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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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Politics Briefing: Trudeau visits Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation after Tofino blunder – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting a First Nations community in British Columbia today after not responding to earlier invitations as residents there dealt with the discovery of unmarked burial sites of former residential school students.

The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops had previously invited Mr. Trudeau to attend a ceremony in the community marking the inaugural National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30.

Instead, Mr. Trudeau went on vacation in the Vancouver Island community of Tofino. He subsequently apologized.

Parliamentary reporter Kristy Kirkup provides a Reporter’s Comment on what’s at stake today – “All eyes will be on Justin Trudeau today for his visit to the B.C. First Nation. Since coming to power in 2015, the Liberals have repeatedly said its relationship with Indigenous people is the most important relationship. Mr. Trudeau has also stressed this thinking comes from him personally. But his decision to travel to Tofino on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation was met by condemnation from Indigenous leaders, who said they were hurt by his decision and noted the Prime Minister will have to work to rebuild relationships. I will be watching to see how he goes about trying to achieve that today. The event will include other speakers, including new Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald, who has stressed the need for concrete action. How does Mr. Trudeau convey that at today’s ceremony? And how long will it take him to repair lost trust?”

The agenda for today’s three-hour event includes remarks by Mr. Trudeau, Ms. Archibald and Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Rosanne Casimir as well as a media availability. Also scheduled are comments from Indian residential school survivors and community youth.

Ms. Kirkup and B.C. politics reporter Justine Hunter report on today’s events here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

LIBERALS DODGING SCRUTINY, OPPOSITION SAYS – The Liberal government’s move to limit House of Commons sitting days this year and delay the return of Parliament until late November is part of an effort to avoid scrutiny, opposition MPs say, amid a needed debate over pandemic economic supports.

FEDS DENOUNCE END TO YEMEN WAR PROBE – The federal government is speaking out after the United Nations Human Rights Council, which includes such countries as Russia, China and Venezuela, shut down the only independent international probe into Yemen’s long and deadly civil war. Story here.

ALBERTA EQUALIZATION REFERENDUM TODAY – Albertans will cast ballots Monday in a referendum that is technically about rejecting equalization, but has morphed into more of a Prairie Festivus airing of grievances.

NDP SEEK SOCIAL MEDIA WATCHDOG – New Democrats are demanding the federal government crack down on social media giants following recent revelations by a Facebook executive.

ANCIENT KNIFE FOUND IN CENTRE BLOCK RENOVATION – An ancient Indigenous knife unearthed during the renovation of Centre Block will be the first artifact found on Parliament Hill to be returned to the stewardship of the Algonquin people who live in the Ottawa region.

CUSTOMERS SUBJECT TO COST HIKES: BANK OF CANADA – Canadian businesses are grappling with labour shortages and supply-chain disruptions, with many planning to respond by raising wages and passing on cost increases to customers, according to the Bank of Canada’s quarterly survey of businesses. Story here.

ELECTORAL REFORM OR I QUIT: DEL DUCA – Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca says, if elected to government, he will “resign on the spot” if he does not follow through with a commitment to enact ranked ballots in provincial elections. The next provincial election is set for June 2, 2022.

GOVERNOR-GENERAL VISITS GERMANY – Governor-General Mary May Simon has arrived in Berlin for her first international visit on behalf of Canada – a four-day state visit that will include a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Story here.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

The Prime Minister, in Kamloops, B.C., holds private meetings and visits Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc.

LEADERS

No public itineraries were issued by the other leaders.

POLITICAL BOOKS

Another former member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet is writing about her experience in federal politics.

Catherine McKenna, who served as environment and infrastructure minister, told the Herle Berly podcast last week that she has written Run Like a Girl, which she said was not a tell-all, but touched on lessons in politics.

“It’s just about being a woman and being yourself,” said Ms. McKenna, who served as Ottawa Centre MP from 2015 until this year, when she announced she would not seek re-election.

As she announced her plans to leave politics last June, Ms. McKenna mentioned the phrase “running like a girl” as she encouraged more female participation in elected politics.

Ms. McKenna’s book project comes after recent books from former federal ministers, including Indian in the Cabinet by former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, a memoir about she challenges she faced in Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet. Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from cabinet over the SNC-Lavalin affair. Indian in the Cabinet was recently nominated for the inaugural Writers’ Trust Balsillie Prize for Public Policy.

Contacted by The Globe and Mail, Ms. McKenna said in a social media exchange that she had worked on her book over the course of the pandemic. “It’s about politics and women in politics. More to come later.”

OPINION

Campbell Clark (The Globe and Mail) on the challenge Erin O’Toole faces with a handful of unvaccinated Tory MPs as the opening of Parliament looms: “Imagine a new hybrid Parliament, with 330-odd MPs sitting in the House of Commons, live and in-person, but a handful of unvaccinated Conservatives relegated to video participation because they won’t get the shots. Erin O’Toole has about a month to avoid that damaging image.”

Kevin Chan, Rachel Curran and Joelle Pineau (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on Facebook collaborating to make progress against harms associated with social media: “As three Canadians working directly on public policy and research at Facebook, we take very seriously the opportunity and responsibility to contribute to this effort, and to always strive to do better. Importantly, we hear the calls for more regulation, and we agree. Matters of hate speech, online safety and freedom of expression are some of the most challenging issues of our time, and we have been vocal in calling for a new set of public rules for all technology companies to follow. As Canadian lawmakers seek to construct new frameworks for platform governance, we stand ready to collaborate with them.”

Tzeporah Berman (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on how the bar for climate leadership is far too low in Canada: “Canada claims to be a climate leader, but it’s time to get clear on what that means. We need a plan to stop the expansion of existing oil and gas projects and to help transition workers and communities involved in the industry into other sectors. We need to step up internationally and work with other countries as we did in the face of great challenges, such as the Second World War and ozone depletion.”

Naheed Nenshi (Contributed to The Globe and Mail) on the crises we are facing: “We are at a crossroads in our country. We have five future-defining crises in front of us, any one of which could bring a lesser society to its knees: a public-health crisis in the pandemic, a mental health and addictions crisis, an economic dislocation like none we’ve seen before, an environmental crisis, and a reckoning on the issue of equity. This is all playing out at political and national levels, but also in every one of our families. It all feels sometimes like too much. Is our country ungovernable? Are the voices of anger and hatred and division simply too loud? Have they won? I don’t believe that. I never have. I can’t. I won’t.”

Mike McDonald (Rosedeer) on the British Columbia election that continues to impact politics in the province 30 years after the ballots were counted: “It was the election of Premier Mike Harcourt’s NDP government and only the second time in B.C. history that the NDP had gained power. The election was hugely significant for the NDP, as they governed for a decade. But its more profound impact was the realignment of the free enterprise vote in B.C.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop.

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Politics Podcast: What Makes A Party Or Politician Popular? – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

President Biden’s standing with the public has deteriorated in the nine months since he took office. Now more Americans disapprove of his job performance than approve of it. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast, the crew talks about why that is, what the consequences are for Democrats and what they can do about it. They also check in on the upcoming Virginia governor’s race and discuss a FiveThirtyEight report about how Congress may have inadvertently legalized THC — the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

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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Tigray forces say air strikes hit Ethiopia’s Mekelle, government denies

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Rebellious Tigrayan forces accused the Ethiopian government of launching air strikes on the capital of Tigray region on Monday, though the government denied the reports.

The reported attack follows intensified fighting in two other Ethiopian regions, where the central government’s military is trying to recover territory taken by the northern province’s Tigray Peoples Liberation Front(TPLF).

Tigrai TV, controlled by the TPLF, said the attack on the city of Mekelle killed three civilians.

A resident of the city told Reuters one strike hit close to a market, behind a hotel. An aid worker and a doctor in the region also said there had been an attack and a diplomat shared pictures of what they said was the aftermath, including pools of blood and smashed windows.

All asked not to be named. Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the images.

Ethiopia’s government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, denied launching any attack. “Why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city? Mekelle is an Ethiopian city,” he said.

“Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians in them, not government,” Legesse added. He accused the TPLF of killing civilians in fighting in neighbouring regions.

Reuters was not able to verify any of the accounts in an area that is off-limits to journalists.

“I WAS A FEW METRES AWAY”

War erupted in Tigray almost a year ago between the Ethiopian military and the TPLF, the political party that controls the region, killing thousands of people and forcing more than two million to flee.

Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands more.

A week ago, the Tigrayan forces said the military had launched a ground offensive to push them out of Amhara. The military acknowledged on Thursday there was heavy fighting there, but accused the Tigrayan forces of starting it.

Reporting details of Monday’s air attack, Tigray TV said the first strike hit the city’s outskirts, near a cement factory, while the second struck in the city centre.

A doctor in the region said they heard the first attack on Monday morning. “First I heard the sounds of jet and also an explosion from afar,” the doctor told Reuters?

“Then in the afternoon there was another sound, which seemed closer. This one seemed like it happened inside the city,” the doctor said.

A Mekelle resident told Reuters that around noon, (0900 GMT), a strike hit close to a market behind the city’s Planet Hotel, in the city centre.

“I was a few metres away, I thought they had hit our compound,” the resident said.

TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda tweeted: “#AbiyAhmed’s ‘Air Force’ sent its bomber jet to attack civilian targets in& outside #Mekelle,” referring to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Diplomats are worried that renewed fighting will further destabilise Ethiopia, a nation of 109 million people, and deepen hunger in Tigray and the surrounding regions.

 

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom; Additional reporting and writing by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams, Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)

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