Sunday Cartoon Blogging – June 6, 2021

On Saturday, the NYT editorial board wrote about voting and vote counting. Read it if you have the time. The Times concludes that the House bill HR1 which will be taken up by the Senate later in June, is:

“…poorly matched to the moment…The legislation attempts to accomplish more than is currently feasible, while failing to address some of the clearest threats to democracy, especially the prospect that state officials will seek to overturn the will of voters.”

More: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Because there is little chance the bill will pass in its current form, Democrats face a clear choice. They can wage what might be a symbolic (and likely doomed) fight for all the changes they would like. Or they can confront the acute crisis at hand by crafting a more focused bill, perhaps more palatable for more senators, that aims squarely at ensuring that Americans can cast votes and that those votes are counted.”

The bill should also establish uniform rules for vote counting, vote certification, and challenges. It should also clarify Congress’s role in certifying the results of presidential elections to prevent the possibility that a future Congress would overturn a state’s popular vote. That would prevent another Jan. 6. HR-1 doesn’t address these issues.

The present situation has been years in the making with bad actions on both the part of states, and the US Supreme Court. Ultimately, SCOTUS will have the last word on voting rights laws. Democrats need to craft legislation that they believe passes the strictest Constitutional muster. On to cartoons:

The GOP is all about the air quotes:

Jan. 6 looms over America:

Bipartisan negotiation with Biden continues:

Biden ends drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge:

Why do Americans need incentives for vaccines?

They tossed Bibi overboard. He’s still confident:

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Saturday Soother – June 5, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Rhododendron in bloom, fields of Wrong, Litchfield County, CT – June 4, 2021 photo by Wrongo

There’s an asymmetric battle underway between America’s political parties: Democrats Joe Manchin & Kyrsten Sinema are saying that federal voting rights legislation needs a bipartisan supermajority in the Senate. But at the state level, Republicans are changing election rules without facing a filibuster. Their new rules are designed to prevent Dems from winning a fair election.

Texas and 14 other states are attempting to curtail voting rights. Some Republican-controlled states have purged officials who refused to obey Trump’s instructions not to certify the election results; a few are considering measures that would allow state legislatures to overturn election results outright.

This will be the state of play for the rest of Biden’s first term. In the Senate, both the Democrats and the Republicans are truly minorities, with the balance of power held by two Democrats, Sinema and Manchin. As long as the filibuster stands, Biden will only be able to have bills passed via the Reconciliation process, which allows bills that are part of the budget process to pass with 51 votes.

Senate GOP Minority Leader McConnell has again said, as he did in the Obama years, that he will block all of Biden’s legislation. And with Sinema and Manchin refusing to eliminate or reform the filibuster rules, it’s highly unlikely that any significant legislation will reach the 60-vote threshold.

The current Senate shouldn’t necessarily be bound by rules set in place by an earlier body, elected by different voters and facing a different set of challenges. And no legislative body should be able to control how a future legislative body enacts legislation.

While we’ve talked a lot about what Democrats can (or can’t) do about Joe Manchin, little has been said about Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Dan Pfeiffer asks if we shouldn’t simply call Sinema the new Joe Liberman. She has been more adamant than Manchin in defending the filibuster:

“Manchin and Sinema’s political situation could not be more different. Donald Trump won Manchin’s home state by 39 points. Manchin has not yet said whether he will run for reelection in 2024, but he would be a massive underdog if he did…. Arizona is not West Virginia. Sinema is the first Democrat to win a Senate seat from Arizona in thirty years. The state has been reliably Republican since the mid-nineties.”

Recent polls show that Sinema is losing support among Democrats without gaining any from Independents and Republicans. A March poll from Civiqs shows that Sinema’s net favorable rating among Democrats is down 30 points from December. She isn’t up for reelection until 2024, but if Sinema stays on this trajectory, she’s in trouble in either a primary or the general election.

What’s so frustrating about her approach to the filibuster is that her arguments are inaccurate, and her political strategy makes no sense. More from Pfeiffer:

“She is more Joe Lieberman than John McCain. Like Lieberman, the former Democratic VP nominee turned Iraq War and McCain supporter, Sinema seems to enjoy being a spoiler in the eyes of their own party. In 2006, Lieberman lost the Democratic primary to Ned Lamont, but won the general election as an independent. The path will not be available to Sinema. Arizona is not Connecticut. 2024 is not 2006. And she does not have Lieberman’s long ties to her state.”

The Democrats are in an abusive relationship with their Republican “colleagues”. It’s further enabled by Sinema and Manchin. They, along with Biden and others, still seem to think the relationship can be turned around if the Dems just try harder. But the clock is ticking, and the Democrats’ problems go way beyond Manchin and Sinema:

We must blunt the hostile takeover of our democracy by Republican zealots in 15 states.

We need a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.

We need to unwind the Trump tax cuts. Infrastructure funding wouldn’t hurt either.

Maybe all this will change over the course of the year remaining before the 2022 mid-terms. But a year isn’t a long time.

Enough! Time to kick back and focus on a nice weekend in the northeast. Our yard work on the fields of Wrong has graduated to trimming and weeding, and there’s plenty of both to do.

Before we fire up the trimmer, it’s time for our Saturday Soother, where we try to leave the pressures of the real world behind for a few minutes. So, grab a chair by a window and listen to Chris Botti and Caroline Campbell performing live in the audience at the Chateau St. Michelle Winery, Woodinville, WA in July 2015.

During the pandemic year, we’ve missed live music. Live venues are starting to open. Hopefully, we’ll start to see more like this:

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Like Lambs to Slaughter

The Daily Escape:

Camden, ME – June 1, 2021 photo by Daniel F. Dishner

From Eric Boehlert:

“If you were part of an amoral political movement, wouldn’t you want to attack free and fair elections in order to give yourself a permanent advantage? If you had no concern for democracy, wouldn’t you set out to make sure future Democratic victories could be invalidated? That’s what Republicans are now doing, without pause, and out in the open.”

Two snippets of news from over Memorial Day weekend. First, in Texas, Republicans held an all-night legislative session to try to pass one of the most stunning voter suppression laws in the country. According to the Texas Tribune, the law will:

“…cut back early voting hours, ban drive-thru voting, further clamp down on voting-by-mail rules and enhance access for partisan poll watchers…”

It’s designed to curb voter fraud that doesn’t exist in Texas. The bill didn’t pass because Democrats walked out of the legislative session just before it expired, in a form of walking filibuster. It is merely a temporary setback for Texas Republicans.

Second, in Maricopa County Arizona, the GOP’s “audit” continues unabated, as Republicans continue to  try to conjure up a different election result than the one that gave Biden a victory. The ballot review being conducted by a private company called Cyber Ninjas, has drawn widespread contempt for its lack of professionalism and poot control over the ballots, while also raising conspiracy claims that bamboo fibers were found in ballots supposedly shipped in from Asia.

Across the country, many Republican legislatures are moving swiftly to make sure that fewer people vote in upcoming elections.

Vote suppression was the Republican’s game in the late-2010’s. Now they’ve concluded it didn’t work well enough. So, they’ve gone to the next level, which is to simply put state legislatures in the position to nullify their voters’ wishes. That’s going to be their game in the 2020’s. Taken with the Republican vote to filibuster the Jan. 6 commission, the eyes of Democrats should be open to this change in GOP strategy. Republicans correctly perceive that the doors will quickly close to mount legal challenges to their electoral suppression.

Our democratic future will only be secured by ending the filibuster, which will allow HR-1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to pass in the Senate. But that effort may not be successful despite Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s intention to bring them to a vote in June, since Democrat Joe Manchin (D-WVA) won’t vote for it, and Schumer can’t change his mind. As Charlie Pierce says,

“In the fight to save American democracy, Joe Manchin Is Neville Chamberlain”

Manchin wants peace in his remaining time in the Senate. He has defended the prerogatives of Republicans since the Democrats took control, by refusing to either reform, or nuke the filibuster. Instead, he insists that Democrats should be working across the aisle, despite McConnell vowing to block the entirety of Biden’s agenda. Now, Manchin’s excuses are finally becoming flimsy. He called the GOP filibuster vote on the establishment of the Jan 6 committee “unconscionable”. Yet, he’s still against eliminating the filibuster.

Shouldn’t the idea that partisan legislatures and handpicked Republican officials can actually reverse election results  be enough to move any Democrat on the filibuster question? Isn’t an unprecedented and dangerous assault on American democracy enough?

They even fail to see the continuing “coup” talk as a threat. As former national security adviser Michael Flynn said over the weekend, a Myanmar-like coup — in which the military overthrew a democratically elected government — “should happen” in the US: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“Appearing in Dallas at a QAnon conference, Flynn was asked during a Q&A session that was shared in a Twitter video:  ‘I want to know why what happened in Myanmar can’t happen here?’

After cheers from the crowd died down, Flynn responded:  “No reason. I mean, it should happen here.”

One way or another, the Right thinks they deserve to be in power by whatever means necessary. Here’s Maggie Haberman of the NYT on Trump:

They want this so badly they can taste it, and so can tens of millions of Republicans. They’ve already tried once. They will absolutely try again.

The problem today is like that identified by Herbert Marcuse in his critique of liberal tolerance: How do you maintain a social compact with people who simply reject that compact whenever it becomes inconvenient, like when they lose an election?

The incredibly frustrating thing about the present situation is that Democrats could potentially defend against the “GOP game” if Manchin and Sinema just recognized (or cared) about the reality of the situation.

Historians certainly won’t be able to say the Democrats (and American democracy) were overwhelmed –  they just sort of sighed and put their heads on the chopping block.

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Saturday Soother – May 29, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Old Beach gate and oil house at Race Point Light, Provincetown MA – 2021 photo by Kristen Wilkinson Photography. The Oil Houses provided fuel to light houses before they were electrified.

On Friday, the Republicans had a successful filibuster of the bill to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 Capitol riots. The final tally was 54-35. Eleven Senators weren’t present to vote, including nine Republicans and two Democrats, Patty Murray (D-WA), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

Party’s over, drink up. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere. As Jonathan Last says:

“At some point, soon, Democrats are going to have to pick a pathway for 2022.”

They’re acting as though the GOP’s performance in the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection were aberrations, that we’re still in a normal political environment. They seem to be thinking there’s a way to slide past the voting havoc being raised by the Republican Party in the state legislatures that they control.

Don’t you think that if Democratic leadership really believed democracy was at risk, they’d be spending all of their energy working on passing structural reforms to lessen the power of state-level control by political minorities and make American government more democratic? We’re at an inflection point that requires eliminating the filibuster to:

  • Establish federal election standards as contained in HR-1.
  • Establish federal standards for redistricting. The Apportionment Clause of Article I, Section 2, of the US Constitution requires that all districts be as nearly equal in population as possible. That isn’t a significant barrier to partisan gerrymandering. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment requires that districts be substantially equal. Some states have provided a deviation standard. For instance, Colorado prohibits districts from having a population deviation above 5%. Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits plans that intentionally or inadvertently discriminate based on race, which could dilute the minority vote. Again, this doesn’t prevent gerrymandering.
  • In addition to the standards set out by the US Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, states can adopt their own redistricting criteria, or principles, for drawing the plans. Principles, or criteria, are already found in state constitutions. A list of possible federal reforms can be found here.

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report looked at 2020 House races and what it means that Democratic candidates consistently ran behind Biden:

“…that a majority of House Republicans in the most competitive CDs [Congressional Districts] out-performed Trump suggests that the former president’s presence in 2022 is more of a liability than a benefit for vulnerable GOP House incumbents. The fact that House CDs with significant Latino populations provided the largest ticket-splitting gaps (voting overwhelming Biden and narrowly for House GOPers) means that we need to take a very different approach in how we assess races in these types of districts in upcoming elections.”

Walter adds:

“While Biden handily carried the once-GOP-controlled suburbs around Dallas (TX-32), Houston (TX-07) and Chicago (IL-06), House Democrats (who also won there) polled 2-3 points lower. We saw the same pattern in the suburban exurbs where Biden came up short, like MO-02, TX-21 and TX-22. These House Democrats would have lost even if they matched Biden’s showing in those CDs. But their 2–4-point underperformance suggests that the anti-Trump vote doesn’t completely convey to down-ballot Democrats.”

Without Trump on the ballot in 2022, will these dyed-in-the-wool Republican voters support Republican candidates at higher levels?

Jamie Harrison, current head of the DNC must come up with a better strategy than his predecessor Tom Perez used in 2020. Democrats need to win both Houses again and with expanded majorities, so Harrison and the Dems need to be as close to 100% confidence that they can make that happen.

If not, then Democrats should reorganize their priorities and possibly, their leadership.

On to our Saturday Soother. Our new split rail fence was installed this week, 30 days later than promised. The fields of Wrong are coming into full bloom. Here’s a picture of our starting to open Itoh Peonies:

We’re off to another of the four bachelor and grad school graduations by our grandchildren this spring, so no cartoons on Sunday. Still, there’s time to both kick back and simultaneously gear up for the weekend.

Take a seat by a window and listen to “Pick Up the Pieces” originally by the Average White Band (AWB). For the youngster readers, they were a Scottish funk and R&B band that had a series of soul and disco hits between 1974 and 1980. “Pick up the Pieces” was their top-selling track. Here the AWB are live with Daryl Hall at Daryl’s House in January 2010:

The AWB were pretty good, but they never sounded this funky on their own. Very nice!

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The Disconcerting Truth About the Big Lie, Part III

The Daily Escape:

Moon rise, Whitaker Point, Ozark National Forest, AR – 2021 photo by mattmacphersonphoto. This is the sixth time we’ve featured a Matt Macpherson photo.

Reader Ben van N. says:

“I fail to see why the election rules are different in every state. The country should have the same rules for voting (and make them all as simple and accessible as possible) no matter where you live. Having a variety of methods, rules and restrictions opens the door to what you have now.”

Ben doesn’t live in the US, but he has analyzed the problem correctly. Our federalist system makes it fiendishly difficult to have standard rules in America for policing, education, or elections. And we need to make all three of them better.

Regarding elections, Roosevelt University political scientist David Faris was interviewed by VOX:

“You have anti-democratic practices at the state level that produce minority Republican governments that pass anti-democratic laws that end up in front of courts that are appointed by a minoritarian president and approved by a minoritarian Senate that will then rule to uphold these anti-democratic practices at the state level.”

And there’s no clear path for Democrats to overturn these state-level voting laws through the courts. The Supreme Court has already said it’s not going to touch gerrymandering. And so, there’s nothing left except Congress using its constitutional authority under the elections clause to regulate elections. That will require ending the filibuster.

More from Faris: (brackets and emphasis by Wrongo)

“Take the scenario where Republicans don’t have to steal the 2024 election. They just use their built-in advantages [where]…Biden wins the popular vote by three points but still loses the Electoral College. Democrats [get more votes for]…the House…but lose the House. Democrats [get more votes for]…the Senate…but they lose the Senate.

That’s a situation where the citizens of the country fundamentally don’t have control of the agenda and they don’t have the ability to change the leadership. Those are two core features of democracy, and without them, you’re living in competitive authoritarianism.”

His scariest comment is that, after Republicans steal the 2024 election:

“People are going to wake up the next day and go to work, and take care of their kids, and live their lives, and democracy will be gone. There really won’t be very much that we can do about it. Or there’s the worst-case scenario where the election is stolen and then we’re sleepwalking into a potentially catastrophic breakup of the country.”

As Ben v N. says, there’s certainly an opportunity to do something about all this at the federal level, but time is slipping away. And Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema continue to vacillate somewhere between concern and hostility, to taking effective action. Action, such as ending the filibuster.

If both can’t be swayed from their current intransigence, the remaining options for our democracy look poor.

The media would have you believe that Biden and the Democrats in Washington are the ones overplaying their hand. Not true. Look at what’s happening at the state level:

In Ohio, Republican legislators are pushing to ban all vaccine requirements, not just for Covid. They would prevent Governor DeWine’s incentive program for Covid vaccinations, and ban even requesting that people get vaccinated.

In Texas, Republicans are about to legalize carrying handguns without a license. Without a permit, without training, or a background check of any kind. Under current state law, Texans must be licensed to carry handguns openly or concealed. Applicants must submit fingerprints, complete four to six hours of training, and pass a written exam and a shooting proficiency test. That’s too restrictive for the GOP.

In Florida, Republicans just enacted a law that makes it illegal for large technology companies (Facebook, Twitter, Amazon) to remove the posts by candidates for office during election campaigns. It also makes it easier for Florida’s Attorney General and individual citizens to sue those companies. The law is certainly unconstitutional. Curiously, this is an example of the new GOP declaring that it wants more government control over speech.

In Alabama, Republicans are regulating yoga, because it originated in the Hindu religion. Along the way, they plan to ban the use of Sanskrit words such as “Namaste.”

Saving the worst for last: Arizona. GOP legislators have not only launched a farcical “audit” of voting in Maricopa County, but then they stripped the State’s Secretary of state of her authority over elections after she criticized their audit fiasco. Arizona, of course, is only one of the many states where GOP legislatures are pushing new laws to make it harder to vote, while trying for increasingly partisan control of the election process.

Democrats have allowed themselves to be lulled to sleep because American democracy dodged a metaphorical bullet during the November to January Big Lie barrage.

We can’t relax, because next time, the bullets won’t be metaphorical.

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The Disconcerting Truth About the Big Lie

The Daily Escape:

Sunset at Race Point Light, Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA – May 2021 photo by Kristen Wilkinson Photography

There’s a new Ipsos poll that asked the question: “Who do you think the true President is right now? Choose one”. (The choices were Joe Biden and Donald Trump).

Among all respondents, 75% said Biden, while 25% said Trump. So far, so good. Those saying that Trump is president broke down as Democrats 3%, Independents 22%, with 53% of Republicans answering that Trump is the actual President, not Biden. And that wasn’t all:

(The new Ipsos Poll is a national sample of 2,007 adults and was conducted between May 17th and 19th. It has an overall margin of error of 2.5%. The margin of error for the groups is: Democrats 3.7, Republicans 4.1, and Independents 8.0).

The question about whether the election was legitimate, or the result of illegal voting or election rigging, showed that Republicans believe the Big Lie, with 56% saying the 2020 election was illegitimate.

It doesn’t matter what the motives of the 53% of Republicans who say they believe Trump is really the president are. Maybe they believe what they’re saying, or they say it because they feel group (cult?) pressure to say it. The effect is the same. They are poisoning our democratic system, and they’re proud to be doing it.

Republicans throughout the country are saying that they need to restrict the vote to restore faith in the electoral system for their voters. But let’s not kid ourselves. The only way their faith will be restored is if Republicans “win.”

Does anyone remember polls of Democrats saying that Gore was the real president after the 2000 election, not GW Bush? There was plenty of complaining that Bush won through a corrupt legal process, because that’s what happened. The idea that Bush wasn’t actually the president would have been considered delusional. From Paul Campos:

“But today…a majority of the people who identify as members of one of the nation’s two major political parties are saying something that’s actually quite a bit crazier — that Donald Trump, who unlike Al Gore doesn’t have any factual basis for believing the election was stolen from him, is the true president RIGHT NOW — and we just have to shrug because that’s just something a lot of Real Americans happen to believe, just like they believe their guns protect them from the Government…and that global warming is a liberal myth…”

Paul Krugman on our current political mess:

“What’s different this time is the acquiescence of Republican elites. The Big Lie about the election didn’t well up from the grass roots — it was promoted from above, initially by Trump himself, but what’s crucial is that almost no prominent Republican politicians have been willing to contradict his claims and many have rushed to back them up.”

America’s next election will require UN observers.

The GOP’s party leaders have largely sworn allegiance to Trump and his movement, and they continue to propound the Big Lie. At the state level, they are moving quickly to restrict voting rights in as many locations as possible. And to help tie their program together, they are blocking attempts to investigate the coup on Jan 6th.

It is obvious that the GOP’s leaders are playing to the Republican base – fifty-six percent of whom think the election was stolen, and a majority of whom support the idea thatforce may be necessary to save the American way of life.

All this leaves America walking a tightrope over the abyss of authoritarianism. Any misstep and we could lose our democracy.

This is made all the more dangerous, of course, by the false sense of security Democrats are feeling now that Biden is in power. The Greenberg Research poll in late April focused on voter intensity levels in the states and Congressional Districts that will likely decide who controls Congress after 2022. It found 68% of Republican voters report the highest level of interest in the midterms, compared to just 57% of Democrats.

So, the fear of a Republican return to power in the Congress in 2022 is real. And will the GOP’s enthusiasm be matched in 2022 by Democratic voters rushing to the polls to show their gratitude to the Party for bringing back the economy and getting the vaccines distributed? Maybe.

Democrats need to realize sooner rather than later that it’s going to be hand-to-hand political combat for the foreseeable future and plan accordingly. No matter how much money you gave in 2020, you will need to give more in 2022.

Otherwise, if the Republicans are successful at overthrowing American democracy, there won’t be a next time. That’s it, game over. For a very long time, possibly for good.

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 9, 2021

The Department of Labor released its employment statistics for April on Friday, and it was a big disappointment. Many economists thought the economy would create around a million jobs for the month, but the actual figure was only 266,000 jobs. That total would be acceptable if America had a healthy economy, but it falls far short of what is needed to recover from the Covid-created recession.

The increase in the civilian workforce was 430,000 in April. The net result was a rise in the number of unemployed workers. This caused the unemployment rate for April to tick up by 0.1% to 6.1%.

The media are filled with reports that employers say they can’t find enough workers for the jobs they have available. Leaving aside the devastating loss of childcare that occurred during the pandemic which is keeping many women at home, more workers will return if employers do two things: First, make sure the workplace is safe for returning workers. Second, PAY A LIVABLE WAGE. Enough ranting. On to cartoons.

What’s with the vaccine hesitancy?

“Incentives” are the new solution:

GOP tells Cheney it isn’t personal, it’s just business:

Two-faced Mitch:

 

The GOP is showing it intends to control the government, no matter what:

Happy Mother’s Day:

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Monday Wake Up Call – May 3, 2021

The Daily Escape:

Sunset and wild Iris, over a flooded Tomici Creek, Gunnison CO – Spring 2019 photo by Matt Burt

The GOP is preparing an army of “poll watchers” to discredit elections, and GOP state legislatures are delivering in nearly 20 states.

“Bills in several states would grant new authority to poll watchers…to observe voters and election workers. Critics say it could lead to conflict and chaos at polling places and an improper targeting of voters of color.”

A new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice found that as of April 15, lawmakers in 20 states had introduced at least 40 bills to expand poll watchers’ powers.

The Texas GOP is bringing back having trained partisans intimidate minority voters whom they consider possibly illegitimate:

“The red dot of a laser pointer circled downtown Houston on a map during a virtual training of poll watchers by the Harris County Republican Party. It highlighted densely populated, largely Black, Latino and Asian neighborhoods.

‘This is where the fraud is occurring’, a county Republican official said in a leaked video of the training, which was held in March. A precinct chair in the northeastern, largely white suburbs of Houston, he said he was trying to recruit people from his area “to have the confidence and courage” to act as poll watchers in the circled areas in upcoming elections.

A question at the bottom corner of the slide indicated just how many poll watchers the party wanted to mobilize: “Can we build a 10K Election Integrity Brigade?”

Republicans in battleground states are trying to make voting harder and more confusing. They’re making a concerted legislative push to grant more autonomy and access to partisan poll watchers, that is, citizens trained by a campaign or a party and authorized by local election officials to observe the electoral process.

Many questions: Who will train the poll watchers? Who will certify them? And importantly, who watches the poll watchers? Before this effort to make poll watching partisan, poll workers were trained by the county and certified by the county to perform the job. Without a standardized and transparent process, poll watchers are simply harassers violating voters’ privacy.

In Florida, an election bill passed last Thursday by Republicans in the state legislature specifies that partisan observers must be able see the ballots as canvassing boards work to authenticate voters’ signatures on absentee ballots. There are no limits on how many ballots poll watchers can challenge. Florida Gov. DeSantis has indicated he will sign the law.

There’s a long history of poll watchers being used to intimidate voters and harass election workers, often targeting communities of color. During the 2020 election, Trump’s campaign repeatedly exhorted  its “army” of poll watchers to venture into Black and Latino cities and hunt for voter fraud.

There’s no evidence that justifies giving poll watchers expanded access and/or autonomy in their jobs. We should fight a system where a random citizen can watch you vote, and then complain. That should be expressly prohibited.

The Republicans have grounded their reasoning in the argument that their voters want more secure elections. That desire is driven by Trump’s repeated lies about last year’s presidential election, which included GOP complaints about insufficient poll watcher access.

Should we be worried that these a-holes will actually scare people away from the polls? Yes, some will be frightened away. A bunch of MAGA Hat yahoos will flood voting places and try to harass and terrorize racial minorities, students, and the elderly, anyone who they believe might be voting the wrong way.

And if the GOP has their way, it will be legal to do so.

Time to wake up America! The GOP plans to turn every state that they control into little banana republics. The solution is to keep them from controlling any battleground states.

To help you wake up, listen to Larkin Poe, a Nashville-based sister group, do a cover of “Layla”, from their album of cover songs, “Kindred Spirits“. You’ll love the slide guitar:

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Sunday Cartoon Blogging – May 2, 2021

Republicans are angry. Again. This time, they’ve just learned that the US Post Office was monitoring right-wing online threats to federal post office buildings and postal workers after January 6th.

Last week, Yahoo News revealed that the USPS’s Inspection Service have been tracking Americans’ social media posts as part of its Internet Covert Operations Program, known as iCOP. That prompted more than two dozen Republican lawmakers to demand hearings about the program. But in the hearing, the Chief Postal Inspector testified that the USPS had been given authority to monitor Americans in 2017 by Trump.

Apparently, the Trump administration used this power to monitor Black Lives Matter protesters after George Floyd’s death last summer. Naturally, they weren’t satisfied. From Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ):

“Their theory of the case is, they’ve got to protect their workers and properties….If you already have engagement with other agencies like FBI, Homeland Security, NSA, whatever, then why aren’t you asking them for help….Why not just call the agencies whose job it is, who are probably already surveilling American citizens?”

Imagine their silence when the chief postal inspector told lawmakers that those agencies:

“…would not cooperate…so the USPS [decided] to have iCOP patrol social media, searching for potential threats from upcoming protests.”

But they still love all the Trump they can get. On to cartoons.

What Biden’s first 100 days really is about:

We’re in a second Gilded Age. One where 50% of Americans with just 2% of the wealth pay 41% of the income taxes, while corporations only pay 6% of the federal government’s income.

Sen. Tim Scott gave the Republican speech response. Things didn’t go well:

Rudy’s efforts to shop Hunter Biden’s laptop computer at the DOJ comes back to bite him:

Arizona GOP starts yet another recount of Biden’s votes:

America hates it when we’re not first:

Some prefer Zooming:

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Political Implications of the New Census Data

The Daily Escape:

Nathan’s Batteries, a converted Esso station, Wilkesboro NC. –  February 2021 photo by Greg Kiser Photography

The Census announced the Congressional reapportionments from the 2020 census: Texas picked up two seats, while Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon each picked up one seat.

California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia all lost one seat.

Here are a few quick observations regarding how the Electoral College has shifted since 1959, when Hawaii became the 50th state: (h/t Paul Campos)

  • California, Florida, and Texas have collectively picked up 58 electoral votes (This census is the first time California has lost a congressional seat since it became a state).
  • New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania have together lost 38 electoral votes.
  • West Virginia has suffered the biggest proportional decline, losing half its electoral votes.
  • Florida and Arizona have enjoyed the largest proportional gains, tripling (FL), and nearly tripling (AZ) their representation in the Electoral College respectively.

And counting mattered. A couple of the shifts were by razor-thin margins, with New York losing a seat by just 89 people and Minnesota holding on to one by just 26 people. The news is generally good for Republicans. They control the redistricting process for five of the seven new seats.

The Cook Political Report estimates the shifts are worth about 3.5 seats to Republicans, which if no other seat shifted in the coming midterms, would put the House near-even (either 218-217 or 219-216 in Democrats’ favor, versus the current 222-213).

But the most perilous statistic is that Republicans control 61 of the 99 state legislative chambers and almost 55% of the state legislative seats, giving them control of redistricting and ultimately, a good shot at preserving the possibility of controlling one or both Houses of Congress.

In August, the Census Bureau is expected to release detailed information showing down to the block, where nearly every person lives. New legislative maps will be redrawn in each state to ensure equal representation. Right now, the GOP controls more statehouses overall and has an edge in growing states. Republicans will only need to net a handful of seats to control the House.

This is made worse if we remember that in June, 2019, in Rucho v. Common Cause, the Supreme Court essentially gave partisan gerrymandering its constitutional blessing by ruling that local political decisions are non-justiciable.

From Charlie Pierce: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“You have to have some appreciation for what a perfectly complete whole the conservative project is. By pressing every advantage…they have gained sufficient control of the process to defuse most progressive initiatives, to defang most governors if the state happens to…elect a Democrat, and to arrange for the various judicial branches to be their ultimate backup.”

Overall, the US population grew to 331 million, a 7.4% growth rate since 2010. This is the second slowest rate of population growth the census has ever recorded, just behind the 7.3% growth in the 1930s. That decade’s slowed growth was rooted in the Great Depression. From the WaPo:

“Unlike the slowdown of the Great Depression, which was a blip followed by a boom, the slowdown this time is part of a longer-term trend, tied to the aging of the country’s White population, decreased fertility rates and lagging immigration.”

This decade’s sluggish growth started in the Great Recession. Its weak recovery saw many young adults struggling to find jobs, while delaying marriage and starting a family. That blow to the nation’s birthrate was exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

West Virginia and Maine saw deaths exceed births over the decade.

Most demographers forecast even slower population growth in the coming decades. For the first time, we have more people over the age of 80 than under age 2. The median age in the US is 38, up one year since 2010. Going forward, the number of people over age 65, will grow faster than younger cohorts.

What about counting Latinos? Texas, Florida, and Arizona had been predicted to gain more seats but didn’t. It’s possible that Latinos weren’t properly counted. They make up a large segment of the population in the three states that didn’t gain expected seats. Some point to Trump who tried to intimidate immigrants or people in the country illegally from participating in the Census. Additionally, the pandemic made it difficult to reach certain populations.

Now it will be a bare-knuckle fight between the Parties in most states to win the gerrymander war.

That will be watched closely by candidates across the country who need to decide how redistricting affects their chances of winning an election.

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