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.


Lazy Caturday Reads: Call Witnesses!

Ambrosius Benson, Portrait of a Woman and cat

Ambrosius Benson, Portrait of a Woman and cat

Good Morning!!

Yesterday after the Trump lawyers in the impeachment trial presented their pathetic defense of Trump’s January 6, 2020 coup attempt, details about a phone call between Trump and GOP House leader Kevin McCarthy began getting a lot of attention. The facts had actually been available for some time in the Longview, Washington Daily News, but hadn’t broken through in major media outlets until CNN broke this story yesterday: New details about Trump-McCarthy shouting match show Trump refused to call off the rioters.

In an expletive-laced phone call with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy while the Capitol was under attack, then-President Donald Trump said the rioters cared more about the election results than McCarthy did.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” Trump said, according to lawmakers who were briefed on the call afterward by McCarthy.

McCarthy insisted that the rioters were Trump’s supporters and begged Trump to call them off.

Judith Leyster, Two Childrren with a Cat,

Judith Leyster, Two Children with a Cat

Trump’s comment set off what Republican lawmakers familiar with the call described as a shouting match between the two men. A furious McCarthy told the then-President the rioters were breaking into his office through the windows, and asked Trump, “Who the f–k do you think you are talking to?” according to a Republican lawmaker familiar with the call.

The newly revealed details of the call, described to CNN by multiple Republicans briefed on it, provide critical insight into the President’s state of mind as rioters were overrunning the Capitol. The existence of the call and some of its details were first reported by Punchbowl News and discussed publicly by McCarthy.

The Republican members of Congress said the exchange showed Trump had no intention of calling off the rioters even as lawmakers were pleading with him to intervene. Several said it amounted to a dereliction of his presidential duty.

Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler was one of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, based on what she had learned about the phone call. From the Longview Daily News story linked above:

In a Friday interview with The Daily News, she said the events of Jan. 6 determined her course of action for the following week. Hiding with colleagues from the violent mob that was ransacking the U.S. Capitol on that day, she told how she was flooded with emotions.

“I was heartbroken. I was aghast. I was in disbelief,” she recalled. “I was praying. I was like, ‘We’ve got some pretty big angels, a couple of big angels, and we’re fine.’ Just knowing how badly outnumbered everybody was at that point, and how beaten everybody was, the fact that there wasn’t a mass casualty event to me just demonstrates, I feel like, I do think God, I do think God intervened.”

“When I look at the picture of the Capitol police officer on his face, with the crowd standing over him, or of someone being bludgeoned to death, I cannot express to you the feeling inside that says, ‘I will stand up to that any day of the week and twice on Sunday,’ ” she said.

Woman with a cat, Il Bacchiacca

Woman with a cat, Il Bacchiacca

“To me that’s what my vote represents. I will not tolerate that and nor will, I believe, a majority of the good people in my district, in our state and in our country.” [….]

On the House floor Jan. 13, Herrera Beutler said:

“I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid that my country will fail. I’m afraid that patriots of this country have died in vain. I’m afraid that my children won’t grow up in a free country. I’m afraid injustice will prevail.

“My vote to impeach our sitting president is not a fear-based decision. I am not choosing a side – I am choosing truth, she said. “It’s the only way to defeat fear.”

Trump’s lawyers are still claiming he didn’t know that Pence’s life was in danger, but he had to know, even before his phone call with Tommy Tuberville. USA Today: Sen. Tommy Tuberville stands by account of Jan. 6 Trump phone call after lawyers say it’s ‘hearsay.’

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., stood by his account of former President Donald Trump’s phone call to him during Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol despite Trump’s lawyers calling the account “hearsay.” 

Tuberville’s account would mean Trump was aware of the danger Vice President Mike Pence faced before he tweeted an attack on Pence. Asked about the allegation by reporters, Tuberville said he was not sure exactly what time Trump called, but reiterated he had talked to Trump by phone on Jan. 6 and had told the president Pence was evacuated from the Senate chamber. 

Tuberville recounted answering the phone, talking briefly to Trump, and then telling him, “Mr. President, they’ve taken the vice president out. They want me to get off the phone, I gotta go.” [….]

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., asked Trump’s lawyers for greater clarity on the call but said Trump’s lawyers had “not really” answered his question.

Trump’s attorney Michael van der Veen had responded to Cassidy’s question by saying he disputed the “premise” of Cassidy’s question and called Tuberville’s account “hearsay.”

But the Secret Service would have informed Trump.

This is from yesterday’s Washington Post: Six hours of paralysis: Inside Trump’s failure to act after a mob stormed the Capitol.

Hiding from the rioters in a secret location away from the Capitol, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appealed to Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) phoned Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

Studies for Madonna with a cat, Leonardo Da Vinci

Studies for Madonna with a cat, Leonardo Da Vinci

And Kellyanne Conway, a longtime Trump confidante and former White House senior adviser, called an aide who she knew was standing at the president’s side.

But as senators and House members trapped inside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday begged for immediate help during the siege, they struggled to get through to the president, who — safely ensconced in the West Wing — was too busy watching fiery TV images of the crisis unfolding around them to act or even bother to hear their pleas.

“He was hard to reach, and you know why? Because it was live TV,” said one close Trump adviser. “If it’s TiVo, he just hits pause and takes the calls. If it’s live TV, he watches it, and he was just watching it all unfold.”

Even as he did so, Trump did not move to act. And the message from those around him — that he needed to call off the angry mob he had egged on just hours earlier, or lives could be lost — was one to which he was not initially receptive….

Trump ultimately — and begrudgingly — urged his supporters to “go home in peace.” But the six hours between when the Capitol was breached shortly before 2 p.m. Wednesday afternoon and when it was finally declared secure around 8 p.m. that evening reveal a president paralyzed — more passive viewer than resolute leader, repeatedly failing to perform even the basic duties of his job.

It’s absolutely clear at this point that Trump deliberately aided the insurrectionists and knowingly put his own Vice President and members of Congress and their staffs in danger. Now House managers are face pressure to call witnesses in the trial, which they still can do. Greg Sargent writes:

Peter Paul Rubens, Detail from Annunciation,

Peter Paul Rubens, Detail from Annunciation,

Evidence is mounting that Donald Trump knew Mike Pence was in grave danger from the mob rampaging into the Capitol when the then-president sent out a tweet blasting his vice president.

During the Jan. 6 assault, Trump tweet-slammed Pence for lacking the “courage” to overturn the election, which further infuriated the insurrectionists. Trump essentially pointed the mob like a loaded gun at Pence — and newly unearthed facts suggest Trump may have understood what he was doing in exactly these terms.

These new circumstances hand Democrats one last big weapon to wield against Trump at his impeachment trial. They also impose on them an obligation.

Specifically, the impeachment managers can still call witnesses. And the case for this has gotten stronger, now that we are so close to showing that Trump may have knowingly endangered Pence’s life.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is calling for witnesses in the trial.

Today’s session of the Trump trial should be interesting.

More relevant reads:

Jan Steen, Children teaching a cat to dance

Jan Steen, Children teaching a cat to dance

The Bulwark: The 10 Worst Moments from Trump’s “Defense”

The New York Times: For the Defense: Twisted Facts and Other Staples of the Trump Playbook

David Frum at The Atlantic: The Incompetence Lasted to the Very End.

The New York Times: For the Defense: Twisted Facts and Other Staples of the Trump Playbook

George Conway III at The Washington Post: Opinion: Trump’s lawyers offered an attack on everything but the evidence

Aaron Rupar at Vox: Trump lawyers keep accusing Democrats of manipulating evidence. But they’re doing that themselves.

Politico: House Republican pleads for Pence, Trump aides to speak out on Jan. 6 insurrection

PBS: Sen. Patty Murray recounts her narrow escape from a violent mob inside the U.S. Capitol\

Yahoo News: Trump lawyer struggles to answer key questions from Republican senators

ProPublica: “I Don’t Trust the People Above Me”: Riot Squad Cops Open Up About Disastrous Response to Capitol Insurrection

That’s all I have for you today. Have a terrific long weekend, Sky Dancers!