So, naturally, Democrats are pushing to have them sent to every voter — or ‘voter.’
Enormous pressure is being mounted to use our current crisis as an excuse to transform how we vote in elections.
“Coronavirus gives us an opportunity to revamp our electoral system,” Obama’s former attorney general, Eric Holder, recently told Time magazine. “These are changes that we should make permanent because it will enhance our democracy.”
The ideas Holder and others are proposing include requiring that a mail-in ballot be automatically sent to every voter, which would allow people to both register and vote on Election Day. It would also permit “ballot harvesting,” whereby political operatives go door-to-door collecting ballots that they then deliver to election officials. All of these would dramatically reduce safeguards protecting election integrity.
But liberals see a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sweep away the current system. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted that a mandatory national vote-by-mail option be forced on states in the first Coronavirus aid bill. She retreated only when she was ridiculed for shamelessly using the bill to push a political agenda. But Pelosi has promised her Democratic caucus that she will press again to overhaul election laws in the next aid bill.
If liberals can’t mandate vote-by-mail nationally, they will demand that states take the lead. Last Friday, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, signed an executive order requiring that every registered voter — including those listed as “inactive” — be mailed a ballot this November.
This could be a disaster waiting to happen. Los Angeles County (population 10 million) has a registration rate of 112 percent of its adult citizen population. More than one out of every five L.A. County registrations probably belongs to a voter who has moved, or who is deceased or otherwise ineligible.
Just last January, the public-interest law firm Judicial Watch reached a settlement agreement with the State of California and L.A. County officials to begin removing as many as 1.5 million inactive voters whose registrations may be invalid. Neither state nor county officials in California have been removing inactive voters from the rolls for 20 years, even though the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed last year, in Husted v. Randolph Institute, a case about Ohio’s voter-registration laws, that federal law “makes this removal mandatory.”
Experts have long cautioned against wholesale use of mail ballots, which are cast outside the scrutiny of election officials. “Absentee ballots remain the largest source of potential voter fraud,” was the conclusion of the bipartisan 2005 Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former president Jimmy Carter and former secretary of state James Baker.
That remains true today. In 2012, a Miami–Dade County Grand Jury issued a public report recommending that Florida change its law to prohibit “ballot harvesting” unless the ballots are “those of the voter and members of the voter’s immediate family.” “Once that ballot is out of the hands of the elector, we have no idea what happens to it,” they pointed out. “The possibilities are numerous and scary.”
Indeed. In 2018, a political consultant named Leslie McCrae Dowless and seven others were indicted on charges of “scheming to illegally collect, fill in, forge and submit mail-in ballots” to benefit Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris, the Washington Post reported. The fraud was extensive enough that Harris’s 900-vote victory was invalidated by the courts and the race was rerun.
Texas has a long history of intimidation and coercion involving absentee ballots. The abuse of elderly voters is so pervasive that Omar Escobar, the Democratic district attorney of Starr County, Texas, says, “The time has come to consider an alternative to mail-in voting.” Escobar says it needs to be replaced with “something that can’t be hijacked.”
Even assuming that the coronavirus remains a serious health issue in November, there is no reason to abandon in-person voting. A new Heritage Foundation report by Hans von Spakovsky and Christian Adams notes that in 2014, the African nation of Liberia successfully held an election in the middle of the Ebola epidemic. International observers worked with local officials to identify 40 points in the election process that constituted an Ebola transmission risk. Turnout was high, and the United Nations congratulated Liberia on organizing a successful election “under challenging circumstances, particularly in the midst of difficulties posed by the Ebola crisis.”
In Wisconsin recently, officials held that state’s April primary election in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis. Voters who did not want to vote in-person, including the elderly, could vote by absentee ballot. But hundreds of thousands of people cast ballots at in-person locations, and overall turnout was high. Officials speculated that a few virus cases “may” have been related to Election Day, but, as AP reported, they couldn’t confirm that the patients “definitely got [COVID-19] at the polls.”
In California, the previous loosening of absentee ballot laws have sent disturbing signals. In 2016, a San Pedro couple found more than 80 unused ballots on top of their apartment-building mailbox. All had different names but were addressed to an 89-year-old neighbor who lives alone in their building. The couple suspected that someone was planning to pick up the ballots, but the couple had intercepted them first. In the same election, a Gardena woman told the Torrance Daily Breeze that her husband, an illegal alien, had gotten a mail-in ballot even though he had never registered.
“I think it’s a huge deal,” she said. “Something is definitely wrong with the system.”
The Los Angeles Times agrees. In a 2018 editorial it blasted the state’s “overly-permissive ballot collection law” as being “written without sufficient safeguards.” The Times concluded that “the law passed in 2106 does open the door to coercion and fraud and should be fixed or repealed.” It hasn’t been.
John Lieberman, a Democrat living in East Los Angeles, wrote in the Los Angeles Daily News that he was troubled by how much pressure a door-to-door canvasser put on him to fill out a ballot for candidate Wendy Carrillo. “What I experienced from her campaign sends chills down my spine,” he said.
What should also spook voters who want an honest election is a report from the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. It found that, in 2016, more mail ballots were misdirected to wrong addresses or unaccounted for than the number of votes separating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. She led by 2.9 million votes, yet 6.5 million ballots were misdirected or unaccounted for by the states.147
It would be the height of folly for other states to follow California’s lead. In the Golden State, it already takes over a month to resolve close elections as mail-in ballots trickle in days and weeks after Election Day. Putting what may be a supremely close presidential election into the hands of a U.S. Postal Service known for making mistakes sounds like a recipe for endless litigation and greatly increased distrust in our democracy.
A former New York Times reporter opposes an investigation of the sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden, calling for a “coronation” of the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“I want a coronation of Joe Biden,” Martin Tolchin, a 40-year Times veteran and founder of The Hill newspaper, wrote to his former paper. “Would he make a great president? Unlikely … Would he make a better president than the present occupant? Absolutely. I don’t want justice, whatever that may be. I want a win, the removal of Donald Trump from office, and Mr. Biden is our best chance.”
It is not the first time the veteran journalist has publicly criticized the White House. While promoting his memoir last year, the 91-year-old Tolchin said the Trump presidency was a form of “adversity” that had inspired “very good reporting.”
Tolchin wrote in response to a May 1 Times editorial calling for the Democratic National Committee to investigate Tara Reade’s claim that Biden forcibly penetrated her with his fingers in 1993. Reade was one of eight women who said in 2019 that Biden touched them or made them feel uncomfortable, but she did not publicly make her assault allegation until March.
“Suppose an investigation reveals damaging information concerning his relationship with Tara Reade or something else, and Mr. Biden loses the nomination to Senator Bernie Sanders or someone else with a minimal chance of defeating Mr. Trump,” Tolchin wrote. “Should we really risk the possibility?”
Republicans have criticized members of the media for downplaying Reade’s allegation, in comparison with their aggressive pursuit of allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. A Free Beacon analysis found that Biden was not asked about Reade once in 19 interviews after the former staffer went public in March. He denied the allegation on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday.
The Times published its editorial 19 days after it published a lengthy news article headlined, “Examining Tara Reade’s Sexual Assault Allegation Against Joe Biden.” Though it did not reach a conclusion on Reade’s claim, Biden’s campaign instructed surrogates to cite it as proof the charge was false. In a statement, the Times rebuked the Biden campaign for misrepresenting the article.
Republicans have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to become the majority party!
Washington DC. April 11, 2020 by Dr. Larry Fedewa) For Republican activists who would like to a plan of action for the summer and fall, I would suggest that they work to increase the Republican Party’s base. There are three constituencies which the Republicans need to capture if they wish to return to majority party status: black voters, Hispanics, and suburban women.
Remember that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1863 and black Republicans were the first elected officials of their race during Reconstruction. This phase ended when the Democrats struck back with the Ku Klux Klan and began a reign of terror against southern blacks which lasted until Republican Dwight Eisenhour signed the Voting Rights Bill of 1957, the first victory of the civil rights movement.
Between 1960 and 1968 a major player in securing the black vote was Robert Kennedy, an ally of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., both of whom were assassinated in 1968. After Democrat Lyndon Johnson championed the Civil Rights Bill of 1967, Democrat George Wallace led a states’ rights third party rebellion against desegregation in the 1968 presidential election, splintering the “Solid South” between conservatives who voted for Wallace and liberals who voted for the Democrats.
The black vote turned definitively Democrat during the 1972 election when Wallace was sidelined by an assassination attempt and his followers turned to Republican Richard Nixon, who beat ultra-liberal Democrat George McGovern. The Democrats became identified with the welfare society of President Johnson and were later successful in combining the ideals of desegregation with aid to the poor, who included many of the black population of the era. Since then, the Democrats have held the black vote.
But times have changed. Today, many black Americans have taken advantage of the opportunities opened up by the change in cultural acceptance and have formed a solid middle class. In general, they are a family-centered, church-going, hard-working people, who fought in every war and are naturally conservative. They are natural Republicans!
In the meantime, the Democrats have been seduced by identity politics – and have discovered a whole new menu of identities, all of whom are victims – racial, sexual (gay, bi-sexual, transgender, women, lesbian), etc.) – in other words, everybody except white males, who are the bad guys. This legion of victims cries out for justice, which, say the Dems, can only be found in big, BIG government. They have taken in other causes as well – the green movement, the climate changers, the abortionists, the internationalists, the Socialists, and the anti-constitutionalists.
Most loyal Americans find this whole agenda a major threat to the freedoms we have always enjoyed as Americans. It is time for black voters to return to their natural home in the Republican party. Why haven’t they? Because they have not been invited.
Republican candidates have accepted the Democrats’ ownership of the black vote, with a few exceptions like Jack Kemp and Bob Livingston. Republicans usually don’t even bother to campaign in black neighborhoods, consult black clergymen, speak to black organizations, join black clubs. They don’t even know many black folks.
So, what can volunteers do to help these candidates? They can start by reaching out to black people themselves, paving the way for white Republican candidates. They can make known their lack of support for those candidates who won’t even try to listen to their black constituents. They can invite black voters to join their clubs, go to their meetings, make some friends. As activists, they can have a lot of influence on elections, local as well as state and national.
Much of what has been said regarding the black voters applies equally to Hispanic voters. As former two-term governor of New Mexico (2011-2019), Republican Susana Martinez tells her story: she and her husband were invited to dinner by some Republican activists. They proceeded to describe what Republicans believe in — “God, family and country”—and she said to her husband on the way home, “Damn, I guess we’re Republicans!” She went on to become the first Republican Governor of New Mexico in recent history.
Of course, the history of Hispanics in America is far different than that of the blacks, and in fact not all Hispanics have the same history. There are two major groups whose native language is Spanish: the descendants of the Mexican immigrants, and those of other Spanish-speaking nations, especially Cuban refugees from the Castro regime. More recent immigrants are from other Latin American countries, such as, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, and others.
There are also complications for many as to their legal status. To the extent that the more recent immigrants themselves or their families or associates have immigration issues, to that extent they can be expected to oppose the President. On the other hand, these people are not voters either (at least yet!).
In any attempt to reach out to these communities, care must be taken to consider these factors. However, it is also clear that the Hispanics who are citizens tend to fall into the same category as the black voters – family-centered, God-fearing, church-going, traditional people who are natural Republicans but just don’t know it, because no one ever explained it to them. George W. Bush got 40% of the Hispanic vote, and that is a good base to build on.
This is a constituency which is familiar to most Republicans. In fact, many Republican women could say,” I are one!!” The case here is far removed from the other groups we have been discussing. The objection of these women tends to be personal dislike of President Trump rather than any historical or ideological disagreement.
The answer is very simple, “Trump as opposed to whom?” We are living in an age where our very freedoms as Americans are being threatened. Donald Trump may not be the type of neighbor you would invite to a party, but he is a true American patriot, no matter what a biased press says about him. His opposition wants to ditch our Constitution, take over our lives, give the government untold authority over our weapons, our religions, our food and climate and radically change our lifestyle.
For proof, look at the Dems in Congress. Led by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, they want to carry forward the policies of Barack Obama – a weak military, high taxes, apologetic foreign policy, abortion of living babies after birth, outlaw guns, take over our health care and dictate our education from kindergarten through college.
We are truly at a crossroads. Trump may not be perfect, but neither was any other president we ever had. This is not the time to put personalities ahead of principles. We can’t afford that luxury. Nor can we forget that expanding the party requires that we win the down ballot contests as well. No president, governor or mayor can succeed without the legislature.
If the Republican base is increased in any substantial way, the Republican Party is poised to become the majority party once again as it did after the Civil War until 1932. In the process, the Union will once again be saved.
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues his presidential campaign from Delaware in the era of the Wuhan coronavirus by conducting remote interviews from a home studio.
Biden however, whose candidacy has survived slip-ups seemingly every month on the trail still appears forgetful and frail from the comfort of his own home. While the pressures of on-the-ground campaigning are temporarily gone, the same Biden we’ve seen for much of the last year is not.
On Monday, Biden once again refreshed concerns about the Democratic frontrunner’s age and aptitude at 77 years old to win the White House in November, offering a nonsensical jumbled word salad on MSNBC with notes in his lap.
Here’s what Biden said:
Boy those very high numbers have to do at least several things. One, we have to depend on what the president’s going to do right now, and first of all he has to… tell… wait til the cases before anything happens. Look, the whole idea is, he’s got to get in place things that were shortages of.
Biden’s Monday clip comes just a week after Biden seemed to have thrown in the towel on being articulate as he has become the likely Democratic nominee.
During an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday, Biden trailed off and looked defeated after mixing up his words again prompting an awkward silence on air.
“We have never, never, never, failed to respond to a crisis as a people, and I tell you what, I’m so darn proud. Those poor people who have…” Biden said before realizing what he actually said. “Anyway…”
Last week, Biden was also caught coughing while denying he had any symptoms of the Wuhan virus.
At one point on CNN, Jake Tapper directed Biden to cough into his arm as advised by public health officials.
“You know, you’re supposed to cough into your elbow… I learned that actually covering your White House,” Tapper said.
“Fortunately I’m alone in my home, but that’s okay,” Biden said.
In the last Democratic debate between Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who remains the final major competitor in the race, Biden also opened up with a cough to answer a question about the Wuhan virus.
So what is going on with Joe Biden?
The last Democratic debate was a snooze fest. Aside from the pro forma Trump-bashing, this time over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the only memorable moments were former Vice President Joe Biden’s promise to pick a woman as his running mate and appoint a black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The high court nomination is blatant pandering to a key Democratic constituency. One might prefer he commit to considering candidates on their merits and legal experience rather than gender or skin color, but that would go against what it means to be a member of his party these days.
Of much greater interest is his plan for the vice presidency, an office he held for eight years under former President Barack Obama. Even though some will say otherwise, it’s not at all ghoulish to point out how, to put it subtly, the former vice president is bumping up against the upper ranges of the actuarial tables. If victorious, Biden’s ticket mate may end up occupying the Oval Office sooner than anyone voting Democrat in November might think.
The vice presidential candidate always comes under scrutiny, especially when the media starts probing for weaknesses that could hurt the top of the ticket. George McGovern’s chances in 1972, which were already slim to none, weren’t helped when the public learned his original running mate, Missouri Senator Thomas Eagleton, had at one time undergone electroshock therapy. Walter Mondale’s 1984 campaign against Ronald Reagan was hurt by ethical issues concerning the business affairs of his running mate’s spouse. And it’s generally agreed former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin did more to drag John McCain’s 2008 campaign down than she ever did to boost it up.Ads by scrollerads.com
Vice presidential choices matter, even if running against them is a nonstarter. Michael Dukakis found that out in 1988, when he warned about the possibility of “President Quayle” instead of focusing on George H.W. Bush’s vulnerabilities. Picking Al Gore helped Bill Clinton “pick the GOP lock” on the Electoral College in 1992, and eight years later, Gore was almost lifted into the White House by Florida voters who backed his selection of Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman for the No. 2 slot on his ticket.
Many political analysts are predicting that Biden’s pick will come from among the women who ran against him in the primary, most likely Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren or Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar. Both, after all, were endorsed by The New York Times, and neither hit him too hard during any of the debates. They haven’t said anything particularly damaging that the media and GOP could exploit, and both have won office on their own.
Nevertheless, these analysts are wrong. Neither Warren nor Klobuchar helps Biden get any closer to the White House than he is now. The most important thing a running mate can do is deliver a state to the ticket that may be out of reach. Providing an ideological balance is nice but not usually helpful. Winning in a state you’re not expected to, as both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton found out in 2016, can be everything.
The Democrats have Massachusetts. And the progressives who bow to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on every issue aren’t going to be any more persuaded to vote for Biden with Warren on the ticket. The one thing that unites most Democratic primary voters is the desire, some might call it an aching wish, to see Trump kicked out of office.
If the Biden campaign’s main theme is the need for a change at the top, ideology doesn’t matter. He’ll have the Democrats he needs. This is why Klobuchar, while she makes more sense than Warren, isn’t the right pick either.
Trump almost won Minnesota in 2016, but it hasn’t gone Republican since Richard Nixon’s re-election in 1972. It may be on the bubble; indeed, many GOP election experts think it is, but Klobuchar on the bottom of the ticket isn’t enough to guarantee it stays in the Democratic column. It’s a high risk–low reward pick that’s probably not persuasive enough, especially since African Americans, a key Biden constituency, have a problem with her that the GOP can exploit.
The Democrats also have California and, as Biden all but promised the next Supreme Court seat to Senator Kamala Harris, she won’t be the pick. Neither will Tulsi Gabbard, who endorsed him when she quit the race last week. He’s got Hawaii in his pocket.
Who does that leave? The smart pick, the one that helps Biden most and causes the most trouble for Trump is Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whom most Americans met when she gave one of the more impressive responses to the president’s State of the Union address in recent memory.
Whitmer is a former prosecutor and former state legislator and, as a state chief executive, has vital leadership experience Biden lacks.
Biden has never been in charge of anything larger than a committee of the U.S. Senate. He can tout his experience with Obama all he wants, but he can’t get past the fact he worked for him, that the ultimate authority was always vested with someone else. Moreover, as someone who defeated her opponent in the general election, the statewide elected GOP attorney general, by 10 points she’s a proven vote winner in a state Trump needs to win re-election. And, as a bonus, her presence on the ticket would probably help keep Democrat Gary Peters, who is facing a stiff challenge from Republican John James that many expect him to lose, in the U.S. Senate.
Biden’s choice of running mate is the first major decision he’ll make. If he makes the right one, he may get to live in the White House. If he makes the wrong one, he hands his opponent an unexpected advantage that might lead to defeat.
Column: How a flight to safety helped the former vice president
On the day before the South Carolina primary, the stock market finished its worst week since the global financial crisis of 2008. Fear of Bernie Sanders and of coronavirus had investors panicked. They wanted safe returns. Bond yields fell to record lows.
The flight to safety was not just economic. It was also political. When the future looks grim, you turn to the familiar. And there aren’t many politicians more recognizable than a man first elected to the Senate when Richard Nixon was president.
South Carolina was Joe Biden’s last defense. It held. Credit congressman Jim Clyburn with the assist. His February 26 endorsement was powerful—and more decisive than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s backing of Sanders last October. Biden trounced the field in the Palmetto State, winning 48 percent to Sanders’s 20 percent.
The first signs of a Biden coalition of black voters, suburban women, and moderates became visible. These are the same people who returned the speaker’s gavel to Nancy Pelosi in 2018. After South Carolina, the non-Sanders vote consolidated behind Biden. And on Super Tuesday he pulled ahead in the delegate count.
Biden is too old to be called “the comeback kid.” He needs another moniker. Let’s call him “the comeback gramps.”
His achievement is something to behold. Not since 1992 has a candidate vaulted into frontrunner status after losing the first contests by such stunning margins. And circumstances were different 28 years ago. Back then, Iowa went to local hero Senator Tom Harkin. New Hampshire chose neighboring Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts. Both men enjoyed homefield advantage.
Bill Clinton didn’t have a victory until Georgia and South Carolina. Whereupon his spin room went into action, persuading the media that the Arkansas governor was the “comeback kid.” Clinton was 45 years old at the time.
The bloom of youth left Biden long ago. And, for a while it seemed, so did any chance of becoming president. He placed fourth in Iowa. He came in fifth in New Hampshire. He finished a distant—light-years distant—second in Nevada.
Bernie Sanders and his red brigades threatened to sweep all before them. What saved Biden and the Democratic Party was panic. Worries over socialism, over handing the election to President Trump, but also over the invisible contagion whose global spread appears to be unstoppable.
Biden is not unstoppable. He’s had a great week. But it is not a straight line from here to the White House. For one thing, Sanders is still in the race. The slim possibility remains that he could deny Biden a majority of the 1,991 delegates necessary to win on the first ballot of the convention. That would complicate matters. And widen the Democratic divide.
Biden’s resuscitation was contingent on discrete events. Who knows what the situation would look like today absent Bernie’s striking momentum, Bloomberg’s flameout, Clyburn’s endorsement, South Carolina’s place on the electoral calendar, and the appearance of coronavirus? There is plenty of time for further developments. Not all of them will play to his advantage.
Biden is not a strong candidate. His brain and his mouth never seem to be in the same place at the same time. He hasn’t given a satisfactory answer to the question of what his son Hunter was doing on the board of a Ukrainian gas giant. He suffers from the brand confusion of a septuagenarian Washington insider calling for change. He has a habit of making bizarre and rude comments—to his own supporters. His agenda is vague at best and regressive at worst.
He promises a return to the status quo ante Trump. For many people, that’s enough. For how many? In which states? Biden is the secure choice, the comforting presence, the genial (if slightly out of it) grandpa you like to have around. You turn to him in threatening times not because of what he has done, but because of who he is. That is why Barack Obama put him on the ticket after Russia invaded Georgia. It is why so many Democrats chose him on Tuesday.
Threats recede. Panic fades. Good times return. And you are left with grinning, affable, ordinary, unexciting, flawed Joe Biden. Who might not be a safe bet after all.
The rules for impeachment must be changed to save the Republic
In my last column of this topic, I urged the President to sue the House of Representatives for malfeasance on the basis of two unconstitutional actions with regard to the recent articles of impeachment passed by the House:
1) denial of due process as protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in a procedure which, if upheld by the US Senate, would inflict irreparable harm on the plaintiff by depriving him of his livelihood, reputation and public office, and
2) by re-defining the Constitutional designation of “high crimes and misdemeanors” as the sole rationale for impeachment to include
I have since been advised that, while these arguments may have merit, the Roberts Supreme Court has shown itself too timid to adjudicate balance of power issues if there is any other option available. In this case, such an option exists in the ambiguity of the constitutional language concerning impeachment. It is therefore unlikely to accept this case.
While I am still an advocate of testing the strategy above, it seems wise to state the case in a broader context. What follows is a case for changing the rules of impeachment – by whatever means. This case stands even if the current impeachment reaches and is resolved by the Senate. The rules must be changed for all future adventures of this kind.
My concern is not to protect the current president. Rather, I am looking for a means to protect the nation from partisan usurpation of ultimate power, which this case portends if allowed to stand.
Partisanship has proven to be an effective means for limiting the power of one group or view of specific issues from dominating our government. It is not, however, a useful basis for taking over the government, and the last two impeachment cases have shown that partisan loyalty, not pursuit of justice, has governed the votes of the members of both Houses of Congress.
Our democratic elections are thus based on this very fragile foundation. A new set of rules has to be developed and adopted in order to preserve our democracy — whether by the Supreme Court, a Constitutional Convention, legislation, or a constitutional amendment. Otherwise, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end of checks and balances.
We cannot let this happen. But, if the current House impeachment process is allowed to stand as the prevailing precedent, our democratic elections are doomed to fall.
Sorting the winners from the losers after the caucuses’ implosion.
Great, giant gobs of cash and a year’s worth of hard work by activists, campaigns, and candidates were flushed down the toilet last night. Technocrat reformers, in trying to “fix” the Iowa caucus, have instead probably destroyed it forever.
Democratic Party chairman Tom Perez saw fit to begin bragging about his party’s preparation for this night in the hours before it all fell apart. To hear him tell it, everything was done in the interest of transparency, fairness, and empowering the grass roots. “These changes are all about the future,” he wrote in a post that went live as the caucuses themselves kicked off. “They’re about growing our party, uniting our party, and earning the trust of committed Democrats like you.”
Hours later, the caucuses were complete, and the Democratic candidates had left Iowa clueless about who won and justifiably enraged at the DNC and rival campaigns. They bitterly accused one another of cheating. The fate of the contest was entrusted to the high-powered campaign lawyers, and we may not know the outcome for days. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try to sort the winners from the losers after this disastrous night . . .
The Winners Who Lost Something: Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. All the numbers that we did have by this morning suggested that Sanders and Buttigieg were the top two vote-getters in Iowa. But with President Trump set to have the nation’s undivided attention for his State of the Union tonight, both of them should be justly angry that all the earned media that comes from winning the Iowa caucus, especially if you weren’t expected to win, has been irretrievably destroyed by the malfunctioning result-reporting app, the volunteers who counted supporters improperly, and the general chaos of the caucus system.
The Lucky Loser: Without this debacle, Joe Biden’s apparent Iowa faceplant would be front-page news. It would quickly be linked to his weakening poll numbers in South Carolina, across Super Tuesday states, and among African-American voters. A clean Iowa loss might have been the beginning of the end for Biden’s campaign. But now he is seizing the chaos to essentially claim that the results in Iowa are unreliable and shouldn’t count against him.
A Provisional Winner: Michael Bloomberg’s decision to stay out of this spares him the embarrassment of failing in ethanol country. It also spares his campaign from being involved in the intense, ugly sniping between candidates who did contest the Hawkeye State. The more the normal Democrats look like fools participating in a mismanaged circus, the more serious Mayor Mike — with his bottomless wallet and ability to make Trump seem hot-headed — looks by comparison.
Process Winner: Instant-runoff voting. The byzantine Iowa Caucus process, with its realignments, haggling, and minimum-support thresholds, does at least in theory serve a purpose in winnowing a large field, building consensus, and granting momentum to emerging front-runners. But all of this could be accomplished by a much-simpler ranked-choice instant-runoff ballot. Making voters fill out secret ballots ranking the candidates, and then having a process of weighting second and third choices, would avoid all the mess.
The Big Loser: Democrats. The party looks massively incompetent. Turnout was much lower than expected even though this contest was taking place just days before a vote to acquit in President Trump’s Senate impeachment trial. Trump’s approval rating is higher than it’s ever been at 49 percent, and he is set to own the news tonight as he delivers his State of the Union address.
And on we go to New Hampshire.
Britain is reclaiming its agency as a self-governing nation. Its example will reverberate throughout Europe.
Because European Union business runs on Brussels time, the United Kingdom will be leaving the EU at precisely 11 p.m. GMT Friday. (If you’re in New York and want to tip your glass to our newly sovereign friends, that’s 6 p.m. EST.) In my own, perhaps peculiar view, Brexit is the most important moment for democracy since 1989.
If the European Union were merely the European Market, Brexit would be foolish: The United Kingdom has enjoyed a kind of privileged access to the Common Market because it retains its own powerful currency rather than the Euro, which in reality is managed on behalf of Germany and against the interests of Southern Europe. But the European Union is not just a market but a political project, really a kind of institutionalized utopian project.
European Council president Donald Tusk said, “I fear Brexit could be the beginning of the destruction of not only the EU but also Western political civilization in its entirety.” It’s easy to point and laugh at such an extravagant statement, but Tusk was verbalizing the incredible challenge Brexit presents to a certain kind of European mind, a mind conditioned to the idea that democracy inheres not in popular sovereignty — democratic peoples governing themselves — but in the elite administration of human rights, insulated from democratic passions and prejudices.
It is this worldview that has shaped the construction of the European Union. The EU is governed by an unelected Commission and an unelected Court, both joined to an elected Parliament with no real legislative power. Can you impeach a European commissioner? Can you vote for one? Or vote to remove one? No, non, nein!
The European project that the Commission promotes and protects is guided by a spirit of ever-closer union, not the laws and treaties it makes. The European Union does not respect votes that go against that spirit, such as Ireland’s vote against the Lisbon treaty; instead, it forces reruns. It does not respect its own commitments, either: Angela Merkel’s welcome to 1 million refugees and migrants in 2015 totally blew apart the supposedly solemn Dublin Accords. It plays favorites: The pro-EU Emmanuel Macron is allowed to temporarily blow through the budgeting and debt requirements imposed on member states, but those same requirements are enforced with fervor against populists such as Italy’s Matteo Salvini. And it has no qualms about interfering in the politics of its member states: During the Euro crisis, recalcitrant national governments in Italy and Greece were replaced by a combination of pressure from above in the form of the Commission and the European Central Bank, and from sideways in the form of captured native interests.
In short, untethered from real democratic input, the EU at once suffocates European life with regulation and unmoors it with lawless caprice.
The response of the European Union to Brexit isn’t rebuke and repentance, a newfound willingness to accede to the wishes of the democratic peoples within it. No, it’s doubling down. MEP Guy Verhofstadt has said that Brexit has underscored the need to “make it into a real Union, a Union without opt-in, without opt-outs, without rebates, without exceptions. Only then we can defend our interests and defend our values.”
Lest you dismiss his words as empty, it is Verhofstadt who has been chosen to lead the next Conference on the Future of Europe, which is already preparing to recommend removing the last true badges of sovereign and democratic control from national parliaments: their freedom to tax and appropriate money as they see fit. Doing this is likely necessary to save the Euro. But the price is the loss of self-government on the continent where self-government was born into this world. Having bought off almost every party save for nationalists and populists, the European Union is, ironically, guaranteeing the very thing it was created to stop: the ascendance of nationalist parties to domination of Europe.
Brexit is not just a way to preserve British democracy by restoring independence and sovereignty to the United Kingdom’s Parliament. It is a way of recovering the very things a democratic constitution enables: the conciliation of diverse interests and the political moderation of the people that comes with it.
Our friends are escaping the Brussels nomenklatura. They are demystifying the supposed “arc” of history, a bit of superstition used to rob democratic peoples of real agency. There are many dangers Britain may yet face, but it will be all the better for facing them as a free, independent, and self-governing nation.
Column: Iowa's holding a caucus—and nobody cares
The Fox News website highlights “hot topics” at the top of the page. As I write, the topics are: “Kobe Bryant dead,” “Trump impeachment,” and “Coronavirus.” Compelling—and in the last case terrifying—stories. But something is missing: the Democratic primary.
The Iowa caucus will be held in a matter of days. New Hampshire votes a week after that. Twelve Democrats are stillin the race. Nobody cares.
Maybe that’s harsh. No doubt the candidates’ mothers are paying attention. Yet in two decades of serious observation of politics I have not seen a presidential primary that exerts less of a hold on the nation’s attention than this one. Why?
The obvious answer is impeachment. It is all Washington cares about. The trial of President Trump hasn’t just overshadowed the campaign. It’s stopped it. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Amy Klobuchar, who are in the game in Iowa, as well as Michael Bennet, who is not, have been strapped to their chairs. Think of all the selfies Warren has missed out on. She must be despondent.
Because the television camera in the Senate chamber is pointed at the rostrum, Warren and Sanders can’t even communicate to their supporters through hand gestures. Nor have Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg capitalized on the opportunity of having Iowa to themselves. They can’t break through wall-to-wall coverage of senators’ questions and legal maneuvers, of John Bolton’s book, of Mitch McConnell’s quest to end the trial as soon as possible.
True, impeachment has kept Biden’s name in the news. But not in a way he would like. Trump’s defense has drawn further attention to Hunter Biden’s questionable position on the board of Ukrainian gas giant Burisma. What was Hunter being paid for? Relationship advice? His dad doesn’t have a good answer. Whether he likes it or not, impeachment reinforces the impression that Joe Biden is a lifelong D.C. politician whose family benefits from his connections.
Look at the numbers. Prior to Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of the impeachment inquiry on September 24, Biden was at 44 percent favorable, 49 percent unfavorable. Last week he was 41 percent favorable, 53 percent unfavorable. That isn’t progress.
President Trump’s job approval rating hasn’t budged. It was 45-52 in the Real Clear Politics average then and now. And Trump has improved in head-to-head matchups. In the late October ABC News / Washington Post poll, Biden held a 15-point advantage over Trump. As of last week’s poll, his lead had been cut to four points.
If Nancy Pelosi thought impeachment would help the Democratic frontrunner, she was mistaken. That’s not strategy. It’s what Will Ferrell, portraying George W. Bush, once called “strategery.” (Of course, Pelosi’s objective may have been simply to insulate herself from a left-wing rebellion.)
Biden’s troubles suggest another reason for the lack of excitement. The candidates are weak and uninteresting. Biden is barely comprehensible. Buttigieg has all the pizzazz of a PowerPoint. Warren reminds you of your least favorite professor.
Sanders and his surrogate-successor Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez draw crowds. But so did the Jacobins. The democratic socialists are exciting, sure. They are also terrifying.
How can you tell the rest of the Democratic field is uninspired? Two billionaires have bought support through supremacy of the airwaves. It’s not Mike Bloomberg’s personality that has contributed to his rise. It’s his checkbook.
Worse than the dullness of the contestants is the plodding horserace. Biden has floated above his rivals since the beginning. The one major change in the dynamic has been Warren’s rise and fall. The two exciting moments came when Kamala Harris ambushed Biden in the first debate and Tulsi Gabbard sideswiped Harris in the second. Months passed without any incident. The most recent controversy is whether Sanders told Warren a woman can’t be president. Surely they can do better than that.
Sanders victories in Iowa and New Hampshire would liven things up. For a while. The fundamental problem is the Democratic primary is a sideshow.
For four-and-a-half years the main event in American politics has been Donald Trump. Policy isn’t the issue. He is the issue. Everything revolves around him. “Our political solar system, in short, has been characterized not by two equally competing suns,” wrote the political scientist Samuel Lubell, “but by a sun and a moon. It is within the majority party that the issues of any particular period are fought out; while the minority party shines in reflected radiance of the heat thus generated.”
The party system Lubell described no longer exists. The parties are shells. The incumbent has changed parties five times. He settled on the GOP four years before winning the presidency. Bernie Sanders is running for the nomination of a party he has never joined and doesn’t trust.
What matters today are individual brands. And no brand is more prominent, more polarizing, more overpowering than Donald J. Trump’s.
If and when the race narrows to the strongest candidate in each ‘lane,’ Democrats will be forced to focus on the only questions that really matter to them.
Sure, anything can happen, and pundit predictions are hardly worth the pixels that deliver them. But if I were phoning my bets overseas to PaddyPower, I’d buy Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and short Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg. The four-person race looks set to become a two-person race in the near future, and I think the dynamic will be self-reinforcing. Biden vs. Bernie: a race for the ages — and the aged.
Biden has basically stayed at the top of the heap since he entered this race. He’s done so despite substandard fundraising and no cheering section in the media. Many Democrats detest the fact that he is leading. They worry about his verbal slip-ups and his politically incorrect statements. They don’t want the Democratic standard-bearer in 2020 to be a man old enough to remember doing deals with segregationists, much less one who seems proud of that history. They fear that he would become the party’s Bob Dole, a past-his-prime senator who got the nod through sheer seniority, unable to take on the energetic, if sleazy, incumbent. Yet while he’s been attacked by younger, hungrier, more diverse candidates, Biden has maintained his dominant position among African-American voters and kept a healthy plurality of the older Democrats who turn out in primary elections. And front-runners have a tendency to sweep through divided fields.
Standing in his way is Bernie, who is surging two weeks before Iowa, in striking distance of the lead there and, according to one reliable poll, holding a decent lead in New Hampshire. Part of his national surge is his increased performance among non-white voters.
I’d bet on the field to narrow to these two for two reasons.
First, there’s a tendency for the top-polling candidates going into Iowa to overperform in the final results, because the caucusing process ultimately forces supporters of low-performing candidates to cast their votes for stronger ones. Second, the possibility of Bernie’s winning may drive a stampede toward Biden or vice versa.
The emergence of a head-to-head race between Biden and Sanders would immediately clarify the choices for Democrats.
One septuagenarian — Sanders — has recently suffered a heart attack. The other septuagenarian — Biden — frequently seems to have senior moments in the middle of his sentences. A race between these two could eliminate age as a relevant dynamic, leaving clear questions of electability and ideology on the table.
And what then? On one side there is Biden, the more moderate Democrat who scares nobody by design — he’s framed his entire campaign as a return to normalcy — but doesn’t excite progressive activists. On the other side there is Sanders, whose has argued in recent debates that he is electable because he has the backing of a large, young, grassroots movement whose enthusiasm will become contagious. The viability of one could drive the viability of the other.
After many pointless hours debating the ins and outs of Platonic health-care reforms that will never be implemented and many pointless minutes worrying about personality, a Biden–Sanders clash would focus the race on the only questions that really matter to Democrats: Should the party move to the left or to the center? Do the necessary voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin want a major revision to the American economic model, or do they merely want a Democratic candidate who connects with them on the gut level, who won’t call them deplorable?
Those are debates worth having, and Democrats may have them sooner than you’d think.