Welcome to a Thursday night edition of Progressives Everywhere!
Wow, what a friggin’ weird day, huh?
The biggest news today is that President Trump upped the ante in his paranoid war on voting by mail this morning by suggesting that the presidential election be postponed until it was safer to vote in person. Putting aside the fact that he’s spent the last few months delusionally insisting that it’s already safe to resume every other in-person activity, Trump continues to show that he isn’t just a stupid person, but one who has done literally zero work to understand even the most basic aspects of the most important job on earth.
Most people freaked out about the tweet, given the fact that Trump’s hissy-fits on social media often wind up being turned into some kind of executive order, even if he technically doesn’t have the power he’s claiming (and miracle of miracles, Republicans in Congress and running state elections immediately shot the idea down). But part of me also thinks it’s a distraction from all the other things he’s setting on fire right now. Today alone, the Commerce Department announced that the second quarter saw the worst drop in GDP in US history and the Republican Senate is in such disarray that they just peaced out as the CARES Act’s expanded unemployment benefits expire at midnight. Tens of millions of Americans are going to have their income slashed by 50-75% overnight.
Also: Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate and gadfly conservative who ran Godfather’s pizza and often dotted speeches with quotes from Pokémon, died last night. Cain attended Trump’s maskless faceplant rally in Tulsa and fell ill weeks afterward, making his death a senseless and preventable tragedy. I know there’s a temptation to say “tsk, tsk, he was asking for it,” but we should be better than that.
OK, time to move on to news about progressives (and not-so-progressives) everywhere!
(Oh, by the way, do you like the bullet point style below or prefer regular paragraphs? Or do you not care at all? Please either comment or email me to let me know — I want this to be the most convenient read possible for you!)
Elections (and Future Elections) and Voting Rights
Trump’s obsessive war on absentee balloting is a chicken or the egg situation: The more he rages against it, the more his base refuses to request ballots, leading to a greater and greater disadvantage that just pisses him off and makes him rage even more.
I highlighted some charts detailing how this dynamic is playing in North Carolina on Tuesday night, but here are some striking new numbers: Democrats have gone from 6,868 absentee ballots requested by this point in 2016 to 46,856 requested in 2020; Republicans have jumped from 6,736 in 2016 to 9,229.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Republicans won’t vote request a ballot or just vote in person on election day, but the longer they wait, the more likely they are to face problems in either scenario.
People are being advised to send in their absentee ballots as soon as possible, given the egregious delays that are seizing the Postal Service and slowing down the mail. The USPS was understandably deluged and stretched to the limits during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when everyone in the country spent half their savings on online shopping; now, it’s being deliberately sabotaged by a Trump donor who really, really hates the mail (and all federal services).
Starting this month, the USPS is not paying mail carriers or other employees overtime, which has led to a massive slowdown in sorting and delivery. Many states require absentee ballots to arrive at the board of elections by election day, and beyond that, many ballots require follow-up from BOE officials to clarify signatures, addresses, and other issues. If those processes are slowed or rendered impossible to carry out, the Democrats’ big advantage in mail voting could turn into a disaster.
Remember that early April election in Wisconsin that Republicans refused to delay and then were embarrassed to lose? There were some egregiously long lines at Milwaukee polling places, but thanks to the Democratic Party’s massive effort to increase absentee and curbside voting, the election did not lead to any discernable uptick in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations or deaths, the CDC reported today.
The election happened just two weeks after the state’s shelter-at-home order went into effect, which gave the Democratic Party precious little time to audible and change its campaign. And yet, look at these numbers:
Mitigation measures implemented at the direction of the city health department complemented public messaging campaigns to encourage absentee voting. According to the Milwaukee Election Commission, comparing the number of persons voting in the spring of 2016 with those voting in the spring of 2020, the percentage of persons who voted by absentee mail-in ballots increased approximately fifteenfold, from 4.1% (6,874) to 68.0% (64,750) of voters; those who voted early (either in person or curbside) increased by 160%, from 4.7% (7,949) to 12.2% (11,612).
Elsewhere in the world of absentee voting, the State of South Carolina settled a lawsuit with Democratic lawyer Marc Elias’s Democracy Docket group and agreed to provide prepaid postage on all absentee ballots. That’s on principle a huge deal — it shouldn’t cost money to vote — and a big deal functionally, as well. I never have any stamps and am a fundamentally forgetful and irresponsible person, so I basically never remember to get them. I imagine there are other dummies like me who will benefit from this agreement.
Next Tuesday, voters in Missouri will vote on whether to finally expand Medicaid. It’s been a long slog to get to this point, but hopefully Missourians will continue the trend of voting for progressive ballot initiatives — in 2018 they voted to repeal the anti-union right to work law, legalize medical marijuana, limit lobbying, end gerrymandering, and raise the minimum wage. They’re still voting for Republicans, but at least the policy outcomes are starting to go the right way. If it passes, 230,000 working Missourians would qualify for government healthcare.
Interestingly, Republicans are fielding a diverse slate of down-ballot candidates in the Dallas area. The city is solid blue and Democrats are making massive progress in the suburbs thanks in part to the state’s rapid diversification, so the local GOP is clearly trying to play catch-up. Not sure it’ll matter with Mr. Build the Wall on the ballot and the Republicans in charge of the state blundering through the pandemic, but it’s at least nice to see.
COVID-19 and Related Drama
In Wisconsin, where COVID-19 cases are on the rise, Gov. Tony Evers just issued a mask mandate that goes into effect this weekend. Unfortunately, the GOP’s voter ID law will require people to lower their masks so that poll workers can verify their identity, which seems pretty stupid. I know I just noted that coronavirus numbers did not rise appreciably during the April election, but still, why create that risk?
As the reopening school debate rages on, this caught my eye: Some school districts in Michigan are worried that if they close, other nearby districts will poach students, which will wind up skewing the state funding allocation. The GOP-held legislature last week passed a bill that would require states to offer an in-person instruction option for parents, much like Texas and Florida are doing, and the state schools superintendent came out strong against that on Tuesday. He doesn’t want to force schools to open and suggests that funding should be based on last year’s enrollment.
And yeah, Texas is really forcing schools to re-open, whether they like it or not.
Another thing that blew my mind today: This teacher in Arizona is, with a heavy heart, trying to quit his job because he doesn’t feel comfortable going in to teach when school begins next week and couldn’t find childcare even if he was up for it. His school district, however, is trying to charge him $2000 to quit his job — and apparently, that’s a common practice in Arizona!
TIL: Because the state pays teachers so poorly, they have a massive shortage, and so any further reduction is so damaging that school districts actually charge their departing teachers to cover the cost of finding someone willing to work for pennies. It’s fucking disgraceful and a cheap parody of a functioning society.
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