Walsh is officially running

Well, as he said he would, radio host and former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh has officially entered the Republican primary race for President. This is truly notable, because only one other candidate—former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld—has actually taken this step. Some other folks have talked about it, but now the field of competitors vying for Trump’s spot on the ticket is, in a way, much bigger. Here’s a short clip of Walsh speaking with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. Listen in, and Stephanopoulos speaks first:

[CLIP-WALSH-MTP]

Okay, so that’s the core argument. Walsh is saying, somebody’s gotta run against Trump and offer a mainstream conservative Republican alternative and nobody is doing that. That does seem to ignore the fact that Weld is already running to do basically that, but, okay, that’s fine, he still has a point that VERY FEW PEOPLE have stepped up to challenge Trump in the primary. Now there are two. And there are certainly policy differences between Weld and Walsh.

And IF a Republican primary occurs, like, you know, with actual voting and actual turnout, I will be extremely curious to see how this notion of choice actually plays out. There is definitely a portion of the Republican party that would prefer someone other than Trump. The size of that portion is up for debate. And even past that, the question then becomes, is Walsh a good choice? Or is Weld a good choice? Those are good questions, and ones that we will explore on this podcast in the future, now that there kind of IS a Republican primary. So the next thing is to listen to Walsh’s initial campaign announcement video. It is titled “Be Brave.” Listen in:

[CLIP-WALSH-BE-BRAVE]

Okay, so there’s that. Now, the big problem for Walsh will be his past statements. He’s said a bunch of stuff that can be used against him. But, you know, so has Trump. During the interview on This Week, Stephanopoulos went straight at that issue, and cited some specific examples that might surprise you if you’re not familiar with Walsh and his history. Be aware that the clip itself cuts off abruptly at the end, but that’s because ABC ended the clip that way. Okay, listen in:

[CLIP-WALSH-HISTORY]

There were two notable reactions to Walsh entering the race. First came from Weld, his primary competitor, who said, “I’m thrilled about Joe Walsh and Mark Sanford getting in. I think that’s terrific. And it’s gonna be a more robust conversation. Who knows, maybe the networks might even cover Republican primary debates? …”

Yes, exactly. I agree. There is plenty of room here to have a discussion on the Republican side. Now the second response I want to offer is the official statement from President Trump. His campaign’s communications director gave a one-word statement to ABC News regarding Walsh’s run, “Whatever.”

You know, I’m old enough to remember when people dismissed a man named Donald J. Trump in just the same way.

Highlights from the CNN Town Halls with Bullock and de Blasio

On Sunday evening, Montana Governor Steve Bullock and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke at CNN Town Hall events. The differences were clear—on issues like health care, gun safety, and rural vs. urban voters, the two candidates found themselves on opposite sides of the spectrum, at least within the Democratic field.

So let’s listen to a few highlights from the events. First up, a moment from de Blasio, that is trimmed down from a much longer answer. A student named Joy asked him the question, “Wouldn’t a guaranteed right to health care, including undocumented immigrants, only incentivize more undocumented immigrants to come to the United States?”

De Blasio thanked the student for asking the question, and, in a gentle way, proceeded to reject its premise and explain what he called, “our actual reality." He went on to describe how President Trump’s rhetoric around immigration creates a perception of immigrants as an invading force that somehow takes away from other citizens. De Blasio rejects that premise, and gets into specifics about what he thinks the real problem is. Listen in:

[CLIP-DE-BLASIO-IMMIGRATION]

To me, that was the standout moment of the night, of both events. De Blasio is offering a clear explanation of the difference between human rights and civil rights. In de Blasio’s view, health care is a human right—it is something you are owed by virtue of simply being human, regardless of what nation you’re from. There is a clear distinction between de Blasio and Bullock on Medicare for All, which is one proposal for getting to a universal health care system in the US very quickly. Bullock took a question about Medicare for All and said firmly that he opposed that system, but instead favored building on Obamacare by adding a public option. One of the specific reasons he cited for that preference was that he said Medicare for All would raise taxes. De Blasio had mentioned that too, but he said Medicare for All would CUT health care costs at the same time.

An important moment from Bullock’s time on stage was when moderator Alisyn Camerota asked him if he might run for Senate in Montana, assuming the whole presidential thing didn’t work out. After a long discussion of why Bullock felt his strengths were as an executive rather a legislator, Camerota pushed him for a yes or no answer on whether he’d run for Senate. Bullock said, “That’s an absolute no.”

And the last notable moment was when De Blasio responded to a question about the killing of Eric Garner, and why it took five years to fire the police officer in question. De Blasio gave a detailed response, but it clearly didn’t satisfy everybody in the New York City audience. One audience member yelled out a series of questions, asking why other officers hadn’t been disciplined. After about a minute, that person appears to have been removed from the audience, and the town hall continued.

Gabbard’s primary challenger in the House

Okay, listener question time part two! This is the second half of the question from listener Whitney Joe that I started on Friday.

“Is Tulsi’s primary challenge going to affect her presidential run?”

Short answer: it’s a big problem…IF she wants to be in Congress again.

For the longer answer, we need some context. Gabbard faces a primary challenge for her seat representing Hawaii’s second district in Congress. That’s coming from Hawaii state senator Kai Kahele, and he’s doing pretty well there, raising money and gaining endorsements. He is a veteran, like Gabbard, and he sees Gabbard as vulnerable for two reasons. First, some of her votes in the House aren’t super-popular back home, and second, she’s on the national campaign trail rather than focusing on representing Hawaii. So Kahele has this obvious angle which is, hey, I’m right here, in Hawaii, asking for your vote—where’s your current representative? That could be enough to make that primary competitive. I haven’t seen polling on that race yet, so it’s hard to say.

The big question remains whether Gabbard actually intends to run for the House again. That’s not super clear to me. She has NOT been actively fundraising for the House run, though she could flip her presidential campaign funding over if she wants to.

Also, Hawaii DOES allow Gabbard to run both for President and House at the same time and appear on the ballot for both offices. So she CAN do that, and that’s not a legal problem, unlike some other folks like Governor Jay Inslee, who couldn’t run for Governor and President on the same ballot, so was forced to pick one.

Gabbard’s overall odds of winning the presidential race are pretty low right now—this is true of MANY candidates in the field—and now she’s got a viable competitor back home for that House seat.

So I see this as a strategy problem for Gabbard. Her options are basically, stick with the presidential run and double down on that bet; OR take her presidential money, drop out, and roar back into Hawaii with that funding. She may be able to do that relatively late and still win that primary—and that may explain her current focus on the presidential run, with the intent of giving it all she’s got.

Obviously, there’s always a third option, which is: Do something I haven’t thought of yet, like retire, or run for a different office, or whatever. There are many options open to Gabbard right now, though the two most obvious ones are the presidency or that House seat.

Yang releases his climate plan

Last up today, Andrew Yang has released his climate plan, titled, “It’s Worse Than You Think—Lower Emissions, Higher Ground.” That latter phrase refers to his comment during the debates that we are too late on climate change and need to move our population to higher ground. In this proposal, Yang doesn’t take THAT bleak of a stance, but he does offer some extreme policies to tackle climate change.

The proposal is quite long, at about 48 pages when printed. It’s more than 11,000 words long, which is even longer than Senator Elizabeth Warren’s most recently proposal, which itself was her longest yet. I, for one, AM in favor of long, detailed, foot-noted proposals—especially ones like this that tackle the budgetary aspects—but I have to say, it is so much detail that it becomes hard to summarize. So I’ve got to pick out a few aspects that we can handle within the scope of the show, and the link is in the show notes for the rest. It is detailed, though not AS detailed as, say, Inslee’s climate plans. A lot of is fairly mainstream, like more electric cars and better building standards and building retrofits and all that stuff. But there are some other items there too.

The first thing that jumps out is an emphasis on nuclear power. Yang wants to build more nuclear plants as a bridge to get the US off of fossil fuels. The logic there is that, yes, nuclear waste is super bad, but given the current crisis, it’s an acceptable alternative to adding yet more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. I think that is exactly the kind of argument we’d want to talk about in, oh, say, a climate debate or climate forum in roughly one week.

The other item that jumps off the page is a section labeled “Emergency Options.” In this, we get at some real things that scientists and science fiction writers have been talking about for decades. And Yang is saying them out loud as actual emergency options. I’m glad that somebody, at least, is mentioning this stuff, though it is truly extreme and deeply experimental. Reading from the proposal:

“While the above solutions are important to investigate and can bend the curve to give us more time or serve as a partial solution to the climate crisis, we should also prepare for the worst. There are feedback loops that we don’t understand that could quickly lead to a catastrophic event. If it comes to that, we need to be prepared with options that have potential side effects that are more desirable than the alternative: climate collapse.
Two primary ones to consider are space mirrors (yes, space mirrors) and stratospheric aerosol scattering.
Space mirrors would involve launching giant foldable mirrors into space that would deploy and reflect much of the sun’s light. This method would be extremely expensive, which is why it should be investigated as a last resort. However, since we would be able to “undo” the mirror after deployment if needed, it’s less permanent.
Stratosphere aerosol scattering, on the other [hand], would be a drastic response to the climate crisis.
When volcanoes erupt, they spew sulfur dioxide into the sky and reflect sunlight particles away from the earth. The massive eruption of [Mount] Pinatubo in 1991 was recorded to help push global temperatures down half a degree over the following 2 years. If scientists can find a way to burn sulfur in the stratosphere, then they could mimic the positive effects of [volcano] eruptions on climate change and their ability to help keep the earth cool. Bill Gates has recently backed a study to explore the feasibility of this method, but there are many dangers to it, which is why it (and other, similar methods) require research.”

So, yeah, points for including a “break glass in case of emergency” set of options.

Okay, so how much would this cost? Well, Yang puts it right up front, and breaks it down by item. The total is $4.87 trillion dollars over 20 years. That’s…a lot of money. But, to put it in perspective, it’s a little over a third what the US plans to spend on the military during the same period, assuming we don’t cut that budget and there is zero inflation. So…again, this is an extremely ambitious and costly program, but it’s also an extremely difficult and costly problem. I look forward to hearing what the other candidates think about thorium reactors and space mirrors, because, to be totally honest, those might be viable options at some point in this situation.

Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Well, long show today, I’m gonna let you stop listening in a moment, but one note: tomorrow will be our one-hundredth show! I can’t wait to see where we will be at two hundred, and in the meantime, I’m gonna take a nap. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.

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