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Battleground power plays rage as everyday politics go quiet – CityNews Vancouver

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Door-knocking? Over.

Local party activity? Some Facebook traffic, if that.

Across an arc of vital swing states, the coronavirus has put politics on an uneasy pause.

Instead, political fights among state leaders from Iowa to Pennsylvania over the handling of the pandemic’s impact are raging as it spreads over this electoral heartland.

Protecting public health versus restarting the economy, along with arguments over the limits of executive authority, have taken the place of the national political debate typical of presidential campaigns at this point.

They reflect, unlike the political armistice that followed the 2001 terrorist attacks, a willingness to politicize this crisis. It’s one more clear measure of a polarized era.

“Yes, politicos and pols will always have November on their mind,” said Iowa GOP strategist John Stineman. “But, in my mind, what we are seeing right now is more about each base criticizing the other side for being wrong, a product of the political environment we have allowed to take root.”

Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where Democratic nominees had won regularly for more than 30 years, tipped to Trump in 2016, sealing his victory with their combined 52 electoral votes.

While politics have slipped to an afterthought for most Americans behind a toll of mounting coronavirus deaths, lost wages and closed schools, the campaign buzz of a little more than a month ago has silenced.

In swing-voting Bay County, Michigan, Democratic activity had been humming, as it was statewide before the March 10 presidential primary when participation jumped by 32% over 2016.

A week later, Bay City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade — the state’s largest and a Democratic tradition — was cancelled. So was the county’s Democratic fundraising dinner, to feature Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“I see chatter on social media. But as far as activity, it’s pretty much down to nothing,” said Bay County Democratic Chairwoman Karen Tighe.

Iowa cancelled Democratic conventions in its 99 counties, a setback after 2018 Statehouse and congressional gains and a yearlong parade of presidential candidates vying for support in the February caucuses.

Republican Ron Forsell cancelled plans for his fundraiser in Dallas County, Iowa, an emerging suburban battlefront.

“Politics is going to be there again,” he said. “But raising money now just doesn’t feel right.”

Democratic organizer Angela Lang’s door-to-door canvassing in struggling north Milwaukee had to shut down in late March, hurting her ability to reach this pivotal African American bloc before Wisconsin’s April 7 primary.

“I think for most Americans, politics is taking a major back seat to survival for some, and the adjustment to this new normal for most of us,” said former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, a Democrat.

Even as the virus raged in Pennsylvania, Republicans in Harrisburg pushed through legislation aimed at reversing the shutdown edicts of Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, painting him as unconcerned with struggling families.

During debate Thursday, Republican state Sen. John DiSanto said Wolf had forced “1.3 million Pennsylvanians out of work so far, put businesses at risk of permanent closure and imperiled the long-term health of Pennsylvania residents and our economy.”

Democrats countered that Republicans were trying to throw workers back into the pandemic’s path.

“Let the world know whose lives are we willing to sacrifice,” Democratic Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia said a day earlier.

In Iowa, Democratic State Auditor Rob Sand has questioned the data Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is using to justify allowing more freedom of movement than in neighbouring states. Reynolds’ aides were quick to point out public affirmation from Dr. Anthony Fauci after the federal government’s top infectious disease expert praised Reynolds’ actions during a White House event this month.

The tension is most pronounced in Michigan, where the outbreak is far worse than in any of the other northern political battlegrounds.

Republicans last week sharply trimmed the emergency order Whitmer hoped to extend to June, before she struck back with a sweeping disaster declaration.

“Michigan’s recovery will take much longer and its economic impact will be much more devastating than it needed to be,” Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield said.

Democrats accused Republicans of racial bias for floating plans to open regions outside the predominantly African American Detroit area.

“It’s an us-versus-them thing with the rest of the state versus Detroit,” said Amy Chapman, an informal Whitmer adviser. “That’s another dog whistle of sorts.”

More than 1,700 people had died in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, the heart of metro Detroit, as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Whitmer’s criticism of the federal response in Michigan devolved into a public tiff with President Donald Trump, who responded by suggesting Vice-President Mike Pence, his coronavirus task force leader, not call “the woman from Michigan.” Michigan Democrats echoed Whitmer’s criticism of the federal response to Detroit’s crisis, while GOP figures urged Trump to deescalate tension with the swing-state governor.

Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has built little campaign structure across the region. Trump is relying on state GOP headquarters for his operations, though they too have been largely empty.

Pro- and anti-Trump groups unaffiliated with the candidates have carried what little presidential campaigning has gone on here. Democrat-backed groups Priorities USA and American Bridge have aired millions of dollars in advertising savaging Trump’s handling of the crisis.

“Only the die-hards are paying attention to election politics,” Vilsack said. “However, opinions have formed and will continue to form on politics of how the administration is handling the situation.”

___

Associated Press writers Marc Levy in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

Thomas Beaumont, The Associated Press

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Liberals' ability to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny plays into system of 'image politics,' critics say – National Post

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OTTAWA — The Liberal government has avoided months of parliamentary scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic, instead using televised daily briefings with the prime minister to further its system of “image politics,” an expert in democratic process says.

The Liberals and New Democratic Party agreed earlier this week to suspend parliamentary proceedings until September 21, equipping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with a “tremendous amount of power over the summer,” said Kathy Brock, professor at Queen’s University.

The decision comes after Trudeau has for months appeared in the House of Commons on a limited basis, instead using his daily briefings outside Rideau Cottage to announce major new spending measures and take questions from the media.

He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model

“This government is very focused on messaging and image politics and that meant that it wanted to respond to the needs of Canadians when the pandemic came up,” said Brock, who has served in various advisory roles to all three major political parties over the last 30 years.

“But when they started to face criticism for not acting as quickly as possible, the prime minister turned to the easiest tool, which is having briefings with the media outside Rideau Cottage,” she said.

The approach has been met with criticism by opposition parties and parliamentary experts, who say politicians have not had adequate time to press the Trudeau government on some of its largest spending measures, which now top an estimated $150 billion. They also say the government overreached in an earlier attempt to equip itself with the authority to tax, spend and loan money with almost no parliamentary oversight for nearly two years, well beyond the expected timeframe of the pandemic.

Other observers point out that Parliament would typically rise for the summer months regardless, and that “hybrid” forms of Question Period, which include virtual questions and answer sessions, have continued for the past few months.

“The cut-off in June is not an aberration,” said Lori Turnbull, professor of political science at Dalhousie University. However, she questioned “why there’s such a desire” to close off access to other forms of scrutiny, like private members bills or written questions to Parliament.

Turnbull, like others, has been surprised by the Liberals’ ability to secure the support of opposition parties to restrict in-person sittings of Commons.

“Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government,” she said, “It’s incredible what this government has done. We usually see more push and pull between the opposition and the government.”

The NDP has faced criticism for making an agreement with the Liberal party to suspend Parliament because it allows for the government to sidestep proper scrutiny.

NDP House leader Peter Julian pushed back against those claims in an interview Thursday, saying the deal secured four sitting days in the House of Commons during the summer — a provision that other parties were not pushing for.

“There’s been a lot of exaggeration,” Julian said.

Sometimes I forget that this is a minority government

The NDP opposed a Conservative proposal that would have had regular in-person sittings in the Commons well into June, in which a select group of roughly 50 people would attend in order to maintain social distancing measures. The proposal would have allowed Parliament to exert its full powers before summer break, but Julian argued it would have needlessly excluded the majority of MPs in Canada.

“I think it’s a very Ottawa-centric interpretation,” he said.

A spokesperson for Liberal House leader Pablo Rodriguez reiterated that all parties agreed to the March 13 motion to suspend Parliament until April 20. The agreement with the NDP allows for the continuation of a special COVID-19 committee that meets several times a week, but is not afforded the regular powers of the House.

“We believe it is a responsible plan that ensures accountability and transparency, and respects public health advice,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.

Candice Bergen, Conservative House leader, said there has been a push for months by the Liberal government to avoid regular parliamentary sittings. MPs in recent weeks had been sitting in-person on a limited basis once a week.


Conservative House leader Candice Bergen.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press/File

“I was clear with Pablo that we felt Parliament needed to resume,” Bergen said. “But that was clearly not what the government wanted and they found a dance partner in the NDP.”

She said Trudeau has instead opted to convey the Liberals approach to COVID-19 through the televised briefings at his official residence, where media ask daily questions.

“He for sure prefers the Rideau Cottage model,” Bergen said, adding that media “is not a substitute for the official Opposition.”

Brock, at Queen’s University, said the Rideau Cottage meetings give Trudeau more time to craft his own message on a daily basis, unimpeded, while taking only a select number of questions from journalists.

“It certainly operates in the Liberals’ favour, because they’re receiving media attention and it seems very positive because they’re responding to a crisis,” she said. “But it means that they aren’t getting tough questions to the same extent on other, lesser known files.”

• Email: jsnyder@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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Keep Politics Out of Reopening Houses of Worship – The New York Times

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Credit…Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

To the Editor:

Re “Firing Salvo in Culture Wars, Trump Wants Churches Open” (front page, May 23):

Last Friday was not the first time we have witnessed a politician attempting to ingratiate himself with faith communities. Through the years, leaders from both major political parties have sought the support of houses of worship in their electoral campaigns.

Certainly those of us who devote our lives to religious leadership would like to consider our work “essential.” And we eagerly await the day when we can welcome our congregants back to their spiritual homes. While we can pray to God anywhere at any time alone or with others, and while the internet has provided a viable and meaningful vehicle for gathering our members in this time of physical distancing, nothing could ever replace the power of in-person congregational worship.

But religious communities must not become political pawns for a president seeking to placate his evangelical base. In Judaism, the saving of life supersedes all other religious responsibilities. The decision whether or not to reopen houses of worship belongs in the hands of local authorities alone, guided by health concerns, not political ones.

Joshua M. Davidson
New York
The writer is the senior rabbi at Temple Emanu-El.

To the Editor:

The cynicism of President Trump’s call to governors to open the churches is staggering. I am a Catholic who attends Mass every day. I have always loved the ritual of the Mass, and I rejoice and celebrate as I gather with friends old and new who enrich my life. I will return joyfully to my church when our governor deems it safe to do so, not when it is politically expedient for our president.

John T. Dillon
West Caldwell, N.J.

To the Editor:

President Trump asks all governors to immediately open up churches and allow in-person worship — without testing. Yet everyone who meets with Mr. Trump must first be tested.

So, what’s good for the gander ain’t good for the goose. If he truly believes that in-person worship is safe, let’s see him go to these churches (or restaurants or theaters) without testing — and let’s see him mingle with the folks not wearing masks.

Marc R. Stanley
Dallas

Credit…From left: Zack DeZon for The New York Times; Andrew Seng for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The Star of the City Sells Itself,” by Michael Kimmelman (Critic’s Notebook, Arts pages, May 7):

OK, the Brooklyn Bridge is wholly in New York City and joins two of its boroughs. And it was something of an engineering achievement. Book after book has been written about it; it appears in a wealth of movies.

But the great bridge in the New York area is the George Washington.

When I sought to read a book on the George, I discovered that there were none. Participating in a symposium at Columbia University on American icons, and listening to others drone on about the Brooklyn, I asked “What about the George?” There was complete silence. Then one participant said, to almost universal laughter, “But look where it goes,” the suggestion being that since the George crosses to New Jersey, it couldn’t possibly be important.

The George is also the gateway to Interstate 80, on which one may travel in a straight line to San Francisco. New Yorkers think of themselves as sophisticated compared with New Jerseyans, but they can often be decidedly parochial.

Michael Aaron Rockland
Morristown, N.J.
The writer is the author of “The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel” and a professor of American studies at Rutgers.

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Face masks now define a divided America and its politics – The Globe and Mail

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A man wearing a face mask walks past signs for Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, in Alexandria, Va., on May 11, 2020.

OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. election of 1860 was fought over the future of slavery in the United States. The 1932 election over how to respond to the Great Depression. The 1980 election over the role of government in the economy. The 2020 election is shaping up as a fight over whether Americans should wear a protective mask.

In competing images on one of America’s most sacred moments of civic reflection, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden joined a Memorial Day commemoration this week wearing a mask, while, 175 kilometres away, President Donald Trump attended a separate remembrance unencumbered by a face covering.

Mr. Trump has mocked Mr. Biden for wearing a mask. Mr. Biden called Mr. Trump “an absolute fool” for refusing to do so.

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And so it is that today a simple but divisive public-health measure defines America and its politics.

“The people who are not wearing masks are by and large white, male, rural, suburban and right-leaning,’’ said online pollster John Dick, whose CivicScience public-opinion firm has examined Americans’ social, cultural and political attitudes during the pandemic. “They are the same people who voted for Trump. It is a big middle finger to everyone they resent. I’m convinced that the people who support Trump don’t even really like him that much. They just hate the people who hate Trump.”

In 1768, John Dickinson, the Philadelphia lawyer known as the penman of the American Revolution, took a Royal Navy anthem and grafted onto it his objections to British colonial taxes and eight words that in time became an American aphorism: “By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.’’

Two and a half centuries later – after Kentucky transformed that phrase into its state motto, after the patriot orator Patrick Henry employed it in his final public speech, after Abraham Lincoln borrowed it for a famous speech and after the group Brotherhood of Man made it into a 1970s pop hit – the country Dickinson’s revolution created seems hopelessly divided.

Today Americans are split over whether to reopen the country to commerce. The states are divided over how swiftly to resume normal economic activity, with the Democratic governors of the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin opting to go slowly. Mr. Dick believes that what he calls “political tribalism” is the “most powerful force in America right now – because it predicts almost everything.” And pollster John Zogby sees the fall election as a contest between “rage” and “empathy.”

In that contest, Mr. Trump personifies rage and Mr. Biden empathy – and in that regard masks are a powerful symbol.

“You don’t wear your mask out of fear, you wear it out of empathy,” said Christine Whalen, a clinical professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Human Ecology. “Those masks aren’t protecting you, they’re protecting others. But if we all wear them, we all are protected.”

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Mr. Zogby points out that Democratic candidates who have won in the past half-century – Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama – have been empathy candidates, projecting “an everyman image of understanding pain and suffering,” while those who have lost – Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton – were nominees who “projected images of elitism and/or technocratic management over bonding.”

The very qualities Mr. Biden personifies are the ones Democrats hope will prevail this autumn. The very qualities Mr. Trump personifies are the ones that triumphed four years ago.

Meanwhile, the pandemic and the two men’s responses – with Mr. Biden instinctively leaning toward the views of conventional experts and Mr. Trump instinctively taking an iconoclastic approach – provide a glimpse of the campaign to come.

Five times as many Republicans as Democrats are ready to return to normal daily activities, according to CivicScience surveys. Democrats are more than three times more likely to say they will remain in quarantine even if their state or local governments allow a return to normal.

Wearing a mask may be a telling symbol of the two candidates’ outlooks but it is not an infallible guide to political affiliation. Though a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released this month said 89 per cent of Democrats but only 58 per cent of Republicans reported wearing a mask most of the time when outside their homes, two top Republican leaders in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his likely successor, John Cronyn, were seen in masks this week.

“Wearing a face covering is not about politics – it’s about helping other people,” Republican Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio said via Twitter this week.

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In the last mass domestic challenge, Franklin Delano Roosevelt combined rage (“The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization”) and empathy (“We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well”) in the very same speech. It was his first Inaugural Address, in 1933, in the depths of the Great Depression, and is considered one of his greatest speeches – and he is considered the chief executive against whom all successors are measured.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Tuesday called his Republican rival Donald Trump an ‘absolute fool’ for not wearing a mask at a series of recent public events, saying his lack of leadership on the issue is ‘costing people’s lives.’ Reuters

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