Sunday, November 22, 2020

The lowdown on the Georgia Senate runoffs

 Control of the Senate will hinge on the outcome of two runoff races in Georgia. Republicans have a historical advantage in these runoffs but this year’s races are looking very competitive. After a narrow Democratic victory in the presidential race in Georgia, the controversy over alleged election fraud may tip the balance of the race.

Georgia requires candidates to win with more than 50 percent of the vote and incumbent Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both fell below that margin on November 3, forcing a runoff election on January 5 against their respective Democratic challengers, Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. In the November election, Perdue bested Ossoff by 1.7 points but finished with 49.7 percent of the vote. Warnock led a crowded field in the special election but won only 32 percent of the vote. Polling has been sparse so far in the runoffs but both races appear to be very close.

The races have been dirty since the end of the primary. Perdue and Loeffler have been attacked for their pre-pandemic stock trades while Ossoff, who is Jewish, has been targeted for payments his documentary film company received from Al Jazeera. For his part, Warnock has been linked to Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and questioned about a 2002 arrest for obstructing an investigation, charges which were later dropped. One of the highlights of the muddy campaign was a Warnock ad in which he attacked Loeffler’s negative ads with a satirical ad that accused him of hating puppies.

With the current balance of power in next year’s Senate at 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats, the races have drawn national interest. Money is pouring in from around the country for both sides. The aid includes manpower. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that California Democrats are manning phone banks and coming to Georgia to campaign for Ossoff and Warnock.

There are reports that some Democrats are even considering moving to Georgia in order to vote in the runoff since voters are not required to have voted in the general election and new voters have until December 7 to register. The Peach State has no length of residency requirement for new voters.

Democratic carpetbaggers aren’t the only curveball being thrown in Georgia runoffs. President Trump’s attacks on the integrity of Georgia’s presidential election are making the race unpredictable as well.

On November 9, Perdue and Loeffler issued a joint statement calling for the resignation of Georgia’s secretary of state, Brian Raffensperger, who oversees elections. Citing unspecified “failures in Georgia elections” but providing no evidence, the pair attacked Raffensperger, who is also a Republican. Since then, a hand recount of Georgia’s paper ballots confirmed the election results and turned up some uncounted ballots but no fraud. Likewise, an audit of the state’s voting machines turned up no evidence that the devices had been tampered with or that vote totals were manipulated.

But that is not enough for some supporters of the president, who still doubt Mr. Trump’s loss. There are reports from Parler that some Trump supporters are considering a boycott of the runoff because of doubts about the integrity of the election. Lin Wood, an attorney who sued the State of Georgia on behalf of the Trump campaign, accused the state’s Republican incumbent senators, as well as Gov. Brian Kemp, of doing “little or nothing… to address unlawful election” and said that if the trio did not take action he would not vote in the runoff.

All this puts Perdue and Loeffler in a tight spot. Back in October, I described how Kelly Loeffler was forced to move far to the right to thwart an intraparty challenge by Rep. Doug Collins. Loeffler, who had been assumed to be a relative moderate was thrust into what seemed to be the uncomfortable role of a MAGA firebreather as she tried to convince voters that Collins was too liberal. The strategy turned off many moderate Trump skeptics but served well enough to get Loeffler into the runoff.

A similar dynamic is now at play in both races thanks to the election fraud controversy. With both races very tight, Perdue and Loeffler cannot afford to alienate President Trump’s base. Therefore, they must back the president’s challenges to the election to ensure that the Parler Republicans don’t stay home. A recent Monmouth poll that found 77 percent of Trump supporters believe Biden’s victory was due to fraud is only one of several polls that show a majority of Republicans doubt the results of the election.

The Catch-22 is that moderates and independents don’t believe the fraud claims. The same poll found that most Americans believe the election was free and fair by a two-to-one margin.

If Loeffler and Perdue are perceived as trying to help Trump unfairly overturn the election results, their strategy could backfire with voters. Angry Democrats and anti-Trump voters who turned the state blue for the first time since 1992 might be motivated to turn out in droves to protect their win.

An analysis of Georgia’s electorate by Nate Cohn of the New York Times found that the largest blue shifts in the state came among high-income voters, college graduates, the suburbs, older voters, and Obama-Trump voters. Dave Wasserman of Cook Political tweeted the counties with the largest anti-Trump shifts from 2016. With the exception of Augusta’s Columbia County, the remaining counties are all Atlanta suburbs.

Interestingly, the share of black voters was down from both 2012 and 2016, even though the total number of voters increased. Many pundits have credited Stacey Abrams with the surge in Democratic voters. Groups founded by the former gubernatorial candidate have registered more than a million new voters over the past two years. This helped Biden eke out a win despite the fact that the black share of the electorate declined from 30 percent in 2012, to 27.7 percent in 2016, to 27 percent this year.

The best path forward for the Democrats is to hope that Republicans become disillusioned with the electoral process and stay home while encouraging Democratic voters in the cities and suburbs to turn out in order to make sure that the Trump Administration does not get a reprieve.

The Republicans must walk a tightrope. They cannot afford to alienate President Trump’s base but they also cannot lose many moderate and independent voters. Perdue and Loeffler no doubt hope that the presidential election will be resolved well before early voting starts for the runoff on December 14 so they can spend the last few weeks before Election Day talking about something else. Anything else.

A quick resolution seems likely. The Trump campaign has requested a second recount in the race but this is not expected to change the result. The Trump campaign’s lawsuit attempting to delay certification of Georgia’s results was dismissed last week and Joe Biden’s win was certified on Friday. Gov. Kemp called for an audit of absentee ballot signatures but has said that he will follow the law, which ultimately requires that the state’s electors be assigned to Biden. Exactly what happens and how the president reacts will determine whether Perdue and Loeffler can extricate themselves from between the rock and the hard place where they currently reside.

The big question at this point is whether President Trump’s supporters will turn out for Republicans when Donald Trump is not on the ballot. That question is especially relevant when many Trump supporters suspect that Georgia Republicans have somehow betrayed the president and were complicit in the fraud that they believe contributed to his loss.

History and the dynamics of the Georgia runoffs favor the Republican incumbents, but both races could go either way. If Donald Trump’s voters are primarily Trump supporters and not Republicans, the Peach State could go blue again in one or both races.

Originally published on The First TV

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Tucker Carlson takes on Sidney Powell

 “For more than a week, Powell has been all over conservative media with the following story,” Carlson said in a segment called “Standing Up For What’s Right” on Thursday night. “This election was stolen by a collection of international leftists who manipulated vote tabulating software in order to flip millions of votes from Donald Trump to Joe Biden. The other day on television, Powell said of Trump that when the fraud is finally uncovered, ‘I think we’ll find he had at least 80 million votes.'”

“In other words,” Carlson continued, “rigged software stole about seven million votes in this election.”

Carlson then plays a clip of Powell at a press conference with Rudy Giuliani in which she claimed to have discovered an algorithm with the ability to “flip votes.” Powell says this algorithm “probably ran all over the country” and added that “we might never have uncovered” the software “had the votes for President Trump not been so overwhelming in so many of these states that it broke the algorithm.”

“Sidney Powell has been saying similar things for days,” Carlson said, resuming his commentary. “On Sunday night, we texted her after watching one of her segments.”

“What Powell was describing would amount to the single greatest crime in American history,” he continued. “Millions of votes stolen in a day. Democracy destroyed. The end of our centuries-old system of self-government. Not a small thing.”

“We took Sidney Powell seriously,” Carlson said. “We had no intention of fighting with her. We’ve always respected her work.”

But Carlson had questions about Powell’s claims.

“We simply wanted to see the details,” he continued. “How could you not want to see them? So we invited Sidney Powell on the show. We would have given her the whole hour. We would have given her the entire week actually and listened quietly the whole time at rapt attention.”

But there was a problem.

“She never sent us any evidence despite a lot of requests, polite requests,” Carlson said. “Not a page.”

“When we kept pressing, she got angry and told us to stop contacting her,” he added.

“When we check with others around the Trump campaign, people in positions of authority, they told us Powell has never given them any evidence either,” Carlson continued. “Nor did she provide any today at the press conference.”

“She never demonstrated that a single actual vote was moved illegitimately by software from one candidate to another,” he went on. “Not one.”

“So why are we telling you this,” Carlson asked rhetorically. “We’re telling you this because it’s true. And, in the end, that’s all that matters: The truth. It’s our only hope, it’s our best defense. And it’s how we’re different from them, we care what’s true. And we know you care too, that’s why we told you.”

“Maybe Sidney Powell will forward soon with details on exactly how this happened and precisely who did it,” Tucker speculated. “Maybe she will, we are certainly hopeful that she will.”

I have had my differences with Carlson over the years, but I am grateful for his decision to tell the truth about Powell’s claims. I’m sure it was not an easy decision and Carlson admitted as much the following day when he said that he had “heard from a lot of people,” including people in the Trump Administration, since the original segment aired.

In his update, Carlson says that he, along with the people who called his show, believes that the election was “not fair” and that he is “willing to believe any explanation for what happened,” but that he has still “not seen a single piece of evidence showing that software changed votes.”

“It doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, it might have happened,” Carlson said. “It means they haven’t seen any evidence that it happened.”

Carlson goes on to say that other members of the Trump legal team and the Trump Administration have also not seen evidence of Powell’s claims, but adds that Powell now says that she expects to be able to prove her claims in court within the next two weeks.

So save the date. The election is already two weeks past and the Trump campaign has been claiming fraud almost since Election Day. Yet, as I pointed out earlier this week, Rudy Giuliani admitted in court that the Trump campaign was not making legal allegations that fraud had been committed in Pennsylvania. However, if Powell’s statement is accurate, we can look forward to evidence by December 5. Mark your calendars.

There’s an old saying that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence and Tucker is right that Powell’s allegations, if true, would constitute the greatest crime in American history. The American people should not be expected to take allegations about unprecedented voter fraud purely on faith. Powell should present her evidence to the country rather than making extraordinary allegations that she is not willing or able to back up. There is another old saying that applies as well: Put up or shut up.

I disagree with Carlson that the election was unfair. I have yet to see any evidence of widespread fraud that could have shifted the outcome of hundreds of thousands of votes across five states. In my opinion, Donald Trump’s loss can be easily explained by a number of factors, including the pandemic and its associated recession, but especially the fact that President Trump spent four years playing to his base at the expense of alienating moderate and independent voters.

A big part of Republican surprise at the outcome of the election is that we live in different media bubbles. In the Republican media bubble, we were told for four years that Donald Trump was the greatest and most popular president in history. In reality, his average approval rating never approached 50 percent, which goes a long way towards explaining the outcome of the election. I applaud Tucker Carlson for breaking out of the bubble now to tell his audience the truth about the fraud allegations.

Maybe there is evidence of widespread election fraud. If there is, I’d love to see it so that I can examine the claims objectively. The will of the people in the election should be honored regardless of which candidate won.

But if Powell and the Trump cannot support their allegations, we need to know that too. Hopefully, when the matter is settled, the American people will remember who lied to them and who told them the truth, because trying to overturn an election based on fabricated claims of fraud is just as bad as doing it with a software algorithm.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The election fraud narrative is dying

 We are more than two weeks out from the election. The votes have been counted and in many cases recounted. The allegations of fraud have been investigated. The lawsuits are being settled. And Joe Biden is still the winner.

The 2020 election has yielded a bumper crop of lawsuits. So many, in fact, that it is difficult to keep track of them. I usually steer clear of Wikipedia, but the site has the best roundup of election-related litigation that I’ve found. The site lists a total of 38 lawsuits across the country. Of these, 22 have already been dismissed, denied, or dropped. Another nine are ongoing and seven have been received the judge’s ruling.

Of all these cases, only one has been won by the Trump campaign in one of the states that are still considered to be contested. In that case, a suit against Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Kathy Boockvar, the judge held that Boockvar lacked the authority to prolong the deadline for voters to provide proof of identification. That ruling does not affect the outcome of the Pennsylvania election, however. Joe Biden currently leads the state by more than 80,000 votes, more than the margin of Donald Trump’s election victory across the three states that swung the Electoral College in 2016.

The remaining undecided lawsuits are also unlikely to change the outcome of the election. Although several of the remaining lawsuits are in states won by Biden and still contested by Trump, none allege widespread voter fraud and most, even if decided in Trump’s favor, would not overcome Biden’s lead. One exception is a Pennsylvania lawsuit that seeks to prohibit certification of the state’s election results, but that is a very long shot.

Earlier this week, there was bad news for the Trump campaign in two separate Pennsylvania lawsuits. Politico reports that the state supreme court ruled against Trump’s claim that election observers were not granted “meaningful access” to watch votes being counted.

In the other pending case in Pennsylvania, Rudy Giuliani admitted in court that “this is not a fraud case.” Per the Washington Post, Giuliani and the Trump campaign are arguing that the entire state’s results should be thrown out because some counties allowed voters to correct their ballots while others did not. The state has filed a motion to dismiss the case and the Trump campaign had until Wednesday afternoon to respond.

Other news from the states has also not been good for Trump’s claims of victory. In Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced on Tuesday that an audit of the state’s voting machines had turned up no evidence of foul play. In the Georgia recount, some additional votes turned up in two counties, including a deep-red county soon to be represented by Qanon adherent Marjorie Taylor Greene, but most counties were “spot dead-on” a state election official told CNN. Trump gained narrowly but Biden still leads the state by more than 13,000 votes.

The Dominion voting machines used in Georgia have been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, but an independent audit of a random sample of Georgia’s voting machines turned up no evidence of manipulation. The Hill reported that the audit included precinct ballot scanners, ballot-marking devices, and central absentee ballot scanners.

In Wayne County, Michigan, election officials briefly deadlocked on a partisan basis over whether certify the county results. The news prompted a tweet from one of Trump’s attorneys who crowed that “if the state board follows suit, the Republican state legislator [sic] will select the electors” and called it a “huge win” for the president.

But Trump’s win proved brief. Republicans in the state legislature told the Washington Post that they did not plan to intervene in the matter. The Republican canvassers in Wayne County ultimately agreed to certify the results in exchange for county officials requesting an audit of vote tallies by the secretary of state.

In Wisconsin, the Trump campaign has agreed to pay $3 million for recounts of two counties. The president has said that Milwaukee and Dane counties were the location of the “worst irregularities” but has presented no evidence to support his claims.

Further, on Tuesday, President Trump fired Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency after Krebs repeatedly disputed the president’s claims of widespread election fraud. Krebs, who was appointed by Trump in November 2018, had called election conspiracy theories involving Hammer and Scorecard “nonsense” and a “hoax.”

As the lawsuits and recounts fizzle, states are approaching deadlines to certify election results. Per Ballotpedia, barring court orders to the contrary, the certification deadlines for the contested states are as follows:

  • Arizona – November 30
  • Georgia – November 20
  • Michigan – November 23
  • Nevada – December 1
  • Pennsylvania – November 23
  • Wisconsin – December 1

After the election results are certified, Joe Biden will officially become the president-elect and Donald Trump’s already narrow path toward a second term will tighten considerably. The president can still ask for recounts, but the chances of overcoming Biden leads in excess of 10,000 votes are nil. There are scattered instances of small-scale fraud but nothing of the magnitude required to overturn the result of even the closest states.

In the US, we don’t vote directly for presidential candidates. Instead, we vote for electors who will vote for our preferred candidate at the meeting of the Electoral College. When the state results are certified, the electors will be officially selected. This year’s meeting of the Electoral College is on December 14. Even before that date, there is a “Safe Harbor” deadline on December 8 per the Congressional Research Service. On December 8, results are considered conclusive if state procedures to address contested results have been completed.

After the Electoral College selects the new president, the transition of power is automatic. The Twentieth Amendment states, “The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January… and the terms of their successors shall then begin.”

President Trump has shown no signs of being willing to concede and is not required to do so. After the electors cast their ballots for Joe Biden, Donald Trump will cease to be president on January 20 and Joe Biden will immediately succeed him. Mr. Trump’s protestations and allegations of fraud will have no bearing unless he can prove them in court. So far, he has shown no ability to do so.

It should also be noted that President Trump needs more than just a Hail Mary lawsuit in one state. Even Pennsylvania, the contested state with the most electoral votes, would not be enough to swing the election. Trump would need to flip at least three states to change the outcome of the election. That is not going to happen.

The Trump campaign is not going to prove widespread election fraud for the simple reason that it is not actually trying to show fraud in court. The fraud claims are for consumption of the Republican base, not for judges and juries. Whatever Mr. Trump’s motives, he is not going to win a second term and is undermining faith in elections and the political and judicial processes with his false claims. With many jumping aboard the conspiracy bandwagon, Americans should be grateful that there are honest men like Chris Krebs who will stand up and tell the truth, even at the cost of their own careers.

Originally published on The First TV

The Left is already upset with Joe Biden

 Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard rumblings among those Republicans who accept the election results that Joe Biden was set to appoint Bernie Sanders as Treasury Secretary. At least that will get him out of Congress, or so the joke goes. But the real news is even better. The Biden Administration is reportedly steering clear of Sanders and other leading progressives.

In a recent article, Politico reports that the incoming Biden Administration is signaling that it will not consider prominent progressives such as Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for cabinet positions. This prompted Luke Savage in the Jacobin to complain that Biden was “freezing out” the pair.

“Despite spin to the contrary, it’s the latest sign that the Biden team is planning to govern from the extreme center — and that we’ll have to push him to win any progressive gains,” Savage said.

The reality is not that simple. Although Biden is the most moderate Democrat who had a real shot at the nomination, there are strategic forces at play that also make sticking to the center an attractive route for Biden. Much of his moderation will a necessity due to the poor showing of down-ballot Democrats. Republicans are likely to remain in control of the Senate when the dust settles in Georgia and Nancy Pelosi will have a narrower majority in the House next year.

This reality leads Biden to a couple of conclusions. The first is that confirmations will be difficult in a Republican-held Senate. If far-left Democrats are appointed to Biden Administration positions, they will have very difficult nomination fights and may end up being rejected. Cabinet nominations cannot be filibustered thanks to Harry Reid’s implementation of the nuclear option, but if Republicans hold a majority they can vote down controversial nominees.

The second problem for Biden is that congressional leaders will not want to sacrifice votes in a narrowly divided Congress. Some potential cabinet appointments might be hard to replace with reliable Democrats. Elizabeth Warren represents Massachusetts, where a Republican governor would appoint her replacement unless the Democratic legislature amends the process. In some states, the process to fill seats left by appointees departing to join the Biden Administration might take time to complete, leaving congressional Democrats at a competitive disadvantage for weeks or months.

Democrats would also not want to put untried candidates in swing states and districts where they might lose a competitive special election. The Trump-era saga of Jeff Sessions’s seat, which eventually went to Democrat Doug Jones for several years, is a cautionary tale about appointing executive branch officials from even seemingly safe states. Republicans won back the seat this year after losing it in 2018.

There have been several hints at possible Biden appointees, Politico noted. These include:

  • Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) for attorney general
  • Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), who is retiring, for Department of the Interior
  • Sen. Chris Coons (D-Conn.) for secretary of state
  • Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) for Health and Human Services or UN ambassador
  • Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) for an unspecified position

Rep. Bass, along with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) are also leading candidates to replace Kamala Harris in the Senate as she leaves to become vice president.

Whatever the reason, bringing moderate Democrats to Washington rather than farther-left progressives is a good thing. If the parties start from a point closer together, it will make it easier to find bipartisan consensus on problems that the country faces. Ultimately, that is what government is about.

It’s also good for both parties. From a Republican perspective, center-left Democrats checked by a Republican Senate are less likely to push for radical change. For the Democrats, not going too far left makes it more likely that they can hold or expand their majorities in 2022 and 2024.

As I wrote after the election, the decision rendered by the American people seems almost miraculously equitable. In large part, the election was a rejection of extremism on both sides as voters sent President Trump packing but refused to hand over Congress to the Democrats. America has often thrived under divided government and it’s likely that will be the case under a Biden Administration that is unable to unilaterally impose its will on the country. Whatever Democrats might want to do, they must bow to the reality that they have to work with Republicans to get anything done.

There is a downside as well though. If he stays in the Senate, Republicans will still have to deal with Bernie Sanders for the foreseeable future.

Originally published on The First TV

Friday, November 13, 2020

Here’s what to expect from the Biden Administration

 As the battle over counting continues, it is increasingly evident that Donald Trump lost the election and that Joe Biden is the president-elect. The transition, which is constitutionally mandated to culminate on January 20, is beginning even without the president’s concession. So, what should we expect from the Biden Administration?

First, the good news is that the dire predictions are wrong. A Twitter follower asked me yesterday if I thought that America would “end up like China eventually if the Democrats take over?” The answer to that question is an emphatic “no.”

We have constitutional protections that the Chinese have never enjoyed that guard against that sort of thing. But the Constitution only protects us as long as we respect the rule of law. That is why it is so important to abide by legal limits and traditional norms even when Republican presidents are in power. Shortcuts around constitutional limits are a two-way street and it should have been obvious that Democrats would return to power some day.

More good news is that Democratic power will be far from absolute. The Senate currently stands at 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats with two races in Georgia yet to be decided. At best, Democrats will have a slim, two-seat margin, but it’s more likely that Republicans will maintain the majority. If the Democrats don’t have a majority then the filibuster gets a new lease on life and controversial progressive ideas such as court-packing, defunding police, tax increases, admitting Puerto Rico as a state, and gun bans are dead on arrival.

That will probably be true even if the Democrats hold a slim majority. A Democratic majority would have the same problem that Republicans did with more moderate members who refuse to go along with controversial proposals. That is especially true of Democrats in red and purple states and districts that have been picked up over the past four years.

Joe Manchin is the current poster boy for the conservative Blue Dog Democrats. The West Virginia senator is typical of centrist pro-gun, pro-life Democrats. There aren’t many conservative Democrats left but even one or two can make the difference in a closely divided Congress. Manchin has already distanced himself from the defund-the-police movement, earning a wordless Twitter rebuke from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Other moderate Democrats that might join Manchin in the role of swing votes are Kirsten Sinema of Arizona, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Gary Peters of Michigan. The three are not conservative by Republican standards but they do have centrist voting records. Sinema and Peters, who was just re-elected by less than two points, are from very competitive states. They will be voting with an eye toward re-election.

With the radical agenda of the progressives stymied from the outset, Coronavirus and the economy are likely to be the top two priorities for the Biden Administration. As I’ve maintained from the beginning, fixing the economy depends on ending the pandemic. Thankfully, we are growing closer to an effective vaccine that will allow us to return to normal.

The immediate problem is one over which Biden has no authority. Virus levels are rising around the country and the Trump Administration seems to have shifted from a containment strategy to one of treatment. In the absence of a nationwide strategy, many cities and states are implementing their own measures to control the virus.

While at least one Biden advisor has floated the idea of another nationwide shelter order, it is impossible to say with any certainty what the situation will be when Biden takes office more than two months from now. Dr. Anthony Fauci said in an interview with Sinclair Broadcast Group on Nov. 12 that another lockdown may not be necessary, noting that the country already has “COVID-19 fatigue.”

“You can get a lot done without necessarily locking down if you adhere to the fundamental principles that many of us, myself included, have been talking about for quite a while now,” Fauci said.

The measures include “the uniform wearing of masks, the physical distancing, the avoiding congregant settings, and crowds, doing things outside preferentially over indoors, [and] the washing of hands.” Fauci stressed the mitigations need to be done “uniformly throughout the country, not in a scattered way, ” to be most effective. If we abide by these countermeasures, new shelter orders may not be necessary over the next few months.

Fauci also noted that, although distribution of a vaccine may begin as early as December for some high-priority individuals, it will be several months before the vaccines are widely available. The incoming president will have to deal with several months of pandemic but the situation will hopefully be improving by then.

If no Coronavirus relief bill is passed this year, the Biden Administration might shepherd such a measure through Congress in 2021. It is entirely possible, however, that the lame duck Congress can reach an agreement with the White House before President Trump leaves office.

The good news is that as the pandemic recedes, the economy should swiftly improve. The economy will also be boosted by removing Trump’s trade barriers, another measure which should have broad bipartisan support. Biden has signaled that he won’t remove the tariffs unilaterally but will push China for concessions. If the trade wars end as businesses reopen and demand increases in the wake of the pandemic, the economy could be poised to enter a major bull market.

Another international change the Biden Administration will likely make is to rejoin the Paris Accords. It took three years for the US to leave the climate change pact, a process that was completed the day after the election. Biden tweeted that he would rejoin the treaty as soon as he takes office. Since we’ve been in the climate deal all along, rejoining should have only a minimal impact.

Other items that Biden is likely to tackle quickly are reversing many Trump Executive Orders. Trump began his tenure by reversing many of Obama’s executive actions but then followed his predecessor’s example in bypassing Congress with presidential decrees. Executive Orders are easier than getting bills through Congress, but they are also easier to reverse. Democrats learned this in 2017 and Republicans are about to get the same lesson. Among the executive actions in question are Trump’s pro-life Executive Orders, funding for the border wall, and immigration restrictions.

Pro-life conservatives don’t have to worry about a spike in abortions under Biden, however. Even though Donald Trump did not sign a single piece of significant pro-life legislation and his Executive Orders will likely be rescinded, the national abortion rate has been undergoing a four-decade decline. While Biden was vice president, the abortion rate fell below the level from 1973 when Roe v. Wade was decided. I don’t give the Obama Administration much credit for pro-life policy since the decline is likely driven by better and more widespread birth control along with technology that allows people to see the life in the womb, but the good news is that abortion is becoming more rare regardless of which party is in power.

Infographic: U.S. Abortion Rate Falls to Lowest Level Since Roe v. Wade | Statista

I’ve seen a lot of my Republican friends warning that energy prices will skyrocket under Biden and that the Democrats will start and continue “endless wars.” Energy prices are likely to increase even if Democrats aren’t able to pass bills that constrict energy production. The reason is that demand for energy will increase as the economy strengthens. Economic recoveries often drive up energy prices.

There is less evidence for the charge that Biden will start a war. America still has numerous adversaries around the world, but Biden is no more likely to start a war than President Trump has been. Forgotten amid the pandemic news is that the US and Iran were at the brink of war less than a year ago. There is also the chance that Israel or the Trump Administration might order an attack on Iran before Biden takes office, but the president-elect has not signaled any hostile intentions.

In his recent speeches, Joe Biden, who is not and has never been a socialist, has broadcast an intention to seek bipartisanship and try to bring the country back together. With Republicans in control of Congress and able to block his agenda, Biden has every reason to be conciliatory. The longtime senator is also well aware of how Congress works and what is needed to get things done in Washington.

Biden will need to fend off angry progressives on the left, but he also must overcome vengeful Republicans on the right. Mitch McConnell will almost certainly have the votes to stop the Biden Administration in his tracks, but he will also have the ability to move forward good legislation for the benefit of the country. One of the biggest obstacles here will be angry Republicans who view any compromise as “caving” and “surrender” to the left.

Over the next four years, it will be Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell who will together determine the course of the country. If they work together and succeed, they will draw fire from the extremes of both sides, but the country will be better off.

Originally published on The First TV

Thursday, November 12, 2020

What Trump needs to prove when it comes to fraud

It is six days past the election and President Trump has not conceded. Not only has the president not conceded the election, he is adamant that he defeated Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump’s defiance is based on allegations of rampant voter fraud, but the Administration has been slow in providing hard evidence to back up its claims. And in order to actually turn the tide in key states, that’s what’s needed. Let’s take a look at the big picture to see where the situation stands.

Last week in The Dispatch, David French provided a list of conspiracy theories that have arisen since the election. Most of these have been swiftly debunked and discarded. More recently, CNN investigated a list of 14,000 names that Trump supporters claimed were dead people who had voted in Michigan. Of 50 names chosen randomly, 37 were dead and had not voted, eight were alive and had not voted, and five were alive and had cast ballots that were apparently legal.

So where is the slam-dunk evidence to back up Trump’s claims?

The core problem for Trump is that it is difficult to show widespread fraud in races where down-ballot Republicans outperformed him. The lack of a blue wave in Congress hurts claims that Democrats miscounted ballots. Wouldn’t they have boosted vote totals for Democratic House and Senate candidates as well as for Biden?

But a bigger issue in terms of both the law and public opinion is that the Trump campaign must not only prove fraud, it must prove that there was fraud in sufficient numbers to affect the outcome of the election. With Biden leading by large margins, there would have to be massive fraud which should be easily detectable. I’m skeptical that standard can be achieved.

The Trump campaign must not only prove fraud, it must prove that there was fraud in sufficient numbers to affect the outcome of the election.

To me, it’s suspicious that the Trump campaign’s legal actions do not match its rhetoric. The election lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign have mostly not reflected the claims of widespread voter fraud. In a roundup of Trump lawsuits by NPR, only one lawsuit involved miscounting ballots. This lawsuit in Arizona, the “Sharpiegate” suit, was dropped after its claim that ballots were incorrectly discarded because counting machines could not read ballots marked with a Sharpie was shown to be false.

Other lawsuits, all in states won by Joe Biden, have mostly been dismissed by courts. In Pennsylvania, courts did agree that late-arriving ballots should be segregated in case a court strikes down the state’s extended deadline, but the number of ballots in question is not enough to overcome Biden’s lead, which is currently more than 46,000 votes. In Michigan, two separate courts found no evidence of Republican claims of lack of transparency in vote-counting. In Georgia, where Trump trails by more than 12,000 votes, a Republican poll watcher claimed that 53 votes from Chatham County arrived late but could provide no evidence. A discrepancy in Fulton County’s count over the weekend has also been resolved But even if the votes from both incidents were combined, it would not overcome Biden’s lead in the Peach State.

That didn’t stop Georgia’s two Republican senators, both of whom are headed for a January runoff, from issuing a joint statement throwing the state’s Republican secretary of state, the official who oversees elections, under the bus. The two senators called for the resignation of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger but again failed to provide any evidence of
wrongdoing.  Raffensperger responded that he followed the law and had
posted a monitor in problem areas.

One of my big concerns is that the overheated rhetoric surrounding the vote counting has the potential to escalate into violent confrontations. The words of people on both sides are pushing the national temperature higher and undermining faith in the elections process. A Politico/Morning Consult poll found that 70 percent of Republicans do not believe that the election was free and fair. Prior to the only election, only 35 percent of Republicans had doubted the process. People who believe that the election was stolen may take the law into their own hands, as two men arrested in Philly on suspicion of plotting to attack a ballot-counting location allegedly did.

Only legal votes should be counted, but every legal vote should be counted.

To be clear, the current situation is not like the 2000 Florida recount. That year, George W. Bush won Florida by 537 votes. This year, election results show that President Trump lost Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. Trump needs to reverse the election results in several of those states. The closest of these is Georgia where the president trails by more than 12,000 votes. Biden’s lead in Michigan is almost 150,000 votes.

Only legal votes should be counted, but every legal vote should be counted. If the Trump campaign has evidence of fraud, particularly fraud on a large enough scale to erode a Biden lead of tens of thousands of votes, it needs to present that evidence to investigators and courts immediately. If they can’t produce the evidence, President Trump and his supporters should stop undermining public faith in the election and accept that Joe Biden is the president-elect.

Originally published on The First TV