Well friends, the end has come. Twitter, cursed hellsite, purveyor of doom and sorrow, appears to at its end.
I have to choose my words carefully here, because it seems like nothing ever really dies on the internet. But as my account continues to shed followers apparently leaving the platform (and city governments appear to be preparing for the end) it feels like we’re spiraling toward an expedited form of the slow death that Facebook — and sites like Myspace before it — experienced on their marches toward irrelevancy.
It’s hard to understate what we’re losing. For me, the platform was essential internet infrastructure, critical for primary sourcing, nuggets that hint at something larger happening… it wasn’t a publishing platform. It was the ultimate aggregator, a place to gather information and perspective I would not have been able to find on my own that helped me shape and inform a lot of my coverage. Sure, Twitter could be an echo chamber. But used correctly, it could be something so much more.
In case I stop posting for good, I’ve decided to start blogging again. I’m not exactly sure what form this will take at this point. It might be an analysis newsletter, or a place to discuss politics or other things I find interesting.
I’m also not exactly sure what format I want to use for this thing yet. What you see below is likely nowhere near final, but it’s organized around a concept I’ve had for a long while: a beyond-the-headlines overview of how the country is changing and the forces that shape our daily lives, from the top to the bottom. Hope you dig it.
“Oh captain, my captain”
If you missed my reporting from earlier this month, progressives in New York State were in open revolt against New York’s Democratic Party Chairman, Jay Jacobs, after an embarrassing performance for the party’s candidates statewide arguably cost Democrats an unprecedented opportunity to maintain its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives next Congress.
Jacobs is likely to remain safe. He has Gov. Kathy Hochul’s support and, as of Thursday, the co-signed support of some 41 Democratic chairs — all predominantly from Upstate.
But his underperformance — or, rather, Republicans’ overperformance — in a Democratically-advantaged map in the Empire State this cycle has potentially led to the rise of a new star in the national Republican Party: the GOP nominee for governor, Lee Zeldin, who ran Hochul to the closest margin for a gubernatorial candidate in a generation.
On Thursday, Zeldin — a party moderate who ranked among one of the few Republicans to outperform expectations this cycle — said in a letter distributed to media he was “very seriously considering” letters from members of the Republican National Committee to potentially lead the committee following a disastrous midterm performance by incumbent Ronna McDaniel, who hitched the party’s prospects to Trump and has since, sought to distance the party away from him.
That said, Zeldin could have competition from South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a dark horse prospect for the presidential nomination who, earlier this week, hinted she could be a viable successor to McDaniel.
“We as Republicans need to really evaluate what we’re doing,” she told Fox News on Thursday. “We have to evaluate that and see what we can do better.”
Down south, a fight for the schools begins
In the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, parents were in an uproar.
Myriad controversies around masks in schools and vaccination requirements led to meetings filled with outraged parents. And, in the ensuing months, activist groups seized onto schools’ LGBTQ policies, the contents of school libraries, and the spectre of “critical race theory” to rile up the public into supporting conservative candidates for statewide office down to seats on the local school board.
Down south, the consequences are already being felt in dramatic fashion.
After a group of candidates backed by the conservative group, Moms for Liberty, seized control of a South Carolina school board this past week, the group proceeded to take a hammer to the district. Within the first two hours, the group appointed one of its own as chair, fired the district’s Black superintendent and attorney seemingly out of nowhere, instituted a ban on CRT, and voted to convene a panel to determine what books to ban from the school’s library.
It was a hell of a shakeup. Per Paul Bowers of the Brutal South newsletter wrote in a really good recap of the hearing from the other side of the spectrum: “This isn’t leadership, it’s vandalism”
Meanwhile in Virginia, the state board of education — a majority of which was appointed by recent Republican Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin — came under fire for proposing sweeping changes to a proposed social studies curriculum released over the summer that contained heavy influence from conservative groups like the Fordham Institute and Hillsdale College.
The main transgression that attracted people’s ire? The “accidental” deletion of Martin Luther King Jr. and Juneteenth from elementary school lesson plans, and an inexplicable increase in lessons involving former President Ronald Reagan. (Officials with the Virginia Department of Education apologized for the omissions, and plan to re-insert some of the proposals from this summer’s plan into a future version of the document.)
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Definitions of equality
Earlier this week, the United States Senate (somewhat surprisingly) voted to break a filibuster around legislation to codify the right to same-sex marriage in U.S. law, with a dozen Republicans joining Democrats to secure the 60-vote threshold they needed to break it.
While most could be considered moderates, one eyebrow-raiser on the list was Wyoming Sen. Cynthia Lummis, who broke from her senior counterpart, John Barrasso, to back the effort, saying it aligned with the “Equality State’s” constitutional promise of equal rights for all.
“Marriage is a deeply personal issue, and I have listened carefully to individuals across Wyoming to hear their perspective on this matter,” Lummis said in a Thursday statement published by Cowboy State Daily. “Ultimately, my decision to proceed on this bill was guided by two things – the Wyoming Constitution and ensuring religious liberties for all citizens and faith-based organizations were protected. Equality is enshrined in the Wyoming constitution,” she said.
Barrasso — like other Republicans in the past — have maintained that the issue of codifying same-sex marriage into law is a threat to religious freedom. In the lead-up to the vote, televangelist Franklin Graham said the legislation “strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals and ministries,” before describing the legislation as the “Destruction of Marriage Act,” a label other lawmakers agreed with.
“Nothing in the bill adds new protections for gay marriage, but it does, in my view, create great uncertainty about religious liberty and institutions who oppose gay marriage,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham tweeted.
“I didn’t think the leopards would eat MY face!”
After Trump narrowly lost Arizona in 2020 following a wild and weird election, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake bought wholesale into claims that the race was stolen from him, while her and other Republicans sought to enact numerous reforms to the state’s elections: more stringent voter i.d. requirements, proof of citizenship, increased purges of the state voter rolls.
Some of those reforms, however, may have backfired on her. This week on her social media, Lake posted numerous videos of supporters claiming issues they had at the polls including one who was denied the right to vote in state-level elections because he did not have the identification he needed to receive a ballot: a requirement under a newly passed Arizona state law. (Notable: the federal government sued them for it.)
I don’t know the specifics of this case. They might not be accurately retelling what happened. There might have been an overzealous poll worker who improperly denied them the right to vote, afraid to break the law.
But in all likelihood, the problem probably went both ways.
The Race Is On…
The 2024 campaign season officially began this week and already, it’s quite a circus.
Facing speculation the new Republican majorities in the House and Senate would come into power in complete disarray, the GOP managed to elect new leadership this week with apparently resounding majorities.
In the House, Kevin McCarthy is likely to remain a safe bet for Speaker… assuming he can rally the majority of his conference he needs to get elected when the full Congress convenes in 2023. With Andy Biggs out as of Friday afternoon, that seems highly unlikely, even after McCarthy apparently placated members of the activist right like Marjorie Taylor Greene with promises of even greater influence in the 118th Congress.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Mitch McConnell easily secured nomination to lead the GOP minority in the 118th Congress. (I wrote about who didn’t have his back for Newsweek on Wednesday.) However, there’s likely to be some difficulties there…
After declaring open warfare on one another throughout this past election cycle, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida has his own supporters already on-record, while other party conservatives (Ted Cruz, Mike Braun) appear willing to run against the grain after two years of relative bipartisan compromise. (Expect a fight over the debt ceiling looming ahead… details from yours truly here.)
The Biggest Elephant In The Room
As you’re probably also aware, former President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he — as just about everyone expected — would be mounting another bid for the presidency.
This was not welcome news to most in the GOP, particularly given the numerous state and federal investigations against him, two consecutive losses in the popular vote, and a midterm election cycle in which his brand proved toxic to just about every candidate who hitched their horse to him.
If the GOP stands a chance in 2024, some feel Trump will only serve to alienate the independent voters that cost him the election in 2020, and largely turned away from the most extreme candidates in 2022.
“Among the Republican nominating electorate, Trump has a floor of forever Trumpers, but the floor is sagging,” conservative columnist George Will wrote for The Washington Post Thursday. “If his bitter-enders were the questioning sort, they would ask: What states that he previously carried might he lose in 2024, and what states that he previously lost might he conceivably carry in 2024?” Will wrote.
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While it’s certainly not a sure thing he’ll regain the nomination, he’s still very much a threat to win, even facing down formidable-looking candidates like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who — I should note — has been doing quite well in the head-to-head polls against him. (You can read more on that from me here.)
In the meantime, the race is on. Earlier this week, the Republican Jewish Coalition — one of the more influential ideological interest groups in the party — announced Trump would be a featured speaker at its upcoming annual meeting in Las Vegas, putting him on a stage with other 2024 hopefuls like former administration officials Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo as well as his former Vice President Mike Pence, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and, yes, Ron DeSantis.
Hold onto your butts.
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