Tuesday Reads: Election Day

Good Morning!!

Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi-Gperge

MIchelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi-George are running for Mayor of Boston.

Today is election day in states across the country. The is the deadlocked race between gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin is getting the most attention, but there’s also a historic election in Massachusetts, where a woman of color most likely will be elected Mayor of Boston today. 7News Boston: Boston voters heading to the polls for historic mayor’s race.

BOSTON (AP) — Boston voters are heading to the polls Tuesday not only to choose between Democrats Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George for mayor, but to mark a turning point in the city’s history, for the first time electing a woman and person of color to helm Boston.

The choice of Wu and Essaibi George for the top political post is just the latest marker of how much the Boston of not-so-long-ago — known for its ethnic neighborhoods, glad-handing politicians and mayors with Irish surnames — is giving way to a new Boston.

Throughout its long history, Boston has previously only elected white men as mayor.

Despite the groundbreaking nature of the candidates, the campaign has turned on familiar themes for the city’s 675,000 residents, including public education, policing, public transportation and the skyrocketing cost of housing.

Among the newer issues facing Boston residents is the effect of climate change on the costal metropolis.

One of the thorniest issues in the campaign is whether Boston should pursue a form of rent control or rent stabilization, something supported by Wu and opposed by Essaibi George. In 1994, Massachusetts voters narrowly approved a 1994 ballot question banning rent control statewide.

Both candidates have spent the final hours of the campaign urging their voters to get to the polls.

Nearly 40,000 ballots have already been cast in early voting. Democratic Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin told reporters Monday he estimates about 135,000 ballots will be cast in Boston — about 30% of the city’s 442,000 registered voters.

Both candidates are children of immigrants.

The 36-year-old Wu, whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan, grew up in Chicago and moved to Boston to attend Harvard University and Harvard Law School.

Essaibi George, 47, a lifelong Boston resident and former public school teacher, describes herself as a first-generation Arab-Polish American. Her father was a Muslim immigrant from Tunisia. Her mother, a Catholic, immigrated from Poland.

The contest could also be a test of whether voters in a city long dominated by parochial neighborhood politics are ready to tap someone not born and raised in the city like Wu, who grew up in Chicago.

106968872-16357982542021-10-30t201956z_1448218099_rc2ikq9mhpkl_rtrmadp_0_usa-election-virginiaIn Virginia, McAuliffe and Youngkin are running neck and neck, and observers are speculating about how the result with impact the midterm elections in 2022. Bloomberg: Virginia Race Offers Hint of 2022 Fight to Control Congress.

Virginia’s gubernatorial contest Tuesday between Terry McAuliffe and Glenn Youngkin will offer the clearest picture yet of how much momentum Republicans have heading into 2022 elections that will decide control of Congress, while President Joe Biden struggles to advance his agenda in Washington. 

Polls show the Virginia race essentially deadlocked as Democrat McAuliffe’s lead during the summer evaporated along with Biden’s approval ratings. In the final weeks of the campaign, Republican Youngkin, the former co-chief executive officer of the Carlyle Group Inc., has capitalized on voter frustration with national Democrats and local education issues. 

The election comes a day after Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia, slammed the door on Biden’s wish for Congress to take quick action on his $1.75 trillion tax and spending package, the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. Virginia, a state Biden won by 10 percentage points a year ago, is a bellwether for the Congressional midterms. A McAuliffe loss would be the biggest omen for Democratic prospects to hold onto their slim majority in Congress. 

Longtime Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson said that Virginia is often an “early-warning system” for the party in power as to how it will do in the midterms, especially because of the diversity of the state, which includes rural, suburban and urban areas; military, farming and technology workers; and White, Hispanic and Black voters.

“Virginia allows you for a dry run of the arguments you’re going to make in the midterms, to see how different parts of the electorate respond,” Ferguson said.

Read more at the link.

Peter Saul, Donald Trump in Florida, 2017.

Peter Saul, Donald Trump in Florida, 2017.

At The Atlantic, Virginia resident Michael Tolhurst writes that a Youngkin win in Virginia could lead to a Constitutional crisis. That’s because governors control the National Guard. I can only provide a brief excerpt, so I hope you’ll read the entire article at The Atlantic.

…[i]n addition to the substantive policy disagreements or politics as pastime, people across America should be monitoring the outcome of this race for another reason: Governors command the National Guard, and after the January 6 riot, the country saw the National Guard defend our constitutional order.

at the outbreak of the Civil War, the prompt arrival of the 6th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Militia in Washington, D.C., in April 1861 helped secure a capital precariously close to the battlefront. Later forces arrived, building up the defenses around the city in the Northern Virginia towns of Arlington and Alexandria. This included, a century and a half before I came to live in the area, Connecticut’s 22nd Regiment in which my many-greats-grandfather Edwin Tolhurst served. (His military experience was unromantic—he dug ditches in the red mud of Northern Virginia for nine months, caught consumption, and died shortly after he was discharged.)

We’re not, of course, in a civil war. But law professors and public intellectuals have seriously discussed the possibility of secession or a “national divorce.” A recent University of Virginia study revealed that 41 percent of people who voted for Joe Biden in 2020 and 52 percent of Donald Trump voters “at least somewhat agree that it’s time to split the country.” The same study revealed that significant numbers on both sides wish their preferred president wouldn’t have to be constrained by Congress or the courts.

Given this tinderbox, we unfortunately have to revisit the question of what role the present-day state militias—the National Guard—and the governors who command them might play in a constitutional crisis. As the writer Andrew Sullivan put it, there is an “increasingly nihilist cult on the right among the GOP” that has shown an “increasingly menacing contempt for electoral integrity and a stable democracy.” Will all elected governors rush to the defense of the constitutional order when necessary, as did the 6th Massachusetts and the 22nd Connecticut? Or will they fight for a separatist movement? This is not a happy thought, but as even previously respectable institutions are being coy about the possibility of such a conflict, it must be considered.

It’s difficult to accept that the situation is getting that serious, but you just have to look at how completely the Republican Party has been captured by the Trump/Q-Anon cults to understand that we need to be prepared for the worst. I still need to finish reading the powerful Washington Post series on the January 6 insurrection, but I hope to do so this afternoon.

The Barbarians by Max Ernst, 1937

The Barbarians by Max Ernst, 1937

Harking back to the 2020 presidential election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffenspurger has written a book. AP: Georgia official: Trump call to ‘find’ votes was a threat.

Donald Trump was threatening Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger when he asked him to help “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in Georgia to Democratic President Joe Biden, Raffensperger writes in a new book.

The book, “Integrity Counts,” was released Tuesday. In it, Raffensperger depicts a man who defied pressure from Trump to alter election results, but also reveals a public official settling political scores as he seeks to survive a hostile Republican primary environment and win reelection in 2022.

An engineer who grew wealthy before running for office, Raffensperger recounts in his book the struggle in Georgia that followed Biden’s narrow victory, including death threats texted to his wife, an encounter with men who he says may have been staking out his suburban Atlanta home, and being escorted out of the Georgia capitol on Jan. 6 as a handful of right-wing protesters entered the building on the same day many more protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The book climaxes with the phone call, which was recorded and then given to multiple news organizations. Raffensperger — known as a conservative Republican before Trump targeted him — writes that he perceived Trump as threatening him multiple times during the phone call.

“I felt then — and still believe today — that this was a threat,” Raffensperger writes. “Others obviously thought so, too, because some of Trump’s more radical followers have responded as if it was their duty to carry out this threat.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating potential attempts to improperly influence Georgia’s 2020 election. Raffensperger said in an interview with The Associated Press that Willis’ investigators have talked to some employees in his office, but that he hasn’t been interviewed.

Read more about the book at USA today: Brad Raffensperger, GOP target of Trump ire in Georgia, warns of potential for more election violence.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Bijou Karman

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, by Bijou Karman

Another extremely important issue we face is that “conservatives” have taken over the Supreme Court. Linda Greenhouse at The Atlantic: What Can Liberals on the Supreme Court Do Now? They’re outnumbered, but they’re not powerless.

By the time the Supreme Court started its new term on the first Monday of October, a tumultuous summer of midnight orders and unsigned opinions had left no doubt about who was in charge. A five-member conservative bloc, anchored by three Trump-appointed justices, had largely stripped Chief Justice John Roberts of leverage and the three remaining liberals of any hope of striking a meaningful alliance with him. The best the liberals can hope for now, even with the chief justice on their side, is a 5–4 loss.

What path is open to them? Can they play a weak hand in a way that can make a difference? Is building bridges worthwhile, or has the time come to burn them all down? These are the questions hovering over the opening of a term that is likely to produce major decisions on abortion, religion, and the Second Amendment.

Perhaps some answers can be found in the memory of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September 2020 and was replaced with astonishing speed by Amy Coney Barrett. Powerless in her later years to change minds on the increasingly conservative Court, Ginsburg used the tool at her disposal: her voice. The purpose of her blunt and quotable dissenting opinions was not only to call out the majority when she believed it was wrong but to shape how the public understood the Court’s actions.

It’s easy to forget that this was not always Ginsburg’s way. For most of her years on the public stage, there was nothing flamboyant about her. Quite the opposite: A woman of few, precisely chosen words, she seemed content to fade into the background. During her years on the federal appeals court in Washington, she was so well known for her friendship with that court’s conservatives, particularly Antonin Scalia, who moved up to the Supreme Court in 1986, that many leaders of the women’s movement didn’t quite trust her when Bill Clinton chose her to fill his first Supreme Court vacancy, in 1993. In a lecture Ginsburg delivered months before her nomination, she emphasized the importance of dialogue and said that the “effective judge … strives to persuade, and not to pontificate,” and “speaks in a moderate and restrained voice.”

She didn’t become the “Notorious RBG” until much later; the bestselling biography Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg came out in 2015. By then, Ginsburg had been on the Court for 22 years. It wasn’t so much that Ginsburg had changed as that the Court and the culture had changed around her.

Read the rest at The Atlantic.

Today will be a busy news day. What stories are you following? Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread below.


Thursday Reads

hammock-1923-henri-lebasque

Henri Lebasque, Hammock, 1923

Good Afternoon!!

More news broke yesterday about Trump’s intense efforts to overturn the results of the election so he could stay in office. It’s becoming clear that his inciting of the January 5 insurrection was just a last ditch effort after repeated coup attempts had failed.

Remember when the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta suddenly resigned early this year around the time when Trump’s phone calls pressuring Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to find enough votes to change the state’s election results?

Yesterday, at the New York Times, Katie Brenner reported: Former U.S. attorney in Atlanta says Trump wanted to fire him for not backing election fraud claims.

Byung J. Pak, a former U.S. attorney in Atlanta, told congressional investigators on Wednesday that his abrupt resignation in January had been prompted by Justice Department officials’ warning that President Donald J. BTrump intended to fire him for refusing to say that widespread voter fraud had been found in Georgia, according to a person familiar with his testimony.

Mr. Pak, who provided more than three hours of closed-door testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, stepped down with no notice on Jan. 4, saying that he had done his best “to be thoughtful and consistent, and to provide justice for my fellow citizens in a fair, effective and efficient manner.”

While he did not discuss Mr. Trump’s role in his decision to resign at the time, he told the Senate panel that the president had been dismayed that Mr. Pak had investigated allegations of voter fraud in Fulton County, Ga., and not found evidence to support them, according to the person familiar with the statements.

Mr. Pak testified that top department officials had made clear that Mr. Trump intended to fire him over his refusal to say that the results in Georgia had been undermined by voter fraud, the person said. Resigning would pre-empt a public dismissal.

Rowntree, Kenneth, 1915-1997; The Balcony

Kenneth Rowntree, The Balcony

He also described work done by state officials and the F.B.I. to vet Mr. Trump’s claims of voter fraud, and said they had not found evidence to support those allegations.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is examining Mr. Pak’s departure as part of its broader investigation into the final weeks of the Trump administration and the White House’s efforts to pressure the Justice Department to falsely assert that the election was corrupt. The Justice Department’s inspector general is also looking at Mr. Pak’s resignation.

During a phone call with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia on Jan. 2, two days before Mr. Pak resigned, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Raffensperger to find enough votes to reverse the state’s presidential election results and described fraud allegations that Mr. Raffensperger said were not supported by facts, according to leaked audio of the call.

Mr. Pak had refused to support similar election fraud claims because of the lack of evidence, according to two people familiar with his investigation. “You have your never-Trumper U.S. attorney there,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Raffensperger during their phone call.

This story on then Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen’s Congressional testimony came out this morning at The Washington Post: What Rosen told U.S. senators: Trump applied ‘persistent’ pressure to get Justice to discredit election.

President Donald Trump’s last acting attorney general has told U.S. senators his boss was “persistent” in trying to pressure the Justice Department to discredit the results of the 2020 election.

In closed-door testimony Saturday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jeffrey Rosen said he had to “persuade the president not to pursue a different path” at a high-stakes January meeting in which Trump considered ousting Rosen as the nation’s most powerful law enforcement officer.

Late Summer, Hermann Wessel, 1924

Late Summer, Hermann Wessel, 1924

According to a person familiar with the testimony, Rosen’s opening statement also characterized as “inexplicable” the actions of his Justice Department colleague, Jeffrey Clark, who was willing to push Trump’s false claims of election fraud and whom Trump considered installing as acting attorney general to replace Rosen….

On Saturday, Rosen appeared before the Senate committee to deliver his account directly. Donoghue testified as well. During a seven-hour interview, Rosen emphasized how he and other senior leaders resisted Trump’s entreaties.

“The president was persistent with his inquiries, and I would have strongly preferred that he had chosen a different focus in the last month of his presidency,” he said in his opening statement, according to a person familiar with the testimony, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door session. “But as to the actual issues put to the Justice Department, DOJ consistently acted with integrity, and the rule of law held fast.”

Rosen said he thought Trump’s claims about voting irregularities were “misguided, and I disagreed with things that President Trump suggested the Justice Department do with regard to the election. So we did not do them.”

Click the link to read the rest.

Mary Harris at Slate: A Rogue DOJ Lawyer Almost Kept Trump in Office. This is a report of an interview with Mark Joseph Stern, a Slate writer who has been reporting on Trump’s coup attempts. Stern argues that the DOJ’s Jeffrey Clark was supporting the efforts of Trump’s lawyers to get courts to declare various states’ election results invalid.

Mark Joseph Stern: …[Y]ou’ve got Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani claiming there’s mass voter fraud. You’ve got state attorneys general in 18 different states, as well as a lot of conservative intellectuals and Republican politicians, claiming that the election was conducted in an unconstitutional way….

Gari Melchers, The Sun Porch

Gari Melchers, The Sun Porch

So these folks talked about voter fraud, but they focused on this idea that only state legislatures get to decide the rules for a presidential election. And here, you had a lot of other players—governors, state courts, election boards—tweaking these rules in part because legislatures can’t foresee every possible election regulation, and sometimes state courts or secretaries of state or governors will have to step in and clarify things. But also, because of the COVID-19 crisis, you had a lot of states trying new things for the first time. And you also had a lot of states that refused to try new things, whose restrictive voting laws were going to force people to potentially wait in line indoors for a very long time and expose themselves to COVID. But all the modifications certain states made were modest.

Mary Harris: The neatness of making this argument that somehow the election was unconstitutional is that it potentially allows state legislatures to step in and override the vote, right?

That’s exactly right. That’s the endgame here. It’s not as if these folks were flailing and screaming and accusing the election results of being illegitimate. They had a purpose, which was to throw the procedure of the election into sufficient legal doubt so state legislatures would have an excuse to reconvene, step in, essentially ignore the results of the actual vote, and appoint their states’ electors in the Electoral College to Donald Trump….

It looks like most Justice Department officials balked at this idea, but Jeffrey Bossert Clark was all for it. And what we’ve seen in the release of documents that the House Oversight Committee has provided, and also from other reporting, is that he eagerly wanted to have the Justice Department step in in several different ways, specifically in Georgia, to push the state legislature to call its own special session, overturn the actual results, and declare Trump the real winner.

Winslow Homer, Sunshine and Shadow

Winslow Homer, Sunshine and Shadow

We’ve actually seen the drafts of the letters and lawsuits that Clark was typing up furiously and trying to issue on behalf of the entire Justice Department—and that would have potentially nudged Georgia and its legislature toward overthrowing its own election results….

There are a number of reports from high-level Justice Department officials that are somewhat corroborated by other emails we’ve seen about various meetings that were taking place at this time. They show that at this point, Clark had decided that Rosen didn’t have the backbone to steal the election or to intervene on Trump’s behalf. So Clark apparently held unauthorized conversations behind the backs of his superiors with the president himself, and seems to have floated this idea of using the Justice Department to make these state legislatures reconvene and reassign their electoral votes. Trump seems to have really liked this idea and even said to Rosen, Why am I having to deal with you and these state suits when I could be dealing with Clark, who would do everything I say? All I need to do is fire you and make Clark the new acting attorney general, and then he’ll do whatever I want.

Read the whole thing at Slate.

One more story on this topic from Politico: Emails: Senior DOJ officials wrangled over baseless Trump voter fraud allegations.

During Donald Trump’s final weeks in office, top Justice Department officials wrangled over how the FBI should handle a particularly wacky voter fraud allegation promoted by the then-president and his allies. Unreleased emails obtained by POLITICO show just how tense the episode got.

The dispute pitted a senior career section chief against one of the DOJ’s top officials, with the FBI caught in the crossfire. Trump’s appointees at DOJ ultimately prevailed, and their investigation — a probe into a viral video from Georgia that didn’t actually find any evidence of fraud — ended up playing a role in torpedoing the president’s narrative. While Trump’s opponents fretted that the FBI’s involvementwould undermine public confidence in elections and boost Republican talking points, it had the opposite effect.

Summer Porch at Mr. and Mrs. C.E.S. Woods, 1904, Child Hassam

Summer Porch at Mr. and Mrs. C.E.S. Woods, 1904, Child Hassam

At the time of the email dispute, Trump and his allies were lobbing a host of allegations about voter fraud, claiming wide-reaching and nefarious forces had conspired to steal the election for Biden. One allegation in particular commanded the president’s attention:a video showing election workers counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. Trump’s allies claimed it showed the workers secretly pulling ballots out of “suitcases” and using them to commit election fraud.

Officials in the office of Georgia’s secretary of state quickly debunked those claims. But on Dec. 5, Trump alluded to the video at a rally in Georgia, suggesting it proved poll workers were stuffing ballot boxes to help the Democrats.

This led to this dispute between DOJ officials involving the FBI. It’s a convoluted story that I can’s easily summarize, but the story is worth reading.

Unfortunately, the ravages of the Delta variant of the coronavirus are still the top story of the day. Here’s the latest depressing news, links only:

The Daily Beast: No One I Know Is Vaccinated’: Sturgis Rally Bikers Are Coming for America.

Ed Yong at The Atlantic: How the Pandemic Now Ends. Cases of COVID-19 are rising fast. Vaccine uptake has plateaued. The pandemic will be over one day—but the way there is different now.

Rachel Gutman at The Atlantic: Why Is It Taking So Long to Get Vaccines for Kids? A few things still need to happen before the shots can be authorized for Americans younger than 12.

The New York Times: Texas Hospitals Are Already Overloaded. Doctors Are ‘Frightened by What Is Coming.’

Adam Serwer at The Atlantic: Greg Abbott Surrenders to the Coronavirus. The Texas governor’s warped priorities are allowing an extremist minority to worsen the pandemic.

Mississippi Free Press: Mississippi’s Hospital System Could ‘Fail’ In 10 Days, UMMC Warns As Feds Rush In.

Mississippi Free Press: With Mississippi Hospitals Near Calamity, Gov. Reeves Left State For GOP Political Event.

The Daily Beast: Trump Keeps Rejecting Pleas From Allies for Pro-Vax Campaign.

The Washington Post: Republicans risk becoming face of delta surge as key GOP governors oppose anti-covid measures.

That’s it for me today. What stories are you following?