Gov. Gavin Newsom Wins, GOP Whining Showcases What They Are

If one wishes to understand what is wrong with American politics, or what has happened to the Republican Party only needs to look far west in the nation.

When California Governor Gavin Newsom demanded that the public adhere to some basic rules of the road so as to combat a deadly virus that was impacting health professionals and decimating the economy some Republicans thought they had an opening so to play partisan politics. When Newsom acted in his personal life without regard for his own mandates conservatives were quick to make a point of the mistake. Knowing that there would be enough chuckleheads they could persuade to make a pandemic into a partisan attack conservatives went for the big play.

Or what they thought could be a big play.

Instead, the recall election Republicans orchestrated once again demonstrated, not only to voters in the Golden State but nationwide, that they are void of morals, scruples, decency, and most assuredly common sense. During a pandemic–now in its fourth wave with a deadly variant placing young children into intensive care units–conservatives who wanted to win a recall race ranted about promising to swiftly roll back sweeping government orders.

There is no doubt that Newsom should have been more mindful of his personal actions, not only for the political image they created, but more importantly as health safety must be issue number one. During a pandemic, leaders must lead. All the time.

Having said that, however, a lapse of judgment does not in any way warrant a recall election!

But thinking that Newsom would be weakest at a time when many in California are weary of masks and mandates, and wanting to somehow show strength after the national spanking the GOP took for pushing Trump, Republicans cranked up a recall election.

The cast of characters who showed up, wanting to be the next governor, was a sorry joke.

Republican businessman John Cox, who ran and lost against Newsom in 2018, proved he just likes to be annihilated in public. Well, I guess some are into that type of thing. I am not here to judge. But considering Newsom defeated him with a 61.9% share of the vote, which was greater than any Democratic candidate for governor in state history might have been a hint of what was going to happen again for Cox.

Or any other candidate not tethered to electoral sanity.

But when it comes to crazy wrapped in GOP bunting nothing in California came close to Larry Elder. What the hell is wrong with him? His campaign left the tracks early and then picked up speed with an endless supply of idiotic comments so it could crash more dramatically into reality Tuesday night.

“At the state level, I’m not going to require any kind of public worker to wear masks, any kind of public worker to have a vaccine. I think that’s an assault on freedom”.

Without a doubt, Elder was the absolute epitome of stupidly playing a dangerous game with the lives of California voters during a pandemic.

All this underscores that the Republican Party no longer is driven by think tanks, large policy ideas, or a desire to connect with the needs of the majority of the electorate. Instead, they race about making every effort to be as shallow and deplorable as the base of the party from which they need money and votes.

The math was on the side of Newsom for a couple of weeks as data from the roughly 8 million mail ballots returned in the election, and as reported by newspapers in California, showed Democrats had voted in greater numbers than their share of the electorate. That was very important news heading into Election Day.

But there is another reason that we need to rejoice all over the nation about this win for Governor Newsom. The fact is that the California Republican Party cannot hope to win the governorship in a regular election. They need to game the system, play underhanded cards, and act without regard for the sensibilities that our institutions require for sound governance to occur. Worse, we have now seen in rather horrible detail how low they will go to even undermining public health so to try and win an election.

We have seen the Republican Party for what they are. It was ugly.

It was soundly rejected, however, by the majority of voters.

That was the only fitting ending for such lunacy.

And so it goes.

Conservatives Want To Wage Abortion War, Majority Of Americans Will Have Ballot Response

I enjoy a great legal thriller.  If a book jacket were to frame the plot as starting with a dead-of-the-night ruling by the Supreme Court over an issue that did not have any oral arguments, resulting in a decision that was unsigned by the Justices, and which upended decades of settled law, I would be most intrigued.  I would surely add the book to my cart.

That is, after all, how a great legal drama should leave a reader feeling.  Wanting more.

But when that plot instead is the lead paragraphs in the morning newspaper it makes for a very different feeling for the reader.  There is only dread and concern, with a desire to hurl the newspaper back to the front stoop.

By now we all are again aware that the Supreme Court is morphing towards a most dangerous conservative bent, and precedence is recklessly being tossed aside like last year’s calendar.

Last Thursday night the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the three liberal justices in dissent regarding the ruling which upheld the now infamous Texas abortion law.  (Roberts made a move that underscores the fact he cares about the Court, and his legacy. A topic often noted on this blog.)

We have all become very aware that Senate Bill 8, signed by Texas Republican Governor Greg Abbott in May is now law.  It bars abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which is often before many women even know they are pregnant.  This is the most draconian and bizarre abortion law in the nation.  Not only because it is estimated to prevent an estimated 85% of abortions there, but also because of how the law is framed to work.

What has been created in Texas is more akin to the way those in places like the former USSR used snitches and tattlers to bring down their neighbors and enemies.

Most laws in the land are enforced by government officials. But the outrageous Texas law says that private citizens can step in by suing abortion providers and anyone who “aids and abets” a patient obtaining an abortion after six weeks.

Overnight a chill traveled up the collective spine of the nation.

Think about this.

Family members of a woman getting an abortion, or the taxi cab driver who transported the woman, or any counselor who spoke to the woman about the abortion could all face legal effects from violating the law. If the Gladys Kravitz types in Texas, who will now sneak around communities and poke, pry, and try to gather information on women, should prevail this law says they are entitled to damages of at least $10,000 plus legal fees.

Listening to the nation’s leading legal experts this past week has been one way to sort through the atrocious nature of the law.

The Constitution, including Roe v. Wade, only applies against the government, it doesn’t apply against private individuals,” says Laurence Tribe, a leading constitutional law expert at Harvard. “That’s what makes this really dangerous. It’s a kind of vigilante justice, circumventing all of the mechanisms we have for making sure that the law is enforced fairly, and that it’s not enforced in a way that violates people’s rights.”

While many correctly state the disastrous outcome this is for women and their rightful control of their health decisions it is also equally clear this law is a blow to our understanding of democracy.

I actually enjoy, each time a nominee for the Supreme Court is asked questions by the Judiciary Committee, to hear how that person feels about the meaning of the law and concepts that the court deals with continually.  

Without fail, there was always a deep conversation about the importance of judicial precedent. As one who respects Alexander Hamilton, he being my favorite Founding Father, I let his views make the case. From “The Federalist No. 78” where he stated a robust respect for precedent is indispensable to preventing judges from exercising arbitrary discretion. 

“To avoid an arbitrary discretion in the courts it is indispensable that they should be bound down by strict rules and precedents, which serve to define and point out their duty in every particular case that comes before them; and it will readily be conceived from the variety of controversies which grow out of the folly and wickedness of mankind, that the records of those precedents must unavoidably swell to a very considerable bulk, and must demand long and laborious study to acquire a competent knowledge of them.”

Additionally, I add a fact we need to be mindful of when considering the tossing aside of precedence. This week it was noted on NPR that in cases over the past half-century where a constitutional precedent was overturned, the court was either unanimous or nearly unanimous in that decision, with two or fewer justices in dissent. Hence the call from Hamilton about preventing judges from exercising arbitrary discretion.  Democracy runs the best when the law is stable and society has a level understanding of, and expectations about the issues at the heart of the laws.

So this past week there was, for me, this great chasm between those Senate hearings and the Court’s calamity that allowed for a state legislature to empower individual citizens to harass and intimidate women seeking a decades-long constitutionally protected medical procedure.

So where does the nation go from here with this issue?

Clearly, other state legislatures in the hands of conservative will try to entertain such kindred scenarios and pass legislation that mimics Texas.   After all, these types of zealots have been working to strike down Roe v. Wade for decades.  But what these Republicans have not taken into account is the reaction from the people.

We live in a very politically split nation, but there are a few issues where the people are united.  When it comes to the 1973 Roe decision there is a strong majority–most polls show it at roughly 70%–in support. Therefore, the brunt of negative reaction will be placed, correctly, upon the party who undermines that ruling for women’s health.

What the GOP has done, with the aid of Mitch McConnell and other such luminaries in their party, is place truly culturally backward nominees on the bench. What those throwbacks on the bench are doing is sowing the seeds of anger that will then create well-deserved blowback on the Republican Party in future elections.

Consider the mid-term elections in 2022.  Republicans nationwide are going to need to answer, again and again how they feel about the Texas law.  A law that will only become more unpopular as more stories of actual impacted women in that state make for headlines.  More trouble for the GOP candidates as more court cases result from the Texas law.  And more angst for the GOP over the very idea of a draconian and stupefying ban on abortions after 6-weeks! 

Is it any wonder that President Biden and Democrats grasp the fact that the Republicans have leaned way too far over their skis? Abortion can be a potent and energizing issue in just an average election cycle.  Given what the Republicans have offered as a blazing trash can of disgust we are left to feel genuine shock at their level of amateurish behavior in Texas.

So, Mr. 2022 GOP candidate: “Do you agree that your uncle should be sued by his nosy neighbor concerning his driving a daughter to a medical facility so to allow her to make a personal health decision?”

If conservatives want to wage a political war against women, I know a majority of Americans who will have a response.

And so it goes.

Lunacy Lives In Recall Efforts Against California Governor Gavin Newsom

All one needs to know about the recall efforts against California Governor Gavin Newsom is to look at who his main challenger is with about two weeks to go until the statewide balloting.

The reason for the recall efforts is aimed at those who do not like the fact masks are needed to control the pandemic and vaccines are proven to stem the spread of the virus.  

One of the political jokers is Republican John Cox who opposes California’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates and masks requirements. Playing to the three-thumb crowd and trying to get cozy with the lowest educated in the state is not, it should be noted, a sign of pending leadership. I add, as a note to my readers that Cox was handed his backside on a platter after Newsom defeated him at the polls in 2018. Cox could not even get 39% from the electorate!

But it is Larry Elder, an angry conservative talk-show host, who gets the headlines and is rising among the hordes who want to become governor in this most bizarre election. An election, I note, that is driven due to science demanding certain remedies to tackle a virus.

Elder is very problematic for women given his tongue lashings he has handed out over the years. It does not help he was also accused of domestic abuse.  His waving a gun several years ago in front of a woman who was then to be his wife underscores his disdain for women. Well, people actually.

Elder’s stand on the issues places him in the cheap seats at a comedy show. He would repeal Newsom’s Covid-19 mask and vaccine mandates for state workers, who must either be vaccinated or tested weekly for the virus. He opposes the minimum wage, cashless bail, and defunding the police. He has said he will suspend the California Environmental Quality Act.

If one looks logically at the electorate and past outcomes in the regions of the state that must turn out for Newsom it then appears the recall will fail.  There is current polling data to show that to be the case.

The poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found just 39% of 1,080 likely California voters would vote to recall Newsom, effectively unchanged from the 40% of those surveyed in May and in March, with 58% opposed. And nearly half said they either wouldn’t vote for — or were undecided on — the 46 candidates on the ballot hoping to replace him.  It needs noting that the polls—and I have been following them over the past months–are clear that the support for the recall remains at less than a 50% position—and in most polls far less than that half.

The news this week is favorable to the Newsom forces as the mail ballot returns so far show that more than twice as many Democrats have voted than Republicans and that liberal areas of the state such as the Bay Area have the highest rates of return. Nearly 4.7 million Californians have cast ballots. The returns show that Democrats are turning out in high numbers–2.5 million have cast ballots, compared with more than 1.1 million Republicans.

That does not mean the foot is to be removed from the pedal as there must be a relentless drive for votes to ensure a troglodyte does not somehow sneak into the seat of power in Sacramento.

Angry voters who shout and spit–especially during a pandemic–are not ready to know how to use power. They also are not very bright. It would have been far more strategic to have waited for the regular election cycle and found a strong Republican to mount a sane race for Governor.

Instead, California voters are being told by the motley crew of ‘would-be’s’ they too can resemble Florida and Mississippi!

And so it goes.

What If Ron Johnson Does Not Run For Senate?

If a politician were seeking another term in office would they say the types of things that Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson has over the past year? While national politics can be overly frothy does not Wisconsin values hope for a more credible foundation from our top elected officials?

During the past months, I have reached a conclusion, based on his behavior, that Johnson is not seeking another Senate term. Whether he is tired, bored, or seeking another path in life no one looking to garner support among the electorate talks so bizarrely.

Perhaps the most over-the-top moment occurred when Johnson voiced support for using hydroxychloroquine against the COVID-19 virus, which forced YouTube to suspend his account. We, of course, have been treated to a number of such truly befuddling statements.

“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me”

If you have a vaccine, quite honestly, what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?”

One could continue the listing of truly odd and troubling quotes from Johnson. My point is not to prove his lack of awareness about issues of the day but rather how adrift he is from acting as a serious contender for another 6-year term in office. Especially given that Johnson would be the only incumbent Republican running in a state won by President Joe Biden.

So what happens when Johnson makes an announcement about spending more time with his wife and taking long vacations rather than seeking re-election?

The Democratic Party will have no problem locating talent for the 2022 race. State Senators Chris Larson, and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes are but two names in the arena, and the base will be very energized to replace Johnson with one of their own.

Without an elder statesman of the Republican Party at this juncture, however, given Scott Walker was defeated and Paul Ryan retired, means Wisconsin’s GOP would be in a bind should Johnson see the election writing on the wall and depart, too. At that point, the Senate primary fight will be a very expensive venture.

Surely it will be mean-spirited, too.

Consider what will be required of a candidate to attract the Trump base in August, and still need the independent and middle-of-the-road voters in the general election. We have heard the type of remarks Johnson made to that base and one needs to ask how many other Republicans would be willing to act in like fashion? Is a Senate seat truly worth it if one has to sell out principles and common sense just to get the nomination?

The question will soon be–I strongly suspect–who among state Republicans wish to head in that direction and then think they can weave the stitch to capture the broader electorate in the fall race come 2022?

It will not be pretty, but it will be grand political theater.

And so it goes.

Getting Up And Out For Voting Rights!

All at once, the entire Texas Statehouse Democratic Caucus is the focal point for protecting election rights in the nation. I must say, the spirit and spine they show remind all of us what we need to do in upping our game in the fight to save our democracy.

In the midst of an onslaught of legislative moves by Republicans from coast-to-coast to restrict voting following the 2020 historic voter turnout and the unprecedented use of vote-by-mail, it goes without saying it is essential strong-willed Democrats and independents wage a battle to stop the undermining of the right to cast a ballot.

Some of my Republican readers would argue that the bills under consideration, or the ones already passed, only strengthens ballot integrity and free and fair elections. The rest of us would contend that no matter what coat of paint is applied to the bills they are still voter repression efforts.

One part of the Texas proposal under consideration, that is not in any way defendable, is the removal of drive-through voting. As an example, Harris County first tested drive-thru voting in a summer 2020 primary runoff election with little controversy, but its use of 10 drive-thru polling places for the November general election created Republican outrage. Voters remained in their cars and showed a photo ID and verified their registration before casting ballots on portable voting machines. There was nothing different about the voting other than they might have been listening to the radio as they made their balloting choices.

As a person on the national news last night quipped, ‘We allow drive-through pick up for alcohol sales, but not for voting!”

Another regressive move by Republicans would prohibit local election officials from sending unsolicited applications to request a mail-in ballot. Harris County’s attempt to proactively send applications to all 2.4 million registered voters last year was blocked by the Texas Supreme Court. Under the bill mailing unrequested applications to voters in the future would also be blocked. After all, why encourage voters to exercise their rights!

As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote. With some state legislatures still in session, more laws will certainly follow. But if the Democrats in the Texas Legislature have anything to say about it their state will not be adding constrictive laws to the statutes.

I honestly can say the willpower and steadfastness of the Texas Democrats are inspiring. For the second time this year, they have staged a walkout in an effort to block Republicans from passing new voting restrictions. You might recall they walked out of the Capitol building in May.

Now they have left the state!

That bold move reminded me of the days in February 2011 when religious leaders in Illinois and Wisconsin offered their congregations and homes as a sanctuary for Wisconsin Democratic senators who walked out of the legislature to block a vote on then-Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to roll back collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The goal of the Texas Democrats is, of course, to deny the legislative special session the quorum of members it needs to pass massive changes based on lies about the 2020 presidential election. Texas Republicans are pandering to the base that supports Donald Trump, but in so doing are eroding at the foundations of the republic.

Those Democrats who have left the state will continue to work. At least 50 of the 67 Democratic lawmakers flew to Washington, where they will meet with other legislators to push for federal voting protections. It is my hope that the gutsy move they are making will, in contrast, showcase the lack of resolve and backbone among several Democratic senators who have not been agile enough in protecting our democratic (small d) values.

Republicans can’t win elections unless they cheat by suppressing votes. (Or rig district boundaries with gerrymandering.) Democrats in Texas are calling the GOP out with a national headline-making move.

We need to now press our calls and emails to members of Congress to be as mindful of the right to ballot access as the Texas Democrats are doing.

And so it goes.

Why Are Republicans Sore Losers?

I do not mean to start another post with a personal touch, but the topic of voting does touch very close to home for me. My dad was elected for 40 continuous years to the Hancock Town Board. Having served in WWII, the Pacific Theatre, and feeling a connection to his hometown area and the people, meant he had a sense of public service. But I know if Dad had been defeated at the polls he would have taken it in stride, thanked the people for the opportunity to serve, and went back to the garden where he took pride in his potato patch.

What I know he would not have done is kvetch about the election, who voted, who did not, or whine about the voting procedures. The reason would have been due to knowing such behavior was not decent. I would phrase it because he was above such behavior, but dad would not have cared for the idea that he was somehow better than others. That sentiment, too, is a reflection of the man he was.

So it really does touch a nerve to read of the continuing assaults on voting access across the country which are being created by Republicans. (And, yes, my dad was a Republican until President George W. Bush invaded Iraq. I was so proud of him for telling people why he had switched parties, and even watching him hang up the phone on attempts to raise money for the GOP.) The latest episode that simply confounds me with attempts at voting manipulation by conservatives are the new restrictions in Florida. Recall that Donald Trump won that state in 2020.

What makes the GOP nervous in the Sunshine State is that 680,000 more Democrats than Republicans voted by mail in Florida in 2020. That makes for anguish when the party leans more in tune with autocratic foundations than ones rooted in democratic ideals. The new Florida law would limit the use of drop boxes by having them available only when early voting sites are open instead of 24 hours a day.

But the blowback from losing the White House does not end there. Florida Republicans have also gone after absentee balloting in several ways, too. There are now more needless ID requirements, above and beyond what is already regarded as the safeguard for protecting the voting process. The new laws get rid of the standing absentee voter list and force voters to ask for an absentee ballot for every election! That is absurd.

And not to be outdone for meanness and to be akin to Georgia, it doesn’t let voters standing in line to be given water or food. Perhaps the brainy ones in the GOP base are fearing microchips will be in the cold water and make a voter become a raving socialist by the time they enter the voting booth.

The bottom line in Florida, like so many other states where Republicans are showing their true Brown Shirt character, is that they are doing everything they can to stop people who are likely to favor Democrats from voting.

Perhaps the Republican Party should follow the path my dad took those 40 years in public service. Act with honor in office, help people understand the issues, and never be petty about the will of the voters.

And so it goes.

Andrew Yang As Next New York City Mayor?

During 2019 and into the presidential primary season for the Democratic Party nomination I was struck, again and again, how many people were drawn towards the message of Andrew Yang. His message, which at times was not of the consultant-driven type one hears from a candidate for high office, resonated with many diverse friends on my Facebook feed. It was the first indication that he had that special quality that is a necessity in politics.

He spoke with facts, good grammar, and came across as a serious and intelligent candidate.

People listened to what he said and paid attention over the months of his race. It was more than just a new face on the debate stage, or that he was viewed as an outsider, which for some voters is an appealing touch. Rather, it was about how he framed issues and did not step out of his ‘lane’ in order to adopt the rhetoric of others in the race just to gain traction.

It is that steadfastness to his view of economics and the big issues driving our times that has him now the ‘talk of the town’. If you can call New York City a town.

Yang’s drive to be the next mayor of that essential American City is catching lots of attention as the remarkably diverse, boisterous, and power-laden environment will soon elect a new leader.

With his winning personality able to open doors for him, and his desire to impact racism, climate change, and address the poverty of those at the lowest economic rung means he now has a real chance at an election victory. The presidential race was never his to have, but it did allow him to be known and market his message.

A message, which many voters have embraced.

And so it goes.

What To Say (And Not!) After An Election Night Loss

I have over time mentioned the words and tones used by a candidate when conceding an election. There are classy ways to handle what is, without doubt, a tough moment and then there are dreadful ways to make the statement to the winner. The statement that was submitted by Brandi Grayson, the CEO of Urban Triage, following her opponent taking 65% of the vote this week was the most stunning election night comment I have ever become aware of over the decades of following politics.

I deeply respect the handshakes and quick banter that two professional tennis players allow each other following a mentally and physically punishing game.  It is an honorable way to conclude the contest regardless of the outcome.  When it comes to the end of a political campaign I also desire to see the best of one’s character shine.

Madison Isthmus reported the following about Brandi Grayson who was seeking a seat on the city council.

Grayson had some missteps that may have cost her. She sought, received and then shunned an endorsement from Progressive Dane. The political party shares many of her policy positions, including the need to invest more in city services other than the police department. But in January she called the political party “dangerous.” Grayson also strayed far from local issues, drawing criticism from Indigenous people for calling them “red” and claiming that Black people were “the original inhabitants of the land known as America.” 

After the results came in, Grayson said her southside district “voted for anti BLACKNESS.” 

“It wasn’t just [white] people, it was Black people. Lots of Black people. Elders. Church folks. Conservatives. Moderates. And others who just didn’t vote,” Grayson wrote on Facebook on election night. “It was CONFIRMATION that Madison will kill me and allow the mayor and the same alders to show up to give condolences.” 

That reminded me of an embittered Richard Nixon who lost his 1962 California gubernatorial bid and then lashed out at the media. His famous line still echoes with “you don’t have Nixon to kick around any more, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

Over the years I have been able to see in real-time how a concession is handled, while more often reading or watching such a happening through the media.  But in each case, a concession following a hard-fought campaign shows the mettle of a person perhaps better than any other facet of seeking office.

I found it troubling a few years ago when Wisconsin State Assemblyman Adam Jarchow was reported to have tweeted his concession to the victorious Patty Schachtner following the special state senate election. I grasp the fact that everything these days is seemingly done on the gadgets people carry around like aged smokers do with their oxygen tanks.  But when it comes to concessions there is a need to be personal and more connected.  Surely the phone number for the opposing campaign was available.  Call me old-fashioned but just pick up the phone and place the call!

The morning following the 1988 election victory of State Representative Lary Swboda the phone rang in his Kewaunee County home.  I had worked in the district often that fall on the campaign and as I stood in the kitchen as Lary answered the call I was privy to one of the gracious acts of politics.  Bob Papke, then Door County Clerk, had run, up to that time, the most expensive race for the state assembly.  He had been condescending and rather mean-spirited during the months leading to Election Day.  But on the phone, as Papke spoke to Lary there was a gentlemanly quality to the conversation and though the two would never be friends, an air of good sportsmanship was most apparent.

I have no partisan stake regarding concessions as shown when a woman I deeply respect failed at the art of being professional and gracious on election night. That person was a Democratic candidate–and one I had supported–Kathleen Falk.  

I was very disappointed to have read that she did not show up on Election Night to greet campaign workers and countless Democrats who worked so very hard for her over the past many months.  On Election Night she did not need to concede, (given the closeness of the race) but did need to say thanks.  To stay at her home and watch the returns come in was not what many expected.

It is Saturday afternoon as I write this post, and I am unhappy that Kathleen has not conceded the race for Attorney General.  Being defeated in an election after a well-fought effort should not be an embarrassment.  But not being a better sport in the arena of politics is much worse than coming in second place.

The gracious nature of Vice-President Al Gore following the grueling legal wars of a recount in 2000 demonstrates the reasons character matters when it comes to our elections.  The same rules of the road apply in local elections, too.  Being graceful with concessions makes for a strong mark of character.

And so it goes.