Welcome to the Monday edition of Progressives Everywhere! We’ve got a lot to talk about, so let’s dive in.
Oh, wait, before we do that: Tomorrow is election day in the Texas primary runoff. In primary races where no candidate gets 50% or more of the vote, the top two compete in a head-to-head in a race that generally follows a few months later. This year’s runoff was delayed by a few months and wound up right smack in the middle of a massive COVID-19 spike in the state, but at least there’s been two weeks of early voting.
Akilah Bacy, who we interviewed this past January, is competing in the runoff in District 138. She’s an amazing candidate and person, a social justice-minded attorney who defends people who have been unjustly fired and immigrants who have been detained by ICE. She’s by far favored to win the runoff — her opponent hasn’t tweeted or updated her website in over a year — and when that happens, Bacy will advance to a general election in a Houston-area district that Democrats lost by just 39 votes in 2018.
It’d be awesome to help her kick off what will be a very hard-fought general election with some extra funds — Texas is a swing state now and flipping this district is essential to turning the state blue.
In Texas, good numbers and bad numbers
Let’s start with the good news: Texas now has 16.4 million registered voters, a 2.1 million increase since 2016. Nearly 150,000 new voters have been registered since March alone, despite the ongoing pandemic.
Crucially, the biggest leaps have been in Harris and Bexar Counties, where Houston and San Antonio are located, respectively. Both counties already lean blue and are only growing increasingly more Democratic.
Harris and Bexar counties have led the way in the last three months with voter registration efforts. In Harris County, voter rolls have grown by 16,000, while in Bexar they are up almost 14,000. Combined, the two counties account for one-fifth of the increase in registrations statewide.
This influx of new voters has turned Texas, which only went for Trump by nine points in 2016 and saw Democrats make significant gains in 2018, a true battleground state.
Unfortunately, due to lax restrictions and GOP officials’ refusal to enforce social distance and masking rules, the state is also a petri dish for COVID-19.
The Texas State Supreme Court on Monday afternoon denied an appeal by the Texas Republican Party, which had been fighting to hold its in-person convention in Houston this week. Last Wednesday, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner unilaterally canceled the event, which was expected to draw about 6,000 people, due to the state’s stratospheric spike in COVID-19 cases. The GOP sued the mayor and the case quickly made it to the high court, which had little interest in enabling a mass gathering of maskless people in close quarters.
Please, Trump, keep badmouthing vote by mail
Just as Donald Trump’s months-long refusal to wear a mask led tens of millions of Republicans to distrust the advice of actual medical professionals, the president’s sustained assault on voting by mail is apparently convincing GOP voters that they should eschew what will clearly be the safest and most convenient way to cast a ballot this fall.
Historically, neither major political party has had any appreciable advantage in mail-in ballots, but Trump and thus the rest of the Republican Party have been working overtime to kneecap the process this year. In this case, their antipathy toward voting rights may wind up doing them more harm than good — as we saw in Iowa last week, GOP efforts to limit absentee ballot applications are already starting to backfire.
Democrats in Florida are also claiming a growing advantage in mail-in balloting. The state party announced that it had reached one million vote-by-mail registrations, giving it a massive 423,379 voter lead over the GOP. Remarkably, they led by 300,000 voters just a few weeks ago, so clearly, volunteers have been busy on the ground there.
I’ve spoken with a number of Democrats running for office in Florida, who report mixed feelings about campaigning in person. They want to be safe, which is sometimes difficult where so many people refuse to wear masks, but while Gov. Ron DeSantis refuses to roll back the premature re-opening, they need to hit the streets to build their campaigns.
The argument for Medicare For All
The coronavirus may wind up being responsible for putting Joe Biden in White House, but this winter, he narrowly avoided the pandemic costing him the Democratic nomination.
Though he was wiped out in three of the first four primaries, Biden showed enough strength in South Carolina that the party’s entire centrist wing coalesced around his candidacy before Super Tuesday. His big run of victories the evening of March 3rd more or less wrapped up the nomination, the earliest a Democrat has functionally clinched since John Kerry’s run in 2004.
As one of the most conservative Democrats running in the presidential primary this year, Biden adamantly resisted joining the growing majority of the party that supports very progressive policies such as Medicare for All and a federal jobs guarantee. Less than two months after his elevation to presumptive nominee, the nation was gripped by an unprecedented health emergency and a cratering economy; it now feels as if the country that made Biden the Democratic nominee is a distant memory.
While the numbers briefly rebounded last month, the unemployment rate is still over 11%, with more than 20 million people officially out of work. And today, a new study revealed that at least 5.4 million people have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance over the last few months, which is an absolute catastrophe during a pandemic in which 68,000 people a day are now testing positive for a deadly virus.
Because we have a vampiric for-profit healthcare system, the only way for people to get insurance now is either through Medicaid or the Obamacare market, which offers subsidies based on a yearly income number that includes unemployment benefits, which have been expanded since March. Long story short, millions of Americans are now unable to afford or access healthcare at the time they need it most.
The one caveat is that nearly half of the 5.4 million newly uninsured live in five states: California, New York, Florida, Texas, and North Carolina. The latter three of those states have not expanded Medicaid, which would put a significant dent in their number of uninsured, but that actually underlines the point: government-sponsored healthcare is hugely beneficial.
It shouldn’t take mass death of unprecedented proportions to convince people that providing healthcare for all is good for everyone, but if the pandemic had struck just a few months earlier, we’d likely have a more progressive Democratic nominee. At the very least, I hope that this convinces Biden that, should Democrats sweep in November, guaranteeing healthcare is the smartest and most humane policy.
Georgia’s abortion ban shot down
Just weeks after the Supreme Court shot down Louisiana’s attempt to severely limit abortion rights, a federal judge on Monday ruled against a strict curtailment of a woman’s right to control her own body in Georgia.
The law, which would outlaw abortion after a fetal heartbeat could be detected, which typically happens around the sixth week of pregnancy, violated the right to an abortion established in Roe V Wade.
This is great news, but the state, led by Gov. Brian Kemp, plans on appealing. Georgia, unfortunately, is filled with tone-deaf fanatics who are terrible with metaphors. Via the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Joshua Edmonds, the executive director of the anti-abortion Georgia Life Alliance, invoked the national discussion on racial justice that has occurred since the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County and George Floyd in Minnesota.
“In a time where our state is grappling with important conversations about innocent life unjustly taken, today’s ruling is a tragic and tone-deaf symbol that our culture still has much work to do to establish liberty and justice for all,” Edmonds said. “We will appeal this attempt to turn back the clock on human rights and continue to fight for a culture that protects life regardless of age, race, gender, or ability.”
Read the room, buddy.
Speaking of Georgia’s far-right governor, Kemp just sent 1000 members of the National Guard to Atlanta to “protect state buildings.” The move comes against the wishes of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who has asked the governor to focus on the state’s mushrooming COVID-19 crisis instead. Last week, after Bottoms was diagnosed with the virus, she announced that she was rolling back the city’s reopening, which prompted Kemp to throw a public hissy fit.
California, which is also experiencing a big spike in COVID-19 cases, is closing up again.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ran as a police reformer but has in office received very mixed reviews for her response to protests and police violence. She’s against defunding the police, but I guess that wouldn’t be so bad if she instead shifted their resources to this new kind of law enforcement officer:
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