Archives for category: Democrats

Almost every reviewer of the Democratic National Convention agreed that this was the most moving speech of all.

Thirteen-year-old Brayden Harrington met Joe Biden at a town hall in New Hampshire. When Biden learned that the boy stutters, he asked to meet privately afterwards. He told him how he had overcome his stutter and gave him some helpful,advice. Above all, he gave him hope and the confidence to speak to a national audience. His speech was filmed on a cell phone at home in New Hampshire.

Do you think the Trump Convention will have a video of Trump performing a random act of kindness?

Harold Meyerson, editor of The American Prospect and a prominent spokesman for the American left, explains here what he liked and did not like about the second day of the Democratic National (virtual) Convention.

I loved Bernie Sanders’ speech on the first night. I loved the roll call on the second night. In a usual convention, the roll call is a succession of politicians making political statements and announcing their state’s votes in a huge hall where people are milling around and no one is listening. This year, almost every state represented itself in an iconic setting, and the speakers were mostly regular people, not big-name politicians. The speaker in Kansas was a farmer in his fields, worried about the future. The speaker in Arizona was a teacher wearing a Red for Ed T-shirt, talking about the need to fund our schools. You really got a sense of the wonderful breadth and diversity of our country by watching the roll call. It was actually thrilling.

Meyerson wrote:

Unconventional: The Democrats, Day Two

If the first night of this year’s Democratic National Sort-Of Convention was all about Donald Trump’s disgraceful and aberrant presidency, night two was all about Joe Biden’s rooted normality.

Those roots were white working class—now a term almost interchangeable with Trump’s base, and tinged with assumptions of white tribalism and racism. Not so the Biden version of white working class-ness, however, and this more benign identity was a theme that was artfully woven through the night’s session.

The theme also expanded to include Biden’s embrace of the universal working class, with Joe talking with and sharing the concerns of a cross section of Americans fearful of losing their health insurance, which yet may prove his most potent point of contrast with Trump and the Republicans come November (as it was for Democrats in 2018). But looking at Hillary Clinton’s devastating and decisive failure to carry Bidenland in 2016—Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, home of a multiracial working class, of which the white section largely voted for Trump—Biden’s advisers made the obvious but still smart decision to plunk him down where he came from. On Tuesday night, he was the kid from Scranton who’s suffered more than his share of tragedy but always kept on punching (or as Jill Biden said, squaring his shoulders and going out to meet the world).

And it wasn’t just Biden. The roll call of the states, which was far better than its convention-hall predecessors, not only because of the visuals but because it wasn’t dominated by bloviating mid-level pols, featured more than a smattering of working-class Americans. There was the woman who worked in a Nebraska meatpacking plant who noted that she and her co-workers weren’t afforded paid sick leave, and asserted, “We’re human beings; we’re not robots; we’re not disposable.” There was the Missouri bricklayer and the Ohio worker wearing his IBEW union T-shirt who flatly declared, “Under Trump, working people end up getting screwed.”

The roll-call participants were anything but monochromatic; those from Maryland positioned themselves by an oversized bust of Frederick Douglass. But the contrast with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 convention couldn’t have been clearer. I remember noting it at the time but failed to realize how it portended her coming defeat, but that convention lacked any speakers who were working-class whites. Clinton’s convention showcased Democratic social liberalism; Biden’s, so far, has showcased a more class-based economic liberalism.

Yes, Monday’s session affirmed its support for Black Lives Matter, but both nights have highlighted the economic contrasts with contemporary Republicanism, of which Trump is merely the reductio ad absurdum. And it emphasized the access-to-health-care contrast, which runs along the race and class lines, and in a time of pandemic is the kind of contrast that can decide an election.

The foreign-policy section, with notables rightly pointing out that Trump’s policy, to the limited extent he has one, basically amounts to his expressions of admiration for leaders even more thuggish than he, was obligatory, but isn’t going to change many votes. What will change or solidify some votes is the image of Biden as a normal, decent, hard-working guy—three qualities no one has ever invoked to describe Donald Trump. What will change or solidify some votes is the knowledge that Biden respects and works within established democratic norms, as Trump does not. And these are all among the reasons that not only Republicans but also Bernie leftists are going to vote for Biden, because the left knows its vision depends on a functioning, and flourishing, democracy…

I’m fine with the airtime given to Republicans; I just wish there were more given to the left pole of the front. The millennials and Gen Zers who are transforming the Democratic Party into a more social democratic party have been underrepresented at this convention, and the 17 youngish keynoters who whizzed through the speed-dating version of a keynote address on Tuesday night lacked the time to establish their own generation’s politics, or, in fact, whether they actually identified with it. (As none of the keynoters had endorsed Bernie Sanders for president, there’s some question as to just how representative they are.) So the task of representing the new left fell to AOC and a dying Ady Barkan, but there are lots more where those two stalwarts come from, if the Biden folks just go looking. (The ever remarkable Barkan managed to endorse Medicare for All without actually saying the words.)

That said, the thematic emphasis the convention has put on matters of race and class is not only smart positioning but lays down markers that the young left and their elders should endeavor to hold Biden to, should he be elected. Biden’s long career has been marked by draconian crime legislation, solicitude to banks, and other normal political stances of the Reagan years, but Biden understands that those days are done, and the party’s ascendant left must ensure that they’re dead and buried. The Normal Joe persona is a valuable asset in this doctrinal transformation; it recasts the party’s newfound (or newly re-found) progressivism as Normal Joe’s concern for the average guy and gal.

I must close with my favorite moment of the night, a combination of convention hokum, the roll call’s remote locations, and, yes, average folks’ normality. It came when the roll call reached Rhode Island, and we were transported to a shot of two guys standing by the seashore, one of them holding a plate or dish of something tan with something red on top of it. The speaker, as is the custom, extolled the state and its Democratic governor and its favorite products, among which he mentioned calamari. At which point it became clear that what the other guy was holding was a platter of fried calamari topped with dip.

How better to symbolize a convention yearning for normality, marketing its nominee as Mr. Normal, than to promise us a bright future filled with fried calamari?

~ HAROLD MEYERSON

The American Prospect, Inc., 1225 I Street NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005, United States

The Biden and Sanders campaigns created a “Unity Task Force” to make recommendations on important issues.

Here is their report with recommendations. It is 110 pages.

There is much to like in the report, proposing an agenda to reverse four years of savage attacks by Trump on the environment, on the rule of law, on government itself.

The education portion aPears on pp. 22-27.

It contains welcome pledges of increased funding, more equitable funding, universal early childhood education, a commitment to racial integration of schools, a commitment to making higher education affordable (including tuition-free community colleges), debt relief for college graduates, and other worthy goals and policies.

On the two issues where Democrats found themselves committed to Republican strategies, the panel has a mixed record.

It took a clear stand against the high-stakes standardized testing that is a legacy of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law of 2001-2002:

The evidence from nearly two decades of education reforms that hinge on standardized test scores shows clearly that high-stakes annual testing has not led to enough improvement in outcomes for students or for schools, and can lead to discrimination against students, particularly students with disabilities, students of color, low-income students, and English language learners. Democrats will work to end the use of such high-stakes tests and encourage states to develop evidence-based approaches to student assessment that rely on multiple and holistic measures that better represent student achievement.

That’s a step forward, especially since so many high-profile DemocratIc Senators voted to retain high-stakes testing when NCLB turned into the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. So, we can celebrate the fact that the Unity Task Force is prepared to discard the Bush policy based on the non-existent “Texas Miracle.”

The other issue that has been a huge burden for public schools is the Republican claim that competition improves public schools. This faulty idea has spurred the development of privately managed charter schools and vouchers. Charters have a flimsy record. Those that get high test scores are known for their low enrollments of students with disabilities and English language learners, as well as their harsh discipline policies (no excuses). Many Republicans love charters because they are a stepping stone to vouchers. They wean people away from public schools and encourage parents to think of themselves as consumers, not citizens. Thanks to private management, charters have been plagued by multiple scandals involving waste, fraud abuse, and bloated administrative overhead. The teacher turnover rate at charters is very large in some high-performing charters, as much as 50% every year. The virtual charter industry is a disaster that has been associated with multimillion dollar embezzlement.

The Network for Public Education published two reports documenting the failure of the federal Charter Schools Program, which hands out $440 million every year to open new charters and expand existing ones. I have referred to the CSP as Betsy DeVos’s personal slush fund because she has given huge grants to corporate charter chains like KIPP and IDEA. THE NPE reports (Asleep at the Wheel and Still Asleep at the Wheel) demonstrate that nearly 40% of the charters funded by the CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening. During the campaign, Senator Sanders called for elimination of the federal a Charter Schools Program.

Five facts stand out about charter schools:

1. On average, they don’t get better results than public schools.
2. They drain resources and the students they choose from public schools that take everyone, including the kids the charters don’t want.
3. About 90% of charters are non-union, by design.
4. Charters are amply funded by billionaires like the Walton family, Betsy DeVos, Charles Koch, Reed Hastings, and Michael Bloomberg.
5. If charters helped solve the problems of American education, then Detroit would be one of the outstanding districts in the nation, instead it is one of the nation’s lowest performing districts.

Why should the federal government spend $440 million every year on new charters and on expanding corporate charter chains?

Given that background, you can understand why I think the Unity Task Force statement on charters is watery pablum.

Here it is in its entirety:

Charter schools were originally intended to be publicly funded schools with increased flexibility in program design and operations. Democrats believe that education is a public good and should not be saddled with a private profit motive, which is why we will ban for-profit private charter businesses from receiving federal funding. And we recognize the need for more stringent guardrails to ensure charter schools are good stewards of federal education funds. We support measures to increase accountability for charter schools, including by requiring all charter schools to meet the same standards of transparency as traditional public schools, including with regard to civil rights protections, racial equity, admissions practices, disciplinary procedures, and school finances. We will call for conditioning federal funding for new, expanded charter schools or for charter school renewals on a district’s review of whether the charter will systematically underserve the neediest students. And Democrats oppose private school vouchers and other policies that divert taxpayer-funded resources away from the public school system.

Nothing is said here that would displease the hedge fund managers and billionaires who support charters. Even Betsy DeVos must be smiling to see the Biden-Sanders task force endorse school choice, which was birthed by southern governors resisting the Brown decision. It’s very sad to see a task force of Democratic leaders giving their blessing to the southern strategy. (Read Steve Suitts’ new book on that sordid history: “Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Legacy.”)

Taking a stand against “for-profit charters” is piffle. Arizona is the only state that allows for-profit charters. Nothing is said in this statement about banning for-profit management corporations, which manage large numbers of “nonprofit” charters all over the country.

And notice that the task force says nothing about terminating the federal Charter Schools Program, as Sanders recommended, guaranteeing that the government will continue to spend $440 million (or more) to open more non-union charters to compete with public schools. Excluding “for-profit charters” from the federal CSP is good news for KIPP, IDEA, and other “nonprofit” corporate charter chains that are bankrupting local public schools. This recommendation was made with full knowledge of the long-run failure of this program.

Of course, I will vote for Joe Biden, despite this weak-kneed capitulation to the Republican-dominated charter lobbyists. But I won’t hide my disappointment.

The failure of the task force to challenge the charter industry and stand up for public schools as the foundation stone of our democracy is troubling and is an embarrassment to the Biden campaign.

David Dayen writes in the online American Prospect’s “Unsanitized” about Jamaal Bowman’s emergence as a new kind of Democrat. Bowman just defeated 16-term Congressman Elliot Engel, who was endorsed by not only the Democratic Party leadership but the Congressional Black Caucus.

Dayen writes:


Jamaal Bowman’s campaign to defeat longtime absentee incumbent Eliot Engel in a New York House seat was inspiring. Not only did it reflect the professionalization of a left electoral apparatus, with the infrastructure to poll, organize, and raise the funds needed to run credible primary challenges. It also showed the changing tides in Black politics: the Congressional Black Caucus supported Engel, a white incumbent in a majority-minority district.

Bowman situates himself in a different place than the establishment CBC leadership and the younger Obama-era climbers who are knocking on the door of that establishment. This is a more ideological left, which now has a foothold on power. And that’s just a very different dynamic, which will bring in new voices on key issues.

For example, I was on a call yesterday that was one of Bowman’s first appearances since the primary. He wasn’t allying with an ossified Democratic interest group, but independent left organizations like the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE). And it wasn’t about some targeted investment in at-risk communities or tax-advantaged enterprise zone. The first words out of Bowman’s mouth on this call, echoing a previous speaker, was “I love the way you framed that, we’re dealing with violence being administered by the state against its own people.”

The topic of the call was how to handle a fast-approaching housing crisis all over the country. Moratoria on evictions at the state level are about to expire, as is the national partial moratorium for renters fortunate enough to live in a government-subsidized property. The first of the month brings another struggle for those who have fallen through the cracks of the hastily arranged COVID-19 safety net, and in a little over three weeks, that safety net is gone without further action. The weekly unemployment boost of $600 ends July 25.

Bowman kicked off the call, but numerous other speakers gave testimony on their struggles since the crisis began. Peggy Perkins, a cosmetologist with three children, was unable to procure a small business loan and has been hounded for rent by her landlord in Hempstead, New York. Vanessa del Campo of Minneapolis demanded that the governor not lift the state’s moratorium on evictions, saying “our families are right on the point of losing their homes.” Carlos Perodin of Make the Road Pennsylvania pointed out that the state is short 279,000 available and affordable rental units. Jasmine Johnson of Action North Carolina has been out of work since March and didn’t manage to get on unemployment until two weeks ago. “Until this pandemic ends, rent should be cancelled,” Johnson said. “We don’t deserve to be put out on the street because the government can’t come up with any ideas.”

Allying with these activists was Bowman, who will almost assuredly step into Congress in January. Bowman represents a split district; “if this district were a nation, it would have the eighth-worst economic inequality in the world,” he said. There are wealthy areas in Westchester County along with the relative depravity of the Bronx. Often members of Congress in that situation pay attention to where the money is. Bowman was decidedly on the other side of that.

“How the heck are people supposed to pay rent when there’s no money coming in?” he pleaded. “We bailed out Wall Street, large corporations… Jeff Bezos’ wealth has gone up. The system is inhumane, a manifestation of institutional racism within housing and all institutions. And it’s nurtured by the people we elect to serve us, Democrats included.”

That’s powerful talk from someone headed into the halls of power. He’s backing a national eviction blockade, easily the largest sustained rent strike in recent memory, maybe ever in American history. The plan is to physically block evictions in communities of color. “We are in full support of any kind of organized rent strike, because what the hell else are people supposed to do,” Bowman said. “This is a collective trauma that I’m happy to stand with you and fight against.”

This new dynamic within Black politics is fascinating and hopeful. The gap between the radicalism on the streets and the indifference inside the Capitol is closing. The CBC has always been called the conscience of the Congress, but that consciousness is being raised, from the bottom up. As Bowman said yesterday: “People in this district haven’t always been involved and engaged. Now they are.”

While many primary races are too close to call, due to large numbers of uncounted absentee ballots, Jamaal Bowman scored a decisive upset in his race to replace veteran Cingresman Elliot Engel, chair of the House Foreigh affairs Committee.

Jamaal is/was a middle school principal who was active in the opt out movement. He received the endorsement of AOC, Sanders, Warren, and many others, including me.

Here is the speech he gave when his victory appeared certain.

Jamaal will be a strong, clear, and informed voice for the voiceless in Congress.

Nancy Bailey is well aware of the dangers to public education today, especially the threats of privatization, data mining, and technological takeover. She saw that the campaigns of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders created an education unity group and she wondered who was included and who was not included.

Here is her analysis.

She begins with who was left out:

Many want to say good riddance to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her boss. But educators and parents fighting for public education, and the ninety percent of students who attend public schools, deserve a more inclusive group of people to push back on harmful school reform. The Biden/Sanders Unity Education Task Force leaves much to be desired.

For example, parents of children with disabilities struggle to teach their children during Covid-19. Classes for their children were never fully funded before the disease. Sen. Bernie Sanders promised better in his Thurgood Marshall Plan. Searching with a magnifying glass, I see no representation for students with disabilities on this panel.

Black and brown parent advocates have started a petition to make the education task force more inclusive.

Where are the scholars from the: National Education Policy Center? Network for Public Education? Defending the Early Years? Economic Policy Center? Where are teachers from the Badass Teachers Association, or representation by those who organized and marched in the Red for Ed rallies? What about parents and school board members who fight for children?

Veteran journalist Mark Liebovich notes in this opinion article In the New York Times how Trump has ditched the long-time tradition of bipartisan unity in the face of national crisis.

There used to be a tradition that politics stops at the water’s edge, meaning a bipartisan foreign policy. That’s gone. In the aftermath of 9/11, politics was replaced by shared mourning. Liebovich notes the failure to mark the anniversary of the terrorist bombing in Oklahoma City, as well as Trump’s natural tendency to turn the current crisis into political fodder. No more reaching across the aisle. With rare exceptions, like the Senate report on Russian interference in 2026, bipartisanship is dead. One thinks sadly of the late Senator John McCain’s plea for a return to regular order,” which was spurned by Trump and Mitch McConnell, in their eagerness to push through a radical right agenda and to stuff the judiciary with extremist judges.

Liebovich writes:

WASHINGTON — Last weekend, an anniversary of the kind that would have once united the country in reflection — the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, 25 years ago — passed without much in the way of comment. As the days inside pile up, our usual approach to a national moment of remembrance appeared lost to the fog of time, germs and Trump era news cycles.

The lack of attention was cast in relief by one person who did speak up: Former President Bill Clinton, who for a variety of reasons seems to have receded from public view since his wife was defeated by Donald Trump for the presidency in 2016. Mr. Clinton, the embattled first-term president of early 1995, would become the dominant presence in the brittle aftermath of Oklahoma City. The various psychodramas of his two terms can obscure the significance of the incident as a political marker of that era; now, it is a global pandemic that is seizing attention from Washington traditions like civic remembrance and bipartisan affirmation.

“In many ways, this is the perfect time to remember Oklahoma City and to repeat the promise we made to them in 1995 to all Americans today,” Mr. Clinton said in an op-ed that ran last Sunday in The Oklahoman.

It’s easy to dismiss this as boilerplate pulled straight from the “stuff politicians say” binder. But its tone is also conspicuous in how it contrasts with the words to a nation in need of solace and mending that come from the current White House.

One of the recurring features of the Trump years has been the president’s knack for detonating so many of our powerful shared experiences into us-versus-them grenades. Whether it’s the anniversary of a national catastrophe like the Oklahoma City bombing, the death of a widely admired statesman (Senator John McCain) or a lethal pathogen, Mr. Trump has exhibited minimal interest in the tradition of national strife placing a pause upon the usual smallness of politics.

In this fractured political environment, the president has shown particular zest for identifying symbols that reveal and exacerbate cultural divisions. Kneeling football players, plastic straws and the question of whether a commander in chief should be trumpeting an untested antimalarial drug from the White House briefing room have all become fast identifiers of what team you’re on. Looming sickness and mass death are no exception. The reflex to unite during a period of collective grief feels like another casualty of the current moment.

It used to be a norm, back before everything got stripped down to its noisiest culture war essence. Tradition dictated that whenever a national loss or trauma occurred, political combatants would stand down, at least for a time. President George W. Bush could embrace Senator Tom Daschle, then the Democratic majority leader, after an emotional address that Mr. Bush delivered to a joint session of congress in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. President Barack Obama did the same with Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, when Mr. Obama visited the state and saw the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

To varying degrees, both Mr. Daschle and Mr. Christie caught heat from within their parties after the crises faded into the past and partisan engines revved up again. At the time, though, the gestures felt appropriate and stature-enhancing for everyone involved. Those dynamics have since shifted considerably.

“I think we’re dealing with a whole different world and set of personalities,” said Mr. Daschle, now a former senator from South Dakota, adding that acts of solidarity during adverse times benefit all parties. “I remember after 9/11, congressional approval was something like in the ’80s, and for the president it was around the same,” he said.

Oklahoma City also offered a political gift to Mr. Clinton, a battered leader whose party had lost control of Congress the year before and who had, a few days earlier, found himself defending the “relevance” of his office. Mr. Clinton performed his role of eulogist and comforter, won bipartisan praise for his “performance” and an increase of good will that would eventually help right his presidency on a path to his re-election in 1996.

Mr. Clinton, historians said, always appreciated the power of big, bipartisan gestures, even when they involved incendiary rivals. “He understood the healing powers of the presidency,” said Ted Widmer, a presidential historian at City University of New York, and a former adviser to Mr. Clinton who assisted him in writing his memoirs. He mentioned a generous eulogy that Mr. Clinton delivered for disgraced former President Richard Nixon, after he died in 1994. “There is a basic impulse a president can have for when the country wants their leader to rise above politics and mudslinging,” Mr. Widmer said.

In that regard, Mr. Trump’s performance during this pandemic has been a missed opportunity. “The coronavirus could have been Donald Trump’s finest hour,” Mr. Widmer said. “You really sensed that Americans wanted to be brought together. But now that appears unattainable.”

For whatever reason, Mr. Trump seems uninterested in setting aside personal resentment, even when some small gestures — a photo op or a joint statement with Democratic leaders in Congress; a bipartisan pandemic commission chaired by former presidents — could score him easy statesmanship points.

His unwillingness to deal in any way with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (they have reportedly not spoken since the House voted to impeach Mr. Trump in January) has rendered him a bystander during negotiations with Congress on massive economic recovery bills that were by and large led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He has taken shots at popular Democratic governors in the hard-hit states of Washington and of Michigan; his approval ratings are dipping — and lag behind that of most governors.

Supporters of Mr. Trump say they appreciate that he doesn’t betray his true feelings for the sake of adhering to Beltway happy talk. This resolve appears central to his credibility with them. They elected him to disrupt, not to play nice and don a mask, whether made of artifice or cloth.

This weekend was supposed to mark another of those pauses in D.C. hostilities, albeit of a very different nature: the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, the spring tradition that brings together a hair-sprayed throng along a pecking order of A- to D-list celebrities. The festivities are embedded with the ostensibly high-minded purpose of saluting the First Amendment and raising money for journalism scholarships. If you can score yourself a selfie with Gayle King, all the better.

In the view of many inside the Beltway, the correspondents’ dinner had long outlived its appeal and probably should have been canceled well before Covid-19 did the trick this year (the dinner has been postponed until August). Regardless, presidents of both parties would reliably show up, if only as a gesture of good faith or nod to a local bipartisan tradition.

But Mr. Trump — a veteran of the dinners in his pre-political days, including a memorable evening in which he endured a brutal roasting at the hands of then-President Barack Obama in 2011 — wanted no part of the correspondents’ dinner from the outset of his presidency. Instead, he would take the opportunity to hold “alternative programming” events in the form of Saturday night rallies in places like Pennsylvania, deftly placing himself in populist opposition to the preening Tux-and-Gowned creatures of the swamp.

Mr. Trump’s arrival in Washington inspired another counter-programing surrogate for the main event when the comedian Samantha Bee, host of the TBS program “Full Frontal,” started her own production across town, called “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.” There, she would toss affectionate barbs at the assembled press, usually at the expense of Mr. Trump. “You continue to fact-check the president,” she said in 2017, “as if he might actually someday get embarrassed.”

Beyond the excesses of the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, for a president to partake of this tradition also requires an ability to be a good sport. The guest of honor will inevitably suffer good-natured ribbing at the hands of the hired comedian (or, better yet, not-so-good-natured ribbing — the most memorable routine occurring in 2006, when Stephen Colbert unleashed a sarcastic takedown of then-President George W. Bush and the press corps that Mr. Colbert pointedly suggested had coddled him).

The exercise also requires a president with at least minimal skill at solemnly paying heed to the principles that brought everyone together in the first place. First among these is the preservation of a free and fair press, not something a president fond of the term “fake news” will ever be synonymous with.

Still, for the many Washingtonians lucky enough to be working from home, six weeks being trapped indoors and fighting with family members about dishes can breed nostalgia for even the most played-out D.C. tradition. The correspondents’ dinner might confirm every worst stereotype of a full-of-itself political class. But anything that involves getting dressed up and actually doing stuff with other people sounds appetizing right about now, especially if it doesn’t involve Zoom.

Wisconsin long ago scheduled its primaries for April 7. When the dimensions of the public health crisis became apparent, Governor Tony Evers tried to postpone the election and to encourage voting by mail. Evers’s order to postpone the election was overturned by the state court, and its ruling was sustained by the U.S. Supreme Court, voting along partisan lines. Hundreds of thousands of people were disenfranchised.

To understand the fiasco, read this article by Stephen Rosenfeld:

The Republican Party affirmed with startling clarity on Monday that preserving political power was a higher priority than protecting public health or enabling voters to cast ballots that will be counted in the COVID-19 era.

The stage for this stunning partisan display embracing voter suppression was a constitutional crisis that erupted in Wisconsin, a day before scheduled statewide elections on April 7 for its 2020 presidential primary, a state Supreme Court seat, and contests for hundreds of local offices.

The election will continue on April 7, but the reverberations from Monday rulings by Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court later in the day in a related lawsuit have set down markers that suggest that securing voting rights in a pandemic is anything but assured—especially if anti-participatory state laws and voting procedures will be upheld by majorities on the highest courts.

Efforts by Democrats to postpone in-person voting and extend voting by mail due to the pandemic were rejected by conservative majorities on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and on the U.S. Supreme Court. In separate rulings, both courts sided with the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin Republicans.

“The Court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement,” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote
in a dissent signed by the court’s three other liberal justices. “A voter cannot deliver for postmarking a ballot she has not received. Yet tens of thousands of voters who timely requested ballots are unlikely to receive them by April 7, the Court’s postmark deadline [to return ballots].”

While this ideological split may not be new in electoral politics, especially in voting right cases where conservatives seek strict laws limiting participation and liberals seek flexibility to enfranchise voters, it was a “bad sign” for the climate heading into elections in the fall, said Rick Hasen, ElectionLawBlog.org founder and a nationally known constitutional scholar.

“It is a very bad sign for November that the Court could not come together and find some form of compromise here in the midst of a global pandemic unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes,” he wrote. “Like the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court divided along partisan and ideological lines.”

The courts’ rulings capped a day of high drama and a state constitutional crisis.

On Monday afternoon, Wisconsin’s Democratic Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order to postpone in-person voting and extend the deadline for absentee ballots to be mailed in, citing the pandemic. But the state’s Republican majority legislature challenged Evers’ order before the conservative-led Wisconsin Supreme Court. The GOP legislative leadership issued a statement telling local officials to keep planning for Tuesday’s election, creating great tension and uncertainty as the Democratic governor and Republican legislature headed into court.

By a 4-2 vote later in the day, the Wisconsin Supreme Court nullified Evers’ executive order, forcing the in-person voting to continue on April 7 and restoring the deadline for absentee ballots to be returned by the same day for them to count. Meanwhile, hundreds of polling places were not going to open after poll workers withdrew due to the pandemic. For example, only five of Milwaukee’s 180 polls would be opened in that non-white epicenter, ElectionLawBlog.org noted.

“The April 7 Spring Election and Presidential Preference Primary is occurring as scheduled,” a headline on the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC) website said after the state Supreme Court ruling.

In addition to in-person voting, the WEC website said that 1,275,254 absentee ballots had been requested by voters and that 724,777 had been returned by April 6. Other reports by academics citing WEC data said that local officials had yet to mail out 10,000 ballots. Meanwhile, half-a-million ballots had yet to be returned.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court’s decision was not entirely unexpected, because in 2016 outgoing Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-led legislature stripped many authorities from the incoming Democratic governor. Democrats had fought those laws, enacted after the 2016 election in a lame-duck session, but lost.

“This is a real constitutional showdown,” said Kevin Kennedy, the ex-executive director of Wisconsin’s Government Accountability Board, which oversaw the elections for decades until Walker and GOP legislators dismantled the board.

“When I was there I thought the governor had the power to do something [like postpone an election in a crisis], but in 2016 the Legislature severely restricted the governor’s power,” Kennedy said. “He [Walker] signed all of these laws that he would never have tolerated as restrictions on his power. Even the Attorney General can’t settle a lawsuit without approval from the legislature.”

However, shortly after the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in—responding to another lawsuit filed late on Friday by the Republican National Committee and Wisconsin’s GOP-led legislature. (Its Republican majority was created by gerrymandering after the 2010 census.)

The U.S. Supreme Court decision followed a tortuous path that began with lower court orders that sought to help voters but ended with its ruling withdrawing that help.

Earlier on Friday, April 3, a federal district court with a judge appointed by President Obama extended the Wisconsin election’s mail-in balloting deadline by a week and said that absentee voters did not have to find a witness to sign their ballots. The witness requirement was a pre-existing state law.

That pro-voter ruling was appealed by Republicans to a federal circuit court, which reinstated the witness requirement but kept the week-long extension for absentee ballots to be returned. The RNC then appealed the extension to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that some Wisconsin voters would be voting after Election Day.

The Republicans argued that no special exceptions should be made, even though the pandemic had led local officials to send out six times as many vote-by-mail ballots as in the 2018 election—and by late Monday more than 500,000 hadn’t been returned, according to the WEC.

The Supreme Court’s conservative bloc agreed with the Republican litigants, issuing a ruling that drew harsh criticism by the court’s liberal minority.

“The Court’s [majority] suggestion that the current situation is not ‘substantially different’ from ‘an ordinary election’ boggles the mind,” Justice Ginsburg’s dissent said. “Some 150,000 requests for absentee ballots have been processed since Thursday, state records indicate. The surge in absentee-ballot requests has overwhelmed election officials, who face a huge backlog in sending ballots.”

“It is among the most cynical decisions I have read from this Court—devoid of even the pretense of engaging with the reality that this decision will mean one of two things for many WI voters: either they will risk their health & lives to vote, or they will be disenfranchised,” tweeted Sherrilyn Ifill, president and lead counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

A Troubling Precedent

In the coming days, it will become clear how many thousands of voters will see their absentee ballots rejected because they arrived too late to be returned by April 7. But Monday’s high court rulings—by a state supreme court and federal Supreme Court—will resonate in other 2020 swing states that are wrestling with expanding absentee balloting in response to the pandemic.

The partisan divide that led to Wisconsin’s constitutional crisis, where a Democratic executive branch and a Republican-led legislature could not agree on voting reforms, is not unusual—although the Wisconsin governor’s weakened authority is somewhat unique. The 2020 swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina all have different parties controlling their executive and legislative branches. These states are already seeing clashes over expanding absentee voting in response to the pandemic.

Analysts in Wisconsin, including conservatives such as Charlie Sykes, said that no one should doubt that the Wisconsin GOP was putting partisan power before the public interest. Sykes noted that Republicans believe they can win a state Supreme Court seat if the April 7 election continued and other voting options were curtailed.

“In Wisconsin, the GOP would rather endanger people’s lives and have a clusterf—-k election, so long as it gives them a chance at clinging to a piece of government power,” he wrote Monday on TheBulwark.com, which Sykes founded and where he is an editor at large. “Don’t be confused about any [of] the motivations here: [The] GOP position is about power, not ideology.”

[Please read the rest of the article by opening the link.]

Politico Morning Education reported yesterday that the coronavirus legislation in Congress has been delayed because Republicans and Democrats disagree about including college student debt relief.

Of course, other issues between the parties have stymied an agreement, especially the $500 billion economic recovery fund that would be administered by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. Republicans want him to have broad discretion over where the money goes; Democrats insist on oversight, to ensure that he is not favoring Republican donors and underwriting Trump family properties, like Mar-a-Lago and Trump hotels. The latest speculation in the media is that the parties may reach agreement later today. Keep your eye on the Mnuchin fund.

REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS SPAR OVER STUDENT DEBT RELIEF IN STIMULUS BILL: Republicans and Democrats are fighting over how to structure relief for the nation’s tens of millions of student loan borrowers as part of the massive stimulus plan to address the economic havoc caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

— At the core of the student debt dispute: Republicans have largely embraced the idea that borrowers should immediately be able to put their payments on hold without accruing interest; Democrats say that’s an insufficient half-measure and want to see some amount of debt cancellation.

— The latest Senate GOP stimulus bill circulated on Sunday would require the Education Department to suspend payments on federally held student loans for six months without interest accruing — a modest expansion from an earlier bill that called for a three-month mandatory suspension with an additional three-month pause at the discretion of the department.

— Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to advance the bill through a procedural vote on Sunday evening as Democrats objected. Among the many “major problems” with the bill, according to a senior Democratic aide, was that it doesn’t “provide adequate relief for the 44 million federal student loan borrowers.”

— The GOP plan follows the Trump administration’s executive actions to halt interest on federally held student loans and give borrowers a new forbearance option to pause their payments for the next two months. (Sen. Mitt Romney on Friday also proposed a longer forbearance of up to three years for recent graduates entering the job market.)

— But Senate Democrats, led by Chuck Schumer, are pushing a counter proposal: They want to cancel the monthly payments owed during the national emergency and guarantee each borrower receive at least $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who campaigned on sweeping student debt cancellation, has pressed the issue with Schumer personally, including during phone calls last week, according to a Huffington Post report on Sunday.

— Biden, who has resisted calling for widespread student debt cancellation in his education plans, on Sunday backed the plan to forgive at least $10,000 in debt per borrower as part of the stimulus bill. “Young people and other student debt holders bore the brunt of the last crisis,” Biden tweeted. “It shouldn’t happen again.”

— In the House, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indicated she may start drafting her own stimulus bill, there’s growing pressure from progressives to include student loan forgiveness. A group of progressive lawmakers, led by Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar, urged House leadership to include loan forgiveness in the bill. The letter was signed by Rep. Jim Clyburn, the No. 3 Democrat in the House, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). Rep. Maxine Waters, the chair of the House Financial Services Committee, has also separately called for including $10,000 in student debt forgiveness in a coronavirus stimulus plan.

— Rep. Bobby Scott, the chair of the House education committee, hasn’t publicly backed any student loan forgiveness plan and it wasn’t included as part of his $3 billion coronavirus bill to address education rolled out last week. But a Democratic committee aide told POLITICO: “The Senate Democrats proposal is a step in the right direction.”

— Republicans, meanwhile, say Democrats are exploiting a crisis to enact their policy agenda. “Democrats are trying to reduce student loans by $10,000. What the hell has that got to do with the virus,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on Fox News on Sunday. “I’m sure everybody could use more money, but I don’t want to give money to people who have a paycheck. I want to give money to people who have lost their jobs.”

Arthur Camins writes about the importance of voting Democratic in November. He says he supports Senator Sanders but recognizes that he is unlikely to win the nomination, given the double-digit losses sustained by his personal choice. The stakes are high, he writes, and he’s prepared to support former Vice President Joe Biden.

https://www.dailykos.com/story/2020/3/19/1929172/-A-Time-to-Every-Purpose-Vote-for-the-Democrat-in-November

He begins:

“Short of some unexpected dramatic development, there is a high potential for Joe Biden’s nomination. I want Bernie to win, but the delegate numbers are not just media hype. It is real.

“I see a lot of non-voting, 3rd party and write- in sentiment. I have no idea if this is widespread or just a feature of a few websites or bots out to suppress the vote. Either way, I find it alarming. I hope it is in-the-moment anger and disappointment rather than long-term resolve.

“I have supported Bernie. I’m furious and frustrated too. So, I’m writing to persuade, not condemn.

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven ….

“A time of love, a time of hate
A time of war, a time of peace
A time you may embrace, a time to refrain from embracing

“To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

“And a time to every purpose, under heaven

“A time to gain, a time to lose
A time to rend, a time to sew
A time for love, a time for hate
A time for peace, I swear it’s not too late (Peter Seeger)

“Now is not the time to count on an alternative progressive 3rd party win, never done before in a substantive way at the national level. That takes years of grassroots organizing at the local level. It cannot be done in time to prevent Trump from being elected.

“Now is not the time for a symbolic protest vote. Stopping Trump’s reelection is essential. Lives depend on it.

“For me, a lifelong progressive, that means that anyone who cares about human and political rights must vote for whoever is the Democratic nominee. There is no moral equivalence between Trump and Biden. Even if Bernie wins the nomination, that organizing would be essential for him to implement his agenda. That is what “political revolution” means. If Trump wins– the assured result of non-voting, 3rd party, or write-in votes– his authoritarian impulses will be unleashed and uncontrolled.”

Please read on.