Minutes of the 8/14 meeting

Postcards for Special Election NY-19 (Pat Ryan). The Special Election is Tuesday 8/23, same day as the regular NY Primary. So, any postcards have to go out now. Abby doesn’t have any addresses for this race at this writing, but if you have them, use them. (The same candidates are going to be running for the full term in NY-18, after significant redistricting.)

My polling update was generally positive. The Democratic brand is climbing. We are doing well in the Senate: 10-point leads for Fetterman (PA), Kelly (AZ). Down from there, 4 for Ryan (PA), 2 for Warnock (GA), only 1.6 for Cortez Masto (NV), and −0.3 for Beasley (NC).

Bruce reported on evidence that postcards and letters really work. (Fifteen emails every day, not effective.) Ann Overton gave us a list of “I vote because…” that test well.

  • I vote because some elections are decided by just a few votes.
  • I vote because the more people who vote, the more fair the election will be.

Extensive discussion on who wants to canvass and where. Rudy Salas seems to be a little ahead. Lots of people already available to do the Southern California seat flips: Smith, Rollins, Chen. Maybe work for Kermit Jones (CA-03), closer and often cooler? Bruce passes along a note that Indivisible of Sonoma County is running a virtual fundraiser for him on Monday, 8/22.

Janice has sent an email about expanding assisted dying in California.

Meeting Sunday 8/14, 4:00 pm

Back to the usual meeting place.

Bonus meeting. Aaron Frank will be doing another Focus for Democracy analysis on best bang-for-buck races over Zoom at 5:00. We are registered for the event, and anyone who wants to stay to watch is welcome.

And another highlight: Watch me eat crow as Merrick Garland’s champion, Babette, gets to point out that—at last—one DoJ case against The False Orange Messiah takes (beautiful) shape. And we can always hope this is but a small fraction of the trouble Trump is in; it couldn’t happen to a more deserving guy. Minor note you may have missed: Ron DeSantis is pro-raid on Mar-a-Lago. Must be thinking this is how he clears the 2024 Republican primary field.

Just remember, if you are annoyed that Trump supporters claim he had the right to magically declassify documents (skipping all of the required procedures), luckily the same interpretation allows President Biden to re-classify the documents as Top Secret, meaning Trump can’t even read, much less possess, them.

Three interesting election results in Minnesota

Yesterday, Minnesota held primaries and a special election to replace the late Republican Rep. Hagedorn (MN–01). That race and two others had quite interesting results.

MN–01 is southern Minnesota and swung away from us in the 2018 election (which was elsewhere a great election for Democrats). Trump won this district by 10. In the special election, the Republican won by only 4. That is, a Blue swing of 6. The same two candidates are competing in the November general election for a full term. I strongly doubt this will be a pick-up, but a swing of 6 should have Republicans very nervous.

Two Democratic primaries also had unexpected results.

Rep. Betty McCollum (MN–04) was being challenged from the left, although she is one of the most active members of Congress on conditioning aid to Israel on settlement issues. (So, hard to get to her left on this issue without falling out of the mainstream.) McCollum was also left-of-center on BLM. Her opponent raised a fair amount of money and lost by almost 70. Not a typo. 70.

Meanwhile, Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN–05) survived a primary challenge from the right. Her opponent Don Samuels picked up a number of endorsements from other elected officials. This happened the last two cycles but Omar crushed her opponents, anyway. This time she won by only 2½. I don’t think anyone expected this. The district is very Blue and this is unlikely to matter in the general election, but she’s going to face serious primary opposition from here on out.

Alex Jones and multiple truths

You have been subjected, more than once, to my opinion that conservatives are using “belief” and “truth” in a way different than, say, a scientist—or even a judge. Last week serial liar Alex Jones found out about the difference, to the tune of $45 million, alas, likely to be reduced on appeal, and implication of a possible prosecution for perjury.

Lawyer/blogger Ken White (who goes by “Popehat” on social media) has a more sophisticated way of expressing it. His essay is entitled Alex Jones at the Temple of Babel. Excerpts.

When modern American political culture winds up in court… [t]he participants are speaking different languages, and using language in different ways. Courts are focused on a taxonomy of words. Are they factual? Are they opinion? Are they literal or figurative? Courts also care about the literal truth of words. That’s central to defamation law — it’s not defamatory unless it was false. Courts are about analysis, and the entire project of the law is about words meaning specific things.

But modern American political culture is emotive and even artistic. It uses language like a musician uses notes or an impressionist uses brush strokes. Whether it’s Marjorie Taylor Greene talking about Bill Gates’ efforts to colonize our bowels through “peach tree dishes” or Alex Jones ranting about gay frogs, modern politicians and pundits use language to convey feelings and attitudes and values, not specific meanings…

The point is that courts are ill-equipped to deal with people like Alex Jones, and people like Alex Jones are ill-equipped to deal with courts. Jones’ catastrophic testimony in his own defense illustrates this. Jones struggled to fit his bombast within the framework of the law, within the distinction between fact and opinion. It’s a bad fit because that’s not how he uses words. If Jones had been honest — an utterly foreign concept to him — he might have said “I just go out there and say what I feel.” The notion that Sandy Hook was a hoax is a word-painting, a way of conveying Jones’ bottomless rage at politics and media and modernity, and he can no more defend it factually than Magritte could defend the logical necessity of a particular brushstroke.… Jones is loathsomely rich because people want to consume his art. His landscapes of hate and fear and mistrust resonate with a frightening number of Americans. The people who enjoyed his Sandy Hook trutherism didn’t enjoy it because it was factually convincing or coherent; they enjoyed the emotional state it conveyed because it matched theirs. 

The Popehat Report

Minutes of the 7/17 meeting

Reminder: The next meeting is at our alternate location. We will send out the address. If you do not receive it, email us.

Bruce reported on the California Indivisible meeting. We had some good news about membership growth post-Dobbs. Canvassers are going to Washoe County (Reno), Nevada to defend Cortez Masto. You can go to insurrectionindex.org to find out just how bad a particular Republican is on the 1/6 coup attempt. Bruce recommended Thanks for your Servitude by Marc Leibovich. An interview with the author about the book, which discussed how “mainstream” Republicans capitulated to Trump, appeared in The Atlantic.

I talked about the Iron Law of Institutions, which I learned about from Alex Pareene. I think it applied both on the right of the Democratic Party, as he has it, and also on the Far-Left. I read a thread from Dante Atkins, a progressive strategist, about how John Fetterman is running a campaign based on authenticity instead of boring policy issues, no matter what pollsters are recommending.

Naomi contributed an optimistic Senate report from Axios and reminded us of the push to get poor, elderly voters any ID required by states trying to keep them away from the ballot box. The group is Spread the Vote.

From the barricades

Naomi, Bruce, Babette, and Jane went out to College & Ashby in protest of the reversal of Roe. (Other truly awful decisions surrounded it, and more are yet to come.) We have a picture. Our son Gideon made a guest protest appearance from Brooklyn, but isn’t in the shot because he took it.

Distributing postcards and pro-abortion links. The former Café Roma is in the background.

We are meeting July 3, back in the usual location. Those of you who took Vote Forward letters, we would like to get them back to start preparing for mailing.

As I promised, I faxed Senator Feinstein’s staff demanding she retire. All she could manage on Roe was a short written statement. The thought that California’s senior senator, a lifelong feminist and advocate of choice, can’t go to a microphone any more is both tragic and exasperating.

Notes from June 19, 2022 meeting

Many thanks to our short-notice replacement hosts.

I started with a discussion of current prospects for Senate (pretty good) and House (major improvement needed nationwide). My remarks on California are further down the post.

Sister District has an analysis of the value of postcards and letters based on their own experiments plus others’. Let‘s say the results are scattered. The best result was a postcard campaign to sporadic Democratic voters. One campaign showed equally poor results for letters and postcards: neither improved turnout. Tony the Democrat is more upbeat and less scientific, seeing postcarding as an intermediate step between mass emails (useless) and targeted social media networks (effective). He cites this paper from Yale. And Vote Forward has surveys showing significant turnout improvement from their “hybrid” (part pre-printed, part handwritten) campaign, better than any postcard campaign. I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice.

As requested, Obama’s interview in The Atlantic. It may be paywalled.


We are resetting our Act Blue thermometer. New recipients are Carolina Federation, which is working hard for progressives across the board in North Carolina, and the campaign funds of the Michigan and Arizona State House Democrats. In a good year, we can flip those.

California primaries

Some of our incumbents looks good. Katie Porter (CA-47) got over 50% by herself. Mike Levin (CA-49) had 49% and a random Democrat had another 2%. Similarly, in CA-09, Josh Harder had only 39%, but the Dems together had 52%. In CA-27, Christy Smith’s third run against Mike Garcia starts with only 37% (Garcia had 47%), but the Dems combined had 50%.

There are other districts where we came close, but we need to run 5 points better in November. Kermit Jones (CA-03) was first with 40, but Dem total was only 46. Activate America is pumping Will Rollins (CA-41); he got 46 against MAGA incumbent Ken Calvert, but he was the only Democrat on the ballot. Rudy Salas’ run against David Valadao (CA-22) netted 45 in the primary, but he was the only Democrat. Valadao does have the weakness that he voted for impeachment and some constituents will rather leave the race blank. Conservadem Adam Gray cashed in on endorsements and placed second in CA-13 with 31. Add in Phil Arballo’s 17, makes 48. Less promising: Jay Chen (CA-45) is a great candidate by both résumé and on the issues, but he had only 43 to incumbent Michelle Steele’s 48, and the third candidate was a Republican. And expect to see fundraising by Asif Mahmood who finished first with 41 against Young Kim (CA-40), but he was the only Democrat. Kim had MAGAs running to her right.

In Los Angeles, once (almost) all the votes were in, Karen Bass was 7 ahead of Rick Caruso for Mayor of Los Angeles. This is one of several races where the Election Night punditry was confused by the continuing annoying habit of liberals to vote late—Caruso was almost even then. The recall of Chesa Boudin led to a lot of stories about crime backlash, but then all the other progressive DA candidates did really well, including Pamela Price here in Alameda County. I’m putting in a map of the Boudin recall vote. If someone can explain it to me, I would appreciate the help.

Source SF Chronicle