“Everything. It’s simple. Everything. We’re in a fight for the soul of America”
– Former Vice President Joe Biden, on what’s at stake in the midterms
This past Tuesday Andrew Gillum pulled off an upset victory in Florida’s gubernatorial primary race, another surprising win for an economically progressive Democrat. Gillum, who if elected would be the first black governor of Florida, did it with a multiracial, broad coalition and a clear, unapologetically liberal platform that is pragmatic and focused on solutions. Much of the coverage was lazy, giving credit to Bernie Sanders for his last-minute endorsement and framing Gillum’s win as another chapter in the mythical Bernie vs Hillary saga. In fact, black Democrats in Florida, joined by anti-gun activists and resistance groups (including Indivisible) did the on-the-ground work that put him over the top. And Gillum had been a Clinton supporter.
Gillum will face Ron DeSantis, a Trump conservative, setting up a contrast that has already captivated the national media, the more-so as DeSantis went full racist dog-whistle the day after the primary, in an interview where he called Gillum “articulate” and warned Florida not to “monkey this thing up”. While the race will be as critical as it’s likely to be full of dirty Republican attacks, it will also be similar to races being held all across the country.
Similar because what unites Democrats all over the country is their commitment to addressing issues their constituents suffer from and care about: their healthcare, the safety of their children, their ability to make a living wage, their security, both physical and economic. Whether more conservative or liberal, from Doug Jones and Conor Lamb to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Andrew Gillum, they’re typified by an eagerness to engage directly with their voters, to meet with them – and to have their backs.
What unites their Republican opponents, on the other hand, is blind fealty to Trump, which means embracing naked racism, corruption and fascism, with a total disregard for facts – or the needs of their voters.
“Even at the end, John McCain knew what he was doing and he was a fearsome opponent. He wanted a pageant of everything this administration* has trashed and put up for sale, and that's what he got Saturday—a morality play shot through with Shakespearian portent and foreshadowing, a pageant of democracy's vengeance.”
– Charles P. Pierce, “John McCain’s Funeral Was a Council of War—Just as He Meant It to Be”, Esquire
On Saturday, funeral services were held at the National Cathedral for Senator John McCain, who had passed away from brain cancer a week before. Eulogies were delivered, per McCain’s request, by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, each of whom had beaten McCain in races for the presidency. Conspicuously absent was Donald Trump, whom McCain did not want to attend.
The service, as noted by Charles Pierce in the quote above, was both a memorial for a beloved politician and a battle cry for the democracy he strove, however imperfectly, to serve. When, in her remarks, McCain’s daughter Meghan said, “The America of John McCain does not need to be made great again, because it is already great”, those assembled actually applauded.
The “pageant of democracy’s vengeance” reminded us that there are Americans across the political spectrum who are banding together against the Trumpublican assault on our country, a #CoalitionOfAllDemocraticForces, to use Benjamin Wittes’s hashtag. We’re united in our opposition to authoritarianism and our love of democracy. If we’re successful – and we must be – we will one day enjoy a time where our opinions will vary widely. However, in Wittes’s words, “I would hope that we would all retain in future disagreements a deep awareness that the people we are disagreeing with are people with whom we shared a foxhole when democratic government itself faced a threat.” For now, we’re in the foxhole together. And the battle is on.
In Other News
- Senate Republicans continue to rush the nomination of Supreme Court pick Brett Kavanaugh. Instead of waiting for papers detailing his past positions to be made available, as has always been customary, they’re racing to get him confirmed before the midterm elections. This week they went further, with the Trump White House* refusing to turn over 100,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s work for President George W Bush. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, we’ll see a cascade of disasters, the overturning of Roe v Wade being only the beginning. Perhaps most ominously, he looks likely to uphold an limitless view of presidential power, which is almost certainly why Trump chose him.
- Trump announced a renegotiated NAFTA treaty on Monday, continuing his tradition of “vapor ware” agreements, ie outlines of agreements that haven’t actually been made yet and may never be made, presented as fait-accompli triumphs. Think North Korea. Canada had been left out of negotiations and by week’s end still wasn’t on board, especially given insults that Trump had levied at them. Trump is in a rush because the incoming Mexican President is unlikely to agree to as favorable a deal.
- North Carolina was ordered to redraw its heavily-gerrymandered electoral map before the election, but the plaintiffs agreed that doing so prior to November would be logistically impossible (in part because primaries have already been held). The state has been ordered to redraw its boundaries before and was judged to have done so as poorly as before, hence the new order.
- New estimates of the death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria were announced: nearly 3,000. Trump claimed he had done “a fantastic job”. Everyone else can see the plain truth, which is that Trump botched the rescue efforts in particular for Puerto Rico. Brown people. Speaking Spanish. Hmm.
- Speaking of brown people, nearly 500 migrant children are still separated from their parents. The deadline for reunification was July 26th. July. The administration* doesn’t appear to be making any effort at all. And now there are allegations of children in custody being abused.
- Fox News claimed that Google was biased, so of course Trump now claims that as well. As the week went on, Bannon and Ingraham chimed with, calling for government control of big tech. Don’t tell me, ever, not to use the word “fascist” when referring to these people.
- American citizens along the border are having their requests for passports denied and existing passports revoked. The excuse the regime is claiming, is that some undeserving babies years ago were given certificates by midwives which made them American-born. Trump is using it as an excuse, however, to revoke citizenship from brown Americans. Dems are fighting back. Don’t tell me, ever, not to compare him to Hitler.
- On Thursday, Trump cancelled a scheduled pay raise for federal workers, claiming he needed to put the nation on a “fiscally sustainable course.” This is the guy who signed the Republican tax scam last year, blowing a hole in the deficit in order to line the pockets of the ultra-rich. By the way, wages this year for workers (it’s Labor Day) are down. Corporate profits are through the roof.
- A California man was arrested for threatening to kill Boston Globe writers, by “shooting them in the head” since they were an “enemy of the people.” Wonder where he got that idea from. Don’t tell me, ever, not to refer to Trump as a dictator.
- Former Manafort colleague Sam Patten became the latest person to agree to cooperate with the Mueller probe.
- Let’s just put all of the he's-really-starting-to-lose-it, full-on-dictator stuff in one place: Trump claimed during a meeting with evangelicals that they had everything to lose if Dems won in November, adding that the victorious Dems would for some reason become “very violent”. If we win in November (when), it won’t be us you have to worry about being violent.
- Trump tweeted, no surprise, that he’d be firing White House counsel Doug McGahn after the midterms. McGahn has been fully cooperative with the Mueller investigation, in part because he feared that Trump would “make him the fall guy”. Trump is also expected to fire Sessions at about the same time. Which would trigger a crisis.
- Trump urged Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to intervene with the FISA Court, demanding that they question the DoJ and FBI about the Steele Dossier. Separation of powers mean nothing when your ass is on the line, apparently. And Trump’s most certainly is.
- Today, Trump attacked Jeff Sessions for letting the Department of Justice bring corruption charges against Republican Congressmen Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, tweeting, "two easy wins now in doubt". Collins has been indicted for insider trading, a crime that defrauds investors who take the loss when they unwittingly buy the stock the insider is dumping. Hunter has been indicted for purloining a quarter of a million dollars of campaign donations for personal use. Trump's tweet makes clear that he believes Republicans should have impunity to be as corrupt as they can.
- But, wait: Trump’s disapproval numbers hit 60% in a new Washington Post poll, with “strongly disapprove” going to 53%. Furthermore, confidence in the Mueller probe rose significantly. Could it be that Americans are finally waking up?
The Bad and the Great
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer agreed to fast-track seven Trump judge appointees in order to get Senators back home to campaign for a few days. Bad deal, Chuck. You only needed to keep one Senator on the floor at a time to slow things to a crawl. You could have let the vulnerable ones go home anyway. When you play softball, we all lose.
- California wound up its legislative session by passing bills mandating 100% clean energy by 2045 and net neutrality. Both were BIG wins.
The Home Stretch
Labor Day marks the beginning of the final stretch of campaigning. It’s now or never, folks. What’s at stake? As Joe Biden said, “Everything. We’re in a fight for the soul of America.” Find actions you can take today here. Let’s win this thing.
– Tom Benthin
A reminder: a key resource for tracking all the abnormal events from the past week of the Trump presidency is Amy Siskind’s Weekly List: theweeklylist.org .
Before the disaster of the 2016 election we could follow the events that affected our lives by checking the news or seeing occasional posts on Facebook. Since then, with Trump’s erratic, aggressive and autocratic behavior and the Republicans’ unceasing attacks on our government and their efforts to transfer ever more money from working Americans to the rich, it has become much more difficult – and more important – to find our way through the weekly onslaught of news. To get ourselves grounded in the facts and to prepare for the week of action ahead, we provide this weekly summary of critical events to help us cut through the distractions and stay focused and informed as we fight to preserve our democracy.