Thursday’s debate is actually happening

First up today, it looks like Thursday’s debate will in fact happen as planned. United Here Local 11 sent out a press release just before 6am Pacific this morning.

Reading from that release:

“Sodexo at Loyola Marymount University and their employees negotiated through Monday evening to secure a tentative contract agreement. The Democratic National Committee and Tom Perez worked hard to help bring the situation to a positive resolution.
The three-year agreement includes a 25% increase in compensation, a 50% drop in health care costs, and increases to workers’ job security.”

This comes after reports that DNC Chair Tom Perez spent more than 20 hours working on the issue over the weekend. Oh and by the way, Perez was the US Secretary of Labor during President Obama’s second term. So, you know, he is familiar with labor issues.

Anyway, this means the debate will proceed as scheduled. It also means those service workers at Loyola will get a better deal on wages and health care, which is what they’ve been asking for since March.

Georgia purges more than 300,000 voters from its rolls

Last night, a judge in Georgia allowed the state to purge 313,000 voters from its voting rolls. This comes on the heels of a separate decision in Wisconsin to remove 234,000 voters in that state. Just for perspective, on Twitter, author Ari Berman pointed out the percentage of the electorate that each purge represents. Wisconsin has removed 7% of its registered voters. And now Georgia has removed 4% of its registered voters.

Keep in mind that President Trump won Wisconsin by less than 1% and Georgia by just over 5% in 2016. So while these purges don’t affect just one party, even small movements in turnout or voter eligibility can swing elections at the top and farther down the ballot.

Okay, so what happened in Georgia? Well, it’s similar to the Wisconsin issue. Georgia mailed out a series of notices to voters asking them to verify their address. The most recent notice was in November. Those who didn’t respond were scheduled to be purged last night. After a court proceeding yesterday, a Georgia judge allowed the purge to continue, despite objections by Fair Fight Action. That’s the voting rights organization founded by Stacey Abrams. Initially, the judge agreed to hold off on allowing the state to proceed. But state lawyers argued that time was of the essence here, and if there were any mistakes, they could be fixed after the voters were purged—they could be, basically, un-purged. So the judge allowed the purge, but ALSO set a hearing for this Thursday to hear arguments from Fair Fight Action.

Reading from an Associated Press story published by The New York Times:

“Fair Fight says that over 120,000 people are on the purge list “solely because they have not voted or had any other statutorily-defined ‘contact’ with election officials in the past seven years and have not responded to two notices seeking confirmation of their current address.” The organization says a new law allows voters nine years of inactivity before being removed — compared to seven years under the old law — and is asking the judge to halt the removal of those voters from Georgia’s rolls.
"Georgians should not lose their right to vote simply because they have not expressed that right in recent elections, and Georgia's practice of removing voters who have declined to participate in recent elections violates the United States Constitution," Fair Fight Action CEO Lauren Groh-Wargo said in a statement.
[Lawyer Brian] Tyson [representing the Secretary of State] said in court that the people in question were placed on the inactive list before the new law took effect.”

This comes down to an argument about whether the purge constitutes simple maintenance of that voter list—like, you really ought to remove people who have died or moved away—or whether it amounts to voter suppression. One notable deadline in Georgia means that purges like this must happen more than 90 days before the next election. That either means the purge has to happen later THIS MONTH, or it cannot happen at all in 2020 because there is no 90-day time window all year without some kind of election in the state.

The impeachment update

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

A large group of House Democrats who represent districts that President Trump won in 2016 have announced that they will vote in favor of impeachment. There are 31 Democrats who represent districts like that, and now at least 16 have publicly announced their votes. Democrats can afford to lose as many as 17 votes from their caucus overall, assuming an otherwise party-line vote. So while this will be a close one, it is likely to pass.

These announcements come in the midst of dueling waves of advertising. The National Republican Congressional Committee has been running digital ads targeting some of those Democrats, who may vulnerable in the next election cycle. And meanwhile, the group Need to Impeach, which is funded by Democratic candidate Tom Steyer, has been running pro-impeachment TV ads. Steyer’s group has announced at least $1 million dollars in ad spending over the next few weeks. Those ads are mostly targeting Republican senators.

Today, the House Rules Committee will sort out the rules for how the floor debate will happen on Wednesday ahead of the vote. That committee has a huge Democratic majority, with 9 Democrats and 4 Republicans, but that doesn’t mean the hearings will go quickly. We can expect their work to go on well into this evening.

On Wednesday, we expect debate on the House floor to begin around the middle of the day. It will continue for hours, and an actual vote on the articles of impeachment is expected in the evening. Assuming at least one of the articles is approved, the House will also vote to approve “impeachment managers.” These are members of the House who will act like prosecutors in the Senate trial. It’s unclear who these members will be, though there have been rumors that Independent Justin Amash might be in that mix along with prominent Democrats.

Meanwhile, yet another open letter has come out in favor of impeachment. Reading from a story by Felicia Sonmez in The Washington Post:

“A group of more than 700 historians, legal scholars and others published an open letter Monday urging the House of Representatives to impeach President Trump, denouncing his conduct as “a clear and present danger to the Constitution.””

And one more bit from that article:

“Among the notable signatories of the latest letter are award-winning filmmaker Ken Burns, biographer Robert A. Caro and historians Ron Chernow, Jon Meacham and Douglas Brinkley.”

So. Today, the rules for tomorrow’s debate will be set. Expect that rule-making to go late into the night. Tomorrow, the actual debate. Tomorrow night, the actual vote.

A new Republican-funded Super PAC aims to defeat Trump

Next up, a new Super PAC has been formed, aiming to defeat President Trump in the 2020 election. The difference here is that this one is funded by Republicans. And they explicitly say they’re actually okay with Democrats defeating him, as long as that means getting Trump out of office.

Called The Lincoln Project, the group announced its existence this morning with an op-ed in The New York Times by George Conway, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, and Rick Wilson. The op-ed is titled “We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated.”

Reading from that op-ed:

“…Our many policy differences with national Democrats remain, but our shared fidelity to the Constitution dictates a common effort.
The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.”

The op-ed went on to describe the group’s beliefs, which are more traditionally conservative than those of President Trump. They also cast their efforts explicitly in the name of President Lincoln, and end their op-ed with a description of the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War. In their closing passage, they contrast the failure of General Dan Sickles, whom they liken to Trump, with another general. Reading once more from the op-ed:

“Another Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock, had only minutes to reinforce the line. America, the nation, the ideal, hung in the balance. Amid the fury of battle, he found the First Minnesota Volunteers.
They charged, and many of them fell, suffering a staggeringly high casualty rate. They held the line. They saved the Union. Four months later, Lincoln stood on that field of slaughter and said, “It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.”
We look to Lincoln as our guide and inspiration. He understood the necessity of not just saving the Union, but also of knitting the nation back together spiritually as well as politically. But those wounds can be bound up only once the threat has been defeated. So, too, will our country have to knit itself back together after the scourge of Trumpism has been overcome.”

Candidates ask the DNC to change its qualification rules for upcoming debates

Over the weekend, a bunch of Democratic candidates called on the DNC to change its qualifying rules for future debates. Now, we know there are four debates currently scheduled for January and February, and there should be two more after that. But the DNC has not yet announced the qualifying criteria for those debates.

In the past, the DNC has relied on two factors. One, hitting a certain threshold in polls of various states or nationwide. And two, getting a certain number of donors, including some donors from lots of different states. In the earliest debates, candidates could hit EITHER threshold, and tie-breakers were decided by polling numbers. That’s what led us to have 20-person debates in the first two months. After that, the DNC began requiring candidates to meet BOTH the polling AND donor requirements.

And with each debate since then, the DNC has slowly increased both thresholds, with the intent of decreasing the number of candidates onstage. Well, it finally worked in December, but it also happened to leave us with a mostly white, mostly male stage. We have Andrew Yang as the only non-white person on that stage.

Okay, so nine candidates—that’s everybody on stage this Thursday plus Senator Cory Booker and former HUD Secretary Julián Castro—signed that letter. Reading from the letter:

“While we know this was an unintended consequence of the DNC’s actions, many of the candidates excluded due to these thresholds are the ones who have helped make this year’s primary field historically diverse.
Frankly, that unintended result does not live up to the values of our Democratic Party and it does not serve the best interest of Democratic voters, who deserve to hear from and be able to choose among the best our party has to offer.”

The letter calls on the DNC to go back to the previous practice of accepting candidates who meet EITHER the donor OR the polling criteria. Now if the DNC does this, it might mean the return of candidates like Booker, Castro, Gabbard, and maybe even Williamson. The first three there reached the most recent donor threshold of 200,000 people, and Williamson got pretty close. Plus it would open a door for Bloomberg to get in there as well—he doesn’t have the donors, but he does have pretty good polling results.

In a statement sent to press, the DNC said no. Reading from that statement:

“The DNC will not change the threshold for any one candidate and will not revert back to two consecutive nights with more than a dozen candidates. Our qualification criteria is extremely low and reflects where we are in the race. Once voting starts in February, our criteria will reflect those contests, which is more than appropriate.”

Debate Bingo is here

Last up today, another debate is here and we have Debate Bingo for y’all to follow along. For those of you who are new to this, Debate Bingo is a simple way to engage with the debate. I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of folks slowly coming onboard with watching these debates, and they tend to have a few questions. One of them is, hey, who’s that person? So the bingo cards have a row across the top showing the photos and names of each candidate onstage.

One quick note—this time around, for some reason, the debate sponsors did not release the “podium order” in advance. Or at least, they hadn’t done it yesterday when I finished the cards. So the candidates are in alphabetical order on the bingo cards, rather than the actual stage order.

Now, the bingo part of these bingo cards also have a series of things the candidates or moderators might do or say. Because the group is smaller this time than ever, each candidate now gets three squares rather than two. So, longtime players, take note.

You can download those cards at RideHome dot info slash bingo. That is RideHome dot info slash bingo, and that link is also at the top of the show notes. There are THIRTY cards, so only print as many as you need, and make sure you print them single-sided. While I will not be on Twitter to play along, there is a hashtag on the cards so y’all can share your results and show us your pets and your snacks.