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Biden swings and totally misses on filibuster, voting rights

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President Joe Biden and CNN moderator Don Lemon at televised town hall, July 21, 2021.

President Joe Biden’s clear intent to try to unify the nation is laudable. It’s a message a very large chunk of America loves to hear: that the people they elected will come together to rebuild the nation and recover from the pandemic. “I come from a tradition in the Senate,” said Biden. “You shake your hand. That’s it. You keep your word.” He singled out one Republican senator in particular, Ohio’s Rob Portman. “You know, there’s—Portman is a good man. […] He’s a decent, honorable man, and he and I are working on trying to get this—this infrastructure bill passed. […] You shake his hand, it’s done.” That’s Biden Wednesday evening. Here’s that good, trustworthy man he’s talking about Thursday morning.

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“Our country is too deeply divided already and needs to heal from the wounds caused by the attack on January 6—not divide further due to a partisan select committee report.” Portman is defending Jim Jordan, who would have been absolutely fine with Portman being collateral damage when the mob attacked Congress on Jan. 6. He’s retiring, so he’s not doing this to shore up his base support in Ohio. He’s actively trying to help cover up Republican complicity in the insurrection, which makes what Biden said later on the filibuster sound so much more naive and delusional.

Audience member Cory Marcum asked Biden specifically about his passionate but ultimately meaningless speech last week on voting rights, when he called Republican voter suppression “the most dangerous threat to voting and the integrity of free and fair elections in our history.” If Biden means that, Marcum asked, if “these efforts are really the most dangerous in our history, isn’t it logical to get rid of the filibuster so we can protect our democracy and secure the right to vote?” Good question, in answer to which he got more of Joe Biden who was in the Senate for too long and is working on outdated assumptions about it.

Biden started out his answer: “I stand by what I said. Never before has there been an attempt by state legislatures to take over the ability to determine who won. […] This is Jim Crow on steroids what we’re talking about.” He also says “the filibuster is pretty overwhelming.” And then he gives his solution: “I would go back to that where you have to maintain the floor. You have to stand there and talk and hold the floor.”

Fine, CNN moderator Don Lemon follows up. “But what difference is that if you hold the floor for, you know, a day or a year? What difference does it make?” Because at the end of the day Republicans are still going to block the legislation. Then Lemon makes it personal.

Here’s the thing for me: You talked about people—and this is important for people who look like me. My grandmother would sit around when I was a kid, […] [she] had a fifth-grade education. I learned that she couldn’t read when I was doing my homework. And she would tell me stories about people asking her to count the number of jellybeans in the jar or the soap.

And so why is protecting the filibuster—is that more important than protecting voting rights, especially for people who fought and died for that?

Compelling stuff. Which makes Biden’s answer the second biggest fail in this discussion: “What I also want to do—I want to make sure we bring along not just all the Democrats; we bring along Republicans, who I know know better. They know better than this.” They might know better, but they’re going to be like his “good man” Rob Portman who is defending insurrectionist, Trumpist Rep. Jim Jordan over finding out the truth about what happened on Jan. 6.

Then came Biden’s greatest failure of the night. He put the burden of overcoming “Jim Crow on steroids” on the people who got him elected, the people who put him in the White House to end the Republican tyranny in the state. “Look, the American public, you can’t stop them from voting,” Biden said. “You tried last time. More people voted last time than any time in American history, in the middle of the worst pandemic in American history. […] They’re going to show up again. They’re going to do it again.”

Black Voters Matter cofounder Cliff Albright puts it better than I can: “He expects community activists—particularly Black activists—to simply recreate the Herculean effort that it took to mobilize voters in 2020 (and the 2021 GA runoff). And to do so in spite of historic new voter suppression. He lied when he said he’d have our backs.”

Cliff Albright tweet on Biden and the filibuster: "He expects community activists—particularly Black activists—to simply recreate the Herculean effort that it took to mobilize voters in 2020 (and the 2021 GA runoff). And to do so in spite of historic new voter suppression. He lied when he said he’d have our backs."

Lemon, probably thinking something very much akin to that, tried again, invoking President Barack Obama. “If you agree with the former president […] as you call him, your ‘old boss’—that it’s ‘a relic of Jim Crow’ […] If it’s a relic of Jim Crow, it’s been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically, why protect it?”

Because, Biden says, if you end it “you’re going to throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will get done. […] Nothing at all will get done.” (Because the Senate has been such a paragon of doing things since Mitch McConnell took over the Republicans.) Then Biden pivots to something that did get done: “How many of you have children under the age of 17? Raise your hand. Guess what? You’re getting a lot of money in a monthly check now, aren’t you? […] It’s called the Child Tax Credit.”

Which passed with zero Republican votes in the Senate. Zero. Democrats did that entirely on their own under budget reconciliation, the process they had to use because Republicans would have filibustered that and the absolutely urgent and essential COVID-19 relief it was a part of.

It’s clear that Biden’s heart is in the right place. It’s clear that he believes the Republicans he served with in the Senate will value that shared experience as he does, that they will be his friends, that he can achieve their support. But Biden needs to hear McConnell when he says he has “total unity from Susan Collins to Ted Cruz in opposition to what the new Biden administration is trying to do to this country.”

His bully pulpit isn’t going to work to woo Republicans to do the right thing. Nothing but consigning them to years in the desert of being in the minority could achieve that. What he could do with that bully pulpit is honor the blood, sweat, and tears of the activists who got him to the White House. He could use his power to convince those handful of filibuster reform holdouts that securing voting rights is more important that Senate comity.

But first we have to convince him.


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Democrat Carl Levin, whose 36-year stint made him Michigan’s longest-serving senator, dies at 87

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Sandy Levin lost close races for governor in 1970 and 1974 to Republican William Milliken, but his brother had much more success when he ran statewide in 1978. Carl Levin campaigned for the Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Robert Griffin, who had announced his retirement the previous year, saying, “​​Twenty-two years is long enough.” National Republicans, though, successfully pressured Griffin to reverse course and seek re-election after all, a development that seemed like a huge blow to Democratic hopes for a pickup.

Before he could focus on Griffin, though, Levin had to get through a primary that included wealthy newspaper owner Phil Power; former Rep. Richard Vander Veen, who became nationally famous by winning the 1974 special election for Gerald Ford’s former House seat; and three state legislators. Levin’s strong base in Detroit helped establish him as the frontrunner, and he beat Power 39-20.

Levin spent the general election arguing that “new blood” was needed to replace Griffin, who had missed numerous votes in the Senate. The senator fought back by unconvincingly trying to distance himself from “that Washington crowd” and attacking Levin as “a free‐spending liberal,” but it wasn’t enough. Levin prevailed 52-48, a victory that made him Michigan’s first Jewish senator.

Levin was joined in Congress after the 1982 election by Sandy Levin, who would ultimately retire from the House in the 2018 cycle. (The two kept a “confusion file” listing people who mixed them up.) Two years later, the senator found himself locked in a tough battle to maintain his seat; Levin’s 1984 opponent was retired astronaut ​​Jack Lousma, a Republican who unsubtly touted his good looks in what Levin would describe as a contrast to his own “plump, balding, and disheveled look.” The incumbent, though, decided to play up the physical difference himself, joking, “Our pollsters tell us that it’s a winner because there are more of us than there are of them.”

Lousma stood a good chance in a year when President Ronald Reagan was poised to sweep 49 states, and the Republican made sure to tie himself to his party’s standard-bearer. Lousma, though, made some serious mistakes, especially when he claimed “An average high school boy could sit down and with three hours of briefings could know all you’d want him to know about issues in Michigan.”

Lousma’s biggest gaffe, though, came when he revealed that he owned a Toyota, a remark that went over especially badly in the state that was home to the American automotive industry. Then-Gov. Jim Blanchard would later recount that he had to convince Levin to use this material against his opponent, as the senator initially believed that Lousma’s honesty was hardly damaging. Blanchard was right, though: Reagan ended up carrying Michigan by a wide 59-40 margin, but Levin prevailed 52-47.

Levin would face a few other notable Republican opponents during his long career, but he was never truly close to losing any of them. In 1990, Levin turned back GOP Rep. Bill Schuette 57-41; Schuette would go on to revive his career in Michigan politics, which culminated in his 2018 defeat in the gubernatorial race. Levin’s opponent in 1996 was Ronna Romney, daughter-in-law of former Gov. George Romney and mother of current RNC chair Ronna McDaniel. Romney’s brother-in-law, Mitt Romney, had lost the Massachusetts Senate race two years before, and she fell to Levin 58-40.

The senator would win his final two races with more than 60% of the vote before retiring in the 2014 cycle.


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Matt Gaetz is poised to marry her sister, but Roxanne Luckey wants the world to know he’s ‘a creep’

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In some of the videos, Luckey even poses in front of The New York Times article that focuses on Gaetz’s investigation for alleged sex crimes, including trafficking a minor.

“When a creepy old man tries to hit on you at the bar, but your sister is engaged to a literal pedophile,” she said in the video’s onscreen text.

Luckey later apologized for using the term “pedophile” and instead switched to “ephebophile,” but her feelings for Gaetz are loud and clear.

According to Luckey, when she and her mother confronted Gaetz about his inappropriate behavior of attempting to set her up with an older man, “[h]e just immediately got so defensive and started yelling at me and my mom.”

“He called me a narcissist, just was a thousand percent gaslighting me—went full lawyer, ‘I don’t have to listen to you, I don’t have to answer your questions,'” she said. She added that while Gaetz never apologized, the friend later did and claimed that he only asked her out “to get Matt off my back.”

She added that her opinions of him go deeper than her own experiences. She claimed that during her time at the White House, Gaetz “had a reputation of prowling after college girls when he’s a grown man, and to me that’s just kind of weird.”

“There is so much more to the story and about what I know about Matt Gaetz,” she added. “It is definitely a serious situation,” Luckey noted that her opinion was partially based on hearsay from the “grapevine.”

Luckey explained the purpose of her sharing the stories in a video shared Monday: “While that little video I made was such a minuscule thing and I know does not properly bring to light the whole situation, if I can just bring some attention to it so people are aware of what is going on and people can be held accountable, that’s my goal.”

While the FBI and Department of Justice have not confirmed a probe into Gaetz, the congressman himself confirmed he was being investigated in April on allegations of trafficking a minor for sex. 

Lawyers familiar with the case shared that investigations are ongoing and whether or not the case will go to trial is still pending.

“The federal government doesn’t like to try out novel legal theories in court, especially against sitting members of Congress because it usually doesn’t work,” the lawyers told Politico. “Yes, there’s strict liability for someone who has sex with a 17-year-old even if she’s only a few months away from turning 18 and even if she becomes a hardcore porn star. But prosecuting a case like this would be highly unusual if there’s no hard evidence showing Gaetz has done this and the case rests on an admitted liar like Greenberg and the word of a hardcore porn star.”

Despite this and his former associate, ex-Seminole County tax collector Joel Greenberg, pleading guilty in May to six federal charges including soliciting a minor for sex, Gaetz has refused to resign. 

In response to the comments made by her sister, Ginger Luckey defended her fiancé and said that her “estranged sister is mentally unwell.”

“Matt and I are enjoying our engagement and are deeply in love. My estranged sister is mentally unwell,” Ginger Luckey told The Daily Beast. “She has been in therapy for years and our family hopes that after receiving in-patient mental health treatment, she will overcome the tendency she has repeatedly shown to engage in destructive behavior.”

Watch the video series for yourself below:


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26 million workers have gotten a raise thanks to the Fight for $15, this week in the war on workers

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The Fight for $15 kicked off in November 2012, with a relatively small—yet also historically large—group of New York City fast food workers making what seemed an audacious demand: $15 an hour minimum pay and a union. The latter goal hasn’t advanced much since then, but $15? That has become solidly mainstream, and has brought big wins. A new report from the National Employment Law Project quantifies just how big.

The federal minimum wage remains just $7.25 an hour, the same as it was not just in 2012 but in 2009. But between state and local minimum wage increases, and executive action raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers, NELP estimates that 26 million workers have gotten a raise. Nearly 12 million of those workers are Black, Latino, or Asian American. The added pay they’ve gotten amounts to $150 billion, with $76 billion going to Black, Latino, and Asian American workers.

Organizing works.


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