It’s Tuesday, December 24. In today’s newsletter: Our reporters’ favorite stories of the year. We’ll be back on Thursday with more stories worth revisiting.
« TODAY IN POLITICS »
Covering politics as a journalist can often feel like having short-term memory loss: With the nonstop flood of news, it can be tough to remember what you worked on last week, let alone last month. But as 2019 wraps up, I asked my colleague on The Atlantic’s politics team to remember the best, most memorable stories they’ve worked on over the past year:
Steve King, the Iowa congressman, has become radioactive within his own Republican Party for a years-long track record for racist, incendiary comments. (What he told The New York Times last year: “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?”) But while he may be ostracized in Washington, D.C., King keeps on winning reelection back home in Iowa. My colleague Elaine Godfrey talked to King supporters who are more devoted than ever.
Socialism in the United States is having A Moment, with Bernie Sanders proving to be a juggernaut in the 2020 race and and the number of dues-paying members of Democratic Socialists of America growing by a factor of ten since 2016. But contrary to the stereotype, not all socialists are Brooklyn hipsters. Elaine, who covers Democrats and the left, spent some time with socialists in Iowa who are plotting a movement to push the Democratic Party to the left.
If there’s one word to that best defines the chaotic, crowded, nearly-year-long 2020 Democratic primary, it’s this: Electability. “Who do I like best?” might be how voters are supposed to choose a candidate, but “Who can beat Trump?” seems to be, well, trumping it this cycle. Russell Berman went to New Hampshire to talk to voters about why they’re obsessed with electability.
It was only a minor event in a year full of impeachment and a presidential primary, but one of the most stunning political stories of 2019 was Virginia becoming an all-blue state, completing its rapid transformation from a Republican stronghold not even two decades ago. Russell went to Richmond, the capital, to see how Democrats pulled it off, even as the state party was dogged by The Scandals (plural).
Emma Green, our reporter covering religion and the right, has been focused on a question a step ahead of this political moment: What will conservatism look like after Donald Trump leaves the White House? In July, she went to a conference where a set of conservatives sought to graft an intellectual framework to the messiness of Trumpism. Where did they seek to hold their conference to plot a new era in right-wing nationalism? … A Washington, D.C. Ritz-Carlton.
Virtually since Donald Trump descended down the Trump Tower escalator in 2015 and declared his presidential candidacy, a certain unsavory question has swirled around him: Is he losing it? My colleague Peter Nicholas, our White House reporter, wrote in October that Trump’s unhealthy habits amid the impeachment inquiry had his advisers worried: “I think what we’re viewing, if you think about the human side of it, is the man has no life. He just has no life,” a person close to the president told Peter.
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End 'Wild West' for political ads, campaigners say – BBC News
A surge in online political advertising spending during last year’s general election shows the need for greater transparency, campaigners say.
The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) estimated the three main UK-wide parties spent more than twice as much on online adverts as on 2017’s poll.
A lack of regulation was creating a “Wild West” in need of stronger oversight, it added.
The government called its efforts to reform advertising “world-leading”.
Last month, minsters published plans for a “digital imprint” on social media ads, promising “the same transparency” for voters as for election leaflets and posters.
The ERS welcomed these, but said they were “unlikely to be sufficient”.
In a report, the campaign group said providing more information to voters about political adverts online represented an “urgent challenge for democracy”.
It argued claims over their accuracy were becoming “increasingly prominent” online, where it was easier for pop-up campaigners, as well as established political parties, to influence debate.
The ERS added there had been “several high-profile examples of dishonest or misleading claims” across the political spectrum during the 2019 campaign.
It pointed out existing accuracy rules on commercial adverts did not extend to political campaigning, while donations laws provided only a “minimal” snapshot of how much parties spent online.
What did the report find?
- The study, compiled by academics Katharine Dommett and Sam Power, estimated party spending using the transparency archives of social media firms
- It found the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems combined spent around £6m campaigning on Facebook and just under £3m on Google
- The analysis suggested the Conservatives spent comparatively more on Google, backing claims it sought to reach voters through YouTube
- The researchers said 64 non-party groups had registered as official political campaigners for the election, with 46 registering after the poll was announced
- They calculated a total of 88 non-party campaign groups placed 13,197 adverts on Facebook, at a combined cost of £2.7m
The report made recommendations requiring political campaigners to provide more detailed spending invoices more quickly after elections to the Electoral Commission, the UK’s elections watchdog.
It also urged parties to work with regulators and the advertising industry to develop a code of practice for political adverts.
The Electoral Commission says it does not have the power or resources to monitor the truthfulness of political advertising.
But it has previously echoed calls for greater transparency, adding in its review of the 2019 election that rules needed to be updated.
Constitution Minister Chloe Smith said: “People want to engage with politics online. That’s where campaigners connect with voters, so naturally political parties across the board are increasing their digital campaigning activity.
“This government is already making political campaigning more transparent for voters, with new, world-leading measures that will require campaign content promoted online to explicitly show who is behind it.”
Democrats also play politics with Supreme Court seats – CNN
Don Martin: The prime minister talks turkey in a political address to the nation – CTV News
What. Was. THAT??
A prime minister calling for time across Canadian airwaves is a BIG DEAL and thus very rarely done.
It’s not allowed to be political posturing. It’s supposed to be a five-alarm siren on a matter of national significance from a prime minister who believes urgent information must be fed directly into Canadian ears.
So what does Justin Trudeau do when his demand for 15 minutes of unedited access to the airwaves was granted under the assumption it NOT be political?
In that weird breathlessness he saves for his most dramatic conversations, Trudeau warned Canadians their Thanksgiving turkey is likely cooked by the coronavirus and they might as well cancel the family feast now. Then he dangled the faint hope of Christmas salvation IF we wear masks, download the government COVID-19 tracking app and get a flu shot.
That glum scenario hardly qualifies as news-bulletin material being released by a leader with unique insights to share. It barely rates as a news story, being the parroting of what public health officials have already said about the second wave being upon many of us.
And then Trudeau dived into an overtly-partisan listing of government actions already taken and those to come, provided the throne speech gets passed by Parliament.
It was political grandstanding masked as a public service message, a transparent and shallow attempt to paste Trudeau’s face over the throne speech highlight reel instead of leaving all the television clips to a disinterested reading by scandal-tainted Gov. Gen. Julie Payette.
Not to be outdone with this flexing of prime ministerial power, Trudeau’s opposition rivals jumped on the free political advertising bandwagon with highly partisan televised reactions of their own.
Clearly the last week or two have given Canadians an ominous preview of COVID cases building into a tsunami-sized wave on case projection charts.
It’s an emerging emergency which could’ve justified a national address, provided Trudeau’s 6,000-word action plan had not been read to rapture-level media coverage just four hours earlier.
All he did in the prime-time address was echo the throne speech’s pandemic as priority one and repeat the ways his government will help millions of Canadians through the approaching winter of self-isolation discontent.
To be fair, the government did launch a flotilla of lifeboats aimed at keeping COVID-displaced Canadian workers, ravaged retailers, vulnerable seniors, disadvantaged women and daycare-dependent families afloat in the second wave. (The resulting deficits which will confront post-pandemic taxpayers are going to be truly staggering).
But to flesh it out with a hodgepodge of less-urgent, undelivered or oft-repeated priorities dilutes an agenda which should be almost solely fixated on the medical and economic trauma this country is facing.
For example, it’s a safe bet Canada will be two billion trees shy of the two billion trees this government again promised to plant in the Wednesday speech by the time we head to the polls. That and most of the other non-pandemic initiatives will be quickly moved to the back-burner.
But, getting back to the address, for Trudeau to graft his message onto the throne speech was blatant duplication for purely political purposes.
Trudeau and the other party leaders will get their opportunity for an official Hansard-recorded reaction to the throne speech in the House of Commons on Thursday.
What more Trudeau can say after his urgent national address the day before is hard to imagine, unless he’s about to scare off Hallowe’en as well.
Here’s hoping the next time Trudeau demands access to the nation’s airwaves, the networks will say his turkey was cooked in 2020 when he deemed a threat to Thanksgiving worthy of a national broadcast alert.
Then they should tell Trudeau they’ll wait and air his Christmas greeting instead.
That’s the bottom line.
Why the U.S. Risks Repeating 2009’s Mistakes as the Economic Rebound Slows – The New York Times
Students explore art themes in Re/LAUNCH/ing, vol. 1 – St. Albert TODAY
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Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
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