April 20, 2022
Yesterday, Arizona governor Doug Ducey brought the Republican governors of 26 states together in the “American Governors’ Border Strike Force” to serve as a “force multiplier” in what he says is “criminal activity directly tied to our border.” For all of Ducey’s rhetoric about how the force is supposed to “accomplish what the federal government has failed at, protecting our communities from ruthless transnational criminal organizations,” the “strike force” is supposed to “share intelligence, strengthen analytical and cybersecurity efforts, and improve humanitarian efforts to protect children and families.”
This measure is pretty clearly a political ploy before the midterms. As the Texas Tribune reports, since 2005, Texas governors have launched widely publicized border initiatives during political campaigns, insisting that they would manage what the federal government was ignoring. Billions of dollars later, it is not clear they have accomplished anything.
Most recently, with Operation Lone Star in 2021, Texas governor Greg Abbott deployed more than 10,000 members of the Texas National Guard and state troopers to the border, as a cost of about $25 million a week for the troopers and $2 billion a year for the National Guard members. That’s almost five times what the legislature had budgeted. While the administration has claimed success, an investigation by ProPublica, the Texas Tribune, and the Marshall Project suggests that it is taking credit for arrests that had nothing to do with border issues and were often handled by law enforcement officers unconnected with Operation Lone Star. Most arrests are not of human traffickers or smugglers, but of people accused of trespassing on private property.
And so, it appears, messaging for the midterms is in full swing.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis continues to threaten to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District in his anger over Disney’s opposition to the recently passed “Don’t Say Gay” bill that restricts instruction in gender identity or sexual orientation in public schools in vague language that leaves the door open to silencing minority voices. Since 1967, the existence of the Reedy Creek Improvement District has given the company the right to govern the Disney park as if it were a town.
The Walt Disney Company delivers to the state more than $409 million in sales taxes for tickets alone, employs more than 80,000 Florida residents, and supports more than 400,000 more jobs. Today, the Miami Herald reported that repealing the company’s governing authority would raise taxes on families in the area by $2,200 each.
Florida state representative Michael Grieco (D) tweeted: “The FL Legislature cannot unilaterally dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. It’s an exercise in futility… This whole thing is an effort to deflect attention away from the unconstitutional redistricting of Congressional districts and diluting of the black vote.” Grieco was referring to the governor’s redistricting map that heavily favors Republicans and that DeSantis drew himself after vetoing a more reasonable map—although still favoring Republicans—passed by the Florida legislature.
On Monday, federal judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle struck down the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s mask mandate on public transportation, saying the rule exceeded the CDC’s authority. The decision raised ire in part because it was transparently ideologically driven: former president Trump appointed the former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas—she was then 33 years old—to a federal judgeship with just 8 years of experience practicing law, and the Senate confirmed her after Biden was elected. Her husband works at Jared Kushner’s new investment firm, the one bankrolled to the tune of $2 billion by the Saudi crown prince.
But in fact, according to a poll by the Associated Press/NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, a majority of Americans want a mask mandate on public transportation. Fifty-six percent of those polled wanted people to wear masks, while 24% were opposed and 20% didn’t care. A YouGov poll put the number of those in favor at 63% and those opposed at 29%.
The rule was set to expire on May 3 in any case, but today, the Department of Justice appealed the ruling, largely to protect the authority of the CDC to impose similar requirements in the future. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case, is right leaning, and if it decides against the administration, it could weaken the CDC going forward.
Over all hangs the Big Lie that Biden stole the 2020 election from former president Trump. Supporters of the former president continue to hammer on that lie, trying to destabilize belief in our elections. Notably, John Eastman, author of the Eastman memo offering a scheme by which former vice president Mike Pence could overturn the election, is now pushing states to “decertify” Biden’s election. There is no mechanism for such a thing, but it hardly matters; the point is to continue to rile up Trump’s base with the lie that he was cheated.
But news from the January 6 committee is starting to get traction. Yesterday, the editorial board of the Salt Lake City Tribune noted that “[i]t is past time for Mike Lee [R-UT, whose texts trying to overturn the election have just come to light] to start fessing up to all he knows about the plot to set aside the results of an honest and fair election to keep Donald Trump in power.”
And right-wing media personality Alex Jones claims to have offered to talk with the Department of Justice about what he knows of the January 6 insurrection in exchange for immunity, suggesting that he is concerned about his actions surrounding January 6. We learned that the department quietly hired a well-known prosecutor of high-profile cases, Thomas Windom, to work on potential criminal prosecutions.
Democrats, too, are finding their voices for the midterms.
The administration continues to try to call attention to the booming economy, noting that the real GDP in the U.S. exceeds that of the other G-7 countries. Today, news broke that household cash exceeds debt for the first time in 30 years and that new housing starts, a key economic indicator, are rising fast: they are up 9.7% from a year ago.
The Education Department announced it is taking advantage of existing but underused programs to cancel student loan debt for 40,000 people and to offer credits to more than 3.6 million federal student loan borrowers to help them repay their loans. And the administration noted today that the Republican tax plan will increase taxes on 75 million middle-class families by an average of almost $1,500 a year while Biden’s plan will not raise taxes on anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year.
Money is shaping up to be a key issue. In Texas, Beto O’Rourke, who is running to unseat Abbott, is hammering hard on the cost of the governor’s shenanigans, including his recent stunt shutting down trade across the U.S.-Mexico border on the pretext of checking for drugs or undocumented immigrants. The shutdown cost the U.S. nearly $9 billion overall and Texas alone about $477 million a day. “What Abbott has done is literally create chaos on the US-MX border,” O’Rourke said, “whether it's the National Guard deployment, where 4 guard members have taken their lives, this latest stoppage at international ports of entry... or just the rhetoric that has inflamed tensions.”
O’Rourke is also running an ad suggesting that Texas property taxes have gone up $20,000,000,000 under Abbott.
But the most inspiring approach to the midterms came this week from Michigan state senator Mallory McMorrow. In response to a colleague who had called her a “groomer” in a fundraising email after McMorrow stood up against marginalizing the state’s LGBTQ population, McMorrow made a stand against the hatred and bigotry coming from Republican colleagues. Defining herself as “a straight, white, Christian, married suburban mom,” she called out the “performative nonsense” of her so-called Christian colleagues. “People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape… or that healthcare costs are too high, or that teachers are leaving the profession,” she said. “We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people’s lives.”
Recalling historical heroes who tried “to right wrongs and fix the injustice in the world,” she reminded her colleagues that “each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history. [We decide] what happens next, and how WE respond to history and the world around us.”
“We will not let hate win.”