Illinois Becomes 11th State To Legalize Marijuana

[ Posted Wednesday, June 26th, 2019 – 15:30 UTC ]

Illinois just became the eleventh state in the country to legalize recreational marijuana for its citizens. When added to Washington D.C., this means that 23.5 percent of the country's jurisdictions have now fully legalized marijuana. The tide has obviously now turned on what used to be an unthinkable political concept.

Illinois is notable because they passed this new law through their legislature, rather than via a ballot initiative. This means that politicians are getting more comfortable with the concept, and they no longer have to live in fear of being punished at the ballot box for not being tough enough on crime. This more than anything else fueled the War On Weed through its darkest decades (the 1980s and 1990s). Republicans successfully painted Democrats as being weak on law-and-order issues, and Democrats reacted by trying to appear the toughest drug warriors around. You can argue that the culmination of this downward spiral was the 1994 crime bill -- the same one that Joe Biden is going to have to try to defend later tonight -- but we're going to leave debate analysis until tomorrow for now.

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We Really Need A Right-To-Vote Constitutional Amendment

[ Posted Tuesday, June 25th, 2019 – 17:18 UTC ]

Today, Elizabeth Warren announced her prescription for fixing American elections. Like other Democratic presidential candidates' plans, it would usher in sweeping changes to the way Americans vote and the way their elections are administered, by essentially nationalizing the elections process. But, as with many other such plans, even this doesn't really go far enough. Because what is truly needed is a new constitutional amendment that overhauls our wildly out-of-date elections system from top to bottom.

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Heading Into The First Debates

[ Posted Monday, June 24th, 2019 – 17:01 UTC ]

It looks like I spoke too soon when I declared the Democratic field for was complete, as we now have yet another entrant -- Joe Sestak -- whose chances of winning the nomination are about as good as being struck by lightning while simultaneously winning the lottery. Officially he becomes the (are you sitting down?) twenty-sixth Democrat to run for president. Most only count the 25 people who are currently running, but we scrupulously have to add in to our total the one candidate (Richard Ojeda) who has already officially dropped out.

But of course, the real attention this week will be on the 20 candidates who have qualified for the first round of nationally-televised debates. So Sestak will have to wait on the sidelines with Steve Bullock, Seth Moulton, Mike Gravel, and Wayne Messam, the other four candidates who didn't make the first cut.

While things may change if any of the minor candidates (the ones polling at one percent or less) has their magic breakout moment during the first debates, currently there are only seven candidates who seem to have any sort of chance at all, if the polling is correct. No polls have been released in the past few days, which usually means the pollsters will all release their most recent polls right before the big debate event, to set a "before" benchmark. This could be important, because there have been developments for several of these candidates in the past week which have not had a chance to show up in the polling yet.

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Friday Talking Points -- Dragging Up Dead Racists

[ Posted Friday, June 21st, 2019 – 17:49 UTC ]

Joe Biden drew a huge target on himself this week, with his comments on getting along with stone-cold racists in the United States Senate. Conservative commenter Ana Navarro perhaps best summed up Biden's error, criticizing him for "dragging up these dead racists instead of talking about the live racists."

Biden's gaffe came at an inopportune time for him, seeing as how the first Democratic debates are now less than a week away. All the other candidates had been struggling with whether to attack Biden next week, since he is so well-beloved by Democratic voters. Biden is the clear frontrunner in the race at this point, regularly polling many multiples of the numbers of almost all the other candidates (excepting perhaps Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, whom Biden only outpolls by a factor of two). It was tough, before Biden stepped in it, for the other candidates to develop any debate strategy for taking Biden down a peg. But that just got a whole lot easier, due to Biden's own words.

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Biden's Bad Week

[ Posted Thursday, June 20th, 2019 – 17:19 UTC ]

Joe Biden is having a bad week, at the precise time when all the other Democrats running for president really needed him to stumble. With the first debates now less than a week away, Biden has handed his opponents a number of openings for them to directly attack him -- which, no doubt, some of them will exploit on stage next week. And Biden has no one to blame for this state of affairs but himself.

Biden's first gaffe was quickly eclipsed by his second this week, but it will probably be remembered and brought up by the progressive candidates during the debates. After attending a forum for poor people's concerns, Biden sped off to a fundraiser attended by big Wall Street donors. The optics of this were pretty bad, but Biden made things even worse by what he told them. He'd be a bosom buddy to the millionaires and billionaires, he assured them, and he'd even defend their patriotism when other Democrats attacked them. He swore that nothing would change much for their circumstances under a Biden presidency, drawing a clear comparison to candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (to name just two) who would levy new taxes upon the ultrawealthy. This was all pretty tone-deaf of Biden, considering where the energy is in Democratic politics these days, but the whole thing was quickly forgotten (by the media) when Biden dropped an even bigger gaffe at a different fundraiser.

Joe Biden wants things in Washington to return to a more civil era. That's fine and good, but the way he talked about it was definitely not. He bemoaned the current era where politicians are seen not just as the opposition but "the enemy," and reminisced about how he used to be able to "get things done" even with politicians who held racist views. He even warmly spoke of one of them, stating that "he never called me 'boy,' he called me 'son.'"

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Trump Announces Re-Election Bid... Against Hillary?

[ Posted Wednesday, June 19th, 2019 – 17:26 UTC ]

President Donald Trump apparently thinks he can easily beat the 2020 Democratic nominee -- if Democrats would only nominate Hillary Clinton again, that is. The fact that she's not actually running seems to have completely escaped him. Granted, with 24 candidates in the Democratic race, it is rather hard to keep track of them all -- but even so, it's pretty hard to miss the fact that there simply are no Clintons whatsoever in the race this time around. But Trump's never been one to let facts get in the way of a good chant at one of his political rallies.

The mainstream media all went along with the fiction that Donald Trump somehow "launched" his re-election campaign yesterday in Florida, despite the obvious fact that he filed re-election paperwork on his first day in office and reportedly trademarked the new slogan he unveiled last night ("Keep America Great!") during his first month in office. In other words, he's literally been running since Day One of his first term.

Being Trump, of course, this wasn't the biggest fiction Trump told the adoring crowds last night. There were plenty of misstatements and outright lies, which is par for the course in any Trump speech. But his continuing obsession with the 2016 race should be a little worrisome to his own campaign, one would think.

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Warren Catching Up To Sanders

[ Posted Tuesday, June 18th, 2019 – 16:40 UTC ]

The first authentic polling trend of the 2020 Democratic nominating contest may now be happening. By "authentic," what I mean is a polling trend that is not merely an "announcement bump." Every candidate (well... every viable candidate) has seen some sort of boost in their polling immediately after making their official announcement, but most of these have since subsided. Now that the field is full, there will be no more such announcements to skew the polling, and any trends must thus be due to actual campaign successes or failures by the candidates. And we're seeing at least the beginnings of the first of these trends: Senator Elizabeth Warren seems to be enjoying a surge.

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It's SCOTUS Season Again

[ Posted Monday, June 17th, 2019 – 17:18 UTC ]

It's June, which means that it is Supreme Court season once again. The high court's session wraps up at the end of June each year, and they usually hold back the most contentious cases until the very end. This year, there are two such big cases that could change American politics for at least the next decade or so. But in the meantime, the court has announced a few other decisions worth examining for their political impact as well.

The two cases everyone is waiting for are whether the Census Bureau can include a citizenship question on the main 2020 Census form, and whether the court will adopt a standard for what is and is not acceptable in terms of partisan gerrymandering. More on them in a moment. The decisions announced today dealt with: another bakery which refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple; a racial gerrymandering case; and the question of whether being tried by both a state and the federal government for the same crime constitutes "double jeopardy" or not.

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Friday Talking Points -- Debate Slate Set

[ Posted Friday, June 14th, 2019 – 17:51 UTC ]

We have to begin by first ignoring all the rampant criminality spewing forth from the White House -- just for the moment, mind you -- to concentrate instead on looking forward, not back. Because we're less than two weeks away from the first round of Democratic 2020 presidential primary debates, and the Democratic National Committee just announced the lineup for the two nights.

Yesterday, they cut the field down to 20, which left four candidates out in the cold: Steve Bullock, Mike Gravel, Andrew Messam, and Seth Moulton. Today, they held the draw (our prediction: in future, the draw itself will be televised on C-SPAN...) and announced the lineup for each night. In doing so, the random nature of the draw conspired to almost entirely defeat the D.N.C.'s ultimate goal for holding such a draw in the first place -- not to have a "kiddie table" debate.

Learning from the response to the Republican 2016 debates, where candidates were separated into an "adult-table debate" and a "kiddie-table debate" (or, to be less caustic, an "undercard" debate) by their standing in the polls, the Democrats this time around decided to prevent this from happening by randomizing the process. Everyone who qualified would have a clear shot at both nights. They then refined this concept even further -- in an attempt to make the spread even more even -- by deciding to hold two draws, one among those in the top tier of polling and one among the lower. This way, the top tier would get divided evenly between the two nights, which would (they figured) prevent a single top-loaded debate from happening.

They figured wrong. Because out of the top five candidates in the current polls, four of them will be appearing together on the same night, while the other will be taking on a slate of all the lesser candidates on the other night. The only way they could have avoided this would have been to further refine their criteria so that (for instance) "out of the top four in the polling, two will appear each night," or something similar.

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Aiding And Abetting The Enemy

[ Posted Thursday, June 13th, 2019 – 16:55 UTC ]

President Donald Trump just made news by admitting what everyone already knew or suspected -- that he'd be just fine with Russia feeding him dirt on a political opponent during a presidential election campaign. He wouldn't see any necessity to inform the F.B.I. if a foreign government offered up negative information, and he furthermore insisted that any other American politician would do exactly the same thing. He's trying to normalize his own amorality, in other words.

To put it mildly, Trump is receiving some pushback. Democrats, of course, are outraged. But the interesting thing is that Republicans are also speaking out against Trump's position. In fact, no Republican senator has yet tried to defend Trump's position. Perhaps because he tried to rope them all in with his claims that congressmen routinely get dirt on their political opponents from Russia, but for whatever reason this was clearly a bridge too far for most congressional Republicans.

Democrats, from the presidential candidates on down, should make as big a stink about this as is humanly possible. But they should train their fire not only on Trump but also on his chief henchman in election interference, Mitch McConnell. Because McConnell is refusing to bring up any election reform bill in the Senate before the 2020 election happens. And, as Trump just proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, this means aiding and abetting any foreign election interference which may happen in the meantime.

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