A Glimmer of Hope for Voting Rights

And the fight begins in Missouri

Welcome to a premium Thursday evening edition of Progressives Everywhere!

There’s a whole lot of news to review tonight, so let’s start with the two biggest headlines:

  1. The Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court today, making it three-for-three in challenges that made it all the way to the top. This one wasn’t even close — a 7-2 decision that saw only Alito and Clarence Thomas, the furthest right of the right-wing super-majority, dissenting. Disaster averted, at least for now.

  2. President Biden put his signature on a law that officially makes June 19th, or Juneteenth, a national holiday. I’m not sure how schools in states that have banned teachers from educating students about racism are going to explain Juneteenth, but the elevation of the day in the public sphere is important nonetheless.

    I’m ashamed to say that even as a very progressive New Yorker, I’d never heard of the day until a few years ago, but I have a hunch that I’m not alone in that regard. Putting it on all calendars will bring a lot more awareness to the holiday, and while commemoration neither rights historic wrongs nor fix the modern manifestations of them, in an era in which basic reality is always on trial, it’s important to officially elevate the hard truth behind the day.

    The official declaration also gives a new life to the indie film Miss Juneteenth, which was one of my favorite releases of 2020. The distributor is re-releasing it in theaters on Saturday, but it’s also available on VOD.

And now, on to… more news!

Joe Manchin

It’s been a big few days in Joe Manchin news, and while I desperately don’t want to jinx it, the developments together seem to be pointing in a tenuously positive direction.

A day after West Virginians marched on Charleston and Texas Democrats met with his chief of staff (more on that this weekend), Manchin spoke with a number of Lone Star State legislators and finally released a list of provisions he’d want to see in modified versions of the For The People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. There’s some good stuff and not-so-good stuff, with the most important elements broken down below:

Good Stuff:

  • Ban on partisan gerrymandering

  • Mandated 15 days of early voting

  • Makes Election Day a national holiday.

  • Tightens reporting on FEC and campaign spending

  • Automatic voter registration through the DMV

  • Require the President and Vice President to release individual and business tax returns

Bad Stuff:

  • Voter ID requirement (though voters can use utility bills instead of an ID card)

  • No felon re-enfranchisement

  • Allows voter purges

  • Weakens Attorney General’s authority to find states guilty of voter suppression without an outside court finding

  • No public financing of elections

  • No real campaign finance limitations otherwise

As I suspected, Manchin’s biggest objections to the For The People Act were the dark money and lobbying provisions, which his outline just about strips away. Still, it’s got key provisions to protect the right to easily vote in elections that aren’t rigged by gerrymandering, and as Sen. Tim Kaine said after he emerged from a Democratic caucus lunch meeting today, “there is the making there for a very, very substantive bill that can combine all 50 Dems.”

It likely isn’t far off from Manchin’s proposal, which pretty immediately garnered the quick support of Georgia duo Stacey Abrams and Sen. Raphael Warnock.

As you might expect, Abrams’ endorsement of the plan was all Republicans needed to immediately reject the compromise. In fact, Sen. Roy Blunt offered a rare glimpse into the right-wing talking point factory when he ruled out ever supporting Manchin’s proposal: “Stacey Abrams immediately endorsed Sen. Manchin’s proposal, it became the Stacey Abrams substitute, not the Joe Manchin substitute.”

That one’s got to sting for Manchin, as Blunt was one of the Republicans that Manchin asked a bunch of his billionaire and lobbyist friends to convince to break party lines and vote for a few Democratic proposals in order to preserve the filibuster. If you haven’t read it yet, this story about how power really gets wielded in Washington reveals a process just as sinister as you’d expect… as well as a Manchin that is a little bit more realistic about the filibuster and bipartisanship. Certainly more realistic than this version of Manchin:

I almost feel bad for the guy… until I remember that he’s begging billionaires and CEOs to hint-hint nudge-nudge bribe Republicans into helping him save the filibuster. He’s going to have to give in at some point, it’s just a matter of how much he’s willing to give.

In March, Manchin was talking about going to a “talking” filibuster and forcing Republicans to actually hold forth on the Senate floor and defend their odious positions, and after seemingly backtracking on that over the past month or so, he’s now considering the idea again, at least in private conversation.

If Democrats give in to his demands and Republicans refuse to move at all, I can’t imagine Manchin having the gall to block his own legislation by upholding the filibuster in its current form. If he does that, he’d be giving up, in his own words, on the “bedrock of our democracy.”

Voting Rights

Until we get a big new voting rights law passed and signed, these stories will continue to rage!

Texas: While Democratic state legislators were on Capitol Hill to urge their national counterparts to rescue free and fair elections, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed a new law that makes it illegal to use a PO Box as a voting address in voter registration. This will make it much harder for low-income people who do not have permanent housing to register and cast their ballots… which is the point.

North Carolina: The Republican legislature just passed a bill that would invalidate all absentee and mail-in ballots that arrive after Election Day; right now, the state normally gives a three day grace period, which was extended by the Democratic Secretary of State to nine days during Louis DeJoy’s USPS slowdown last year. Thankfully, the bill is going to be vetoed by Dem Gov. Roy Cooper.

New York: Early voting is underway in NYC’s gigantic clusterfuck of a municipal primary election, and if the (spotty) polling is correct, we’re on the verge of electing some very bad candidates to the highest offices in the city. Mayoral primary leader Eric Adams is something of an old-school psychopath who may power his way to the mayorship, having stockpiled campaign cash and allowed Andrew Yang to take most of the fire from the left. As a former police officer, he’s also the most pro-cop of all the candidates, raising the specter of a further NYPD crackdown against the people that the NYPD loves to crack down on.

I can only wonder how different this election might be if the city council had gotten its shit together to vote on the proposed bill to allow permanent residents to vote in municipal elections. The bill has been lingering for quite a while, and despite being very popular, it’s gone absolutely nowhere. That means 589,000 New Yorkers will not be able to vote for their own local representatives.

Washington, DC: A bill with the same core provision allowing permanent residents to vote was introduced in the district, DC last week, but even if it does earn approval by the city council, it likely won’t go into effect until after the 2022 elections.

Health Care

Missouri: The next phase in the battle over the GOP’s refusal to recognize basic democracy and expand Medicaid begins tomorrow when the first lawsuit against the state filed by would-be beneficiaries opens court proceedings. You can read some of my previous coverage of the battle right here. With Medicaid supposed to be officially opened to 275,000 additional Missourians on July 1st, you can expect a ruling sooner rather than later.

National: If Missouri somehow gets away with ignoring the results of a democratic election and not expanding Medicaid, residents of the urban areas who voted overwhelmingly to approve the expansion may well be able to get their health care anyway. A number of Congressional Democrats just introduced a new bill that would allow municipalities in holdout to expand Medicaid in partnership with the federal government.

Transphobia: Republicans in a number of states have had trans kids in their crosshairs all year, using one of the most vulnerable demographics in the world as whipping posts in their shameless bids to create a permanent right-wing culture war. The legislative outcomes have included bans on playing school sports and receiving gender-affirming health care — policies that the Biden Department of Justice is now preparing to argue are unconstitutional.

Weed Watch

Florida: After killing a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana with a preposterous ruling that suggested Floridians voting for weed would legalize it everywhere, the Sunshine State’s right-wing Supreme Court proved a buzzkill again. This time, in a 5-2 decision, the court ruled that a proposed constitutional amendment initiative to legalize recreational cannabis was laden with misleading wording that would mislead voters. Instead of requesting a tweak to the amendment, they squashed the whole thing.

Oddly, the Florida Chamber of Commerce applauded the ruling even though there’s all kinds of money to be made in marijuana, especially for bigger companies run by the wealthy kinds of folks that fund the Chamber of Commerce.

Connecticut: On the bright side, it’s looking increasingly likely that the legislature in Connecticut is going to work out its differences with Gov. Ned Lamont and pass a law legalizing recreational pot.

Workers’ Rights

Tesla: After a few months of working on the story, my colleagues at More Perfect Union and I released the first part of our report on the rampant union-busting at Tesla. Elon Musk is the world’s richest man, in part because he doesn’t like to pay his workers or provide them adequate protection:

I spent a fair amount of time chasing this story down, so it’d be deeply appreciated if you gave it a look!

Progress: The National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) just announced a new partnership with gig work platform Handy that will guarantee workers a number of important rights and protections (including a $15/hr minimum wage and paid time off) but will not shunt them off as permanent independent contractors with no other rights as employees. New York legislators who wanted to tie up Uber drivers and Seamless deliverypeople with a much worse agreement should be taking notes.

Small Businesses: This is a great piece by Friend of the Newsletter Stacy Mitchell about the once and future partnership between organized labor and small businesses. Simply put, they need to team up in order to take on behemoths like Amazon and Walmart, but there’s a lot of history and perspective in the piece that makes it a very good read.

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