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Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash – The New York Times

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WASHINGTON — The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump stepped to the podium in the Rose Garden of the White House on Saturday evening to announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grass-roots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds and Senate inboxes.

If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Judge Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending — and potentially much more — and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr.

The goal is ostensibly to try to shape the Senate vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination but, barring some unforeseen development or revelation, there is little expectation that Democrats will be able to stop the Republican-controlled Senate from confirming the judge, who has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since November 2017.

Still, partisans on both sides have not made a secret of their plans to use the confirmation fight for political gain.

For Democrats, it is a chance to rally their base, and donors, by highlighting the suddenly very real prospect of a Republican president and Senate delivering a long-lasting conservative Supreme Court majority that could strike down some of the hardest-fought victories of the last half-century, including the Affordable Care Act and the right to an abortion.

For Republicans, it represents an opportunity to secure support from leery conservatives who may have drifted from Mr. Trump, and to energize core parts of the Republican base — including evangelical and Catholic voters — by elevating issues of religion and accusing Democrats of religious intolerance for opposing Judge Barrett, an observant Catholic who is a member of a self-described charismatic Christian community called People of Praise.

Leading Democrats and their allies have signaled that they intend to steer clear of personal criticisms of Judge Barrett, eager to avoid a conservative backlash like the one that emerged in response to Democratic questioning during her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing. During that hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told the judge that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”

A repeat, Democrats fear, could hurt Mr. Biden, a Catholic himself who openly discusses his faith and hopes to win over Catholic voters despite Mr. Trump’s strong performance with them four years ago.

Mr. Biden’s allies have mostly approached the subject more cautiously and obliquely, raising Judge Barrett’s religious beliefs primarily in the context of her jurisprudence and her associations.

The Democratic super PAC American Bridge, which has through Sunday spent more than $36 million opposing Mr. Trump, released an opposition research file highlighting Judge Barrett’s affiliations with religious conservative groups that oppose abortion rights. The file included the false claim that she was a member of a Trump-allied conservative legal nonprofit group called the Thomas More Society, which is suing to block Democratic cities from accepting private funds to administer elections during the pandemic, arguing it would help Mr. Biden’s campaign. (American Bridge removed the claim that Judge Barrett was a member of the Thomas More Society after being asked about it by The New York Times.)

The research file also highlighted a scholarly paper Judge Barrett helped to write in the late 1990s about how the Catholic Church’s campaign against capital punishment “puts Catholic judges in a bind” between their oath to enforce the death penalty and their obligation “to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.”

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

But some Democrats have been more pointed in calling attention to Judge Barrett’s faith. Katie Hill, a former congresswoman from California who runs a political action committee supporting Democratic women, wrote on Twitter last week that Judge Barrett “comes from a religion that is straight out of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’” — the dystopian novel and television series about a totalitarian state that has overthrown the United States government — “because of course she does,” adding an expletive for emphasis.

Ms. Hill said in an email on Sunday that her political action committee, HER Time, was working to rally opposition to Judge Barrett’s confirmation, and that questions about whether the judge “will impose her faith on the American people” were fair game. “Someone’s religion is important when their religious beliefs are part of the way they make decisions that come before that court,” Ms. Hill said, accusing Judge Barrett of holding “anti-women, anti-L.G.B.T.Q. positions, which are rooted in her religion” and saying they would “factor into her decisions on the court.”

Republicans have eagerly highlighted similar attacks, as well as examples of liberals scrutinizing Judge Barrett’s family — she has seven children, including two adopted from Haiti.

Mr. Trump, at a White House news conference on Sunday afternoon, accused Democrats of “really brazenly attacking Judge Barrett for, again, her faith.” Singling out Senator Feinstein, the president said, “I think they ought to treat religion with much more respect.”

The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List on Saturday evening began a digital advertising campaign featuring a one-minute video that calls attention to Judge Barrett’s legal bona fides and religious background, and accuses Democrats of “attacking her faith.” The ad is part of what the group says will be “a seven-figure investment” supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation.

The White House has encouraged social and religious conservative groups to focus on Judge Barrett’s personal life in their campaigns supporting her confirmation. During a private conference call with more than 500 representatives of social and religious conservative groups an hour after her Rose Garden speech, senior White House staff members emphasized her family and pointed out social media posts from Republicans that did the same, including a tweet from Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, praising her devotion to “faith, family, and the U.S. Constitution.”

Douglas L. Hoelscher, the director of the White House’s office of intergovernmental affairs, urged the groups to pull out all of the stops in support of a frenzied push to speed the nomination through the Senate in the weeks before Election Day.

“We really appreciate our stakeholders already rolling up their sleeves and engaging to have their voice added to a positive echo for the president’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Mr. Hoelscher said. “We will come back to you to help us along the way over the next month.”

He added, “We need to have your voice in the fight and we know you’re ready for that fight.”

Allied groups on the Democratic side are no less ready.

About two minutes into Mr. Trump’s introduction of Judge Barrett, the liberal group Demand Justice sent an email to its supporters urging them to “chip in immediately to put pressure on Senators to vote NO on confirming Amy Coney Barrett.”

The group pledged last week to spend $10 million to try to block the confirmation of any justice before the presidential inauguration in January, and to target vulnerable Republican senators who support such a nomination. Even before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created the Supreme Court vacancy, Demand Justice had begun a $2 million digital advertising campaign in July, trying to elevate the court as an issue in competitive states in the presidential race.

Those ads are unlikely to focus on Judge Barrett’s religious beliefs, according to Brian Fallon, the group’s executive director. He issued a statement last week saying that his group had “zero interest” in raising questions about the nominee’s Catholic faith.

On the right, the planned campaigns by Trump-allied groups to defend Judge Barrett will be expensive. The Republican National Committee said on Saturday that it was kicking off a $10 million effort, which will include a digital ad campaign and a get-out-the-vote operation that the party’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, said would “aggressively promote the qualifications of Judge Barrett, and use the issue to galvanize voters.”

Credit…Matt Rourke/Associated Press

America First Policies, a nonprofit group started by allies of Mr. Trump, on Saturday night announced national television, digital and direct-mail advertising buys of more than $5 million. The first television advertisement in the group’s campaign, featuring praise for Judge Barrett from the faculty at Notre Dame Law School, where she is a professor, is set to air on Tuesday during the first debate between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.

Brian O. Walsh, the group’s president, said the $5 million was the group’s starting point, and that it was prepared to spend more if necessary. He emphasized the importance of introducing Judge Barrett to the country “on our terms.”

Privately, conservative activists concede that the push to support Judge Barrett stands little chance of affecting the outcome, since there are few senators whose votes are seen as being in play and whom conservatives believe they can effectively sway to vote yes. Few, if any, Democrats are likely to support the nomination, and a campaign targeting Republicans like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has said she opposes filling the vacancy before the election, could backfire by further endangering her chances of winning another term and Republicans’ hopes of holding onto the Senate.

During the earlier battles over the confirmations of Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch, control of the Senate was not hanging in the balance. Conservative activists said that with so much on the line now, they would have to take a more targeted and cautious approach.

For some groups, the spending on the nomination fight might have an added tax benefit, helping them fulfill requirements that they spend more than half of their annual budgets for purposes other than partisan politics. Ads about the Supreme Court could qualify as nonpartisan, even if they come across as supporting one party or the other.

The anti-tax Club for Growth and the group Catholic Vote are expected to spend money as part of the broader effort, a person familiar with the planning said.

The religious conservative group American Principles Project began a new campaign through the website GloriousACB.org, while the most active conservative group in court fights, the Judicial Crisis Network, pledged to spend $10 million on ads and a “grass-roots mobilization campaign” supporting Judge Barrett. The Judicial Crisis Network’s first ad supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation casts Democrats who are arguing against the nomination as “extremists” who are “shamefully trying to change the facts” about quickly confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year.

Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, said her group had become more battle-hardened after the fight over Justice Kavanaugh in 2018. “We’re ready for creative minds among Democrats” to depict Judge Barrett in a negative light, she said.

On a videoconference with activists on Saturday night, Tim Phillips, the president of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be, in all candor, a big battle — we know that, given the polarization these days in politics.”

The call came as the group, funded by the political network created by the industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch, announced “a significant national ad campaign” supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation in 10 states in which there are competitive Senate races. The advertising will complement a push encouraging the group’s activists around the country to call their senators to urge them to support the nomination.

In the videoconference, Casey Mattox, Americans for Prosperity’s vice president for legal and judicial strategy, urged activists to act quickly “because this is going to be a pretty compressed time frame as we go through this process.”

He added, “We don’t have a lot of time with a nomination like this.”

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Pandemic politics: Biden shuns 'false promises' of fast fix – CTV News

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BULLHEAD CITY, ARIZ. —
Focused firmly on COVID-19, Joe Biden vowed Wednesday not to campaign in the election homestretch “on the false promises of being able to end this pandemic by flipping a switch.” President Donald Trump, under attack for his handling of the worst health crisis in more than a century, breezily pledged on his final-week swing to “vanquish the virus.”

The Democratic presidential nominee also argued that a Supreme Court conservative majority stretched to 6-3 by newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett could dismantle the Obama administration’s signature health law and leave millions without insurance coverage during the pandemic. He called Trump’s handling of the coronavirus an “insult” to its victims, especially as cases spike dramatically around the country.

“Even if I win, it’s going to take a lot of hard work to end this pandemic,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. “I do promise this: We will start on day one doing the right things.”

His comments reflected an unwavering attempt to keep the political spotlight on the pandemic. That was a departure from the president, who downplayed the threat and spent his day in Arizona, where relaxed rules on social distancing made staging big rallies easier.

The pandemic’s consequences were escalating, with deaths climbing in 39 states and an average of 805 people dying daily nationwide — up from 714 two weeks ago. Overall, about 227,000 Americans have died. The sharp rise sent shockwaves through financial markets, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop 900-plus points.

Trump, who frequently lauds rising markets, failed to mention the decline. But he promised that economic growth figures for the summer quarter, due Thursday, would be strong, declaring during a rally in Bullhead City, Arizona, “This election is a choice between a Trump super-recovery and a Biden depression.”

As Trump spoke, an Air Force fighter thundered nearby and released a flare to get the attention of a non-responsive private aircraft that was flying in the restricted airspace. North American Aerospace Defence Command said the plane was escorted out by the F-16 “without further incident.” Trump was at first caught off guard but later cheered the fighter, proclaiming, “I love that sound” as it roared overhead.

The president also condemned violence that occurred during some protests in response to the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, in Philadelphia saying Biden stands “with the rioters and the vandals.”

But Biden said in Wilmington, “There is no excuse whatsoever for the looting and the violence.”

Bullhead City is just across the border from Nevada, a state Trump is hoping to flip during Election Day next Tuesday. A Trump Nevada rally last month attracted thousands and led to the airport that hosted it being fined more than $5,500 for violating pandemic crowd restrictions.

Rather than curb his crowd, Trump moved just across the border and used his rally Wednesday to scoff at Democratic leaders in states like Nevada for trying to enforce social distancing rules. The event’s crowd looked to be mostly from Arizona, though there were attendees from Nevada. Few wore masks.

The weather was far milder than during a Tuesday night Trump rally in Omaha, Nebraska. After Trump left that one, hundreds of attendees at Eppley Airfield spent hours waiting in the cold for transportation to cars parked far away. Several people were taken to hospitals amid concerns about exposure.

“Because of the sheer size of the crowd, we deployed 40 shuttlebuses — double the normal allotment — but local road closures and resulting congestion caused delays,” Trump spokeswoman Samantha Zager said in a statement.

Trump is trailing Biden in most national polls. Biden also has an advantage, though narrower, in the key swing states that could decide the election.

Biden voted early in Wilmington on Wednesday and received a virtual briefing from health experts. One, Dr. David Kessler, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, warned, “We are in the midst of the third wave, and I don’t think anyone can tell you how high this is going to get.”

Trump was nonetheless defiant, declaring, “We will vanquish the virus and emerge stronger than ever before.”

In a campaign sidelight, the president lashed out after news that Miles Taylor, former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, was revealed as the author of a scathing anti-Trump op-ed and book under the pen name “Anonymous.”

“This guy is a low-level lowlife that I don’t know,” he said. “I have no idea who he is.”

Trump views Nevada favourably, despite it not backing a Republican for president since 2004. Hillary Clinton won it by less than 2.5 percentage points in 2016.

And Biden wants to flip Arizona, which hasn’t voted Democratic for president since 1996. His running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris, was in Arizona on Wednesday, meeting with Latina entrepreneurs and African American leaders as well as holding two drive-in rallies.

On Friday, Harris will visit Fort Worth, Houston and the U.S.-Mexico border town of McAllen in Texas — a state that hasn’t backed a Democrat for president since 1976 or even elected one to statewide office since 1994. Texas was long so reliably red that top national Democrats visited only to hold fundraisers.

“I am really grateful for the attention that they have given Texas because it has been so long since a presidential campaign gave this state a look,” said Beto O’Rourke a former Texas congressman and onetime presidential hopeful. But he declined to predict that Biden would win the state, saying only “There is a possibility,” contingent on turnout breaking records.

Biden heads later in the week to three more states Trump won in 2016, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan, where he’ll hold a joint Saturday rally with former President Barack Obama.

Democrats point to a larger number of their party members returning absentee ballots — results that could be decisive since more people are likely to vote by mail during the pandemic. Trump’s campaign argues that enough of its supporters will vote on Election Day to overwhelm any early Biden advantage.

Around 71.5 million people nationwide have so far voted in advance, either by casting early, in-person ballots or voting by mail, according to an Associated Press analysis. That’s already far more than the total advance ballots cast before the 2016 presidential election.

“We’re talking to people everywhere,” Harris said. “And there’s no area that’s off limits.”

——

Weissert reported from Washington, Jaffe from Wilmington. Associated Press writers Michelle Price in Bull City, Arizona, Kathleen Ronayne in Las Vegas and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

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UNBC Alumni dipping their toes in politics atop Parliament Hill – CKPGToday.ca

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Hughes graduated UNBC earlier this year with a joint major in Global and International Studies and Political Science.

“The jobs that I held as a research assistant, student assistant, and journal assistant at UNBC were invaluable for the development of critical research and writing skills necessary for a parliamentary intern.”—Hanna Hughes, UNBC Alumni

Hughes says that she applied for the internship in part to gain non-partisan experience to prepare her for a potential career in government.

For her, her most memorable moment, two months into the internship, was when she was able to Zoom with former Prime Minister Paul Martin where she was able to “ask questions about the formation of the G20, his role as Finance Minister, and how to operate in a minority government,” said Hughes.

Lukac is grateful for his time at UNBC and says that it prepared him with writing and analysis skills which he says have been crucial for him professionally, “and perhaps more importantly, nurtured my passion for politics and political philosophy,” he adds.

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Two Religion Reporters Cover Where Faith and Politics Meet – The New York Times

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Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

The discourse surrounding the background of the Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett and the support of white evangelicals for President Trump has deepened political divisions in the country, and the conversations are two examples of why it’s important to understand conservative Christians and their impact. For our religion reporters, Ruth Graham and Elizabeth Dias, covering more political stories as the election draws nearer has become inevitable. We asked them a few questions about digging into the facts on the faith beat.

What challenges do you face covering religion in the United States?

RUTH GRAHAM One challenge in this particular moment is that the pandemic has made reporting so much harder. That’s true on every beat, of course, but religious observance in particular has so many sensory elements that really have to be experienced in person: music, prayers, food, décor, incense, emotion. Calling people up on the phone and asking direct questions about their beliefs will never capture it all.

ELIZABETH DIAS The polarized political climate has made reporters’ jobs harder all around. I’ve found conservatives are increasingly wary of talking with us no matter what the story is, from sexual abuse in evangelical churches to Amy Coney Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination. That means these important stories often take longer to do because access to accurate information is harder to get.

Religion and politics seem inseparable these days. Has that always been the case, or has something shifted?

GRAHAM I think they seem inseparable partly because it’s election season, and as journalists we tend to view things through that lens ourselves. For ordinary believers, the connection is not always so clear. Some people clearly draw a connection between their faith and their views on national politics; others definitely don’t. I try to keep that in mind as a reporter and not force every story into a political frame.

DIAS Religion and politics both reflect shared, larger questions. They are both about power. They are both about people. They are both about how people structure life together. For centuries religion was politics, and it still is today in many parts of the world — the Vatican is a city state. Each generation works out its own relationship to these bigger questions and to history, and the election is just one way we are seeing that play out now in the United States.

Credit…Rozette Rago/The New York Times

How is covering religion during the 2020 election different than in 2016?

DIAS So much was revealed in 2016: the political influence of prosperity gospel preachers, who connect faith with financial wealth; the complete marriage of white evangelicals to President Trump; the depth of the racial divides within Christianity. Four years later these themes are all present, but that does not necessarily mean the election outcome will be the same. When the votes are tallied we will learn how the president’s religious coalition has and hasn’t changed after four years.

Would QAnon ever cross into your beat? What would that look like?

GRAHAM Yes, I’m actually starting to work on a Q-adjacent story right now. It’s a movement that has really taken off among Christian conservatives, and some have argued that QAnon itself is best understood as a homegrown religious movement. So there’s a lot of natural overlap on the religion beat.

What considerations do you take when reporting on religious groups that feel distrust toward the media?

GRAHAM The rising distrust of the media among a lot of conservative religious people is a major challenge, and one that is not going away. My starting assumption these days is always that I will have to work to convince conservative believers to talk with me. I do my best to acknowledge their wariness and explain why I want to include their voice in the story. All I can do is try to build trust by continuing to produce work that takes religion and faith seriously.

DIAS Trust grows over time, so I try to build long-term relationships with people I interview and to think of the body of work I’m building, versus only one specific story. Deep listening happens slowly, and requires appropriate empathy. I also spend a lot of time talking with people off the record, even though it means I may need to do more interviews, because I want to learn from them however I can.

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