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Normal Politics Is Not Enough – The Nation

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The master Democratic strategy for the 2022 midterm elections is coming into focus. After four years of the Trump show, President Joe Biden and congressional leaders will make a case that echoes Warren G. Harding’s 1920 campaign promise of a “return to normalcy.”

Biden is fresh off a victory with the infrastructure bill that represents peak normal politics and validation of everything Biden holds dear: compromise, negotiation, bipartisanship, and getting something done. Infrastructure is hardly a topic to get ordinary Americans’ heart rates up, but that is the point. Biden demonstrated the ability to take the mundane—money for nonpartisan essentials, for roads and bridges—and pass a bill with some Republican support. Of course, the cost of minimal GOP support was removing almost all the important progressive elements from the bill, but to most Americans who neither know nor care about the details, it reads as a win.

Normal Washington politics are, as George Will puts it, the politics of “splittable differences”—of one side wanting the corporate tax rate at 21 percent while the other insists on 28 percent. In contrast to the permanent crisis atmosphere created by the Trump presidency, Biden and congressional Democrats want to create an impression of managerial competence, of politics that Americans can safely look away from without worrying that a constitutional crisis will erupt. The infrastructure bill fit nicely into a recognizable narrative of Democrats wanting to spend a dollar amount, Republicans demanding to spend less, and a compromise in the broad middle. Americans know that story line; it’s pleasantly boring, which is refreshing after Trump.

With luck, the strategy goes, voters will compare this kind of Biden-led normal with the inevitable absurdity of divided government (picture a GOP-majority House impeaching Biden every 20 minutes for two years and no laws ever passing) and decide to keep the status quo. Democrats hope to be rewarded with a slightly larger Senate majority—of the 34 seats up in 2022, Republicans must defend 20 to the Democrats’ 14—and maintain or expand the current narrow House majority. Then, theoretically, Democrats can tackle the big structural problems. Crucially, the 2022 strategy addresses GOP voter suppression efforts not by preventing them from happening but by asking Democrats to work harder—to “out-organize” them.

The problem is that normal politics fit normal times, and the current political environment is definitely not normal. This rather hopeful strategy, requiring numerous breaks to fall Democrats’ way, is a sign that the party has given up hope of being able to meaningfully address any of the institutional advantages that Republicans are using to march the country toward pseudo-democracy with entrenched minority rule.

The Democrats, it seems, are hoping that a good dose of normalcy will win out over a lack of action on:

  • Addressing the structural GOP advantage in the Senate by pushing a vote on statehood for D.C. or, if its citizens choose to pursue it, Puerto Rico. For the second time in a year, the House has passed a D.C. statehood bill, a vote easier for House reps to make when they’re certain that the bill isn’t going anywhere in the Senate. It has 45 Senate cosponsors there, including majority leader Chuck Schumer, but getting the five more Senate supporters needed to make the bill law appears to be hopeless, and trying to change minds does not appear high on Schumer’s list of priorities. Symbolic action—the “Hey, we tried” strategy—accomplishes nothing.
  • Internal Senate reforms like eliminating or at least meaningfully modifying the filibuster. Venerating a rule with no constitutional standing that has largely functioned as a defense of the status quo and white supremacy makes absolutely no sense, but that’s Democratic “moderates” for you. Biden appears not to support total elimination but has voiced support for half-measures like a “carve-out” for voting rights legislation or a reversion to the “talking filibuster” that would at least increase the costs of obstructionism. Even that appears to be a long shot right now.
  • Reforming the federal courts, including expanding the Supreme Court. Both Biden and most Senate Democrats have rejected this as undesirable or impossible. This means key rulings on the panoply of Republican voter suppression laws (and challenges to election results) will happen before a court with a conservative majority embracing contemporary right-wing interpretations of how elections should work. That’s bad.
  • Even the business of confirming judges has been a failure. Since the president’s inauguration, the Senate has confirmed a grand total of nine Biden appointees to the federal courts. Twenty-six additional Biden appointments are awaiting Senate action. Remember, a single Democratic senator’s death, retirement, or resignation could end the bare majority Democrats currently hold. Mitch McConnell is no doubt thrilled to let Democrats focus on bipartisan spending bills at the cost of letting judicial confirmations languish. “We’re busy doing other things” isn’t good enough. This is a crisis. Act like it.
  • Voting rights. This cannot be said often or loudly enough. Recent laws—at least 30 major antidemocratic “reforms” have been passed in 18 states—in states like Texas, Arkansas, and Georgia restrict ballot access and, worse, codify the kind of post-hoc election theft Trump attempted in 2020. The Georgia laws are especially ominous, allowing state election officials to take over and replace local election boards in addition to a rash of measures designed to limit mail-in and early voting. The stage is set for Georgia Republicans to invalidate ballots on whatever ridiculous pretense they concoct on the spot. The 2020 election demonstrated how much difference a handful of ballots can make—and the extent of the delusions that conservatives are capable of internalizing about “voter fraud.” There is no way for voters to “out-organize” statutory power to decide which votes count.
  • Redistricting once again will be a partisan cudgel for Republicans. Of the 99 state legislative chambers in the United States, Republicans hold the majority in 61. That’s a whopping disadvantage for Democrats (though note that legislative involvement in redistricting varies by state). In one humiliating case, Oregon Democrats have a majority in both legislative chambers but cut a deal to make Republicans equal partners in redistricting in exchange for allowing the reading of bills in the legislature. The suicidal pattern of Democrats’ pursuing “neutral” redistricting as an antipode to Republicans seeking partisan advantage will worsen.

Certainly Biden and the House and Senate leaders have accomplished something by passing the infrastructure bill, but that accomplishment is skimpy when it stands next to a list of what isn’t being done. If Democrats lose the Senate because, say, Raphael Warnock’s successful defense of his Georgia Senate seat is invalidated by baseless fraud claims from state Republican election officials, the infrastructure bill won’t offer much comfort.

In the aftermath of 2020, many Democrats learned the wrong lessons, that moderation will win out and that, broadly speaking, The System Works. In reality, Biden won narrow victories in several key states; Democrats lost House seats; and only a superhuman effort in Georgia led by Stacey Abrams and relying on the sweat of hundreds of street-level organizers achieved control of the Senate. Democrats needed to come out of that experience ready to govern like this will be their last chance to rectify the antidemocratic lurch of the Republican Party. Rather than doing whatever it takes and by whatever means necessary, they’re banking on a return to normal politics to fire up enough voters to “out-organize” Republican erosion of electoral legitimacy.

It’s a helluva gamble, and if it doesn’t work, a neutered infrastructure bill will be a meager consolation prize.

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Women in politics | Watch News Videos Online – Globalnews.ca

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Historically, women have been chronically under-represented in politics. Many are saying have two women in the race to become the next Manitoba PC Leader and Premier is a step in the right direction. But as Marney Blunt reports, there’s still a long way to go for equity in the political world.

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Texas politics takes over American politics – POLITICO

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A strict new abortion law kicked off a huge national backlash. Thousands of Haitian migrants seeking asylum prompted mass deportations and scrutiny on Border Patrol policy. State officials announced four new reviews of the 2020 vote.

And that was just in September — and just in Texas.

The massive, Republican-controlled state has dominated the national political spotlight this year, driving increasingly conservative policies into the heart of big debates over everything from voting to public health initiatives, critical race theory and more. These legislative moves have positioned Texas as a counterweight to Democratic-dominated Washington — and a leader charting the potential course of the Republican Party nationally.

This year, the state was one of the first to reverse mask mandates and block local Covid-19 vaccine requirements. In the summer, Democratic state lawmakers fled Texas for a month to delay GOP voting legislation, which passed shortly after they returned. Laws that allowed carrying a gun without a permit, penalized reducing police budgets in large cities and limited discussion of systemic racism in classrooms went into effect on Sept. 1.

And other times, big events in Texas took center stage: A massive winter storm exposed the state’s weak energy infrastructure in February, and Texas’ southern border has been at the front of this month’s national news.

Even for a big state, Texas has seen an outsized amount of political attention as conservatives try to break new ground, expanding on decades of GOP control and a national political environment that tilts toward Republicans. Two more key trends are also behind the attention-grabbing policy drive: The Republican governor is preparing to face primary challengers in his 2022 reelection race and potential presidential run, while conflicts are mushrooming between diverse, liberal cities and the Republican-dominated state government — mirroring the same tensions animating national politics.

“You put all those things together, and I think there’s been basically no lane markers for Republicans in this session,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project, which conducts public opinion polling in the state. “They’re very confident about the 2022 election given recent precedents and… a Democrat in the White House, so there have been no natural checks.”

Former President Donald Trump’s influence still looms large in the state’s politics — as seen in his open letter to GOP Gov. Greg Abbott last week. Trump demanded the state legislature pass House Bill 16, which would allow state officials to request an electoral audit for future elections as well as for 2020.

Despite Trump’s nearly 6-point win over Biden in Texas last year, the secretary of State’s office soon announced a “full and comprehensive forensic audit” of Collin, Dallas and Tarrant counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, as well as Houston’s Harris County. The release did not provide any details but said the agency expects the state legislature to fund the effort.

Former Texas Secretary of State Ruth Hughs, who previously called the 2020 election “smooth and secure,” resigned in May when the state Senate did not take up her nomination. The Texas secretary of State’s office is currently helmed by a former Abbott staffer on an interim basis.

In a Fox News Sunday interview, Abbott said election audits by the Texas secretary of State’s office already began “months ago.”

“There are audits of every aspect of government,” Abbott said when asked about the potential waste of taxpayer money. “Why do we audit everything in this world, but people raise their hands in concern when we audit elections, which is fundamental to our democracy?”

But the top executives in three of the four counties have called the move unnecessary: “It’s time to move on,” Republican Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley told the Texas Tribune.

After thousands of Haitian migrants fled to Del Rio this month, Abbott directed hundreds of state troopers and Texas National Guard members to create a “steel wall” with patrol vehicles to prevent more people from entering the country. The state has budgeted more than $3 billion over the next two years on border security, adding nearly $2 billion of that funding earlier this month.

“Because the Biden administration is refusing to do its duty to enforce the laws of the United States, they have left Texas in no position other than for us to step up and do what we have to do,” Abbott said of his decision to forcibly stop and imprison migrants this month.

“As much as these issues are in the national news, they’re very, very local,” said GOP state Rep. James White. The national attention after the recent border struggles, for example, could “move the discussion where we need it. … Maybe it moves [Biden] to really pick up his game.”

The past few months have also stirred up new engagement among Democrats, said Democratic state Rep. Ron Reynolds, one of the more than 50 lawmakers who walked out of the first special session in July to meet with federal lawmakers in Washington.

“All of these things play out, people really understand like, ‘Oh, this isn’t normal? You mean other states aren’t doing this?’” Reynolds said. “It helps lay people understand that this isn’t just politics, this isn’t normal.”

The scale of conservative policies has been a “game changer” for Democratic state Rep. Erin Zwiener’s constituents, she said. Legislation like Senate Bill 8, which allows virtually anyone to sue someone who had assisted with an abortion after six weeks, didn’t get as much fanfare during the regular legislative session this year because of the baseline confidence in Roe v. Wade.

Her district’s mix of suburban and rural constituents didn’t think they needed to vote on issues like those, Zwiener added. The onslaught of agenda items about gun control, voter rights and other Abbott priorities didn’t help, she said.

“It’s hard for anybody to decide what to pay attention to when there’s a new crisis every day,” the state representative said. “People just had a hard time keeping up with which thing they should be angry about that day.”

As for the governor’s seat, many in the state are still skeptical of the possibility of ousting Abbott, especially since assumed candidate Beto O’Rourke hasn’t even made an announcement yet. Reynolds said if O’Rourke maintains a centrist message, he could be in a good position to win over vulnerable moderates and independents that are increasingly disappointed in Abbott’s performance.

While some Democrats in the state are cautiously hopeful about a changing tide, Zwiener said it will take a much more concerted effort to prove Texas is more of a swing state than others assume.

“Democrats have been out-organized by Republicans, and we’re not going to start to win and win sustainably until we match them for that organizing and think beyond the next election,” Zwiener said.

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Letter: Playing politics with the virus – Cowichan Valley Citizen

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Playing politics with the virus

Have always been of the opinion that politicians worldwide chose to play politics with the COVID-19 virus instead of stopping it from spreading by closing their respective international borders. Either they learned nothing from the Spanish flu pandemic which spread worldwide via the soldiers returning from the First World War or they chose to ignore it?

It appears that these viruses have a definitive life cycle. The Spanish flu faded into oblivion after the forth wave. The P.H.O for B.C informed us that all pandemics have four waves. So if they knew how the COVID-19 virus would react, how many waves there would be etc. why did they not take steps to prevent it from arriving in Canada? Politics, is my opinion. How many elections have we had in Canada, called by political parties whose only ambition is extending their power base and time in office?

My cynicism and distrust of the motives for the handling of this virus were confirmed while reading the following.

Dame Sarah Gilbert, the lead scientist from Oxford University, and the brain behind the vaccine manufactured in India as Covishield, stated the following: “The virus cannot completely mutate because its spike protein has to interact with the ACE2 receptor on the surface of the human cell, in order to get inside it. If it changes its spike protein so much that it can’t interact with that receptor, then it’s not going to be able to get inside the cell. So, there aren’t many places for the virus to go to have something that will evade immunity but still remain infectious.”

Dr. Gilbert is reported as saying that the virus that causes COVID-19 will eventually become like the coronaviruses which circulate widely and cause the common cold.

She also stated, “What tends to happen over time is there’s just a slow drift, that’s what happens with flu viruses. You see small changes accumulating over a period of time and then we have the opportunity to react to that.”

“It has been pretty quiet since Delta emerged and it would be nice to think there won’t be any new variants of concern. If I was pushed to predict, I think there will be new variants emerging over time and I think there is still quite a lot of road to travel down with this virus,” she said.

So thanks to our political masters, we are going to have this virus around for some time. Wonder if they think the cost in financial and human terms was/is worth it?

Ian Kimm

Duncan

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