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Five Nice Things to Say About Politics in 2020 – Bloomberg

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It was a dreadful year, obviously, and that applies to U.S. politics, too. Nevertheless, believe it or not, some stuff was worth celebrating. Here are five good developments:

Republicans for democracy: In a year when the Republican Party overall showed an alarming and apparently accelerating lack of support for U.S. democracy, we should recognize those who stepped up when it counted. Begin with Mitt Romney, who was the only senator in his party to risk the consequences when he voted to remove President Donald Trump from office. That was an honest-to-goodness-profile-in-courage moment.

And don’t forget the NeverTrump conservatives who were not only able to see the flaws of the man in the White House (which really wasn’t hard to do), but who were willing to examine how their own party reached the point where Trump could dominate it. And then there were the GOP politicians in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin who, when push came to shove (sometimes literally), chose democracy over blind loyalty to a Republican president. 

It’s not that these politicians are always heroes of the republic. Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, for example, has gone right back to fighting to make it harder for people to vote, just as he did before the election. But when it really counted, Raffensperger and many others made the correct choice.

Elections and their supporters: A pandemic. Post office troubles. Underfunded governments. Unprecedented nonsense coming from the White House. Even threats of violence. Yet voters, state and local governments, and thousands and thousands of poll workers combined to make the 2020 elections remarkably successful. The turnout was the highest in over a century (or ever, given voter rules), and the process went relatively smoothly and with no hint of irregularities. Indeed, there was so little in the way of fraud that Trump’s lawyers didn’t have much of anything to allege in court, no matter what they alleged on third-rate cable-news shows.

Yes, we shouldn’t ignore significant efforts to make voting harder even while the virus was spreading. But even Republican states (like my own Texas, for example) did quite a bit to make the election go reasonably smoothly.

Diversity, Republican Party edition: After several cycles in which Republicans nominated Anglo men for the overwhelming bulk of winnable open seats and seats held by Democrats, the party finally made progress in fielding candidates that look like 21st-century America. Thanks to a bit of a Republican trend in House voting, their nominations produced new elected officials — and 39% of new House Republicans will be women, with more ethnic diversity as well. Descriptive representation isn’t everything. But it’s not healthy for a party to choose leaders only from a fragment of the population. 

Diversity, Democratic Party edition: President-elect Joe Biden is at least the third Democratic president committed to making sure that all party groups are represented in White House and executive-branch personnel. But he has one enormous advantage in fulfilling his promise: Members of previously excluded groups have become key party actors. Biden could choose from multiple female, Black and Latino candidates with conventional qualifications for every post, something that wasn’t the case for Bill Clinton in 1992-1993.

Do-some-things Congress: I’m not sure what overall grade historians will give the exiting 116th Congress. It’s hard to see any progress on the nation’s long-term problems. In terms of deliberation and other procedural questions, there was little to brag about. The rushed impeachment, brief trial and acquittal (without even calling witnesses) of Donald Trump? We’ll be fighting about that one for a long time, but I don’t hear a lot of people calling it one of institution’s finest hours.

But when a genuine emergency came around, Congress acted pretty quickly. Four bills passed in rapid succession, including the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which was signed on March 27. None of these laws were ideal, of course; laws never are. And pushing the follow-up bill from April to December meant that plenty of pain that could have been avoided was not.

Still, we shouldn’t ignore these accomplishments, even as people argue about what could have been better. This was a divided Congress — a Democratic House and Republican Senate — with majorities in both chambers hotly contested in the November elections. And it was a Congress that was getting no help at all from the Disrupter-in-Chief in the Oval Office, who set off random grenades throughout the process while never demonstrating any policy leadership. Congress-bashing is easy, but we should make some room to recognize achievements, too.

Do these five good things represent a low bar — more in the category of “could have been worse”? Sure. But it’s 2020. Let’s take what we can get, and hope for a healthier republic in 2021. 

    This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

    To contact the author of this story:
    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

    To contact the editor responsible for this story:
    Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net

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    Essential Politics: Remaking California's political maps – Los Angeles Times

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    This is the July 26, 2021, edition of the Essential Politics newsletter. Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get it in your inbox three times a week.

    In a summer filled with public health worries, a state budget surplus and a historic gubernatorial recall election, there’s been little time to talk about what might end up being California’s most consequential political news of 2021.

    That’s redistricting, the once-a-decade requirement to draw new maps for congressional, state and local representation — a process that itself is being dramatically reshaped by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    With big developments on the horizon, let’s set the stage for what to watch.

    The census delay’s domino effect

    California’s embrace of independent redistricting — wherein maps are drawn by citizen commissioners rather than the elected officials who serve in those jurisdictions — has relied on robust public input and timely access to accurate, comprehensive data about the number and location of the state’s residents.

    An unprecedented delay in obtaining census data has thrown everyone a curveball. Federal officials are delivering the information more than four months late, sparking demand for changes to the established timelines for local redistricting efforts and the maps to be drawn by the 14-member California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Census officials have now promised a full set of data, though not in a user-friendly format, on Aug. 16.

    California uses a statewide repository for organizing the needed census data and adding additional information on voters and elections, thus producing the information the statewide citizens panel needs to revise congressional, legislative and state Board of Equalization maps. Local commissions in a number of California communities draw maps for city councils, boards of supervisors, school districts and more.

    So the question is this: How long do the state and local panels need to pull this off? And is the delayed process a legitimate threat to holding California’s primary election on June 7, 2022?

    The debate over the deadline

    Almost two weeks ago, the state citizens redistricting commission decided it wants to move its deadline for producing the final maps to Jan. 14, 2022 — a time frame that would probably be longer than the one given to the 2011 commission, the state’s first independent panel after voters stripped legislators of their power to draw the districts.

    The argument, over a series of meetings, was that community groups would struggle to offer thoughtful input if the redistricting deadline is during the end-of-the-year holidays. But the state association of elections officers quickly sounded an alarm, noting that candidates and local officials could be left scrambling. One notable concern is that the maps could be challenged in court — as they were in 2011 — and lead to even further delays in preparing for the primary.

    But moving the June 7 primary also presents problems, given the way election returns often take weeks to complete, and planning for the November general election would also be affected if the primary election is moved into late June.

    Redistricting: What to watch for

    The California Supreme Court, which extended the timeline for statewide redistricting last year once the census delays became apparent, now must consider the request from the state commission to allow them an extra two weeks to draw the maps, until Jan. 14, 2022. There’s no sign on when the justices might act, though sooner would be better.

    Officials who oversee the statewide redistricting database have said initial census data will be made public as soon as Aug. 23 — this will allow anyone who wants to tinker with population and geography to do so. But the data needed to draw the official maps probably won’t be ready until late September, due to a 2011 law that requires California prison inmates to be counted in the communities where they last lived and not as residents of the communities where their prisons are located.

    When the California Legislature reconvenes in mid-August, lawmakers may want to modify election deadlines to account for the delayed maps. They also will be asked to extend the deadline for local redistricting commissions to produce maps. Those panels, under existing rules, will have even less time unless the Legislature intervenes.

    We know the maps will change, in some cases, quite a lot from those drawn a decade ago. And we know California will lose one seat in the House of Representatives, the first rollback in history of the state’s delegation in Washington.

    Voters, of course, simply want to know that the elections for those posts are fair, conducted under well-established procedures and using political maps that have been smartly — and fairly — laid out.

    ‘California Politics’ launches Aug. 13

    As the state’s redistricting challenges come into focus, the gubernatorial recall moves into full campaign mode and the Legislature heads into the home stretch for its work this year, we’ll be launching The Times’ newsletter devoted solely to California politics.

    This is my final edition of Essential Politics. I look forward to joining the ranks of its readers to catch weekly updates from David Lauter, Noah Bierman and Laura Blasey, my colleagues in our Washington, D.C., bureau.

    If you want to keep track of the political ups and downs of the Golden State, sign up for the new newsletter here.

    Enjoying this newsletter? Consider subscribing to the Los Angeles Times

    Your support helps us deliver the news that matters most. Become a subscriber.

    National lightning round

    — Lawmakers racing to seal a bipartisan infrastructure deal early this week are hitting a major roadblock over how much money should go to public transit, the group’s lead Republican negotiator said Sunday.

    — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday named a second Republican critic of Donald Trump, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, to a special committee investigating the Capitol riot and pledged that the Democratic-majority panel would “get to the truth.”

    Former President Trump, again upending American political norms, is moving to remake Congress and the Republican Party in his own image.

    — The Border Patrol’s approach to missing migrants has evolved amid an increase in migration and deaths.

    Thomas Barrack, a prominent L.A. investor, awaits trial on charges of obstruction of justice and acting as an agent of the United Arab Emirates.

    Today’s essential California politics

    — Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder will appear on the recall election ballot, while Kevin Faulconer will not be described as a “former San Diego mayor” on official election paperwork, two California Superior Court judges ruled last week.

    — Facing criticism from recall supporters for California’s rise in gun violence and retail theft, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday called for more accountability and enforcement but insisted the state is on the right path on criminal justice.

    — With the renewed spread of COVID-19, Newsom faces a delicate decision over whether to again impose statewide mask requirements in indoor public places and risk upsetting Californians just weeks before they decide if he should be recalled from office.

    — An appeals court Friday ruled that state leaders violated the rights of parents by forcing private schools to stay closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Stay in touch

    Keep up with breaking news on our Politics page. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

    Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.

    Until next time, send your comments, suggestions and news tips to politics@latimes.com.

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    Analysis: Politics might not be a sport, but Texas sports are political – The Texas Tribune

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    Kais Saied: The political outsider accused of a coup – Al Jazeera English

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    President accused of attack on Tunisian democracy after sacking the country’s prime minister and suspending parliament.

    Tunisia’s president described his election victory in 2019 as ‘like a new revolution’ – and on Sunday night he brought huge crowds of supporters onto the streets by sacking the government and freezing parliament in a move his foes called a coup.

    Kais Saied, a 63-year-old political independent and former constitutional lawyer with an awkward public manner and a preference for an ultra formal speaking style of classical Arabic, is now at the undisputed centre of Tunisian politics.

    Nearly two years after his election and a separate vote that created a deeply divided parliament, he has sidelined both the prime minister and parliament speaker with a move seen by critics as an unconstitutional power grab.

    However, as tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of major cities to celebrate, Saied appeared to be riding a wave of popular anger against a political elite that has for years failed to deliver the promised fruits of democracy.

    While the parliament speaker, Rached Ghannouchi, has been tainted with the messy compromises of a decade of democratic politics since Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, Saied entered the scene in 2019 as a comparative newcomer.

    Presenting himself in his campaign as an ordinary man taking on a corrupt system, he fought the election without spending money and with a bare-bones team of advisers and volunteers – winning the backing of leftists, Islamists and youths alike.

    His supporters said he spent so little on the election that it cost only the price of the coffee and cigarettes he consumed meeting Tunisians and presented him as a paragon of personal integrity.

    People celebrated in the street after Tunisian President Kais Saied announced the dissolution of parliament and Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s government [Fethi Belaid/AFP]

    Once elected, he appeared for a while shackled by a constitution that gives the president direct power over only the military and foreign affairs while daily administration is left to a government that is more answerable to parliament.

    Saied has made no secret of his desire for a new constitution that puts the president at centre stage – prompting critics to accuse him of wanting to emulate Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in stripping his foes of power.

    Power struggle

    As president, Saied quickly feuded with the two prime ministers who eventually emerged from the complex process of coalition building – first Elyes Fakhfakh and then Hichem Mechichi.

    However, the biggest dispute has been with the moderate Islamist Ennahda party and its veteran leader Ghannouchi, a former political prisoner and exile who returned to Tunisia in 2011.

    Over the past year, Saied and Mechichi, backed by Ghannouchi, have squabbled over Cabinet reshuffles and control over the security forces, complicating efforts to handle the pandemic and address a looming fiscal crisis.

    As protests erupted in January, however, it was the government and the old parties of parliament who faced the public’s wrath – a wave of anger that finally broke last week as COVID-19 cases spiked.

    A failed effort to set up walk-in vaccination centres led Saied to announce last week that the army would take over the pandemic response – a move seen by his critics as the latest step in his power struggle with the government.

    It set the stage for his announcement on Sunday following protests targeting Ennahda in cities around the country.

    People came out on the streets to celebrate the government’s removal but mahy demonstrators also want social and economic reform [Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

    During the 2011 revolution, his students and friends said, he used to walk the narrow streets of Tunis’ old city and the grand colonial boulevards downtown late at night, discussing politics with his students.

    Saied was one of the legal advisers who helped draft Tunisia’s 2014 democratic constitution, though he soon spoke out against elements of the document.

    Now, some of the main political inheritors of Tunisia’s revolution are casting him as its executioner – saying his dismissal of government and freezing of parliament are an attack on democracy.

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