Opinion | A Win for Gerrymandering – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“North Carolina suffers from some of the most extreme gerrymandering in the country. Last year, Republicans only narrowly won the statewide popular vote in congressional elections, 50 percent to 48 percent. Yet they ultimately held on to 10 of North Carolina’s 13 congressional seats. Gerrymandering turned a nail-biter into a landslide.

The good news is that, in October, a state court ruled the congressional map to be illegal, thanks to its blatant “partisan intent.” The judges nudged the state legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, to draw districts that would more accurately reflect voters’ intent.

The bad news is that legislators drew another unfair map, albeit less unfair than the original.

The even worse news is that yesterday the same state court allowed the new map to stand. The judges cited the calendar, saying that rejecting the new map would effectively require the 2020 primaries to be delayed.”

Opinion | To Beat Trump, Focus on His Corruption –  by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Given the severity of Trump’s misbehavior — turning American foreign policy into an opposition-research arm of his campaign — Democrats had no choice but to start an impeachment inquiry. Yet they need to remember that impeachment is an inherently political process, not a technocratic legal matter. It will fail if it does not persuade more Americans of Trump’s unfitness for office. It will succeed only if he is not president on Jan. 21, 2021.

And it is far more likely to succeed if Democrats can connect it in voters’ minds to a larger argument about the substance of Trump’s presidency.

The most promising version of that argument revolves around corruption: The Ukraine quid pro quo matters because it shows how Trump has reneged on his promise to fight for ordinary Americans and is using the power of the presidency to benefit himself. As Leah Greenberg, a co-founder of the progressive group Indivisible, says: “This man is not working for you. He is working to put his own interests first. And he is endangering the country to do it.”

Corruption is one of the public’s top worries, surveys show. In an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll last year, people ranked the economy as the country’s most important issue, and No. 2 was “reducing the influence of special interests and corruption in Washington.” It’s a cross-partisan concern too, spanning Democrats, Republicans and independents.

The corruption argument can appeal to the swing voters who helped elect Barack Obama in 2012, flipped to Trump in 2016 and flipped back to Democrats in 2018. And despite wishful thinking by some progressives, winning swing voters — rather than simply motivating the base — will again be crucial in 2020. “You have to build a bridge for people to walk across,” said David Axelrod, the former Obama strategist, referring to Trump’s 2016 supporters. “If you say the guy is a reprobate and a sleaze and all of that, it’s harder for people who voted for him to walk across that bridge.”

Opinion | The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You – David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“Almost a decade ago, Warren Buffett made a claim that would become famous. He said that he paid a lower tax rate than his secretary, thanks to the many loopholes and deductions that benefit the wealthy.

His claim sparked a debate about the fairness of the tax system. In the end, the expert consensus was that, whatever Buffett’s specific situation, most wealthy Americans did not actually pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. “Is it the norm?” the fact-checking outfit Politifact asked. “No.”

Time for an update: It’s the norm now.

For the first time on record, the 400 wealthiest Americans last year paid a lower total tax rate — spanning federal, state and local taxes — than any other income group, according to newly released data.”

Opinion | Why I Changed My Mind About Impeachment – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Impeachment is an inherently political process. The framers designed it that way. It is the ultimate way that one branch of the federal government can hold another branch accountable.

Impeachment is not like a criminal trial, in which a jury or judge is supposed to base a verdict only on what happens inside the courtroom. The Constitution’s standard for impeachment — “high crimes and misdemeanors” — is deliberately vague. The decisions about whether the House should impeach and whether the Senate should convict have always involved a mixture of law, politics and public opinion.

For this reason, I have long thought Democrats would be making a mistake by starting impeachment proceedings against President Trump, even though I also believed Trump was manifestly unfit for office.”

Opinion | How Impeachment Shifted – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditNicholas Kamm/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“One week ago, it was already clear that President Trump, among his many unconstitutional misdeeds, had pressured Ukraine to smear Joe Biden. And yet the chances that the House Democratic Caucus was going to impeach Trump looked minuscule.

Today, the chances look significantly better. So what changed?

For the first time in a long time, Trump committed an act of lawlessness so extreme that it created a news story that managed to feel both fresh and surprising: A whistle-blower came forward to file a complaint about Trump lobbying the president of Ukraine during a phone call. The inspector general for the nation’s spy agencies found the complaint credible enough that he tried to refer it to Congress. It now seems Trump was using American foreign aid to threaten the Ukrainian President.

Appearances matter in politics.

Yes, Robert Mueller’s report contained extensive evidence of impeachable wrongdoing by Trump. Yet it didn’t contain as much evidence as many people expected. And Mueller was sufficiently feckless in his presentation of the report that Trump’s attorney general was able to misrepresent it.

As a result, Mueller’s evidence ended up resembling a lot of dry kindling that lacked a spark. The phone call to Ukraine, along with Trump’s potential refusal to let Congress investigate it, could well provide the spark.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

Some observers believe impeachment is now more likely than not. As Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis of The Washington Post write, “many [House] leadership aides who once thought Trump’s impeachment was unlikely now say they think it’s almost inevitable.” In part, that’s because a growing list of people who have been somewhere between skeptical of impeachment and opposed to it — including Representative Adam Schiff and several House members from swing districts (as well as, much less significantly, me) — seem to be reassessing their views.”

Opinion | Donald Trump vs. the United States of America – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“Sometimes it’s worth stepping back to look at the full picture.

He has pressured a foreign leader to interfere in the 2020 American presidential election.

He urged a foreign country to intervene in the 2016 presidential election.

He divulged classified information to foreign officials.

He publicly undermined American intelligence agents while standing next to a hostile foreign autocrat.

He hired a national security adviser who he knew had secretly worked as a foreign lobbyist.

He encourages foreign leaders to enrich him and his family by staying at his hotels.

He genuflects to murderous dictators.

He has alienated America’s closest allies.

He lied to the American people about his company’s business dealings in Russia.

He tells new lies virtually every week — about the economy, voter fraud, even the weather.

He spends hours on end watching television and days on end staying at resorts.

He often declines to read briefing books or perform other basic functions of a president’s job.

He has aides, as well as members of his own party in Congress, who mock him behind his back as unfit for office.”

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren’s Plan for Social Security Looks Smart – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“When I was a teenager, my mom showed me a statement that she had received in the mail from the Social Security Administration. It included an annual history of her earnings, which showed a big string of zero’s covering the years when she was in her late 20s and early 30s. “That’s you and your sister,” she explained, laughing.

My mom is doing just fine these days, but anyone who spends years as a stay-at-home parent — or an unpaid caregiver of any kind — faces a financial penalty when it comes time to retire. Our Social Security system doesn’t recognize parenting as the socially and economically valuable job that it is.

That’s not the system’s only inequity, either. It also punishes teachers, police officers, firefighters and other government employees. Their Social Security benefits are cut if their pension is large enough, unlike private-sector workers, who can keep their full Social Security benefit regardless of the size of their private pension.

Elizabeth Warren has become famous for her plans, and her latest one, out this morning, is meant to address this unfairness. It would let public-sector workers keep their full Social Security benefits and increase benefits for people who spend at least 80 hours a month as unpaid caregivers for young children, the elderly or the disabled.

The biggest part of the plan, however, is an across-the-board increase in monthly Social Security payments. Every current and future beneficiary will receive at least $200 more per month than under the current plan, and many low-income workers will receive at least $600 more.”

Opinion | ‘Steve Bullock Is the Most Important Person on the Planet’ – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

 

I love David Leonhardt. Whenever I feel I should work much harder at researching and writing an article, I discover I can just repost David Leonhardt, such as his piece today:
“Steve Bullock is the most important person on the planet,” Robert Frank, the economist and author, recently wrote to me in an email.

Bullock is the populist Democratic governor of Montana who’s running a lackluster campaign for president. But he’s so popular in Montana, despite its deep conservatism, that he is the only Democrat with any reasonable chance of beating the state’s incumbent Republican senator, Steve Daines, next year. That’s why Frank thinks Bullock is the most important person on the planet.

“The window of opportunity for effective action on the climate crisis is rapidly closing,” Frank wrote. “Absent robust measures to curb greenhouse gases, climate scientists forecast steadily more frequent and intense storms, droughts, flooding, and wildfires. Alone among major political parties worldwide, Republicans have refused even to admit the existence of climate change, much less enact meaningful legislation for dealing with it.” And seemingly the only way the United States will take meaningful climate action in the next couple years is if the Democrats control both Congress and the White House.”

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DL: Taking back the Senate is as impportant as winning the White House. That is why Beto O’Rourke is a misguided egotist. He could and should challenge John Cornyn in Texas for his Senate seat.

Opinion | Let the People (of Florida) Vote – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditJoe Raedle/Getty Images

“Winning civil rights is never easy. The fight can stretch on for decades and include setbacks that feel like utter defeat. An enduring lesson of the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century is the need for persistence, because social progress doesn’t come without a fight.

I’d encourage you to keep this idea in mind as I tell you this morning about the fight for voting rights in Florida. Parts of the story are depressing. Yet I think optimism is still the right attitude.

Last year, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to 1.4 million state residents previously convicted of a felony. It seemed like one of the biggest victories for voting rights in years, especially because almost 20 percent of black adults in the state had previously been prevented from voting. In May, however, the state legislature — controlled by Republicans — passed a bill that undermined the amendment, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill in June.”

Opinion | Get It Together- Democrats – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

After an effective 2018, the party is struggling.

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

The dome of the Capitol is reflected in a puddle in Washington last December.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

“The Democratic Party is having a rough summer so far:

  • Congressional Democrats have a weak, confusing message about Robert Mueller’s findings.

  • Congressional Republicans outfoxed Democrats on a border funding bill.

  • Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, needlessly criticized a group of young House progressives — and those progressives responded by accusing her, without evidence, of racism. (President Trump’s ugly remarks yesterday were a reminder of what actual racism looks like.)

  • Several top-tier Democratic presidential candidates have staked out unpopular positions on immigration and Medicare.

  • A few candidates who could have helped the party in other ways are instead running quixotic presidential campaigns. For example, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana could have run for Senate, and the billionaire Tom Steyer could have financed voter registration drives.

  • An otherwise impressive Senate candidate who’s hoping to unseat Mitch McConnell — Amy McGrath, in Kentucky — started her campaign with an embarrassing flip-flop about how she would have voted on Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

I don’t want to exaggerate the impact of these events. Trump’s approval rating has moved up only about two percentage points in recent weeks, according to the polling from Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight. Between 42 and 45 percent of Americans approve of his performance.”