear,” he said. “Far less attention has been paid to safety of the COVID-19 vaccines and many concerns have been dismissed — these are important findings that should be communicated to Floridians
Ladapo of course was appointed by GOP Gov. RonDesantis and rubber-stamped by the GOP legislature, despite the fact that he was essentially hired to create a misleading study just like he did.

Republicans don't want you trusting anyone or anything but what they tell you.

Racist Top Tennessee, Con't

The state party knows that it’s drifting. Some openly and proudly admit it. It’s also evidenced by Sen. Bob Corker’s decision not to seek reelection in 2018, and Gov. Bill Haslam’s opting out of running for Alexander’s open seat in 2020. Both Corker and Haslam know they were unlikely to have survived a primary in the state, had they stayed true to their own brands of more moderate conservatism. Corker’s Senate seat ended up going to Marsha Blackburn, a Trump loyalist, and Bill Hagerty, now in Alexander’s seat, handily won the GOP primary after securing his own endorsement from Trump.

The same dynamic is on display at the state Capitol, where former Rep. Eddie Mannis — a John Kasich-Gary Johnson voter in 2016 and a gay Republican — entered the legislature in 2021 with plans of voting like a moderate, in line with his Knoxville district. Last year, he bowed out after just one term, later saying there were “too many people there who are just mean and vindictive,” only caring about “winning at all costs.” Other members live under the fear and dread of a possible primary challenge — the only election that now matters in most districts in Tennessee — if they stray from the party orthodoxy on guns, access to abortion and other issues.

But even for the jaded, Thursday’s expulsions were still extraordinary to watch play out. Longtime political insiders around the Capitol on Monday were stunned to see how quickly expulsion resolutions were drawn up against the three members. Mannis, who now occasionally opines on his former colleagues’ behavior, posted to Facebook: “Today is such a sad day for our State…”

For them and others, the speed with which the Tennessee House acted this week to throw out two young Black legislators must be put into perspective by all the other issues the legislature has declined to act on.

For more than four years, House Republicans declined to expel one of their own, Rep. David Byrd, after he was accused of sexually assaulting three teenage girls, students he taught and coached on a high school basketball team. Byrd was on tape apologizing to one of them, decades later. Even the Republican governor said he believed the allegations to be credible. But House Republicans — some conceding in private that they suspected Byrd may actually have preyed on minors — dug their heels in, saying he was fairly elected.

The debate around removal of the bust of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest went on for years, even as Black lawmakers pleaded with their colleagues to take down the statue. Republicans punted on opportunities to authorize removal, with many wanting to keep the statue in place. In return, protesters — often led by Jones, one of the expelled representatives — rallied at the Capitol on a regular basis, their shouts outside the chambers carrying through the thick, shuttered wooden doors as lawmakers took up other legislative business. (The bust was finally removed in 2021, with resistance from Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, after GOP Gov. Bill Lee whipped votes on the necessary state commissions to resolve the issue once and for all.)

The undercurrent of race is present in many of the Capitol’s controversies.

“Black people are idiots,” Cade Cothren, the chief of staff to former House Speaker Glen Casada, once wrote in a text message during a conversation about Common Core curriculum. It was one of several uncovered prior to his resignation in 2019. Both Casada and Cothren are now awaiting federal trial in a case involving alleged bribery and kickbacks at the legislature. Cothren has since apologized for the racist comment, and more recently has even condemned the legislature’s decision to expel the Black Democratic legislators.

A former GOP legislative staffer told me that in 2020, a member of House Republican leadership in a text message referred to Jones, then an activist, and another Black lawmaker as “baboons.” Former GOP Rep. Brandon Ogles, then vice-chair of the Republican caucus, at the time also recorded the staffer discussing the text. He shared a copy of the recording with POLITICO. The member of leadership in question denies sending the text. The comments were allegedly made while Jones was taking part in protests following George Floyd’s murder by police.

A member presenting a bill about sanctuary cities in 2018 used the term “wetback” while telling a story. On two separate occasions in 2020, Republican legislators publicly cracked jokes about Black people eating fried chicken.

And on and on.

Politics changes over time, of course. It was the Tennessee Democrats who led the charge to install the Forrest bust in the 1970s and who made life difficult for Republicans when they ran the state legislature for decades.

The state’s Republicans may very well transition too. Perhaps — though there is not an ounce of evidence supporting this theory — that bygone era of Howard Baker bipartisanship will be resuscitated.
Given nearly unlimited power in states like Tennessee, Ohio, Florida, Texas and Georgia, the Republican party has now dispensed with all pretense and are completing the process of turning red states into kingdoms of misery for Black folk, Latinos, women, LGBTQ+ folks, anyone who isn't a Christian, and any combination of the above.

They want us reduced to powerless, second-class citizens who live in fear of a white, male, "Christian" state, and in some cases they want to eliminate citizens completely. As I've been saying for over a decade now here and elsewhere, the goal is to make sure the Obama (and now Biden) coalition never has a hint of political power again.

When you remember that goal, everything these state legislatures are doing, every horrible law that they pass with a supermajority to override any veto, any unfettered action they take, now makes perfect sense.

Keep that in mind.

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