alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

VIDEOS

Watch: Maine Republican stuns debate moderators and opponent with blatantly racist commentary

Incumbent Democrat Chellie Pingree of Maine is facing Republican challenger Jay Allen, for her 1st District seat in a couple of weeks. On Tuesday night, the two faced off in a debate. Many issues were covered in the debate: public health, where Allen blamed nursing homes for not following the "rules" of public health, while also trying to say that mandating mask wearing was not a good public health policy. Rep. Pingree mentioned that wearing a mask was, at the very least, "a benevolent act for everyone else," and wondered aloud why anyone would refuse to wear one anyway. She also explained that the concept of "low risk," during these times is relative and therefore mask wearing is very important for everyone to participate in.

This was the tenor of the First Congressional District Debate. Oh, Jay Allen also wore a tie with an American flag pattern all over it, talked about creating a social security sliding scale that would get rid of some people's social security benefits, and was not able to give an actual replacement solution to getting rid of the Affordable Care Act. Super classy stuff. But this was all overshadowed when race and law enforcement's relationship to race came up.

Allen began by bringing up some tangled sentence about law enforcement personnel having Black friends and other white people have Black friends. Seriously. The point was that we already have laws that say you cannot discriminate against Black people and so there isn't systemic racism. "People in general are not racist." He then blamed issues in the Black community on homes "without fathers." An old, factually incorrect, and racist trope. Then moderators asked about "qualified immunity" laws that give law enforcement blank checks to brutalize citizens with impunity.

Rep. Pingree explained that there are inequities in our society that fall along racial lines and to deny that is a non-starter in trying to fix it. She spoke about the need for programs that helped disadvantaged groups of citizens and her support for a task force that would look into modifying "immunity laws" for police as they frequently become great obstacles in investigations of police malfeasance and accountability.

Allen wanted to jump in to give his two-racist cents and talk about how police are awesome and … that, I guess? He then explained that there are programs for disadvantaged groups already. He must be talking about the ones that Republican politicians in Maine have been attacking and cutting funding from for about a decade. He then went on to give what is arguably the most concise racist logic about law enforcement's use of violence against Black people you will ever read. When asked if what he was basically saying was that Black people are more likely to be shot by police because Allen thinks the Black family unit has eroded, Allen went full-blown bananas cuckoo clock.

JAY ALLEN: No. They [police] are less likely. Because they know that if they shoot a Black person then they will face an inquisition if they shoot that Black person. So they have to be pretty sure that that Black person needs to be shot.

[Gulp]

Everyone took a slight pause there, trying to compute the confusing racist man with the American flag tie. Later on Allen called into question the science behind climate change. Just more of the Grand Old Party's stale greatest hits.


2020 Maine First Congressional District Debate www.youtube.com

news & politics

Epidemiologist delivers brutal epitaph to Trump’s COVID response: ‘Worst case of public health malpractice ever’

A top epidemiologist on Thursday delivered a brutal epitaph to President Donald Trump's handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 220,000 Americans in just eight months.

Appearing on CNN, University of Nebraska Medical Center's College of Public Health dean Dr. Ali Khan pointed to new research from Columbia University claiming that over 100,000 Americans could still be alive today if the United States had enacted stronger measures to control the spread of the virus.

"We always had the tools to get this disease contained," he said. "And if we had used those public health tools — and not just at the national level, but the national, state, and local level — we would have had a marked decline in deaths, anywhere from maybe 10,000 to… 160,000 deaths. So, there's a whole lot of people who are dead in America. That was completely preventable."

He then looked at responses to the disease around the world and said the United States really stood out for being disastrous.

"There's no doubt, this is the worst case of public health malpractice we've ever seen in this nation," he said. "If we had followed the path of South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Rwanda — I mean, I can go all over the world of countries with excellent leadership… using tools that we have that have protected their populations."

Watch the video below.


Doctor delivers brutal epitaph to Trump's COVID response youtu.be

election '20

Lindsey Graham calls for investigation into flood of donations to defeat him

In May 2019, Democrat Jaime Harrison formally launched a U.S. Senate campaign in South Carolina to challenge incumbent Lindsey Graham, a man who is simultaneously one of the most powerful people in government and one of the most despised politicians in the country.

From the start, Harrison has faced an uphill battle in South Carolina. Challenging the head of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee in a state that falls in the deeply red column isn't for the faint of heart. No doubt Lindsey Graham and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell thought his reelection was in the bag and they could focus on other battleground races. But Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell underestimated just how angry the actual silent majority truly is after four years of watching Lindsey Graham act like Donald Trump's lap dog, protecting Trump from criminal investigations and stealing three Supreme Court seats along the way.

In short, Graham and McConnell underestimated YOU and our collective rage.

In the past year, Jaime Harrison received a tsunami of small donations, flooding the Harrison campaign with record-breaking donations that have topped $86 million, forcing Graham to appear almost nightly on Fox News to beg Sean Hannity's audience for money. He even used the Senate Judiciary Committee pulpit during a hearing on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination to complain about all the money, issuing a plea from inside the Senate building (a big no-no) to ask for donations to help him because he was delivering the Barrett nomination to the Senate, despite the public outcry. It was not only pathetic, but it might have run afoul of the law, which "prohibits soliciting or receiving campaign contributions on federal property."

In fact, Graham is so upset at the record donations that came into the South Carolina race that he has indicated he wants an investigation after the election.

In an interview with The Hill, Graham whined, "Where's all this money coming from ActBlue coming from? How easy would it be to just have a bunch of pre-paid credit cards?"

Yes, Lindsey Graham, I suppose it is entirely possible a shadowy, powerful Black Lives Matter foundation with secret billions in the bank loaded up pre-paid 'antifa' cards and made tens of thousands of $37 donations (the average Harrison donation), one at a time, to unseat you.

Why can't Lindsey Graham just accept that not only is he personally deeply unpopular, but so is the Republican agenda? It isn't like we didn't try to tell him. We called his offices. We showed up at town halls. We showed up in Washington, D.C. We even chased him in airports when we he refused to hear us anywhere else. But he will hear us at the ballot box on Nov. 3 and so will his corrupted colleagues. And even if Lindsey Graham survives this challenge, we will be back for the next. You can take that to the bank.

In the meantime, let's keep pissing off Lindsey Graham with our small donations. Our Daily Kos Elections team has compiled a list of 17 state legislative candidates from Arizona, Texas, North Carolina, and Michigan who need the most help as we head down the final stretch. Sure it feels good to donate to Lindsey's demise, but these races are every bit as critical or even more so than South Carolina's because these state legislatures control the boundaries of congressional districts, something Republicans have successfully used to slice and dice our blue districts, gerrymandering our states into Republican-controlled havens that give people like Lindsey Graham undue power over the majority.

Afterward, you can send Lindsey Graham a copy of your donation as evidence for his "investigation" at campaign@lindseygraham.com. Bless his heart.

economy

Billionaire wealth has surged by nearly $1 trillion during 7 months of pandemic and economic collapse

Over just the past seven months—as millions lost their jobs and health insurance, tens of thousands of small businesses shuttered permanently, and more than 200,000 Americans were killed by the coronavirus—U.S. billionaires saw their combined net worth surge by more than $930 billion, bringing the collective wealth of just 644 people to a staggering $3.88 trillion.

That's according to an analysis released Tuesday morning by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), progressive organizations that have been tracking the explosion of billionaire wealth since the start of coronavirus lockdowns in mid-March. (See the groups' compilation of billionaire wealth data here.)

The new analysis shows that the collective wealth of America's billionaires grew by $931 billion—or nearly 33%—between March 18 and October 13, a period that also saw unprecedented job loss, a nationwide surge in hunger, and a sharp increase in housing insecurity.

The groups noted that the jump in billionaire wealth over the past seven months exceeds the size of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) so-called "skinny" Covid-19 relief bill and the estimated two-year budget gaps of all state and local governments, which have been forced to lay off more than a million public-sector workers due to revenue shortfalls caused by the coronavirus crisis.

"Sadly, the Gilded Age is here again," ATF executive director Frank Clemente said in a statement. "We have extraordinary gains in wealth by a small sliver of the population while millions suffer, this time from the ravages of the pandemic, much of which could have been avoided."

"In the short-term we need a robust pandemic relief package that meets the urgency of the moment, not Senator McConnell's skinny bill that offers political cover," Clemente continued. "In the long-term we need major reform that taxes the extraordinary wealth of the billionaires and millionaires and uses that wealth to create an economy that works for all of us."


The new analysis shows that a handful of billionaires "have seen a particularly astonishing increase in wealth" over the past seven months:

  • Jeff Bezos' wealth grew from $113 billion on March 18 to $203 billion on October 13, an increase of 80%. Adding in his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott's wealth of $65.7 billion on that day and the two had a combined wealth of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to their Amazon stock.
  • Mark Zuckerberg's wealth grew from $54.7 billion on March 18 to $101 billion on October 13, an increase of 85%, fueled by his Facebook stock.
  • Elon Musk's wealth grew from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $92.8 billion on October 13, an increase of 277%, boosted by his Tesla stock.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by 656%, to $49.2 billion from $6.5 billion seven months earlier.

"With Mitch McConnell's Senate paralyzed with inaction, U.S. society is kicking into inequality overdrive, with wealth surging up to U.S. billionaires," said Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality. "The juxtaposition between surging billionaire wealth and the imploding livelihoods of ordinary Americans is grotesque and unseemly."

culture

How toxic masculinity became a threat to public health

As if the first two waves of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States weren't enough to inspire serious political changes to stop the coronavirus, health experts have sounded the alarm that a third wave is underway. Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising across the nation, specifically in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Montana, as the seasons change and the election nears.

It's certainly taken a lot of resilience and strength to persevere through this pandemic — particularly given the backdrop of political chaos, uncertainty and immense change in our daily lives. Yet perhaps it is this attitude of "staying strong," and acting stoically — which is rooted in a culture that favors and thrives off toxic masculinity — that has hurt and continues to hurt us the most.

Toxic masculinity, which has become a household phrase over the last few years, is when the archetypal image of masculinity, like displaying strength, becomes harmful to oneself. In 2005, in a study of men in prison, psychiatrist Terry Kupers defined toxic masculinity as "the constellation of socially regressive male traits that serve to foster domination, the devaluation of women, homophobia, and wanton violence." The phrase is used to describe the issues men face or sometimes, wrongfully, justify them. Certainly, in a patriarchal society, toxic masculinity not only defines people but politics — as its mores trickle into our entertainment, discourse and politics.

Notably, the pandemic response is being led by the most psychologically compromised, toxic men in America. As I wrote last weekend, President Donald Trump's insistence on depicting himself as so strong as to be able to "work through" his COVID-19 illness is deeply harmful, and apt to put Americans' lives at risk who mimic his behavior — either by working while sick or hiding symptoms.

Meanwhile, Trump's re-election campaign has tried to frame Trump as a "warrior" — masculine, strong and void of emotion. The administration's individualistic, pick-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric personifies toxic masculinity, and trickles down to Trump's underlings, too. In June, Vice President Mike Pence wrote an op-ed essay in The Wall Street Journal claiming there was no second wave of COVID-19, despite all the evidence to the contrary. "We are winning the fight against the invisible enemy," Pence wrote then, adding "our greatest strength is the resilience of the American people."

Yet as psychologists will warn, there is a dark side to resilience.

"There is no doubt that resilience is a useful and highly adaptive trait, especially in the face of traumatic events," psychologists Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic and Derek Lusk wrote in Harvard Business Review. "However, when taken too far, it may focus individuals on impossible goals and make them unnecessarily tolerant of unpleasant or counterproductive circumstances." In other words, self-sufficiency is not always a show of strength; humans, as social creatures, rely on others for society to function and to remain healthy. Denying that means hurting ourselves, either by delaying care or eschewing guidance that may help us or save others.

I've often wondered how much my so-called "resilience" in all of this is just making me numb and tolerant, in an unhealthy way. When looking at which countries have the pandemic somewhat under control, we look and judge their leaders. It's interesting to do this through a gendered lens. For example, New Zealand has some of the lowest coronavirus numbers in the world under Prime Minister Jacinda Adern's leadership. That's partly because she never advertised grandiose ideas about being above or stronger than the coronavirus. As I've previously written, the strengths—such as empathy and compassion— Ardern has brought throughout her tenure are the very same traits that have been used against women seeking leadership positions in the workplace and in the public sector. When male leaders display traditionally feminine qualities, they can also be maligned as weak — former House Speaker John Boehner, for example, used to shed tears in public; Politico's response was to ask, "Why Does John Boehner Cry So Much?"

It's obvious the Trump administration is terrified of appearing "weak" during the pandemic. But where has that gotten us? Prioritizing the economy over our health. Over 8 million infections, and 218,000 Americans dead. And the politicizing of wearing masks, as though wearing them were a sign of weakness — something Trump mocked his opponent Joe Biden for at their first and so far only debate.

As much as toxic masculinity's social repercussion are harmful to our physical health, it is also taking a toll on our mental health. A study published in JAMA Network Open in September showed that three times as many Americans met criteria for a depression diagnosis during the pandemic compared to before it. According to an analysis of Google Trends, symptoms of anxiety increased too.

Why? In part, it could be a result of having to power through these extraordinarily abnormal times without seeking help — that "bootstraps" mentality innate to toxic masculinity. One's attempts to hold it together can devolve into emotional suppression, which in return can cause more emotional distress. In July 2018, Penn State researchers found that women tried to suppress their fears about the Zika virus reported higher levels of fear later. "It turns out that not only is suppression ineffective at handling fear, but it's counter-productive," one researcher said. "It creates a cycle of fear — and it's a vicious cycle."

As a society, many of us — particularly men — haven't been authorized to express sadness publicly, and these studies reflect that. With over 200,000 Americans dead of coronavirus, their loved ones are grieving. Seven months later, we've yet to have a moment of national reflection to mourn.

As it is with the death of a loved one, grief isn't lessened by ignoring one's uncomfortable emotions. Instead, it requires collective vulnerability, compassion and patience. As author David Kessler told HBR:

Emotions need motion. It's important we acknowledge what we go through. [...] We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn't feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn't help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they'll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we're not victims.

As we try to stay strong through this pandemic, the strength we seek to feel will come from falling apart and allowing ourselves to feel the loss and the chaos—physically and emotionally. By persevering through that, still standing in so much unknown, we can experience real strength. In other words, the non-toxic kind.

science

White House documents expose the truth: Trump lied — and people died

President Donald Trump has known for over a month that new coronavirus infections have been soaring even as the White House has lied about the seriousness of the surge, documents released Tuesday by a leading Democratic lawmaker show.

HuffPost reports Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, published six weekly White House Coronavirus Task Force reports (pdf)—dated August 16, August 23, August 30, September 6, September 13, and September 20—proving the administration has known since early September that Covid-19 infections were rising rapidly.

However, instead of being forthcoming with the American people and the world, Trump opted to hide the reports while spuriously claiming that the virus "affects virtually nobody"— even as it caused record infections and deaths in numerous states in September.

Not only did the administration fail to honestly inform the nation, Trump held several so-called superspreader rallies and other events in September, including in states hit hard by surging Covid-19 infections, such as Minnesota, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.

On October 1, Trump declared that "the end of the pandemic is in sight." The following day, he announced that he and First Lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus.

The reports also show that the White House was fully aware that the number of states in the so-called "red zone"—where new coronavirus cases rose above 100 per 100,000 people and where more than 10% of test results were positive—soared from 18 on September 13 to 31 on October 18.

On October 19, Trump told campaign staffers on a phone call that "people are tired of Covid... People are saying, 'Whatever. Just leave us alone.' They're tired of it. People are tired of hearing Fauci and all these idiots," a reference to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Clyburn released a statement on Tuesday calling the reports proof that "Trump's contempt for science and refusal to lead during this crisis have allowed the coronavirus to surge."

"Contrary to his empty claims that the country is 'rounding the turn,' more states are now in the 'red zone' than ever before," Clyburn said. "It is long past time that the administration implement a national plan to contain this crisis, which is still killing hundreds of Americans each day and could get even worse in the months ahead."

Indeed, according to prominent University of Minnesota epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, "the darkest part of the pandemic [will occur] over the course of the next 12 weeks."

According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 8.2 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and nearly 221,000 deaths in the United States, representing just under 20% of the global death toll of 1.12 million people.

belief

Pat Robertson: 'The Lord told me' Trump will be reelected — and help set off the Apocalypse

Christian fundamentalist evangelical and televangelist Pat Robertson is predicting that President Donald Trump will win reelection and usher in the end of the world.

The 90-year-old Robertson, this week on his long-running show, "The 700 Club," predicted, "I want to say, without question, that Trump is going to win the election…. He's going to win; that, I think is a given."

Robertson went on to say that after Trump wins in November, major wars will follow. Those wars, according to Robertson, will be part of the End Times — and Christians who vote for Trump can help to bring that about.

The far-right evangelical argued, "We've never seen the likes of it before, but I want to relate to you again: there is going to be a war. Ezekiel 38 is going to be the next thing down the line. Then, a time of peace and then, maybe the end. But nobody knows the day or the hour when the Lord is going to come back. He said the angels don't know it, and only the Father knows it."

Trump's reelection, according to Robertson, will be part of a series of events in which Jesus Christ returns to Earth.

"I am saying that if things that people thought would be during the millennial time with the coming of Jesus, they are going to happen in our lifetime," Robertson told viewers. "And the next thing is the election that's coming up in just a few weeks — at which time, according to what I believe the Lord told me, the president is going to be reelected."

Robertson continued, "I'm saying by all means, get out and vote. Vote for whoever you want to vote for, but let your voice be heard. But it's going to lead to civil unrest and then, a war against Israel and so forth…. I think it's time to pray. But anyway, that is the word. You ask what's going to happen next, and that's what's going to happen next."

One of the most prominent figures in the far-right evangelical movement, Robertson founded the Christian Broadcasting Network in the early 1960s and launched "The 700 Club" in 1966. Robertson, the son of the late Democratic Sen. Absalom Willis Robertson, ran for president in 1988 but lost to Vice President George H.W. Bush in that year's GOP presidential primary.

Robertson has a long history of predicting the Apocalypse, going back to at least the 1970s. In 1976, Robertson predicted that the Apocalypse would occur in 1982 — and when that didn't happen, Robertson predicted, in 1990, that 2017 would be the year of the Apocalypse. But since the End Times didn't come about in 2017, Robertson now has high hopes that a second Trump term will mean the end of the world.

human rights

Pope Francis says same-sex couples should be ‘legally’ protected by civil unions

Pope Francis is calling for same-sex couples to be "legally" protected by civil union laws.

"Homosexuals have a right to be a part of the family," the Pope says in a new documentary, Catholic News Agency reports. "They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it."

Later, Pope Francis defended his remarks in the film, saying, "What we have to create is a civil union law. That way they are legally covered."

"I stood up for that," he added.

The Pope said nothing about the morality of same-sex relationships, which the Catholic Church still vehemently opposes.

The Vatican leader's remarks, while a step forward, show the Roman Catholic Church continues to treat LGBTQ people unequally.

Some are calling the Pope's remarks a "major shift," and a "long overdue moment." Others have noted to Catholics in countries where same-sex relationships or marriages are banned it is a welcome sign.

Pope Francis continues to oppose marriage for same-sex couples. He has a lengthy record of vacillating between making compassionate statements about same-sex couples and gay people, while denouncing in the strongest possible terms affording them the same rights and responsibilities as those in different-sex marriages.

In 2014, for example, Pope Francis called same-sex marriage "anthropological regression."

One year later he said same-sex marriage threatened to "disfigure God's plan." He later called marriages of same-sex couples "disfigured." Also in 2015 he announced support for constitutional bans on marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

The following year Francis said the Catholic Church and Christians "must ask forgiveness" and "apologize" to gay people. In 2018 the Pope reportedly told a gay man, "God made you like this. God loves you like this. The Pope loves you like this and you should love yourself and not worry about what people say."

more news

Read: Graphic handwritten letter from Maryland man who threatened to kidnap and ‘execute’ Biden and Harris

James Dale Reed is under arrest after leaving a handwritten and graphic note at a Fredrick, Maryland home that threatens to kidnap and kill Democratic presidential and vice presidential nominees Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The house has Biden/Harris signs on its lawn.

The suspect's image was caught by a video doorbell camera.

"This is a warning to anyone reading this letter if you are a Biden/Harris supporter you will be targeted," the letter states, according to WUSA9 News.

The threats in the letter (image below) are graphic.

(Trigger warning:)

"When We capture Grandpa Biden We will all severely beat him to the point of death as for Mrs. Harris she will be bent over and Anally raped by my rifle barrel," it reads.

It also threatens Biden and Harris "both will be executed on National Television [sic]."

"We have a list of homes and addresses by your election signs," the letter claims.

"We are the ones with the scary guns, we are the ones your children have nightmares about."

"We will not let Biden/Harris turn are [sic] country into a Communist wasteland," it also says.

"If Biden/Harris Want A War [sic] then they will get one, of course that means Black lives matter and Antifa."

Brad Bell, Maryland Bureau Chief for ABC 7 News, posted a photo of Reed and an image of the letter:


Democrats are missing a big chance to increase turnout and take down the Trump machine

The anxiety over changes and irregularities with the United States Postal Service (USPS) in August finally spilled over. A functioning postal service undergirds many of our society’s most basic functions, so there was no shortage of reasons to be alarmed. However, one concern—the threat to November’s election—overwhelmingly rose to the top. And the public outcry over that threat pushed a normally lethargic House majority into action, winning some mild but incomplete reversals from USPS.

Keep reading... Show less

'Disturbingly Kafkaesque': Judge slams Betsy DeVos for denying 94% of student debt forgiveness claims

Arguing that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had undermined the agreement, a federal judge on Tuesday denied approval for a class action settlement over the Trump administration's handling of a student debt forgiveness program.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said DeVos had subverted the agreement by rejecting tens of thousands of applications from defrauded students without adequate explanation, Politico first reported.

Alsup, a Bill Clinton appointee, threatened to block DeVos from denying any additional applications, calling the denial notices "potentially unlawful" and the process faced by borrowers "disturbingly Kafkaesque."

The May settlement required DeVos to speed up the processing of about 160,000 backlogged applications, some of which had been pending for years. DeVos has thus far denied 94% of applications, approving just 4,400 claims while denying 74,000 others, according to Alsup. The department told borrowers they could appeal the decision but did not say why it had denied the applications, the judge said.

"All may not be entitled to relief, but all are entitled to a comprehensible answer," Alsup wrote. "For 18 months, the secretary refused, largely on the grounds that such answers required backbreaking effort and, thus, substantial time. Now, the secretary has begun issuing decisions at breakneck speed. But most are a perfunctory 'insufficient evidence' — without explanation."

Alsup also said he would consider requiring DeVos to be deposed in a probe of the administration's handling of the claims and authorized depositions for up to five Education Department officials.

The judge granted preliminary approval for the settlement in May, requiring the department to process the backlogged claims within 18 months. As the department began processing the applications, hundreds of students objected to the settlement. About 650 people attended a virtual hearing to raise concerns about the settlement earlier this month.

"Students came together to speak up for themselves and show the court the massive scope of the trauma they have endured at the hands of the Department of Education, and the courts are listening," Eileen Connor, the legal director at Harvard Law School's Project on Predatory Student Lending, which represents the students, told Politico. "We look forward to the next stage of litigation in which we depose Department of Education officials to explain their actions under oath."

Alsup noted in his ruling that the Obama administration had approved more than 99% of "borrower defense" claims, which allow students to seek debt relief if they were defrauded by for-profit colleges. Under DeVos, the department has rejected 89.9% of applications.

The Department of Education said it is "studying the ruling."

"It's important to understand that no claim is 'denied.' Many are simply ineligible, because the claimant wasn't enrolled in an eligible program at an eligible date," department spokeswoman Angela Morabito told The Hill. "Others claims don't demonstrate financial harm. Just because a claim was filed does not make it valid and eligible for taxpayer-funded relief. The department is following the publicly available process for resolving claims as quickly as possible, so those students who are eligible and were harmed get the relief they deserve."

DeVos revised rules related to the borrower defense program in 2019, prompting some Republicans to join Democrats to pass a bill blocking the policy.

"These for-profit colleges are the coronavirus of higher education," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said at the time, adding that DeVos' rules made it "extremely difficult, if not impossible, for students to find relief."

But President Donald Trump vetoed the bill and allowed DeVos to implement the new rules in July.

Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., the lead sponsor of the bill, said Trump's veto "sent a message to the American people that he cares more about enriching predatory schools than protecting defrauded students and veterans."

DeVos has repeatedly run afoul of the courts in the borrower defense litigation. Last year, a judge held the education secretary in contempt for violating a court order by trying to collect debt payments from thousands of students defrauded by for-profit colleges.

"At best, it is gross negligence," U.S. Magistrate Jude Sallie Kim said at the time. "At worst, it's an intentional flouting of my order."

Arne Duncan, who served as the secretary of education under former President Barack Obama, said DeVos "consistently chooses the powerful over the vulnerable."

"Luckily, she is not very good at it," he added, "and very consistently loses in court."

Rudy Giuliani tricked by Sasha Baron Cohen into having ‘indiscreet encounter’ with young actress

Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was reportedly tricked by comedian Sasha Baron Cohen into having an "indiscreet encounter" with a young actress who was playing as a far-right journalist in his new "Borat" movie.

The Guardian, which has seen footage from Cohen's upcoming movie, reports that "the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of the actor playing Borat's daughter."

The actress in question, 24-year-old Bulgarian native Maria Bakalova, posted as a right-wing journalist interested in interviewing Giuliani to ask him about his work for President Donald Trump.

According to The Guardian, Bakalova after the interview asks Giuliani to come to her hotel room for a drink.

Little does the New York mayor know, however, that Bakalova's room has been rigged with cameras — and as soon as Giuliani starts apparently playing with himself, Cohen's character bursts into the room and tells him that she's only 15 years old and thus "too old for you."

Why Donald Trump Jr. could crush Republican senators — and take over the GOP from his father

When Donald Trump first announced, in 2015, that he was seeking the Republican presidential nomination, no one in the GOP gave much thought to his son, Donald Trump, Jr. But the younger Trump has since become a prominent figure in the Trumpian version of the Republican Party. Journalist David Smith discusses the rise of Trump, Jr. in an article published in The Guardian this week, explaining why he has become so popular with a certain type of Republican voter — even though some conservatives view him as a glaring example of the GOP's intellectual decline.

Combative, snarky, belligerent and mean-spirited, Trump, Jr. has a lot more in common with his father than he does with his sister, White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump — who fancies herself as more of a conservative intellectual even though her critics view her as low-information. Ivanka Trump at least pretends to have a thoughtful tone when she is giving a speech or writing a Twitter post, whereas Trump, Jr. openly disdains intellectuals. And even though Trump, Jr. is a millionaire, MAGA voters with a fraction of his income adore his anti-elitist schtick.

"When Don Jr. and his father bash Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and (former Vice President Joe) Biden at campaign rallies, they generate louder reactions from the crowd than when they set out agenda items or achievements," Smith explains. "Don Jr.'s Twitter feed offers his 5.8 million followers little by way of policy but a torrent of Democrat-baiting and conspiracy theories."

Trump, Jr., Smith stresses, is "adept at throwing red meat to" his father's MAGA base, and Trumpians eat it up when he is giving a speech at a rally.

But Trump, Jr., now 42, has his share of critics on the right, including conservative activist/author Rick Wilson — a former Republican Party strategist who is supporting former Vice President Joe Biden in this year's presidential election and was a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a right-wing anti-Trump group. Interviewed by The Guardian, Wilson slammed Trump, Jr. as a perfect example of the modern-day GOP's intellectual bankruptcy but stressed that he knows how to rally his father's base because he "speaks fluent MAGA."

The 56-year-old Wilson explained, "Trumpism replaced conservatism as the ideological underpinning of the Republican Party, and because of that, they don't really fight about issues anymore. They fight about effect and whether or not they're winning these ephemeral social media battles — and in that world, the highest order goal is the 'owning of the libs.' It is a throwaway phrase substituting the validity or strength of an argument with a sort of self-satisfaction that you have been transgressive in some way towards liberals or progressives."

The Never Trumper continued, "Donald Trump, Jr. is a master of that. He is a post-Republican Republican. He is there only to engage in that performative dickery that is lib-owning in the Trump world. It is a political performance art to show your contempt for norms, institutions and education."

But even though Wilson has a very low opinion of the president's son, he predicts that Trump, Jr. will run for president in 2024 and believes that the GOP has sunk low enough to give him the nomination.

Wilson told The Guardian, "What I tell all these Republicans who think they're going to run in '24 for president — Ben Sasse and Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz — is they're not going anywhere. They should stop right now. They're wasting their time and everyone else's, because the nominee in 2024 is going to be Donald Trump, Jr. He will come in, he will have his father's endorsement, and he will promise great feats of lib ownership."

‘A relativist dressed in originalist drag’: Catholic paper urges Senate to ‘reject’ Barrett in scathing op-ed

Republican supporters of Judge Amy Coney Barrett have been citing her Catholicism as one of the reasons why the U.S. Senate should confirm her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible. But Barrett is by no means universally loved among Catholics. And the National Catholic Reporter has slammed Barrett this week in a blistering staff editorial, asking the U.S. Senate to "reject" her nomination.

In the editorial, the Reporter's editorial board argues, "We believed it was wrong for the Senate to consider this nomination in the first place given the precedent set four years ago when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February (2016), nine months before the election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to even hold hearings on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland, saying repeatedly that the American people should have a say in the matter. This year, when the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created a vacancy less than nine weeks before Election Day, McConnell has seen fit to ram through the nomination."

The editorial complains that "hypocrisy is rank" with the nomination and that it is impossible to see how "rushing this nomination will be good for our democracy."

Although the National Catholic Reporter says that Barrett isn't responsible for McConnell's actions, she has let herself be used as a "vehicle for his agenda and that of President Donald Trump."

The Reporter stresses, "She could have phoned the White House and asked not to be considered for the nomination. Barrett is only 48 years old, and there will be other vacancies."

The publication also takes Barrett to task for being so evasive when answering questions from Sen. Amy Klobuchar and others during her confirmation hearings.

"It is her bad faith in discussing the law that warrants disqualifying her," the editorial stresses. "About the evils of climate change, access to health care and voter intimidation, Americans deserve better than a relativist dressed in originalist drag."

House GOP vows to investigate Biden for campaigning on Amtrak

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden earlier this month took an Amtrak train ride to campaign in key Rust Belt states — and Republicans are vowing to get to the bottom of it.

Republican members of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure on Wednesday sent a letter to Amtrak CEO William Flynn asking him for information on Biden's train trips, which they implied without evidence caused delays in the delivery of needed medical equipment during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"We are concerned that the Biden campaign's use of Amtrak's charter train redirected Amtrak's scarce resources during a time of record losses, employee layoffs, and service cuts during the COVID-19 pandemic," the Republicans wrote. "We question whether the Biden campaign's use of Amtrak caused delays of freight trains at a time when supplies are crucial."

The Republicans then requested that Flynn provide the total cost to Amtrak of hosting the Biden campaign, and also "whether the Biden campaign's charter train delayed any Amtrak trains or disrupted any Amtrak services."

The GOP lawmakers also requested "a written response on how the Biden campaign charter train remained in compliance with Amtrak guidance and procedures on COVID-19."

Read the whole letter here (PDF).

McConnell admits he's blocking COVID relief — while the media blames Pelosi

For months, Congress has failed to pass a coronavirus relief bill, despite the widespread economic devastation and the fact that, under Donald Trump's malicious mismanagement, the pandemic has spiraled out of control, infecting 8.25 million people and killing more than 220,000, as of Wednesday morning.

The mainstream media has firmly decided who they blame for the lack of a bill: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats who control the lower house of Congress. Blaming Democrats has been the dominant press narrative, even though it's been obvious from the get-go that Republicans don't want more relief legislation.

Now we have concrete proof that Republicans are to blame: Late Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell "has warned the White House not to strike an agreement," on the grounds that any new deal struck with Pelosi and the Democrats and "could disrupt the Senate's plans to confirm Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court next week."

To anyone unburdened by the delusion that "balance" is a more important journalistic principle than truth, it was always obvious that Republicans were the reason no coronavirus bill was getting passed. For one thing, House Democrats already passed a robust relief bill in May, which Senate Republicans have basically ignored while avoiding any substantive efforts at negotiating a bill that can pass both houses. For another thing, there are obvious ideological differences between Democrats, where even the party's "moderate" wing supports increased social spending, and Republicans, whose only real goal is moving as much wealth as possible from the hands of working people to the rich.

Even setting common sense aside, there's plenty of concrete evidence that McConnell had no intention of passing a bill to stimulate the economy and control the pandemic. When he was asked in July if such a bill was going to pass, he laughed contemptuously. Facing down an August deadline when unemployment benefits from previous coronavirus relief legislation were set to expire, McConnell chose to adjourn the Senate instead of working on a replacement bill. When Trump started getting sweaty and worried this month, believing he needed such a bill to have a chance at re-election, McConnell torpedoed the idea yet again.

McConnell's behavior is not mysterious. For one thing, he's an ideologue who actively opposes any government spending that might reduce the vast wealth inequalities that plague our nation. Indeed, McConnell's main goal these days is installing Barrett on the Supreme Court — where she will arguably be the most reliably right-wing vote, or second only to Justice Clarence Thomas — in time for her to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Moreover, Trump's erratic behavior — angrily rejecting a bill and then desperately tweeting his longing for one hours later — strongly suggests that the president is torn between his hopes that such a bill can save his fading hopes of re-election and pressure from Republican senators not to pass one.

Nor does McConnell seem worried about the electoral consequences to Republicans of a collapsing economy. For one thing, he likely thinks that Trump will lose in November, and that he can do nothing to save the president from his downward spiral. So he's setting up a potential Joe Biden presidency to fail by refusing economic relief now. For another thing, McConnell's multi-year strategy of capturing the courts, voter suppression and gerrymandering is paying off. He has good reason to believe that Republican control of government will not be seriously imperiled by democratic accountability, even if Democrats win both the Senate and the White House this time around.

Despite all this, mainstream media has been desperate to blame the Democrats for a lack of a bill. As Media Matters has documented, CNN's coverage has been tilted for months toward suggestions that Democrats are the ones blocking new relief legislation. Shows like "Meet the Press" on NBC and "This Week" on ABC have uncritically advanced the narrative that Democrats are deliberately tanking the relief bill to damage Trump, even though Democrats are the ones who are actively negotiating with the White House while Senate Republicans twiddle their thumbs.

Things came to a head last week when Pelosi lashed out at CNN's Wolf Blitzer after Blitzer said that Americans were "waiting in food lines" and proceeded to blame Pelosi, rather than Republicans, for the lack of a bill.

Pelosi responded by saying, "I don't know if you're always an apologist — and many of your colleagues — for the Republican position" and followed up by telling Blitzer, "You really don't know what you're talking about."

That response set off a predictable round of sexist finger-wagging for Pelosi's supposedly out-of-control behavior — the male-dominated media really hates it when women talk back — but whoops, it turns out she was right. Blitzer was carrying water for sleazy Republicans who want to do nothing, while pretending the entire situation is Democrats' fault. McConnell is eagerly monkey-wrenching any effort to pass a new bill, and doing so while actively trying to seat a Supreme Court justice he hopes will destroy the Affordable Care Act, further plunging the American economy into chaos and causing the pandemic to get even worse.

Why on earth is the media so devoted to blaming Democrats, when Republicans are clearly the problem here? Part of it, as the response to the Blitzer/Pelosi exchange shows, is sexism. Pelosi is the lone female leader in Capitol Hill, and despite some #MeToo purges, there are still a lot of sexist men in control of the media and eager to find excuses to pin the blame for any and all problems on women.

But mostly, the issue is the plain old "both sides" fallacy, the one that leads reporters to believe that in the interest of "balance" they must pretend that Democrats are just as bad as Republicans, even if the facts show the opposite.

Over the past year, Republicans have been especially repulsive, covering for Trump's crimes that led to his impeachment and making excuses for his refusal to deal with a pandemic that's laying waste to the country. Far too many journalists are bending over backward to find some terrible thing they can say about Democrats in the name of "balance," and they've landed on these empty accusations about a stimulus bill.

Moreover, deliberately destroying the economy in order to undermine a sitting president of the opposition party is the sort of thing Republicans would do — and indeed have done. Under the false but stalwart media belief that "both sides" are equally bad, therefore, the assumption has reigned that Democrats are doing the same that, even though there's no real evidence for that. On the contrary, it's much likelier story that McConnell knows Biden is likely to be president soon, so he's pre-emptively undermining the economy to damage his administration in advance.

The reveal that it was Republicans who were the bad guys all along is unlikely to change the media's insistence on covering national politics through a "both sides" lens. The fear of getting angry tweets from conservatives about "bias" will apparently never stop mattering more than the actual truth. But it's just possible this report will make it a little harder for the Wolf Blitzers of the world to wax sentimental about the millions of Americans thrust into poverty while pretending that this is somehow Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats' fault.

Democrats called on to impeach Bill Barr — immediately

In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Tuesday, more than 40 progressive groups urged the House Democrats to initiate impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Bill Barr—not only to hold his accountable for numerous wrongdoings while in office, but also as a procedural tactic to keep the Senate from confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The groups, including United We Dream Action, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Sunrise Movement, listed multiple offenses by the attorney general which would warrant impeachment proceedings, including:

  • Misleading Congress regarding the Mueller investigation
  • Supporting—and reportedly personally ordering—the use of federal troops against protestors in support of racial justice
  • Prohibiting the referral of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint to Congress
  • Failing to comply with subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives

Beyond holding Barr to account, as a team of legal experts also demanded the Democrats do in a report last week, beginning impeachment proceedings before this Friday, Oct. 23, would throw a wrench into Senate Republicans' plans to confirm Coney Barrett ahead of Election Day as well as their intent to use the court system to President Donald Trump's benefit.

"The administration's successful efforts to delay to 2021 court proceedings that would vindicate Congress's rights and to stack the courts with unqualified Trump judges—and Trump justices—means that the window for your actions to matter is rapidly closing," wrote the groups. "In a lawless administration whose only principle is helping the president's friends and hurting his enemies, and in the face of widespread efforts by the administration to prevent the peaceful transition of power, the final line of accountability lies with you."

The letter was drafted amid widespread frustration from progressives regarding the Senate Democrats' handling of Coney Barrett's confirmation hearings last week.

Democrats, particularly Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee—"lent legitimacy to an illegitimate process," according to Adam Jentleson, public affairs director for Democracy Forward.

Jentleson on Wednesday blamed the Democrats for new Morning Consult poll results showing that support for the right-wing judge's confirmation has risen by 18 points among Democratic voters.

As the hearings adjourned last week, Feinstein praised committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for his "leadership" during the proceedings. She also refused to join her more progressive colleagues in calling for the expansion of the Supreme Court and offered Coney Barrett a passive "nonsense line of questioning" regarding her views on Roe vs. Wade and other issues, according to Demand Justice executive director Brian Fallon.

Now that the hearings are over, the groups wrote Tuesday, House Democrats must use every procedural tool available to them to delay a vote on Coney Barrett.

If the Democrats initiate the impeachment process before Friday, the Senate will either be obligated to hold a trial or change the Senate rules to amend how the chamber responds to articles of impeachment, the groups explained.

"Either outcome is desirable," the groups wrote, explaining that if McConnell changes the rules, it "would lay the groundwork for future reform of Senate procedure and the rebalancing and depoliticization of the Federal Judiciary. The House of Representatives needs a Senate that is capable of acting on the legislation it reports, and only reform of how the Senate operates can make that possible."

"The best time for the House of Representatives to consider an impeachment of Attorney General Barr was months ago," the organizations continued. "The second-best time is right now. If you wait, it may be too late for the House, for the Senate, for the Supreme Court, and for our democracy. Time is running out."

Former CIA official reveals the 'weird' reason intel officers are 'terrified' to brief Trump on Russia

U.S. intelligence officers responsible for briefing President Donald Trump on the country's potential threats are reportedly "terrified" to brief him on anything Russian-related due to concerns about his possibly explosive reaction.

During an interview with GQ magazine, former CIA official Marc Polymeropoulos weighed in on Trump's perplexing affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin to like him. At this point, Polymeropoulos insists no one is willing to brief the president on anything involving Russia.

"No one's going to brief anything on Russia to the president," Polymeropoulos told GQ correspondent Julia Ioffe. "They're terrified of doing that. I know that from the briefers. Because he'll explode and the whole thing will get derailed, because he has this weird affinity for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."

When Polymeropoulos was asked why the subject of Putin and Russia are such delicate issues in the White House, insisted Trump "wants Putin to like him."

According to Polymeropoulos, the issue is sensitive for Trump because: "He doesn't want to be embarrassed in front of Putin, that's part of the dilemma. Polymeropoulos went on to recall how Trump interacted with the Queen as he noted that the president insists on being connected to people who have "glamour and cachet."

"Just look at how he behaves with the Queen. That's how he behaves with everyone who has any glamour and cachet," Polymeropoulos continued, adding, "Putin has everything he doesn't have."

The latest news comes as intelligence reports warn of the possibility of Russian election interference as election day fast approaches. In 2016, the former Soviet republic was accused of running disinformation campaigns in an effort to sway the election in Trump's favor. Now, reports suggest Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani may be Russia's new target to help circulate disinformation campaigns on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in a manner similar to the attacks on former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election.

Trump has repeatedly refused to address situations involving Putin.

The GOP is shrinking — and Democrats have a chance to create a real democracy: professor

If President Donald Trump loses to former Vice President Joe Biden on November 3 — assuming he doesn't manage to pull off a narrow Electoral College victory — we'll be forced to ask: "Where do the Republican Party and the conservative movement go from here?"

As part of a beginning to the answer for that question, Corey Robin, a political science professor at Brooklyn College, analyzes the state of American conservatism in an article for the New York Review of Books and lays out some ways in which it has evolved in recent decades.

"In its heyday, American conservatism was called a 'three-legged stool,'" Robin explains. "One leg was economic and libertarian, appealing to business-minded voters with a platform of tax cuts, deregulation and gutting the welfare state. The second leg was statist and anti-communist, rallying militarists eager to fight and win the Cold War. The third leg was cultural and traditionalist, speaking to voters who were anxious about religion, sex and race — and who hoped to roll back the reforms of the Warren Court and the '60s."

The different "legs" of conservatism that Robin refers to were evident during the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan oversaw a fragile coalition that ranged form libertarians to neocons to Christian fundamentalist evangelicals — a movement that Sen. Barry Goldwater was openly contemptuous of when he railed against the Moral Majority's Rev. Jerry Falwell, Sr. and the Christian Broadcasting Network's Pat Robertson. But for all their infighting, conservatives dominated the political conversation during the 1980s. And Robin recalls that "liberals and Democrats were forced to accept, as a condition of governance, many of the premises of Republican rule, much as [President Dwight D.] Eisenhower and [President Richard] Nixon had once had to accommodate parts of the New Deal."

Ahead of this year's presidential election, Robin notes, the "three-legged stool of conservatism looks vastly different" from what it was in the past.

"Conservatism is no longer a movement in ascendancy," Robin argues. "Nor is it much of a party in power: even when it controlled all the elected branches of government, from 2016 to 2018, the GOP wasn't able to push many parts of its agenda through Congress. The tax cuts were the notable exception. Conservatism has ceased to be a political project capable of creating hegemony through majoritarian means."

During the 1980s, liberals often felt dispirited because Democrats didn't win a single presidential election during that decade. But post-1980s, Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections — and as Robin explains in his article, the GOP has become a shrinking party.

"To judge by its vote-getting and vote-suppressing efforts in 2020, the GOP has little hope for or interest in securing a mandate from the majority, of creating or maintaining a common sense of the whole," Robin writes. "It seeks instead to cobble together enough electoral votes out of states representing a minority of the electorate — often rural, older and white."

If Republicans lose both the White House and the U.S. Senate in November, Robin explains, their best line of defense will be the federal judiciary.

"Though much attention has been focused on the Supreme Court, the GOP's impact has been especially acute at the lower levels of the judiciary," Robin writes. "Trump has appointed more appellate judges than any other president in the first three years and almost as many as Barack Obama appointed over the entirety of his two terms…. Trump's judges are rich, white and built to last."

Robin wraps up his article by stressing that the GOP will become increasingly reliant on the federal judiciary and "gonzo constitutionalism" if there is a major blue wave in November.

"If the Democrats win the White House and the Senate in November — and if they hope to implement the merest plank of their platform — it will be they, and not the Republicans, who will have to engage in a major project of norm erosion," Robin argues. "It will be they who will have to abolish the filibuster. It will be they who will have to pack the Supreme Court or limit the courts' jurisdiction…. Should the Democrats take any of these measures — whether to secure the voting rights of African-Americans, reduce economic inequality, or address climate change — we will see that norm erosion is not how democracies die, but how they are born."

Here are 5 ways the 2020 election could be upended

by W. Joseph Campbell, American University School of Communication

The storyline of the presidential campaign seems to be solidifying, as polls show Joe Biden maintaining a sizable lead over President Donald J. Trump.

But the lead may not be insurmountable, and the election is not over.

The history of polling in modern elections suggests that the endgame could yet be altered by a number of disruptive scenarios.

None of the following narrative-altering scenarios can be considered a certainty. But only one is rather far-fetched. All are informed by the content of my latest book, “Lost in a Gallup: Polling Failure in U.S. Presidential Elections."

Here are descriptions of five prospective scenarios, in order of possibility. In a bow to even-handedness, a reality check is appended to each of them.

1. A powerful late October surprise disrupts the campaign trajectory

Jarring, out-of-the-blue developments have happened often enough in presidential election campaigns as to be almost expected. Remember James Comey's announcement 11 days before the 2016 election that the FBI had reopened its investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails? It may have shifted enough votes in battleground states to elect Trump.

To alter the trajectory in 2020, the October surprise probably would have to be akin to a very public meltdown by Joe Biden – a “lying, dog-faced pony soldier" moment on steroids – that would clearly signal he's not up to the job. While Biden's gaffes, exaggerations and garbled comments have been on frequent display during the 2020 campaign, they haven't been concentrated or dramatic enough to puncture his advantage in preelection polls.

Why it won't happen: Presidential elections may be growing immune to late October surprises, given the popularity of early voting and the advent of extensive mail-in balloting. As such, millions of Americans will have cast ballots for president well before Election Day – tempering the impact of any late October surprise.

2. Significant polling errors occur in key states, enough for Trump to win an electoral vote majority

In states such as Wisconsin and Michigan, which were crucial to the outcome in 2016, preelection polls pointed to a clear lead for Hillary Clinton – an advantage that evaporated when votes were counted. Clinton's polling advantage in Wisconsin, for example, was 6.5 percentage points at campaign's end; Trump carried the state by less than a point. Such errors are not entirely out of the question in 2020.

Why it won't happen: This scenario essentially is a 2016 replay. If the history of election polling tells us anything, it is not to expect elections, or polling failures, to replicate themselves. Not only that, but considerably more scrutiny is being devoted to polling in battleground states in 2020 than four years ago. Such attention may render this scenario unlikely.

3. The 1996 scenario materializes

This is a nuanced scenario that recalls Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection, when he defeated Republican Bob Dole by 8.5 percentage points – a comfortable margin but not the blowout many polls and pollsters had anticipated. At the end of October 1996, veteran California pollster Mervin Field declared Clinton was “heading for as big a win" as Ronald Reagan's 18-point landslide in 1984, when he carried 49 states.

The polls in 1996 didn't miss on the winner, but some were well off the final margin. For example, the end-of-campaign CBS News survey estimated Clinton's lead at 18 points, nearly a 10-point miss.

Why it won't happen: Polling failure in presidential elections is rarely duplicated. A rerun of the 1996 scenario depends on Biden holding a double-digit polling lead in the campaign's final stages – a time when presidential races tend to tighten. Biden's aggregate lead in national polls, as compiled by the RealClearPolitics website, stood at 8.6 percentage points two weeks before Election Day.

4. 'Shy Trump' voters emerge en masse, decisively so in battleground states

This theory maintains that because they want to avoid disapproval, some Trump supporters conceal their preferences from pollsters and others. They are reluctant to acknowledge support for such a divisive character.

Because they are guarded about their intentions, these undercover supporters skew polling data because they supposedly are so hard to find, or fail to answer candidly when they are interviewed. By turning out in great numbers, the theory goes, “Shy Trump" voters could tip the electoral vote to the president.

Why it won't happen: Such voters probably do not exist in numbers large enough to alter a national election. Assessments by pollsters and polling organizations have suggested as much. Besides, Trump's outdoor rallies indicate that his supporters aren't exactly reserved about expressing political preferences.

5. An epic polling collapse, akin to that of 1948, takes place

The famous “Dewey defeats Truman" election signaled a stunning and never-since-duplicated breakdown of national election polling. George Gallup and other pollsters confidently predicted President Harry Truman's loss to Republican Thomas E. Dewey – and their polling set expectations for the country's press and pundits. Truman won by 4.5 percentage points in the greatest polling embarrassment in U.S. presidential history.

Why it won't happen: Polling since 1948 has become more sophisticated in techniques and more numerous in practitioners. It is almost inconceivable that contemporary election pollsters will be profoundly and uniformly wrong in 2020. While 1948 does offer an intriguing prospective precedent, this is a most improbable scenario.

[Get our most insightful politics and election stories. Sign up for The Conversation's Politics Weekly.]The Conversation

W. Joseph Campbell, Professor of Communication Studies, American University School of Communication

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Progressives unite for last-ditch effort to delay Amy Coney Barrett vote — by impeaching Bill Barr

Progressive activists are urging House Democrats to essentially kill two birds with one stone by impeaching Attorney General Bill Barr — which would delay the confirmation vote for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

"Attorney General Barr has acted to subvert the laws that he, as our nation's chief federal law enforcement official, is duty-bound to uphold," more than 20 progressive groups signed in a joint letter.

"Attorney General Barr has made a career out of undermining our democracy and it is pellucidly clear that he has been ramping up efforts to undermine the upcoming elections and invalidate the votes of millions of Americans," the groups wrote.

The groups explained that the Democrats in the House of Representatives have power that Senate Democrats lack — they can delay the confirmation of Judge Barrett's nomination to the Supreme Court by impeaching Barr, as it would force action by the Senate and scuttle the current calendar being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) according to Senate rules.


"Should you impeach Attorney General Barr prior to October 23rd, the Senate would be required to take one of two actions. On one hand, the Senate would be obligated to hold a trial, which would occupy a day or more of floor time and delay the hasty and irregular consideration of Amy Coney Barrett as a Supreme Court associate justice," the groups explained. "In the alternative, Senate Republican leadership would be forced to go 'nuclear' by changing the rules that govern how that chamber responds to receiving articles of impeachment from the House of Representatives."

"Either outcome is desirable," the groups concluded.

Demand Progress, Our Revolution and the Sunrise Movement were among the progressives organizations that signed on to the strategy.





BRAND NEW STORIES