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Every candidate plans to boycott Thursday’s DNC debate

First up today, a story that broke right after Friday’s show. All seven Democrats scheduled to appear at Thursday’s debate said they would boycott it due to a labor dispute. That means that there will not be a Thursday debate unless the situation is resolved promptly. Reading here from a story by Zeeshan Aleem in Vox:

“...Sen[ator] Elizabeth Warren […] declared that she was willing to boycott next week’s Democratic debate at Loyola Marymount University in California in solidarity with campus workers who are picketing for better pay and health care.
She immediately set off a domino effect that would eventually see every other Democratic presidential candidate who qualified for the debate make the same pledge.
Unite Here Local 11 — a union that represents 150 cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers on LMU’s campus who are employed by the food services company Sodexo — plans to picket at the debate next Thursday to express their disapproval of Sodexo’s handling of negotiations with the union.”

So the way this happened was, Warren tweeted on Friday just after noon, saying she would not cross union picket lines. The domino effect played out quickly, with the remaining candidates tweeting in that they too would not cross the picket lines. Here’s the order in which they jumped in. Warren first, then: Sanders, Yang, Biden, Steyer, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar. This all happened over the span of about five hours. One note on Klobuchar is that she was actually speaking at a labor event when the news broke, and she said at that event she would not cross the picket line. But her tweet didn’t come out until a little bit later.

This all , obviously, caused an immediate problem for the various entities organizing the debate. It is governed by the DNC, but sponsored by PBS NewsHour and Politico. They had already moved this debate once due to a different labor dispute at UCLA. And with just days to go, the most obvious way to resolve the issue would be for the union and Sodexo to agree on a contract. But it’s unclear how the DNC and two media outlets can make a labor contract happen.

All right, so what exactly IS the labor dispute about? The union, Unite Here Local 11, represents 150 service workers at Loyola Marymount University. In a press release, they described their members as:

“…cooks, dishwashers, cashiers, and servers who prepare and serve meals for LMU students, faculty, and staff. LMU subcontracts its food service operations to global services company Sodexo, which employs these workers. Local 11 has been in negotiations with Sodexo since March for a collective bargaining agreement but have yet to reach resolution.”

The union says they are asking for better wages and better health care, and claims that Sodexo broke off negotiations recently. Sodexo denies that they broke it off. Reading once more from Vox:

““Sodexo is 100 percent committed to reaching an agreement, and any statement that we have left the bargaining table is not accurate,” a Sodexo spokesperson told Vox.”

Meanwhile, the DNC released a statement of its own late on Friday. It read, in part:

“The DNC and LMU learned of this issue earlier today, and it is our understanding this matter arose within the last day. While LMU is not a party to the negotiations between Sodexo and Unite Here Local 11, Tom Perez would absolutely not cross a picket line and would never expect our candidates to either.”

By the way, Tom Perez, Chair of the DNC.

They also suggested they were looking for a way forward with Thursday’s debate. While the method for doing that isn’t entirely clear, one reporter had a suggestion on Friday. In New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, Ed Kilgore wrote:

“You’d think the DNC (or the media sponsors of the Los Angeles event, PBS NewsHour and Politico) could have vetted the venues a bit more thoroughly and avoided this embarrassing situation. Fortunately, they have six days to find a third spot (barring a quick resolution of the Unite Here [slash] Sodexo dispute). To make […] sure they don’t just screw it up again, I would recommend a union hall.”

The impeachment update

And now, the impeachment news in three minutes or less.

Over the weekend, both parties released competing reports on the details of the impeachment inquiry. Reading from an article by Joanie Greve in The Guardian:

“In the 658-page report, Democrats on the judiciary committee accuse Trump of committing constitutional and criminal bribery by trying to press Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 election as the country’s military aid was held up.
“Applying the constitutional definition of ‘bribery’ here, there can be little doubt that it is satisfied,” the report reads. “President Trump solicited President Zelensky for a ‘favor’ of great personal value to him; he did so corruptly; and he did so in a scheme to influence his own official actions respecting the release of military and security assistance and the offer of a White House meeting. Although President Trump’s actions need not rise to the level of a criminal violation to justify impeachment, his conduct here was criminal.”
Republicans on the judiciary committee wrote a dissent to the report, arguing their Democratic counterparts had committed a grave [misstep] that could jeopardize future presidencies. The starkly different perspectives on Trump’s actions toward Ukraine likely foreshadow the Wednesday impeachment vote, which is expected to fall almost entirely along party lines.”

And this brings us to Wednesday, which is when the House is scheduled to vote on the articles of impeachment. Various members of the House have publicly stated how they intend to vote. One notable announcement came from Democratic Representative Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey’s 2nd district. He criticized Democrats’ handling of the impeachment inquiry and signaled that he would join the Republican party within a week. Six of his staffers resigned over the weekend in protest. The Washington Post published portions of a letter in which those staffers explained why they were leaving.

Meanwhile in the Senate, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote his own letter. Schumer’s letter is the beginning of negotiations about how the Senate impeachment trial might work. He asked for four witnesses, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, plus former national security adviser John Bolton. Neither of them has testified before. He also wants the hearing to start on January 9th. While Schumer doesn’t have much power in this negotiation, at least he’s expressing what he wants. Schumer is signaling that he’s open to a trial that includes witnesses. That matches up with what we’ve heard from President Trump and Republicans including Senator Ted Cruz, who want to call witnesses. So while we don’t have a timeline or format ironed out for that Senate trial yet, those are presumably coming soon.

And finally today, I have not read the 658-page report released by Democrats. If you care for some light reading, that link is in the show notes.

The Van Drew-slash-Booker debate

As I mentioned in the impeachment update, now that Jeff Van Drew has announced his party switch, that causes a shakeup in New Jersey politics. Van Drew had previously endorsed Senator Cory Booker’s presidential run. While I haven’t seen an official retraction, that might be coming after Booker decided to tweet today. Booker wrote:

“[Jeff Van Drew] has put his re-election prospects ahead of his duty at a time of crisis in our country. Let's bring courageous leadership back to [New Jersey's 2nd district]. [P]lease donate to support his eventual Democratic challenger.”

He then linked directly to a fund accepting donations for Democratic opponents of Van Drew. He also included Van Drew’s official Twitter handle in the tweet. So I checked out Van Drew’s Twitter account. The last time he tweeted was back in March, when he sent a message of support for “National Dentist’s Day.” To Van Drew’s credit, he does not seem to be on Twitter very much. And that should probably be a lesson for all of us.

Meanwhile, the call for a Democrat to replace Van Drew might not work anyway. His district went for Trump in 2016, and The Cook Political Report previously listed the district as a toss-up. Now they’ve moved it to “Lean Republican.” And that Republican might not be Van Drew. Reading from an article by Adam K. Raymond in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer:

“His decision to join the GOP comes after an internal campaign poll showed that 71 percent of Democratic primary voters would oppose him if he voted against impeachment. Switching parties might be Van Drew’s only hope of keeping his job, but even that is no guarantee. There are already three Republicans who have filed to run for Congress in the district next year, including one who says he is willing to put $1 million [dollars] of his own money into his campaign to defeat Van Drew.”

Wisconsin judge orders a purge of 200,000 voter registrations

Meanwhile in Wisconsin, a judge has ordered state officials to remove more than 200,000 voters from the voter rolls. This is because they may have moved and not updated their voter registration status—and in Wisconsin, that means they are subject to having their registration revoked. This is a big deal in part because Wisconsin is seen as a swing state in the 2020 presidential election. In 2016, Trump won it by a slim margin of about 23,000 votes statewide.

As part of the ruling, the judge also denied a petition from the Wisconsin League of Women Voters that would delay the removal process. The League said they would appeal the decision and requested that the judge issue a stay on his ruling. He declined. Reading from an article by Chas Danner in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer:

“Back in 2017, the Wisconsin Elections Commission purged the registrations of 300,000 suspected “movers” who did not respond to an address-confirmation postcard within 30 days. But at least 7,000 voters had been erroneously identified, prompting confusion and complaints. In response, this year the WEC tried to avoid those problems by extending the deadline for the roughly 234,000 voters it mailed address-confirmation requests to. Using its authority under state law to create new rules with regards to maintaining the voter registration list, the WEC voted to give the affected voters until 2021 to respond to the request before their registrations would be purged.
Conservatives balked at the change, and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty [WILL] ultimately sued to block it. It argued that the WEC was bound by statute to automatically remove the unresponsive voters’ registrations after 30 days, and that its attempt to extend the deadline was not lawful. WILL founder and attorney Rick Esenberg also downplayed the potential consequences of enforcing the deadline despite what happened in 2017 — highlighting how Wisconsin allows voters to register online and at the poll site on Election Day.”

So, there will be more court action on this one, but the key thing to know is that, yes, Wisconsin voters CAN re-register at a polling place or online, including on the very day of the election. Yeah, it’s extra paperwork and extra time, but that may be the only option available to people who didn’t fill out their postcard and mail it back in time. So if you’re in Wisconsin, or frankly, anywhere, check your voter registration. And soon. Because we do have primary voting come up in a matter of weeks.

How to watch Thursday’s debate

And last up today, assuming that Thursday’s DNC debate does indeed happen in some form in some location, here’s what you need to know in order to watch it.

First off, it starts at 8pm EASTERN TIME on Thursday night. That means 5pm Pacific, which is normal for folks like me on the West Coast, but might get confusing given that all the previous debates were held in Eastern Time states.

There are a zillion ways to watch this thing, and I’ll read those out in a moment. But the key ways I’d suggest are a YouTube stream which is already up and linked in the show notes—good job, PBS—or just using your local PBS TV station. For radio listeners, NPR affiliates will broadcast and stream the debate as audio as well. And CNN has jumped in to simulcast the debate, which might help some folks who don’t get broadcast TV.

Okay, and here is the inevitable laundry list of apps and websites and stuff where you can find the debate. It will stream on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, plus the apps for PBS and CNN. It will stream on the websites of CNN, Politico, and PBS. It’ll air on TV on PBS and CNN.

Pick your favorite channel, pick your favorite thing, settle in, and I’ll have more for you on that debate in the coming days.