Alaska's Ranked-Choice Voting Put To The Test

[ Posted Tuesday, August 16th, 2022 – 15:28 UTC ]

Alaska is trying out two new ballot innovations today, which is further complicated by the fact that voters will be using each new innovation once -- for the same office. Representative Don Young died suddenly earlier this year, which means a special election to fill the remainder of his term is happening today as well as a primary election for the term which begins next January. There was an earlier primary for the special election, which was the first time Alaskans used their new "top 4" open-primary system (sometimes called a "jungle primary"). And today's special election will be the first time they'll vote using a "ranked-choice" ballot, where voters don't just get one static vote, instead they get to list the candidates in whatever ranking they wish: first choice, second choice, etc....

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Georgia Targets Rudy

[ Posted Monday, August 15th, 2022 – 15:24 UTC ]

Rudy Giuliani, one-time self-styled "America's mayor," is now the target of a criminal investigation in Atlanta, Georgia. He's not alone in this either, since already at least 17 other people have been informed that they too are targets of the investigation into exactly what happened after the 2020 election. Included in those 17 are two Republican state senators and the head of the state's Republican Party. The investigation is fairly wide-ranging, looking not only into Donald Trump and his minions trying to get every Georgia Republican holding office from the governor on down to somehow throw out enough votes for Joe Biden to allow Trump to proclaim he won, but also into the "fake electors" scheme where a group of Republicans tried to defraud the United States Congress and the American people into believing that Georgia had officially gone for Trump (when it hadn't). That's a lot to cover and it is why so many people are now targets.

Rudy played a principal part in the fake electors scheme, as he devilishly went down to Georgia (sorry, couldn't resist that one...) to push already-debunked conspiracy theories about suitcases stuffed with illicit votes for Joe Biden and the supposedly-suspicious behavior of the vote-counters. He presented this information (which, again, had by this point already been fully debunked by the release of the full and uncut video footage of the room in question) to Republican members of the state legislature, in an effort to get them to vote to just completely ignore the election's actual result and instead declare the fake electors were the real ones. Rudy wasn't just in on the fraud, he was a prime instigator of it, in other words.

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Friday Talking Points -- Lock Him Up!

[ Posted Friday, August 12th, 2022 – 16:39 UTC ]

The irony is delicious, we cannot deny it. A man who rose to power by leading chants of: "Lock her up!" against his political opponent (for mishandling classified documents -- a man who later signed a law making the offense a felony with up to five years' prison time) is now in the process of being hoist by his own petard. So it's been a rather schadenfreude-y kind of week.

We have to admit we were a little taken aback at what seemed to be an invasion into the regularly-scheduled start of the August "Silly Season" in politics (where Congress scarpers off to sunny shores while political reporters are left scraping the bottom of the barrel to come up with something to write about) by a week that seems to have been taken straight from the middle of Donald Trump's presidency and plonked down now, just to liven up August of 2022. Remember those agonizingly-long four years? When one week's news contained so many revelations and outrages that it was just hard to keep up with it all? That's what this week felt like, at least, to us. More than a little déjà-vu-esque in other words.

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Program Note

[ Posted Thursday, August 11th, 2022 – 20:20 UTC ]

Sorry, there will be no column today. Our power was off from 8:30 in the morning until the end of the day, so I had no internet access at all. I'll be spending tonight getting tomorrow's column ready (by raking through the week's news) so check back tomorrow when (hopefully) regular service will resume. My apologies for the interruption....

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


Things Are Getting Better

[ Posted Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 – 14:22 UTC ]

As we head into the dog days of August, Democrats have finally gotten some good news to spread, out on the campaign trail. Legislatively, things are definitely looking up, after Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema finally relented and allowed major portions of President Joe Biden's agenda to head to his desk. But it wasn't just the reconciliation bill, there has been a flurry of bills passing, from allowing Sweden and Finland into NATO to helping America's veterans who were exposed to toxic burn pits during their service. Democrats in Congress are showing that they can indeed get things done, with or without the help of the obstructionist Republicans. But the good news doesn't end there, because the economic picture is getting better as well.

You wouldn't know this from listening to the news on television (although, not having seen it today, perhaps they'll prove me wrong this evening, who knows?). When gas prices shot up to just over $5 a gallon, the nightly news ran with it as a lead story for weeks on end. "Gas is expensive!" they reminded everyone, just in case you had missed that story the day before. They've also been leaning in to "Inflation is soaring!" with the same fervor.

But now? The price of gas has fallen over a dollar a gallon. Nationwide it now stands either just at or just below $4 a gallon (depending on which figures you track). The price of crude oil continues to fall, so this downward slide at the pump can be expected to continue for at least the near future. Before Russia invaded Ukraine (which caused prices to shoot up so quickly), gas had been fluctuating between about $3.25 to about $3.45 a gallon, so prices still have a ways to go to get back to where they were. Prices have fallen by a dollar or perhaps $1.05, but they've still got 60 or 70 cents more to go, to put this another way.

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Will Trump Jump?

[ Posted Tuesday, August 9th, 2022 – 15:32 UTC ]

After hearing the bombshell news that the Federal Bureau of Investigation just executed a search warrant at Donald Trump's residence in Florida, my immediate reaction was to wonder whether this will be the trigger that prompts Trump to immediately declare his candidacy for the 2024 presidential race. Will Trump jump in the race now? It seems likelier than not, and certainly likelier than it did a day ago.

For four years, Trump relied upon the fact that the Department of Justice would always refuse to prosecute a sitting president -- for just about any crime under the sun. Trump revelled in this, and went on to blatantly commit what seems to a legal layperson to be a whole lot of crimes, in a vast range from the picayune to the extremely serious.

Trump now seems to think that if he is a declared candidate for the presidency, the same sort of legal immunity will apply to him. Which, obviously, would be the biggest reason why he would jump into the race early -- before the midterm elections even happen. He sees it as some sort of "get out of jail free" card, or at the least "get out of any investigations."

It's not, though. It's just not. Far from it. If there is clear and overwhelming evidence a crime was committed and probable cause to believe that Trump was the one who committed it, then he will face an investigation into that crime. That's what the Justice Department signalled yesterday, loud and clear.

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Now Get Out There And Sell It!

[ Posted Monday, August 8th, 2022 – 15:17 UTC ]

The day many of us thought would never happen is here. Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema finally allowed President Joe Biden and the entire rest of the Democratic Party to actually get some good things done. A budget reconciliation bill has -- almost miraculously and at the last possible second -- passed the United States Senate. The House is on vacation, but they're being forced to come back to Washington anyway for a vote this Friday on the Inflation Reduction Act. It should be on Biden's desk in time for a triumphant signing ceremony by the weekend. Victory is at hand.

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Friday Talking Points -- The Midterm Ground Shifts In Two Big Ways

[ Posted Friday, August 5th, 2022 – 16:37 UTC ]

There were two major events in politics this week which will have a profound effect on the upcoming midterm campaigns. The first was the stunning victory in the Kansas primary of the anti-forced-birth position on an abortion referendum -- which passed with a jaw-dropping 59-41 percent margin in a very red state. The second was Senate Democrats finally achieving unity by all agreeing to the "Inflation Reduction Act" budget reconciliation bill. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has refused to let the Senate begin their month-long August vacation and is planning the first vote on the bill tomorrow, with all the other arcane floor events to follow, so the final passage could come early next week.

Both of these events will resonate throughout the campaign and upcoming elections, but at this point nobody really knows how big a factor either will actually be. Passing the reconciliation bill will mean that Democrats can now tout a rather impressive list of accomplishments they have been able to rack up during their time in power in Congress, which will now include: "capping Medicare drug costs for seniors at $2,000 per year," "allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices with the big prescription drug corporations to finally start to bring the cost of prescriptions down," "finally making gigantic corporations pay a minimum tax so we can stop hearing about Amazon or any other big company paying zero taxes each year," and "making the biggest commitment to fight climate change ever made." All of these are wildly popular with the public, and all of them are impressive achievements to brag about. And that's just from the new reconciliation bill alone -- there are plenty of other wins Democrats have put on the board since Joe Biden was sworn in as president.

The abortion issue is likely to resonate more with the voters, however, and the Kansas vote already has Republicans running scared. It's easy to see why. The New York Times ran the data to figure out how the rest of the country would vote, if the demographic trends from the Kansas vote were replicated in each state across the country. They found that nationwide, a whopping 65 percent of voters would vote a referendum down that was intended to deny women reproductive rights. The state-level data was even more unforgiving to the absolutist position many Republican politicians have been taking -- such a referendum would fail in 43 out of 50 states. The only states where a majority of voters would back a forced-birth ballot initiative are: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. If this analysis played out, a whole lot of deep-red states would actually vote such a measure down, though, including: Idaho, South Carolina, West Virginia, and even Texas. That is why Republicans are hastily rethinking the advisability of taking the hardest line on abortion laws. Again: the measure in Kansas was voted down by 59 percent of a very red electorate.

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The Political Earthquake In Kansas

[ Posted Thursday, August 4th, 2022 – 14:56 UTC ]

Kansas is not generally known for its earthquakes, but what happened there Tuesday night has had that effect on politics -- because it truly has shaken things to their core. For the first time since Roe v. Wade was overturned, people actually got to vote on the issue of abortion and women's rights. And the results were nothing short of astounding.

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We Need More Jon Stewarts

[ Posted Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022 – 17:13 UTC ]

Jon Stewart, a television comedian, just did an amazing and powerful thing. He actually caused Senate Republicans to feel shame.

In this day and age, that is a rarity. The Republican Party has been taught many bad habits by Donald Trump, but one of the worst of all is utter shamelessness, which I would describe (politically) as the inability of your fellow citizens' opinions to sway yours in the least. Trump's "come Hell or high water" attitude and his absolute refusal to ever admit he was wrong about the slightest thing (see: Sharpiegate, et al) has caused Republicans like Ted Cruz (a shameless politician if there ever was one, even before Trump appeared on the scene) to completely divorce themselves from public opinion. They will just insist that down is up, that black is white, and that everyone else in the world is wrong while they have a secret line to the absolute truth (with zero evidence to back it up, of course).

This was on full display over the past week or so. A bill which should really have passed so quietly that only the people directly affected by it even noticed was suddenly in the midst of a gigantic partisan mudfight. Jon Stewart relentlessly reminded America how deeply shameful this display of naked partisanship was, and in the end, he won. The Republicans backed down. Stewart proved it is still possible to use this previously-potent political tool to effect real change. Which is why I say we could use a few more like him, slugging it out in the trenches of politics.

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