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The wildly unpredictable politics of the SCOTUS opening – CNN

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* How Republicans see the politics: For President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans, anything that changes the national conversation from the chief executive’s mishandling of the coronavirus is a good thing.
A fight over whether he should try to fill Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s vacant seat before the 2016 election — and whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell can muster 50 votes to confirm the pick — isn’t a sure winner for Republicans, but it’s better, in their minds, to the sure loser that is a referendum election on the pandemic (and Trump’s handling of it).
What we know a fight over a court seat will do is rally the Republican base behind Trump. The GOP’s hardcore conservatives have generally stuck with Trump almost solely because of the number of federal judges he has appointed and the Senate has confirmed. Many may have wandered a bit amid Trump’s demonstrably poor response to the Covid-19 pandemic, but a court fight may be just what the President and his campaign need to bring those lingerers back into the fold.
The argument to do that is (relatively) simple: You may not like how Trump tweets or acts, but look at what he has done — in particular a total overhaul of the federal judiciary that ensures a conservative bent in the judicial branch for decades to come. (I continue to believe the single strongest moment of Trump’s 2016 campaign was when he released a list of who he might choose as Supreme Court nominees.)
If Trump can change the conversation in the race into one focused on the battle for the judiciary, it will have a cascading effect in Republicans’ fight for the Senate majority too.
Only two Republican senators up for reelection this November — Maine’s Susan Collins and Colorado’s Cory Gardner — represent states where Trump lost to Hillary Clinton in 2016. 
Which means the 21 other Republican seats are in territory that Trump won.  Which, in theory, would mean that if they could simply turn out the GOP vote they would have a good chance at winning. (This is, of course, not true in all 21 of the states. Take Arizona, for example, where the partisanship of the state is clearly moving away from Republicans.)
The quick endorsement of a vote pre-election on Trump’s eventual nominee by the likes of Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis — both of whom face serious challenges this fall — reflects that belief within the GOP strategist world.
* How Democrats see the politics: If Trump’s entire first term has been defined by norm-busting, then this attempt to confirm a justice less than two months before a presidential election is the final act of this trend.
Democrats will relentlessly point out all of the quotes from Republican senators during the attempted 2016 confirmation of Merrick Garland to the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia as proof-positive of GOP hypocrisy.
And there are LOTS of quotes. Perhaps the two best/worst:
* “It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.” — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
* “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.” — South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham
Pretty bad, right?
Democrats will combine that hypocrisy attack with ramped-up pressure on senators in tough races like Gardner and Iowa’s Joni Ernst — as well as appeals to institutionalists like retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander  (Tennessee) and Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio) to keep McConnell from the 50 votes he needs.
If Republicans do wind up confirming Trump’s pick — and, at the moment, they can only lose one more GOP senator after both Collins and Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski have said they oppose making the appointment before the election — then Democrats will be faced with whether they make good on a MASSIVE threat making the rounds this weekend: Adding seats to the Supreme Court if they retake the majority this fall.
Several prominent Democrats have floated the idea of expanding the court, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate. (Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said during his presidential campaign that he would go from 9 seats to 15 on the court.)
Biden, however, has been resistant to that idea. “I would not get into court packing,” he said at an October 2019 debate. “We add three justices; next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all.”
The question for Democrats, then, is how much — if at all — they inject the idea of adding court seats into the fall campaign. On the one hand, it might excite their base. On the other, it could play into Trump’s hands by giving a preview of what Democratic control at all levels of government might look like.
The Point: This is a high-wire walk with no net for both parties. And how they navigate this unexpected development could well shape not just the 2020 election, but the future of two parties over the next decade.

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Politics Podcast: There Just Isn’t Good Evidence That ‘Shy’ Trump Voters Exist – FiveThirtyEight

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This is the final(!) preelection installment of Model Talk on the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast. Galen Druke talks to editor-in-chief Nate Silver about the latest polling shifts in key battleground states and whether there is any reason to believe that “shy Trump voters” will deliver an upset win for the president on Election Day. (The evidence suggests there isn’t.)

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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78 seconds that will actually make you feel good about politics – CNN

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And because we are dealing with Donald Trump, all of that normal end-of-campaign stuff has been made much, much worse. Trump is at the say-anything-and-do-anything stage of the campaign — particularly as polling suggests he is a clear underdog in Tuesday’s election.
Amid all of the darkness and terrible-ness (not a word, but you get the point) I’m here to offer you a reminder that not everything is, in fact, totally awful. And that politics can sometimes be a noble pursuit taken on by people committed to public service.
Which brings me to an ad that Minnesota Democratic Gov. Tim Walz who posted on his Twitter feed on Thursday. It features Walz as well as his three most recent predecessors in the job, Mark Dayton, Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty — urging Minnesotans to vote.
That’s four governors from three different parties(!) making a call for call for calm and civility in this wildest of moments.
The four governors assured Minnesotans that a delay in announcing a winner is a) expected and b) proof the system is working. (Contrast that with President Trump’s repeated insistence that the election “should END on November 3rd,” like he tweeted on Friday).
“Our state is proud to have one of the safest and most secure election systems in the country,” says former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
“You can have faith that your vote will be counted,” says former Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
“With so many of us voting by mail, it may take a little longer to verify a winner,” says Walz.
“And that’s OK. It’s by design,” says Pawlenty.
“A delay just means that our system is working and that we’re counting every single ballot,” says former Reform Party governor Jesse Ventura.
Imagine that. Political leaders — both current and former — acting like, well, leaders. Educating the public rather than trying to skew reality for their own political benefit. (Worth noting: All four governors are shown walking in with their masks on, and putting them back on ant the end of the video.)
That a message like this feels so stunning and so different serves as a reminder of just how far Trump — and his decidedly unpresidential approach to the presidency — has changed our expectations from our leaders over these past four years. It was once common ground for politicians of all stripes to urge citizens to a) vote and b) know that their vote was fairly counted. Trump has chosen, for political reasons, to make war on that most basic of democratic assumptions as well as virtually every other “norm” including the guidelines set to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
“25,000, people want to be there, and they say you can only have 250 people, so they thought I’d cancel,” Trump carped on Friday about a campaign rally in, you guess it, Minnesota. “But I’m not canceling.”
Politics doesn’t have to be utterly awful and soul-crushing. It can be unified and, dare I say it, uplifting. Watch the Minnesota governors’ ad. And remember how things once were — and could be again.

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U.S. election: How COVID-19 misinformation is being weaponized in politics – Global News

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Social media platforms are being used to downplay the threat of the coronavirus and push back on COVID-19 restrictions in the leadup to the 2020 U.S. election.

In a global pandemic, inaccurate information not only misleads but could also be a matter of life and death if people start taking unproven drugs, ignoring public health advice or refusing a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.

Read more:
Health misinformation gets billions of views on Facebook amid coronavirus, report says

A very dangerous element of all of this misinformation is distrust in institutions, in media and in democracy,” said Luca Nicotra, a disinformation researcher with non-profit research and activism foundation Avaaz.

“And this has very clear effects, for instance on vaccination rates. We have already seen how Facebook and other social media have promoted the rise of the anti-vaccination movement all around the world.”

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A study by his organization found that content from the top 10 websites spreading health misinformation had almost four times as many views on Facebook than websites providing evidence-based information, like public health institutions such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more:
Nearly half of Canadians can’t tell coronavirus fact from conspiracy theory, survey finds

Nicotra says this has a lot to do with Facebook’s business model.

“Facebook is not a neutral platform. So basically, every time a user logs in, its algorithm decides what you see from the thousands of posts of all the pages you like or the friends you have. It selects the one that it believes will keep you in the platform the most,” he said.

“And what Facebook knows, (CEO Mark) Zuckerberg himself has said that they know that its algorithm, if left unchecked, will promote in a user’s timeline, divisive, sensationalist content and disinformation.”

Read more:
Coronavirus conspiracies pushed by Russia, amplified by Chinese officials, experts say

Despite all evidence, strong rhetoric downplaying the risks associated with COVID-19 has been endorsed at the highest levels of the U.S government.

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According to a study by Cornell University, President Donald Trump has been the world’s biggest driver of COVID-19 misinformation during the pandemic.

A team from the Cornell Alliance for Science looked at 38 million articles published by English-language, traditional media worldwide between Jan. 1 and May 26 of this year.


Click to play video 'Coronavirus: COVID-19 and the fear fueling conspiracy theories'



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Coronavirus: COVID-19 and the fear fueling conspiracy theories


Coronavirus: COVID-19 and the fear fueling conspiracy theories

And misinformation is increasingly moving offline and spilling over into the streets in the form of protests or sometimes aggressive refusals to follow social distancing restrictions.

In April, thousands of people gathered at Michigan’s state capitol to protest executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that shut down most of the state.

Trump openly encouraged such protests, tweeting, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

A group of men known as the Wolverine Watchmen, said to have been motivated by Whitmer’s actions to limit the spread of COVID-19, have been arrested on conspiracy charges, accused of plotting to kidnap the Michigan governor.

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Read more:
FBI foils plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Trump has admitted to downplaying the pandemic, continuing to do so even after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 — fuelling the growing coronavirus-denial movement.

“His success in responding or reacting personally to COVID that is now being fed into those conspiracies as well, that it proves that it’s a hoax, that it’s not nearly as serious as we went on it was,” said Barbara Perry, the director of Ontario Tech University’s Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism.

And with Facebook’s algorithm trying to keep people on its platform for as long as possible, it’s no surprise that what keeps people engaged are sensational posts often full of false information.

“So Facebook’s responsibility then comes from the inaction on not constraining the algorithm (from going into) these black holes,” Nicotra said. “That, really, in the best case, radicalizes people. In the worst case, during a global pandemic like the one we are in the middle of, really, it puts people’s lives in danger.”

Read more:
Is Facebook ready for the U.S. presidential election?

Facebook has not responded to Global News’ request for comment but it has made an effort to label posts with warning notices about coronavirus misinformation — including posts by politicians.

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But advocates say it’s not enough.

One idea set forth by Nicotra’s foundation is that when Facebook deems a post false or dangerous, it should not only add a warning on the initial post but also when someone shares it, sending them notifications that what they have shared is untrue.

There’s also a push to downgrade the algorithm, says Nicotra, so that when a post is verified false, its reach is automatically decreased.

And as we get closer and closer to the U.S. election and important COVID-19 regulations are debated, access to fact- and science-based information is more important now than ever.


emanuela.campanella@globalnews.ca

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