Troubling Signs for Dems in the Midwest, But Also a Clear Solution

The midwest is not sewn up. Here's how we do it.

Welcome to the big Wednesday edition of Progressives Everywhere!

There’s a whole lot of election news to cover and a new candidate to meet, so I’ll waste no time with introductions and get right to it!

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Make the Midwest Blue Again

Joe Biden has had a pretty comfortable lead in the state of Michigan for much of the presidential campaign, to the point that the state going blue in 2020 is almost taken as an article of faith, an assumption in the calculations everyone makes when they’re sweating over electoral vote scenarios.

If only it were that easy.

Recent polling shows the race tightening in states across the Midwest, including Michigan — Biden was up just five points in two separate polls published yesterday. In 2016, we were all shocked to see Donald Trump win the former Rust Belt iron curtain that had so long voted for Democrats, and while the party is paying more attention to those states this year, there are still quiet signs that should make us worry.

Today, the New York Times reported that the demographic numbers of newly registered voters in midwestern swing states, including Michigan, point to a big advantage for Trump and the GOP. Brace yourself:

In Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, overall registration is up by 6 points through August compared to the 2016 cycle, but net Democratic registrations are down by 38 percent. That’s about 150,000 fewer additional Democrats than were added in 2016.

In addition, registration among whites without college degrees is up by 46 percent while registration by people of color is up by only 4 percent. That gap is made more stark when you realize that over the last four years, the WNC (white non-college) population has increased by only 1 percent in those states, while the number of people of color increased by 13 percent.

Now, Democrats did have great elections in those states in 2018, winning the governorship in each of them. But Trump wasn’t on the ballot last time around and we know what kind of cultish devotion he inspires — people are literally dying for him, going maskless to his indoor rallies and then contracting COVID.

So what do we do? We give everything we have to help the progressive grassroots Democrats on the ground in these states, who are working to register voters, get them to the polls (or filling out absentee ballots), and battling the sick Trumpism that has taken over their legislatures. In Michigan, Democrats need to flip just four seats to take back the State House, making grassroots support an even better investment.

Plus, when you talk to candidates like Kelly Breen, who is running for State House in Michigan’s 38th district, you can’t help but be inspired.

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Breen began her political career the same way many of us began our own activism — doing some volunteering in 2016 and then feeling absolutely devastated on election night.

“I worked in voter protection, helping people with problems at the polls, and felt pretty good at first that night,” she told me. “Then they called North Carolina. I turned my phone off, I grabbed a couple of beers, shoved them in my jacket, took my dog, and walked down to the lake near my house. I just sat on a bench and just thought I did not do enough.”

From there, Breen, who had kept up with politics but had mostly devoted her time to her legal career and raising her children, decided to get involved in a much bigger way. She started local, running for the city council in her hometown of Novi in 2017, focused on housing and slowing down rampant overdevelopment that was hurting communities and impacting school funding. She won her race and then decided to run an uphill battle for the legislature in 2018.

Despite getting a late start and running in a contested primary, Breen worked hard and lost by just 588 votes, nearly closing a 15-point gap from 2016 in a district that had been solid red for years. Now, she’s running again, with the incumbent term-limited and three years of local name recognition. And with that comes plenty of attacks from a Republican Party that is terrified of losing this seat and the state.

“They’ve been running negative attack ads, and apparently I have a radical agenda,” she says, laughing. “I think is hilarious considering that the city council agenda, we agree on 95% of what goes on. I don’t think it’s radical to support an improved stormwater system. What is so radical about asking for smart development and not overdevelopment? Is getting LGBTQ protections for city employees radical? No, it’s the right thing to do. In fact, it doesn’t go far enough. I’m fighting for a human rights ordinance because we haven’t gotten one on the state level yet.”

You can get a pretty solid idea of her priorities from that quote alone, though Breen also cares a whole lot about expanding access to healthcare in the state and making sure schools and students have everything they need in the ongoing battle against COVID.

The whole “radical” liberal thing is straight out of the tired right-wing playbook, a lazy label slapped on by cable news and radio talk show hosts who don’t care about anything other than enriching their pals and hurting poor people. Breen’s opponent, Chase Turner, looks like he aspires to be Tucker Carlson — I’d call him a low-rent Charlie Kirk — but is right now trying to use his parents’ money to yank the district to the extreme right. He’s a “Blue Lives Matter” hack who stirs up hatred everywhere he goes.

Breen is a bit less vicious in her criticism (the words above are all mine!), but the point she makes again tells you all you need to know.

“Right now you've got two people running for the State House,” she says. “One has local government experience, been there several budgets, made some tough decisions, advocated for LGBTQ rights. And then you got somebody who's done absolutely none of that.”

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Elections and Voting Rights

Florida: If you want to know just how boldly craven Republicans have become during a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 people, just look at what this candidate for the Florida House of Representatives (in a very swingy district!) said about healthcare and Medicaid expansion during an interview with a local radio station:

National: We need to talk about the Supreme Court. It’s likely that Republicans are going to confirm Donald Trump’s nominee, especially because Democrats do not seem all that motivated to stop them (as I ranted about Monday). but we have to make them pay for it. There is some good news and bad news on that front.

  • First, the good news: The public does not want this confirmation to happen, especially not before Election Day. The Washington Post has the scoop on a GOP internal poll that does not look good.

    • “The poll — conducted over the weekend among about 1,500 likely voters in 17 swing states, including Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — showed that 51 percent of voters said they trust Biden more than Trump to handle the vacancy, while only 43 percent said they trusted Trump.”

  • It’s absurd for Democrats to just roll over and let this happen without a fight (they just agreed to a deal to fund the government and Sen. Schumer says they won’t mess around with unanimous consent), even if just to show the public that they’re doing their best.

  • But OK, let’s be generous and say that Democrats don’t want to blow their leverage on a fight they can’t win because they have other ambitions — namely expanding the court should they take back the majority this November. That we could maybe handle, right?

  • Unfortunately, they’re not just about ruling that out already, too.

    • “Gideon’s skepticism about expanding the Supreme Court is shared by at least five other Democratic Senate challengers. A spokesman for Mark Kelly in Arizona confirmed he opposes adding new justices to the court. Jon Ossoff, who is challenging GOP Sen. David Perdue in Georgia, said Democrats shouldn’t expand the court “just because a justice may be confirmed with whom we disagree on policy.” Al Gross, an independent candidate running with Democrats’ support in Alaska, said on MSNBC Wednesday that he opposed adding new justices.”

  • Democrats have raised over $200 million via ActBlue since RBG died on Friday night. Day and night, I get emails saying that people donated to my ActBlue pages for Democratic Senate candidates. And let’s be clear — they’re not donating because they love centrism or love the archaic “norms” of DC. They’re donating because they’re mad and scared and believe Democrats will fight for them. Democrats are cashing the checks, for sure, and putting out angry statements, but it’s clear that when it comes to actually fighting, they’re surrendering already.

National: Arnold Schwarzenegger wasn’t a particularly good governor, but his environmentalism alone makes him a dream compared to most Republicans at this point. Now, he’s trying to help expand voting rights in a very smart and pointed way.

  • A few weeks after teasing an initiative on Twitter, Schwarzenegger made this announcement:

  • To be honest, it probably won’t make a huge tangible difference, because most of those polling places were located in minority-heavy areas and shut down by racist Republicans — money was never really the issue. But still, at least it clarifies Republicans’ hatred of democracy on every level that much more.

Kentucky: The two cops who murdered Breonna Taylor got off without a single charge against them today. The other cop was hit with just three charges of “wanton endangerment,” largely because some of the bullets he shot at her went into another apartment.

  • The announcement today was both infuriating and all-too-predictable. This will continue to happen again and again until we restore voting rights everywhere, elect reformist attorneys general and other politicians who will take on the corrupt police, and make sure we get as many people of color in office.

  • And on that note, this is exciting and important news.

Texas: Now that the state GOP has eliminated the “threat” of absentee ballots for most people, they’ve now turned to fighting the slightly expanded early voting enacted by… Republican Governor Greg Abbott.

  • Conservative activists are truly psychopaths, and now they’ve got one of their own — Allen West — running the Texas GOP. Hence, this lawsuit:

    • “One of the plaintiffs is Steve Hotze, the Houston conservative activist who has launched several lawsuits against Abbott's coronavirus response that have seen minimal success so far. But in the latest lawsuit, he is joined by not only West and Miller, but also three state senators and four state representatives, as well as the chairman of the Harris County party, Keith Nielsen, and the Republican National Committeeman from Texas, Robin Armstrong.”

Real Quick…

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