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US politics Looking ahead into 2020



A man holds a sign in support of U.S. President Donald Trump before an impeachment vote on Capitol Hill in Washington Dec. 18, 2019. (CNS/Reuters/Tom Brenner)

Trying to predict what will happen in the political life of the nation in any year is more or less a fool’s errand, but in 2020 the task is even more perilous than usual. But I’m always happy to play the fool, so here is what I will be looking for politically in the new year.

The Senate trial of President Donald Trump commands the political landscape the way the dome of the U.S. Capitol dominates the D.C. skyline: It casts the longest shadow in town. Most analysts believe we already know the outcome, that Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will control the proceedings such that no further incriminating evidence will be forthcoming and the Senate will vote to acquit. As is, the polls show a divided nation, and McConnell and the Republicans believe they will face no blowback if they vote to acquit the president.

We also know that if anyone with additional incriminating evidence was going to come forward, they would have by now. Unless what has been missing is applied by the Senate: compulsion. It was one thing for acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to decline to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, and McConnell has indicated he does not intend to call such witnesses. But the Senate trial has one quality the House proceedings did not and which McConnell cannot entirely control: The chief justice of the United States will be on hand to make procedural rulings. If Chief Justice John Roberts orders Mulvaney to testify, or even more likely, former National Security Advisor John Bolton, their testimony could be explosive. Short of having something that bears a striking resemblance to a smoking gun, the Senate will vote to acquit, and the president’s decision to publish the actual smoking gun, the transcript of his call with the president of Ukraine, will have been vindicated.

His decision vindicated, yes, but not himself. The president likes to paint himself as a victim, and not just any victim but the most victimized president of all time, at least when he is not portraying himself as a victor, and not just any victor, but the winningest victor of all time. This discordance may not upset his base. The psychology of people who resent change and the success of others, and who also feel entitled to success, such people can easily embrace this strange victim/victor combination as their champion. Still independent voters decide elections, and I can’t imagine that they warm to this bifurcated personality.

If the impeachment saga is likely wound up by the end of January, the Democratic nominating process could well be completed by March 4. Super Tuesday, March 3, is really super this year, with the addition of California and Texas, meaning that more than a third of all delegates will be awarded on that day. If any candidate emerges with even a lead of 100 or so delegates, it will be hard to catch them given the proportional representation that distributes delegates evenly.

In order to win on Super Tuesday, a candidate needs to pick up some momentum in February when Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina Democrats go to the polls. Barring some unforeseeable event, there are four major candidates — former Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and former Mayor Pete Buttigieg — and any one of them could win Iowa or New Hampshire. If anyone wins both, it will be hard to stop them. Iowa and New Hampshire are overwhelmingly white, but Nevada has a significant Latino vote, and African-Americans will be a majority of the electorate in South Carolina.

Potential Democratic voters tell pollsters that their No. 1 objective is to select someone who can defeat Trump in November. So far, the centrists have won that argument, even though you have to go back to the 1964 campaign of Barry Goldwater and the 1972 campaign of George McGovern to find an election where the winner was the person cast as a moderate facing an extremist. Ronald Reagan was considered extreme, and Democrats hoped he would be the nominee in 1980, a hope they lived to regret. In 2004 and in 2012, John Kerry and Mitt Romney won their party’s nod largely because they were viewed as the person best able to defeat the incumbent, and they both lost.

I predict that the polls are wrong, and that Democrats will embrace the person who does best in the debates immediately preceding the voting. I will venture one more projection in regard to the Democrats: No matter who wins, the nominee will embrace the wealth tax first put forward by Warren. It is popular even with Republicans.

Almost as important as the presidential contest will be the fight for control of the Senate. There are 35 seats up for election, two more than usual because there are special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Twenty-three of those seats are held by Republicans against only 12 by Democrats. Democrats need to pick up three seats for control of the Senate if they also win the presidency, and four if they don’t. Most commentators identify Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Maine as toss-ups. Michigan leans to the Democrats, but a Trump victory could flip that seat. Alabama and Iowa could flip the other way if Trump loses badly. It is far too soon to predict the outcome in these races.

Candidates during the first official Democratic 2020 presidential primary debate in Miami June 26, 2019: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio; U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio; Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio; U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey; U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts; former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas; U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; and former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland. (CNS/Reuters/Mike Segar)

The next major political development will fly beneath the radar screen. Sometime in June or July, attitudes about the economy will begin to solidify. Back in 2012, Nate Silver addressed the problem of using economic data when devising models to predict voting behavior, noting that there is a lag time between when voters get the information and the impact it has on voting. Revised economic data is not useful if the revisions happen after voters have formed their judgment. (NB: Read the entire article to learn about the complicatedness of devising these models.)

In 1992, it turns out the economy was not nearly as bad as Bill Clinton painted it. Silver writes:

The initially reported data, meanwhile, is also what is available to candidates and voters at the time of the election. Some econometric models score the 1992 election as a “miss,” because revised economic data shows roughly average growth during that year, when the incumbent, the elder President Bush, was defeated. However, the data was still quite poor as it was reported during 1992 itself.

It is shocking that Trump’s approval ratings are so dismal when the economy is firing on all cylinders. If it slows down, or is perceived to be moving in the wrong direction, those numbers could really tank.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colorado, pounds the gavel to open the session to discuss rules ahead a vote on two articles of impeachment against U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington Dec. 18, 2019. (CNS/Reuters/House TV)

We also can expect GOP efforts to restrict voting and remove people from the voter rolls to intensify in the summer, with a series of court battles that could be frightening. We also will get a Supreme Court ruling in the case June Medical Services v. Gee regarding a Louisiana law that will restrict abortion access in that state. None of us knows if the court will decide the case narrowly or, as it did in Citizens United vs. FEC or Janus v. AFSCME, decide to overturn a long-standing precedent. But the one thing they will not do is expand abortion rights. The decision, whatever it is, will be seen as a win for pro-life legal advocates and it will push the Democrats into hardening their opposition to any restrictions on abortion even more. The backlash will be enormous, and it gives me no joy to predict that it will energize the angry pro-choice groups more than it does the satisfied pro-life groups. If the Democrats win in November, pro-choice groups will take the credit even if the nominee is someone like Sanders or Warren who wake up in the morning eager to take on economic interests, not to fight culture wars. No matter how it all plays out, the country will continue to be divided on the issue.

In the summer, we all get to take a break as the party conventions have turned into snooze-a-thons and the Tokyo Olympics, which runs from July 24 to Aug. 9, can potentially provide a bit of national uplift and unity. Some tiny gymnast or big pole vaulter or swimmer will bring all Americans to their feet. I hope Trump doesn’t crash them and, therefore, spoil them.

Autumn will bring the debates and the election. There is one irony to Trump’s divisiveness that shows how little we humans grasp our circumstances. For years, Democrats have pledged to energize more voters and get them to the polls. Republicans, on the other hand, have tried to make it harder for people to vote. But it is Trump who has energized the electorate even as he has divided it, and we can look for a record turnout in November. I hope he loses, but I also hope he loses big. What scares me more than him winning a second term is the prospect of him losing narrowly, and how he might react. That could be the constitutional crisis of 2020, not the impeachment that kicks off the new year.

So those are the political items I will be looking at in the year ahead, and I hope you, dear reader, will join me. Tomorrow, what to look for in the church in 2020.

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Politics Briefing: Privacy commissioner not consulted over RCMP's use of spyware – The Globe and Mail




The RCMP did not inform or consult with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada over its controversial use of techniques and tools to secretly capture data from cellphones.

Federal privacy commissioner Philippe Dufresne told a parliamentary committee Monday that he was made aware of the RCMP’s use of these tools through the media, as was first reported by Politico. He said that his office has not yet received information on the tools’ use, but is awaiting a briefing from the RCMP later this month.

Mr. Dufresne, did not, however, criticize the RCMP over its use of the tools, noting numerous times that he has yet to review the relevant information related to their use.

The RCMP’s use of these tools was first revealed in June. In response to an order paper question, the RCMP described being able to gain access to text messages and emails; stored photos and video; audio recordings within range of the device; and images captured on a built-in camera.

RCMP officials will appear before the House Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics later in the day on Monday.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written today by Marsha McLeod, who is filling in for 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.


TREE-PLANTING PROGRAM HITS BUMPS – Ottawa’s 2 Billion Trees program, a pledge to plant two billion trees across Canada, has run into logistical difficulties. Story here.

EMERGENCY ROOMS SEEING SHUT-DOWNS – Burnout, vacations and pandemic-related absences have led to staffing shortages and emergency department closures in provinces across the country, including in Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta. Story here.

WORKERS NOT KEEN TO RETURN TO OFFICES – Jennifer Carr, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, said that in a survey of their membership, 60 per cent indicated they would prefer to work from home, 25 per cent would like hybrid work and 10 per cent want to go back to offices full-time. Story here from CBC News.


HARPER ENDORSEMENT OFFERS NO BOOST – Stephen Harper’s endorsement of Pierre Poilievre for the Conservative Party leadership may have actually soured some voters on the candidate. Story here.

SOME MPs QUESTION POILIEVRE’S LEADERSHIP STYLE – Several Conservative MPs spoke to the Hill Times about the leadership style of Pierre Poilievre that they will see, if he wins the Conservative leadership on Sept. 10. They say they’re unsure if he will moderate his views in an attempt to bring the party together or will “double down” on his campaign rhetoric. Story here.


The House of Commons is not sitting again until Sept. 19. The Senate is to resume sitting on Sept. 20.

CRA CHEQUES GO UNCASHED – The CRA said in a press release Monday that as of May, 2022, there are an estimated $8.9-million in uncashed cheques from the CRA that taxpayers still need to cash.

MEETING ON AIRPORT DELAYS – The House of Commons Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities is meeting on Monday to discuss a request to complete a study of airport delays and cancellations.


Erin Anderssen, a feature writer for The Globe, kicks off the Decibel’s food week with an episode about eating octopus and why learning about the creature has challenged the way she thinks about eating meat. Episode here.


The Prime Minister is on a two-week vacation in Costa Rica.


No schedules provided for party leaders.


Jashvina Shah (Contributed to the Globe and Mail) on the need for change from Hockey Canada: “There are too many areas of concern to list in one piece. And in order to change a culture, you have to clean the whole house. You need to remove all the furniture and reach into even the furthest corners, where the most dirt collects. That starts with removing the entire board of Hockey Canada, the same board that allowed the organization to discreetly take a portion of player dues to create a fund used to pay off settlements involving alleged sexual abuse. There isn’t room for anyone who was a part of that decision, or knew about it and allowed it to happen, to stay.”

Elaine Chin (Contributed to the Globe and Mail) on employees who are happier and healthier working from home: “Bosses want their employees back in the office, but we have truly arrived at a new normal, and to reverse course there needs to be a more compelling reason to come back other than being told it’s simply what the boss wants. If we come back physically into a workplace, we must come back with a clear purpose, a better time-management schedule and modern workplace designs.”

Ethan Lou (Contributed to the Globe and Mail) on the explosion of subscription services and how we no longer own our own music, books and other objects: “Even if software subscriptions cost less upfront than buying outright, they end up more expensive over the long run. And streaming media entails not downloading the file once but repeatedly with every watch or listen. The resultant data flow is staggering, and so is the energy use. … A purchased CD belongs to us. An album on a streaming service – we’ve come to accept that it does not. And our acceptance pushes technology further down this road.”

Matt Malone (Contributed to the Globe and Mail) on why the ArriveCAN app needs to go: “Consider what the app actually accomplishes. It collects travellers’ personal information and then issues a receipt that they must show to a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer. ArriveCAN does not validate eligibility to enter Canada; CBSA officers do so. Why does the government need an app to do this?”

Althia Raj (Toronto Star) on Jagmeet Singh’s push for dental plan for Canadians, and his warning to Justin Trudeau: “The NDP leader’s warning comes as the federal Liberals struggle with their summer of ineptitude. There are months-long delays for passports, and years worth of wait at the immigration department where some 2.7 million applicants wait to have their files processed. … If the Liberals and government bureaucrats can’t get basic — and long-standing — services working, how will they manage to establish and deliver a new dental program without it turning into another Phoenix, a public service pay system boondoggle that cost taxpayers billions in unplanned costs and failed to deliver results?”

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

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Bill Graham, a former defence and foreign affairs minister, has died – CBC News



Former cabinet minister Bill Graham has died. He was 83. 

Graham served as minister of foreign affairs under prime minister Jean Chrétien in 2002 and was later appointed minister of national defence under prime minister Paul Martin in 2004.

Graham acted as foreign affairs minister when Canada decided against joining the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and helped guide the nation through the post-9/11 era. 

He also served as leader of the opposition in and interim leader of the Liberal Party in 2006. 

He was the member of Parliament for Toronto Centre, known as Toronto Centre—Rosedale during much of his time in politics. He was first elected to Parliament in 1993 before stepping away from public service in 2007. 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a tweet that few others personified public service quite like Graham. 

In a statement, Martin said he and his wife were sorry to hear the news, noting he met Graham in law school. 

The former prime minister said funding was reinvested to the armed forces under the guidance of Graham, and that he helped the government navigate a challenging period of history as Canada’s military deployed into Kandahar in Southern Afghanistan. 

“His loss will be felt by all who knew or worked with him,” Martin said. “Sheila and I send our deepest condolences to his wife Cathy, his children, Katy and Patrick and his beloved grandchildren.” 

‘Gentleman in the rough and tumble world of politics’

In his own statement, Chrétien called Graham “a true gentleman in the rough and tumble world of politics.”

“His optimism, with a healthy dose of realism, were his trademarks inside caucus, the Cabinet room and on the world stage. His voice will be missed,” Chrétien

Ralph Goodale, who worked as finance minister alongside Graham, called him a decent man in every respect, especially in matters of foreign policy and defence. 

Goodale — who was persuaded by Graham to accept a $13-billion increase in defence spending — said he was an optimist who tried to see the best in people.

“Bill understood the complexities and the sinkholes of international politics, and sought to position Canada in constructive and practical ways to help build a fairer and safer world,” Goodale said by email. 

“In an era of deep polarization and extremist populism, Bill’s sense of moderation, propriety and balance is sorely missed. Our love and respect surround his family, friends and colleagues.”

Former prime minister Stephen Harper also offered kind words about the man who once stood across him in the House of Commons.

“Bill Graham was the first Leader of the Opposition I had when I was prime minister,” Harper said in a statement.

“Even while a determined opponent, Bill was always a gentleman, and he always kept the best interests of the country in mind. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

WATCH | Graham held defence and foreign ministry portfolios after 9/11: 

Bill Graham, former Liberal cabinet minister, dies at age 83

3 hours ago

Duration 2:08

Bill Graham, a federal cabinet minister during the 2000s, has died at the age of 83. His former colleagues, and political opponents, paid tribute to the high-ranking member of the Liberal party.

Retired general Rick Hillier worked with Graham after Hillier became chief of the defence staff in 2005. 

“I am so sorry to hear the news of Minister Graham’s passing,” he said. “He was a proud Canadian, an astute politician and a minister of defence who understood the urgent need to rebuild the Canadian Forces and dedicated himself to that mission.

“He was a pleasure to support as [chief of the defence staff], and had my respect and admiration. He was also a man of his word and esteemed in the eyes of all those with whom he worked or associated.”

Hiller called Canada a lesser country today without Graham. 

Former Liberal MP John McKay called Graham an “immensely smart, decent, classy man” and that he was the obvious choice for many to become the Liberal interim leader. 

George Smitherman, who represented the same downtown Toronto area for the Liberals provincially as Graham had federally, said Graham had a remarkable way of connecting with people, no matter their background. 

Smitherman, who is gay, said he first arrived in what is now known as Toronto Centre as a kid finding comfort with his sexuality and at the time Graham and the local Liberals had embedded AIDS activism in their politics.

“That, to me, was one of the most defining attributes of the way political parties ought to operate,” Smitherman said.

 “It was really a huge impact on me in my life.”

In January 2002, months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook the world, Graham was appointed to serve as foreign affairs minister.

At that time, Canada had to decide whether to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and then navigate its relationship with its closest ally when it opted against doing so.

Graham was roundly praised for not only assisting in that decision, but for his overall handling of the role at a turbulent time in international relations.

“He was an outstanding minister of foreign affairs and a skilled parliamentarian,” tweeted John Baird, who served as foreign affairs minister under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper.

Eugene Lang, once Graham’s chief of staff, said he was well-liked by most everyone, including MPs of different political stripes.

Lang said while Graham was only in the role of national defence minister for less than two years, he had many accomplishments.

In a tweet, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra called Graham “my friend and mentor.”

“He was a giant in Canadian and international politics,” Alghabra said. “He wore his love for Canada on his sleeve. My condolences to his family.”

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Politics Podcast: Could The Inflation Reduction Act Save Biden’s Approval Rating? – FiveThirtyEight





On Sunday, the Senate passed the largest climate change intervention bill in American history, the Inflation Reduction Act. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, the crew discusses whether Democrats could turn around Biden’s approval rating with this newest piece of legislation, assuming they can get it through the House.

The team then reviews a polling experiment that tested how live polls by Siena College compared with online and text message polls by Emerson College. They also give a preview of the latest round of polling from FiveThirtyEight’s collaboration with Ipsos, which broke down how Americans view gun violence and crime.

Finally, the crew checks in on debates surrounding new abortion bans around the country, including Indiana’s, which was the first new legislation since the overturning of Roe v. Wade to ban abortions with few exceptions.

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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