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Liberal school board gets a lesson in pandemic politics – CNN

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A version of this story appeared in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.

(CNN)Pandemics create strange bedfellows.

The so-called “parents’ rights” movement that’s lifting Republicans’ hopes out in the country has some sway even in liberal San Francisco, where a campaign to recall three school board members will be decided by voters on Tuesday. Check in with CNN Politics for results Wednesday.
That doesn’t mean there’s about to be a conservative swell in the home city of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. But it does mean frustration over school closures could have some unintended consequences.
What caused the backlash in San Francisco? CNN’s Gregory Krieg notes the storyline that has formed: San Francisco’s school board was focused on changing the names of 44 public schools at a time during the coronavirus pandemic when kids were not physically in school.
Then the city kept its schools closed longer than most other areas in the US.
“Even as early as May 2021, not a single school was ready for reopening. These individuals are using this to improve their careers, rather than focus on educating our kids,” Siva Raj, a recall organizer, told CNN, referring to the school board members.
Democrats divided. San Francisco Mayor London Breed — a Democrat who supported the city’s lawsuit against the Democratic school board to force schools to reopen — has endorsed the recall effort. Separately, it’s notable that Breed has also criticized the city’s progressive Democratic district attorney, Chesa Boudin, for focusing on helping criminals instead of victims.
If fundraising is an indication of outcome (it often is, but not always), the three board members should be worried.
The recall effort has raised nearly $2 million, while those defending the board members raised only $86,000, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
What does San Francisco have to do with the rest of the country? It’s a valid question.
CNN’s Ronald Brownstein writes that schools are dividing Democrats and creating openings for Republicans.
He sees a cocktail of three distinct things driving the recall effort:
  • Genuine grassroots discontent over extended school closings during the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Growing division among Democrats over how to respond to the pandemic.
  • Massive funding from longtime critics of public education and some big supporters of Republican political campaigns, including an ally of Betsy DeVos, former President Donald Trump’s education secretary.
Drafting behind the backlash. That frustration over Covid-19 restrictions is helping fuel and perhaps obscuring something that could have a much wider effect, especially in red states.
Brownstein notes “an aggressive drive by Republicans to censor how public school teachers talk about race, gender, sexual orientation and other sensitive topics.”
He compares that effort to state laws against the teaching of evolution in the 1920s and the rise of anti-Communist loyalty oaths for teachers during the Joe McCarthy era.
It’s a bait and switch of sorts, since while every parent is likely to have a very strong opinion on whether kids should be in school, it’s a smaller group that is worked up specifically over the curriculum.
Brownstein cites a recent CNN national poll that found education is a key factor heading into the November midterm elections.
Education is a broad topic. The content of curriculums was the top education concern of only about 1 in 4 of the people who said education would be an important factor in their votes.
After watching school board frustrations near my own house in Virginia, I think Brownstein and the polling are correct that parents are more concerned about their kids learning than fired up over what’s in the curriculum.
It’s notable that a main frustration cited about San Francisco was the board’s effort, which it has abandoned, to rename schools for social justice reasons during the pandemic. It considered changing the names of schools that honored everyone from Abraham Lincoln — not even freeing American slaves is good enough, apparently — to US Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
San Francisco clearly is its own special political universe, but there’s also the dropping of Covid-19 restrictions in multiple blue states and Democrat-led cities to consider.
First, a lesson up north. Promoters of vaccine requirements might be looking warily at Canada, where the protest of a vocal minority of truck drivers over these requirements for interstate travel has taken a new turn.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act. It’s the first time in history that power has been applied.
More requirements eased in the US. Meanwhile in the US, Washington, DC, is among the latest places to drop a Covid-19 requirement. In DC’s case, it’s the rollback of a requirement for proof of vaccination to enter businesses. The rule, which had been in place only since December, ended Tuesday.
DC, along with several states, will lift its indoor mask requirement on March 1. Masks are still recommended indoors in the city and will still be required in schools.
Vermont is recommending an end to mask requirements for schools with high vaccination rates.
Live with it. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a moderate Republican running a blue state, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that there’s “nearly universal, bipartisan support” in the US for beginning to ease Covid-19 restrictions and “finding a way to live with” the virus.
Meanwhile, California has not committed to ending its mask requirement for schools and will keep it at least through the end of February.
The Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson writes that general Covid-19 fatigue, alongside precipitously dropping infection rates — rather than anger over masks — is behind the new policies in blue states.
“I don’t know that deep-blue area American political figures are rolling back such mandates because their own voters are specifically calling for such mandates to be rolled back. Rather, they may just be responding to growing frustrations around the virus overall.”
She adds that people might just be ready to live alongside the disease.
“My polling still shows large and growing numbers (of) people are still worried about getting COVID! It’s that they may no longer think we can beat COVID,” she writes.
That sounds a lot like what New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said on CBS on Sunday: “… as best we can tell right now, this thing is going from pandemic to endemic.”
Still slow. You won’t hear this kind of direct talk from the federal government, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House — at least not yet. It means the country is moving faster than its government at the moment.
The potential recall of school board members in San Francisco means leaders need to keep their ears to the ground during tough times.

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Politics Podcast: Who Will Win The GOP’s Senate Primary In Pennsylvania? – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Idaho and Oregon are holding primary elections on Tuesday. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses the the most anticipated contests — the Keystone State’s Republican Senate and gubernatorial races — and previews other races we’re watching, including the Republican gubernatorial primary in Idaho, where the lieutenant governor is challenging the sitting governor for the GOP nomination, and the Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, where Rep. Madison Cawthorn is facing seven challengers from his own party after revelations of numerous scandals.

The team also looks at FiveThirtyEight’s latest collaboration with Ipsos, in which Americans are asked about the issues they care about the most in the run-up to the midterms. The first poll is all about inflation.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.

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'Replacement' conspiracies driving gunmen creep into mainstream politics – CNN

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(CNN)Critics are drawing parallels between the pattern of racist gunmen citing fears of a conspiracy to “replace” Whites with rhetoric pushed on Fox and by some Republican politicians.

The mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, on Saturday was not the first such event in recent years in which a White gunman, who allegedly posted a White supremacist manifesto online, targeted the Black or immigrant community.
It’s not the second. Or the third.
Overtly racist lone gunmen motivated by such hate have, in recent years, targeted a Black church in South Carolina, a synagogue in Pittsburgh, and immigrants at a Walmart in El Paso. Read CNN’s report.
Some apparently drew inspiration from a shooting by a White man in New Zealand who targeted mosques, killing 51, and published his own manifesto about “The Great Replacement.”
Now, Buffalo.
Get the latest on:
  • The Buffalo shooting and the victims: 10 people were killed at a supermarket and authorities say it was hate crime. The gunman exchanged fire with and killed an armed security guard.
  • The shooter: The suspect is 18-year-old Payton Gendron, who traveled from another New York county hours away and livestreamed the attack on the social media platform Twitch.
“Replacement theory” motivation — According to a 180-page document posted online, attributed to Gendron, he was fixated on what’s known as “replacement theory” — the idea that Whites are being slowly and intentionally replaced by minorities and immigrants.
Variations on this basic idea — that Whites are being replaced by some sort of minority-driven conspiracy — have made their way into more than just the musings of gunmen.
The Fox and GOP version of replacement theory. Critics say it is dangerously close to xenophobic rhetoric finding its way into the mainstream of American politics.
Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, pointed the finger squarely at her party’s leadership Monday morning, saying it has “enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”
And after the shooting in Buffalo, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Illinois Republican who has split with his party by criticizing former President Donald Trump, tried to make a connection between an old Facebook ad published by Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican, and replacement theory.
“Did you know: @EliseStefanik pushes white replacement theory? The #3 in the house GOP,” Kinzinger said on Twitter, linking to media coverage that the congresswoman’s Facebook ads received in 2021, including a critical editorial from a local newspaper.
The Facebook ads from her campaign last September suggested Democrats wanted to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants to create a permanent liberal majority in Washington.
CNN has reached out to Stefanik about Kinzinger’s comment.
Replacement pattern. That ad is part of a larger narrative.
Tucker Carlson, the Fox host, has pushed the idea that Democrats want to import new voters to dilute the votes of other Americans, presumably Whites like him.
Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio and City University of New York media studies professor James Cohen wrote a CNN opinion piece last year about how the concept of replacement theory has festered in US politics for decades, but has recently become easy to decode in segments on Carlson’s show and in remarks by lawmakers. Read more.
CNN’s Chris Cillizza has documented how the concept of replacement theory has been mentioned by lawmakers like GOP Rep. Scott Perry, who said this at a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting in April of 2021:
“For many Americans, what seems to be happening or what they believe right now is happening is what appears to them is we’re replacing national-born American — native-born Americans to permanently transform the landscape of this very nation,” the Pennsylvania Republican said in reference to the number of people trying to enter the country at the United States’ southern border.
“Uncomfortably” close. This is not to say Perry’s comment, Carlson’s broadcasts or Stefanik’s ad are the same as what’s represented in the writings, allegedly from Gendron or other gunmen. They’re not. But it is also impossible to deny certain parallels in the language.
“This tension, this frustration, this fear sits not that far from our mainstream politics,” journalist Wesley Lowery said on CNN’s Inside Politics Sunday.
“One thing is unquestionably true,” he added. “Very often the rhetoric in our politics sits uncomfortably close to the rhetoric that these kind of terrorists espouse.”
Pledges to fight racism. But how? President Joe Biden, who is headed to Buffalo on Tuesday, pledged to fight racism.
“Any act of domestic terrorism, including an act perpetrated in the name of a repugnant white nationalist ideology, is antithetical to everything we stand for in America,” he said in a statement on Saturday. “Hate must have no safe harbor. We must do everything in our power to end hate-fueled domestic terrorism.”
Race is enmeshed in US politics. Political rhetoric often feeds replacement fears by highlighting racial divides that are enmeshed in American life and politics.
The issue of immigration will loom over this fall’s midterm elections as Biden struggles with how to end Trump-era immigration policy that has kept US borders largely closed.
The related issues of voting rights and election security often pit GOP-led states like Georgia, Texas and Florida against big cities with their large minority populations.
Seeking accountability from social media companies. Democratic politicians like New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi argued Sunday that social media companies should bear some responsibility.
“This spreads like a virus,” Hochul told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.” She said CEOs of social media companies must look a their policies and do more to take racist content down.
“They have to be able to identify when information like this — the second it hits the platform, it needs to be taken down, because this is spreading like wildfire.”
Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla who has been in the process of buying Twitter, has said he would go in the opposite direction. He’s a self-described free speech absolutist and would allow more, not less, speech online.
Buffalo and gun laws. The gun control debate has shown us that even tragic shooting after tragic shooting will lead to very little concrete action so long as a minority of senators, locked together, can stop any legislation
New York already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and Hochul said she would look to close loopholes in state law that she said allowed magazines like the one apparently used in Buffalo across state lines.
Separately, Bash asked Pelosi if Democrats should place higher priority on passing gun safety measures like a stricter background check proposal passed by the House that was stalled in the Senate. Pelosi argued the math makes passing such bills a challenge.
“The fact is the 60-vote majority in the Senate is an obstacle to doing any, many good things, unfortunately, and again, we are not going away until the job is done,” Pelosi said.

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Ukraine won the 2022 Eurovision because of politics – The Washington Post

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Even before this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, commentators claimed that if Ukraine took home the trophy, it would not be for the quality of its folk-rap entry, “Stefania.” Instead, it would be a sign of European support for Ukraine amid the Russian invasion.

The Eurovision Song Contest allows countries to enter songs — but also to vote for the songs entered by other countries (each country nominates a jury of representatives to vote on its behalf). Several country representatives didn’t exactly try to hide their sympathy for the Ukrainian cause. When Poland’s representatives were asked for their jury vote, they mentioned “artistic creativity” — but also the bravery of Ukrainian fighters.

And it’s true: Ukraine’s victory on Saturday was political. This doesn’t make it unusual. Eurovision has always been about politics, even if the European Broadcasting Union (the organization that runs Eurovision) sometimes claims the opposite.

Past Eurovision songs have taken aim at Russia

In the past, Russia’s neighbors have weaponized Eurovision songs to retaliate against Russian actions. In 2007, Ukraine submitted a song called “Dancing Lasha Tumbai.” In Ukrainian, the pronunciation sounds very much like “Russia Goodbye.” After Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, that country tried the same trick with a song called “We Don’t Wanna Put In” — coincidentally pronounced in the song like “we don’t want a Putin.” It didn’t work; the entry was promptly disqualified. When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, Ukraine’s entry was a song about the Soviet deportation of Crimean Tatars. The song, entitled “1944,” also won the contest.

An analysis of voting patterns demonstrates that Russia, too, has engaged in Eurovision politics. Since Russia first entered the contest in 1994, its entry has frequently finished in the top five. Is that due to the quality of its entrants? Maybe, but many watchers also have noted how Russia almost always collects “douze points” (12 points: the maximum) from Belarus and other allies. This year, Russia was banned from participating.

Not all of the politics is about Russia’s actions

So, would Eurovision be apolitical if Russia’s ban from the contest became permanent? Hardly. While many of the recent political scandals have involved Russia, it’s not the only country that sparks controversy.

Israel’s participation in Eurovision means that many Arab countries do not participate, even though Libya, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan are all eligible. Morocco’s first and only appearance in the contest was in a year Israel did not participate. In 2005, Lebanon withdrew rather than broadcast the Israeli entry.

Nor have Western European nations avoided politics. 1974’s Eurovision might be best known for introducing the world to ABBA. The Portuguese entry was more politically consequential: It served as a signal for coup plotters to begin the overthrow of Portugal’s authoritarian regime. Nor was that all; Italy censored its own entry that year, for fear that listening to “Sì” too many times would influence voters to vote “sì” (yes) in a referendum the next month to make divorce legal.

Eurovision has been political from the start

None of this is entirely surprising. Eurovision — and the European Broadcasting Union — was founded in the aftermath of World War II. The aim was to promote European cooperation. If it gave European nations a way to compete without guns and bombs, that was all to the good. There are worse ways for nations to vie for supremacy than with song and dance.

Given these foundations, it is safe to say that “Stefania” is not undermining any proud vision of political neutrality in Eurovision. It is very likely that Ukraine did win because of the Russian invasion — but it will be neither the first nor the last time that Eurovision expresses politics through the medium of a song contest. The solidarity that other European countries have expressed with Ukraine, and their implicit condemnation of Russia’s invasion, is not out of keeping with the contest’s political beginnings.

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