Christopher Reeves

Trump campaign attacks Biden for going to church and his son's grave

Over the last week, one of the biggest stories in the country has focused on President Donald J. Trump’s demeaning of veterans. With multiple confirmations, CNN, Fox News, and NBC News, along with the originator of the story, the Atlantic, confirmed that Trump had made just those references during a trip to Paris, France during 2018.

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White House adviser Dan Scavino shares faked Biden video

White House director of social media and assistant to the president Dan Scavino Jr. sure loves his iPhone. You can see how much he loves it in the photo above, showing it to all of his friends with those cool tools. With Rep. Steve Scalise in trouble for sharing a faked video of activist Ady Barkan, you’d think that the White House would try to avoid the completely faked video market right now. Well, Scavino is aiming to prove that theory wrong.

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Watch: Joe Biden mocks Fox News reporter to his face during morning bike ride

Yesterday morning, on a bike ride—one of those physical activities I have yet to see the world’s healthiest orange president do—Joe Biden was asked a question by Fox News’ Peter Doocy: “Mr. Vice President, have you picked a running mate yet?” Biden, in response, answered “Yeah, I have.” Doocy, believing he had a scoop, asked: “You have? Who is it?” Biden responded: “It’s you,” and continued to ride away.

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Kansas's three-party system died this week as moderate Republicans faced devastating losses

For more than a decade, the state of Kansas has operated under a unique system. There were, effectively, three parties. The Democratic Party, The Republican Party (Conservative), and the Moderate Republican party. Moderate Republicans worked to form their own organizations geared at “taking back their own party”, and frequently advised Democratic registered voters to “switch registration before primary day” in order to avoid crazy conservatives winning seats. The pitch was simple: if more moderate Republicans would win seats, they could take back their party and elect leadership that was less conservative. The reality, however, was that moderate Republicans found themselves feeling as though they had been sent to outer Siberia once they appeared in the state house, as the conservative majority boxed them out.

Six Moderate Kansas State Senators, who supported Medicaid expansion, lost to conservative opponents on Tuesday night.  John Skubal in Overland Park lost to Kellie Warren, a former Republican house conservative. Michael Fagg defeated Bruce Givens El Dorado, JR Claeys — Kris Kobach’s campaign manager and house representative — defeated Randall Hardy in Salina,  Mark Steffen upended Ed Berger in Hutchinson, Virgil Peck, a man once famous for saying we should shoot immigrants with a gun from a helicopter defeated Dan Goddard and Alicia Straub defeated Mary Jo Taylor.

In districts where moderates challenged conservatives, they were flatly defeated. Tom Cox, challenging Mike Thompson, a climate change denying firebrand conservative in Johnson County found himself getting shellacked. The House also offered no reprieve for moderates, with several losing.

Several moderate Republicans in the statehouse spoke up in ways that were difficult for them, pressed them hard, made them feel unwelcome. For far less than any sort of living wage — a fee per day that results in less than $20,000 a year, they were often forced to endure things that simply should not be a part of the government.

In 2015, I wrote a piece regarding Brownback’s treatment of moderates, and the late-night sessions that pinned them in, forcing votes. The story it tells reminds me every time why I and so many others remain committed to a better future for Kansas.

What has become clear, though, is that there will be far fewer moderates in the statehouse next year. Endorsements by organizations that branded themselves as moderate were used to castigate Republicans, and the conservatives ran the table. What will the next two years look like for Governor Kelly? That will be an interesting question. A big part of that question will be determined by how many — or if — Democratic Senate and House candidates can pick up seats across the state.

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Inside the impact of rural voters on the Democratic Party

It’s another Sunday, so for those who tune in, welcome to a diary discussing the Nuts & Bolts of a Democratic campaign. If you’ve missed out, you can catch up any time: Just visit our group or follow the Nuts & Bolts Guide. Every week I try to tackle issues I’ve been asked about. With the help of other campaign workers and notes, we address how to improve and build better campaigns, or explain issues that impact our party.

Understanding the democratic base

Recently, at a forum for statewide candidates, the question centered around how much attention to put into areas which were more difficult for Democratic voters, and who would motivate those voters. An individual stood up and made the case clear that in order to potentially win, they would need a more conservative Democratic candidate. This analysis was—in my opinion—too surface level and did not appreciate who were the Democratic voters. It didn’t take too long before it was clear that in the Democratic primary, the candidate who advertised themselves as pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ rights would easily win the primary, while the anti-choice Democratic candidate would suffer a significant defeat.

Others had warned that this outcome would result in terrible outcomes for the fall. What really happened, in 2018, was that the pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ rights candidate ended up becoming governor of Kansas.

Why was that true? What we discovered is that if you were a registered Democratic voter in rural counties, you chose to be registered Democratic in an area where that wouldn’t always be popular. Understanding our own base can be very important.

A loss can be a win

Many races around the country cover significant geographical areas. An elected district can include several counties, cities, or areas in order to comprise their voting base. In these races, Democratic consultants will often focus on heavy and high turnout in known Democratic areas, looking to solidly outpace rural areas to bring in a win. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this strategy, as long as it is not the only strategy. Rural areas often have higher voter turnout per percentage because they have more social pressure to participate. After the 2018 election, YouGov did an interesting breakdown of the issues and how they play out even inside a party from urban to rural.

What a lot of this can boil down to is that you do not need to win these districts to win a larger race. In 2016, several counties in Oklahoma and Kansas, as an example, went nearly 90-10 Trump to Hillary. The moment you begin to turn those districts 70-30 you lose them, but you start making up ground county by county. The party can’t over-invest in rural areas in comparison to their voter turnout, but they also cannot abandon them as well. This is a juggling act to make sure we get the most voter impact for the investment.

Is this really white privilege?

In terms of the Electoral College, and even the House, a lot of the problems with all of these strategies comes down to the simple fact that terribly drawn districts or districts that pack together voters in such a way that we diminish the impact.

We’ve known about this for quite some time. Slate wrote about this in 2006:

“As a mapmaker, I can have more of an impact on an election than a campaign, than a candidate,” says Republican consultant David Winston, who drew House seats for the GOP after the 1990 U.S. Census. “When I, as a mapmaker, have more of an impact on an election than the voters, the system is out of whack.”

So, what happens? The unfortunate truth is pretty simple. If a state uses redistricting based on a philosophy of diluting likeminded voters so far apart to give them no voice (cracking), or packing them together so tightly as to hand over districts but prevent impact anywhere else (packing), they can do a lot of harm to Democratic efforts.

Why? Because when it comes to many of these races, especially congressional races and how they twist up with states that have a wide rural population, packed urban districts can lower turnout because the outcome is assured. Missouri 2016 is an example I often think about when it comes to the impact of packing. Kansas City and St. Louis are drawn into tight, packed districts that guarantee they will be democratically held. As a result, they don’t have the same contact numbers as if they were, well, a little bit less packed.

Jason Kander lost Missouri by 78,000 votes. Due to packing, however, looking at the House district returns, you see something interesting. In competitive races—like U.S. House seat 2 in Missouri, 413,000 total votes were case, and the Democratic candidate, Bill Otto, lost with 155,689. In U.S. House district 5, the Kansas City area, Emanuel Cleaver II also won 55-38, the same percentage Otto lost by, but with 190,766 votes, a total of 324,000 votes cast in that U.S. House district.

When the voters have less competition, or they feel as though their state is not going to be overall competitive for major races but their district is safe they have less reason to vote.

This allows packing to minimize the voices of minority communities by continuing to pack the districts and spread the message: look, this district is democratic, so that’s fine, we gave you that, just don’t show up because your state is lost.

Rural Republicans keep showing up, and turn out in packed districts declines. Until (or if) districts are defined in a way that is not as packed/cracked, we have to see the solution we do have is to work at any level to turn the races we can compete, no matter where they are, and a way to do that is not buying into the idea that rural community democratic voters are conservative democratic voters. The answer remains the same: actually go talk to them, rather than offer prescriptions without hearing their issues. You might be surprised.

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I've taken the cognitive test, too. We need to talk about it

I was reading a community diary story today that you really should read, if you haven’t already, about the writer’s experience taking the cognitive assessment test. I have had difficulty processing Donald Trump’s answer regarding this matter to Fox News in a way that I hadn’t really come to terms with until reading that diary and thinking about how it made me feel.

Trump’s follow-up, commenting about remembering names and information given to him at the beginning of the test through the end, has absolutely nothing at all to do with intelligence. Doctors give that test to think about retention. For people who have experienced traumatic brain injury (like me), it is to make sure that you still retain the information that comes in, and that you retain it well. It doesn’t, in any way, signal your intelligence.

I thought about the post I read, and I thought about my experiences with the MOCA test. I reached out to a neurologist I have worked with, and read back through all of the paperwork I have, and, frankly, the only reason I was ever told I would need to take a MOCA wasn’t due to my fitness or mental fitness: It was to check the impact of a TBI and to make sure it was stable. When I go in for a physical, it isn’t a component. In fact, the only time I have had to do a follow-up MOCA has been when I have had adverse reactions to medication or if I cross a five-year check-in, and then we do it.

I checked online to see if anyone else experienced the same with the MOCA test, and I am apparently not alone. The Washington Post talked to the creator of the test:

“It’s not meant to measure IQ or intellectual skill in anyway,” said Ziad Nasreddine, the neurologist who created the test. “If someone performs well, what it means is they can be ruled out for cognitive impairment that comes with diseases like Alzheimer’s, stroke or multiple sclerosis. That’s it.”

Nasreddine continued: “The reason most people take the test is they or others start noticing mental decline. They forgot where they parked the car, can’t remember what groceries to buy by the time they get to the store. They keep forgetting to take their medication.”

As Trump bragged about the test, something gnawed at me. I would listen to him talk about how he aced it and how great he was, and how it proved he was smart. The last time I took a MOCA test was last year, and as I said, I, too, “aced it.” For people who have TBI, though, we live with a bit of fear. It’s been more than 20 years, so I should be completely stable at this point. Still, every time I lose my keys, forget where I parked, or lose track of time—all of which happen to everyone—it sparks a little fear in us: Could this be the moment where things start to slip away from me?

For people who live in fear of neurological issues, whether it is Alzheimer's, a stroke, a TBI, or any other issue, the idea of bragging about this test is ghastly. It is a struggle people with disabilities deal with, and it can establish their comfort. Trump reports that he got a score of 30/30. Fantastic. Great. Please realize who you are being compared to and why. I guess if you are intent on insulting all Americans, why stop anywhere? Just keep bragging about how much better you are than everyone else.

P.S.: I know someone who suffered a brutal brain injury who took a test like this and had a 25 score they were damn proud to have in their name. I haven’t seen them in a long time, but I can guarantee you, I would trust his judgment far above yours, Mr. President.

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Moderates have given up on the Republican party, leaving it to the lunatics

It was 2014. In Kansas, moderate Republicans formed organizations calling for sanity to return to their party.  They asked Democratic registered voters to re-register as Republicans “your primary vote means nothing as a Democrat, but you can save us from crazy Republicans” they noted. The idea was that the moderate middle would save the Republican Party. Over time, however, what the elected moderate middle discovered was that they would never be accepted within their Republican party, and face repeated challenges on their right flank.

Political movements and momentum are not always containable by the one who started them. I may date myself, but as Billy Joel said “We Didn’t Start the Fire”. Donald Trump is often seen as the advocate, or troller in general for conspiracy theory groups — like Qanon, but that doesn’t mean that Qanon stops there, or can’t go further. In fact, Qanon can often use their own conspiracies to rationalize why they have to do something other than what the President advocates. Trump endorsed Scott Tipton, but several qanon are celebrating this morning, with the general idea being that Trump had to endorse him because he was an incumbent, but this is who he would have “really wanted”. They have no problem saying this because Trump quickly switches teams so fast to support their goals that they take it as a tip toward their end efforts.

Qanon, and those who follow their conspiracy peddlers — like Alex Jones, and maybe some elderly conservative near you who still doesn’t understand that not all email is real, have so successfully infected the Republican party that the idea of trying a moderate insurgence now is ridiculous, and even those who thought of themselves as moderate Republicans see it that way. It’s the party of Qanon, Knife Party’s Centipede, and Conservatives, and they know it.

Infowars frontpage as of July 1, to illustrate Qanon

So, what happens? For many Republicans who have long contended they voted Republican because of “financial issues” they are having to face the fact that it hasn’t really been in many of their financial interests at all, as much as it is to the disadvantage of others.

Let’s be honest. Wealthy Country Club Republicans would never, ever hang out with, tolerate, or invite any of these people over to a BBQ, or give them a pass at the club. They don’t want their kids to hang out with their kids. College-educated Republicans had always thought their party would come back to them. It would be the party of Eisenhower. They liked Reagan and George HW Bush, had issues with George W Bush, but hey, they were OK. They held their breath for Trump hoping that someone would rein him in. Now, they face down their moderate friends and shake their heads. In 2018, that killed the Republican brand.

Trump’s damage to the Republican brand is significant and could last in ways that his party just doesn’t understand. Moderates, though, don’t have time to wait. They are just leaving. It’s easier. And that’s bad news for anyone but frothing at the mouth Trump conservatives to the right of Trump in a Republican primary.

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