At pbs.org, Meg Dalton reports on President Trump’s full pardon of Dwight and Steven Hammond, “father-and-son ranchers from Oregon who were convicted of intentionally setting fire to federal land two years ago…The Hammonds became central to the debate over public lands in the West when their imprisonment inspired the now-infamous ranching family, the Bundys, and a cadre of anti-federal government militants to occupy the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January 2016.” Trump’s pardon says in essence “no crime ever happened, according to Peter Walker, a professor at the University of Oregon. Whereas a commutation would have meant their release from prison, a pardon brushes off the Hammonds’ conviction entirely and legitimizes the Bundys’ far-right movement…Trump’s pardon could encourage those who want to confront and harass federal employees, according to Walker. “It puts a target on the back on federal employees,” he said. “This declares open season [on them].” It also may signal a new raid on public lands, in which big timber and other extractive industries exploit federal land for corporate and personal gain, later to be punctuated by their increased contributions to the GOP.
Here’s one antidote to the GOP’s environmental destruction agenda: “Nathaniel Stinnett knows he’s preaching to the choir. The problem is, even believers don’t always show up for church. Dismayed by how low environmental concerns like climate change, pollution and pipelines rank on surveys of voter priorities, Stinnett founded the nonpartisan Environmental Voter Project three years ago on the hunch that a substantial number of people care about environmental issues and are registered to vote, but don’t show up on Election Day…The veteran Boston-based campaign strategist developed a formula for identifying these voters. He builds profiles based on consumer, demographic and behavioral data, then runs a series of polls to verify the data and find out how likely voters are to list environmental causes among their top two political priorities. Stinnett and his team of three sift through the survey responses to identify patterns…After that, they run those profiles through a model that scores voters based on how likely they are to be so-called “super environmentalists.” Finally, they cut out people whose public voting records show they turn out for most elections. What’s left is a group of registered voters who don’t need to be sold on the reality of climate change or the dangers of air pollution – they just need to be convinced to get to the polls.” – from “This Man Is Building an ‘Army’ of Environmental Super Voters to Rival the NRA in Turnout” by Alexander C. Kaufman at HuffPo, via The Environmental Voter Project.
A worthy health care talking point for today, from Austin Frakt’s “Hidden From View: The Astonishingly High Administrative Costs of U.S. Health Care” at The Upshot: “A widely cited study published in The New England Journal of Medicine used data from 1999 to estimate that about 30 percent of American health care expenditures were the result of administration, about twice what it is in Canada. If the figures hold today, they mean that out of the average of about $19,000 that U.S. workers and their employers pay for family coverage each year, $5,700 goes toward administrative costs…That New England Journal of Medicine study is still the only one on administrative costs that encompasses the entire health system. Many other more recent studies examine important portions of it, however. The story remains the same: Like the overall cost of the U.S. health system, its administrative cost alone is No. 1 in the world.”
Michael Tomasky has a New York Times op-ed urging Democrats to fight hard against the Kavanaugh nomination. Fight to win, but have a sound strategy ready if you lose. Tomasky argues that Dems should make the nomination fight “a referendum on Judge Kavanaugh’s past actions and on President Trump’s character…Polls usually show that on most issues, in the abstract, majorities support the Democratic position, from preserving Social Security to comprehensive immigration reform. That seems great for Democrats, but in fact it often lulls them into an uncreative passivity: They’re with us on the issues, Democrats think, so all we have to do is discuss the issues and we’re home free.” But issues are not the only, or even, the primary, factor in every campaign.
Democrats, Tomasky adds, “must discuss character — both the president’s and Judge Kavanaugh’s. The nominee worked for Ken Starr in 1998 as Mr. Starr pursued President Bill Clinton. What exactly did he do for Mr. Starr?…Did he leak secret grand jury proceedings, violating Rule 6(e) of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure?” Tomasky cites the possibility of Trump naming his own future jurors. “The Democrats’ job here is to get Judge Kavanaugh on the record” about whether or not Trump can be prosecuted…The Democrats will probably lose the Kavanaugh battle” writes Tomasky, “But there are two ways to do it. They can lose by appearing to be timid, calculating, fretting too much about the consequences of being aggressive…Or they can lose by showing they understand that millions of Americans are counting on them to protect their rights and, the stakes being what they are, the Constitution itself. If Democrats do the latter, they will manage to have laid the groundwork for some optimism about November and 2020.”
In his article, “Study: Campaigns Falling short on Latino Outreach,” Sean J. Miller writes, “A new report released Monday focused attention on some 25 competitive House districts where Latino voters could make a sizable difference this fall and underscored the need for campaigns and political parties to invest in outreach now as the Latino voting population surges…The report, a collaboration between UnidosUS and the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California, charts demographic shifts that forecast the Latino population will grow more than 50 percent in the next two decades to 87.5 million — representing nearly a quarter of all Americans…their turnout when they’re on the voter rolls — at least in presidential cycles — “is close to that of registered voters in other groups, or upwards of 80 [percent.]…“Latino share of total votes cast nationwide was very close to the Latino share of the U.S. registered voter population — 9.2 [percent] and 9.7 [percent], respectively.” In addition, “There are congressional districts where Latino youth actually outperform older Latino voters,” including in Wyoming, Iowa and the Carolinas.
Some ‘key points’ from Rhodes Cook’s data-rich article, “Registering by Party: Where the Democrats and Republicans Are Ahead” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Altogether, there are 31 states (plus the District of Columbia) with party registration; in the others, such as Virginia, voters register without reference to party. In 19 states and the District, there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. In 12 states, there are more registered Republicans than Democrats. In aggregate, 40% of all voters in party registration states are Democrats, 29% are Republicans, and 28% are independents. Nationally, the Democratic advantage in the party registration states approaches 12 million.” Cooks adds that “the Democrats approach this fall’s midterm elections with an advantage in one key aspect of the political process — their strength in states where voters register by party.” However, “Altogether, there are 10 states with more registered independents than either Democrats or Republicans. These states are mainly in the Northeast, with a cluster also in the West. By comparison, there are Democratic pluralities of registered voters in 13 states plus the District of Columbia and eight other states with Republicans ahead of both Democrats and independents. In addition, there are six states where there is an independent plurality but Democrats outnumber Republicans, and four states where independents are on top of the registration totals but Republicans outnumber Democrats. That produces the 19 to 12 state registration advantage for the Democrats mentioned earlier.”
In “Optimizing Your Efforts in 2018: Part I, the House,” Sam Wang writes at The Princeton Election Consortium: “The odds moderately favor a switch in control of the House of Representatives in 2018. But make no mistake, things could go either way. This November will be a battle of inches…For many of you, the battle’s coming to a district near you. We’re renewing a tool that made its debuttwo years ago. Sharon Machlis has very kindly updated her Congressional District finder to display swing districts for 2018. It’s awesome – check it out!..Many of the closest races will be run in the suburbs of America. Here are some high-value areas: Six swing districts are within 100 miles of New York City; Five are within 50 miles of Los Angeles; and Five are within 50 miles of Chicago.”
Republicans are understandably a tad miffed at satirist Sasha Baron Cohen, who just punked three Republican leaders, and got them to support a “Kinderguardian” program, arming pre-schoolers. For an amusing take on the fuss, check out John Quelley’s “Think GOP Lawmakers Not Unhinged Enough to Endorse Program Called “Kinderguardians” That Puts Guns in Hands of 4-Year-Old Kids? Watch Them: Sacha Baron Cohen’s new show is about to drop and exposed nut-job Republicans are not happy about it” at Common Dreams.