10 votes

Weekly US politics news and updates thread - week of March 29

This thread is posted weekly - please try to post all relevant US political content in here, such as news, updates, opinion articles, etc. Extremely significant events may warrant a separate topic, but almost all should be posted in here.

This is an inherently political thread; please try to avoid antagonistic arguments and bickering matches. Comment threads that devolve into unproductive arguments may be removed so that the overall topic is able to continue.

27 comments

  1. [8]
    dubteedub
    Link
    In the latest update on the Trump networks grifts upon grifts new reporting from the New York Times shows how the campaign turned all donations into automatic weekly recurring contributions near...

    In the latest update on the Trump networks grifts upon grifts new reporting from the New York Times shows how the campaign turned all donations into automatic weekly recurring contributions near the end of the 2020 election cycle stealing millions of dollars from his unwitting supporters.

    It was a big sum for a 63-year-old battling cancer and living in Kansas City on less than $1,000 per month. But that single contribution — federal records show it was his first ever — quickly multiplied. Another $500 was withdrawn the next day, then $500 the next week and every week through mid-October, without his knowledge — until Mr. Blatt’s bank account had been depleted and frozen. When his utility and rent payments bounced, he called his brother, Russell, for help.

    What the Blatts soon discovered was $3,000 in withdrawals by the Trump campaign in less than 30 days. They called their bank and said they thought they were victims of fraud. “It felt,” Russell said, “like it was a scam.”

    But what the Blatts believed was duplicity was actually an intentional scheme to boost revenues by the Trump campaign and the for-profit company that processed its online donations, WinRed. Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the campaign had begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors, for every week until the election. Contributors had to wade through a fine-print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out.

    The sheer magnitude of the money involved is staggering for politics. In the final two and a half months of 2020, the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and their shared accounts issued more than 530,000 refunds worth $64.3 million to online donors.

    8 votes
    1. [7]
      MimicSquid
      (edited )
      Link Parent
      Its really shitty, but this particular thing happens across the political spectrum when it comes to fundraising. One of my clients is an older lady who makes a lot of political donations, and I...

      Its really shitty, but this particular thing happens across the political spectrum when it comes to fundraising. One of my clients is an older lady who makes a lot of political donations, and I have to go through ActBlue every month and turn off recurring donations she didn't mean to set up.

      Really, every shitty thing in that article is an issue with political fundraising in general. Trump's apparatus is impressive only in scale, not in type.

      4 votes
      1. [6]
        dubteedub
        Link Parent
        This is completely on another level from any other political fundraising operation. There is no need to try and both sides this issue. ActBlue does offer recurring donations, but it does not...

        This is completely on another level from any other political fundraising operation. There is no need to try and both sides this issue.

        ActBlue does offer recurring donations, but it does not pre-check automatic recurring payments like the Trump system did. ActBlue also does not automatically pre-check doubling your donation amount.

        The article also compares refund rates for WinRed and ActBlue showing the huge difference.

        Over all, the Trump operation refunded 10.7 percent of the money it raised on WinRed in 2020; the Biden operation’s refund rate on ActBlue, the parallel Democratic online donation-processing platform, was 2.2 percent, federal records show.

        Unlike ActBlue, which is a nonprofit, WinRed is a for-profit company. It makes its money by taking 30 cents of every donation, plus 3.8 percent of the amount given. WinRed was paid more than $118 million from federal committees the last election cycle; even after paying credit card fees and expenses like payroll and rent, the profits are believed to be significant.

        WinRed even made money off donations that were refunded by keeping the fees it charged on each transaction, a practice it said was standard in the industry, citing PayPal; ActBlue said it does not keep fees for refunded donations. WinRed’s cut of the Trump operation’s refunds would amount to roughly $5 million before expenses. (Archived versions of WinRed’s website show it added a disclaimer saying it would keep its fees around when refunds surged.)

        In the final 2020 reporting period, from Nov. 24 through the end of the year, Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler refunded $4.8 million to WinRed donors — more than triple the amount refunded by their Democratic rivals via ActBlue, even though the Democrats had raised far more money online. The refunds have stretched into 2021 and have been a source of frustration for the Loeffler campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.

        7 votes
        1. [5]
          MimicSquid
          Link Parent
          Emphasis mine. Look, I detest Trump and what he's done to our political system. I would personally prefer to have elections be publicly financed. But it is indeed a matter of scale than type.

          Even that was more aggressive than what the Biden campaign would do in 2020. Biden officials said they rarely used prechecked boxes to automatically have donations recur monthly or weekly; the exception was on landing pages where advertisements and emails had explicitly asked supporters to become repeat donors.

          Emphasis mine.

          Look, I detest Trump and what he's done to our political system. I would personally prefer to have elections be publicly financed. But it is indeed a matter of scale than type.

          2 votes
          1. [2]
            psi
            Link Parent
            I'm think it's unfair to emphasize that particular phrase while divorcing it from the following sentence. Sure, the Biden campaign sometimes prechecked recurring donations, but only when the Biden...

            I'm think it's unfair to emphasize that particular phrase while divorcing it from the following sentence. Sure, the Biden campaign sometimes prechecked recurring donations, but only when the Biden campaign explicitly directed people to a page for recurring donations. That's hardly the sort of dark pattern the article alludes to (compare that with Trump's fundraising emails [1]).

            Or as a perhaps more objective measure, look at the figure about halfway down the page of the NYT article. Although the Biden and Trump campaigns raised a similar amount of money, the rate of refunds for the Trump campaign increased drastically starting around June. By November, refunds were requested at five times the rate by Trump donors vs Biden donors. In my opinion, that doesn't indicate the problems only differ by scale ; rather, it indicates that the problems stem from fundamentally separate causes (in this case, the Trump campaign's willingness to engage in duplicitous behavior).


            [1] https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/3/22365952/trump-dark-patterns-trick-supporters-recurring-donation-winred-gary-coby

            4 votes
            1. MimicSquid
              Link Parent
              The thing is (I can't fucking believe I'm defending the Republican side on anything) there's nothing in the article that shows how clearly Democratic campaigns actually signposted the recurring...

              The thing is (I can't fucking believe I'm defending the Republican side on anything) there's nothing in the article that shows how clearly Democratic campaigns actually signposted the recurring charges, and I have personal experience with an older lady routinely and accidentally signing up for recurring donations to Democratic causes independent of Biden's campaign.

              That objective measure of refunds is a little less clear than it seems on the surface: because Trump worked to centralize donations under his own banner and Democrats worked to distribute funding more broadly, Trump ended up keeping a much smaller percentage of those donations due to the cap on personal donations to any given campaign. All the refunds show is what was given back, not how much was taken in due to such dark patterns.

              I'm not saying Trump isn't awful, I'm not saying this isn't bad. I'm saying that it's more complex than this article goes in to.

              1 vote
          2. [2]
            dubteedub
            Link Parent
            An update to this story came out and the NRCC is also using WinRed and has the following pre-checked box on their site calling their users defectors if they don't make their donation recurring....

            An update to this story came out and the NRCC is also using WinRed and has the following pre-checked box on their site calling their users defectors if they don't make their donation recurring.

            The pre-checked boxes include:

            We need to know we haven't lost you to the Radical Left. If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you're a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems. CHECK this box and we can win back the House and get Trump to run in 2024.

            Make this a monthly recurring donation

            Another says:

            We need your help to DRAFT Trump for President! Check this box if you want Trump to run again. Uncheck this box if you do NOT stand with Trump.

            Make this a monthly recurring donation

            These are clearly manipulations far and above what other political fundraising organizations have done and are meant to dupe supporters out of their money.

            4 votes
            1. MimicSquid
              Link Parent
              You posting more links about how the Republican side is really truly worse isn't changing this discussion. I already agree with you. I have never said I didn't agree with you. I've only said that...

              You posting more links about how the Republican side is really truly worse isn't changing this discussion. I already agree with you. I have never said I didn't agree with you. I've only said that Democrats have engaged in a milder version of the same thing, and I'm really frustrated that the responses have all been statements about how bad the Republicans are. I agree! I've said I agree. I can keep agreeing here, but this isn't actually a conversation that's going anywhere because you're not saying anything new.

              4 votes
  2. [5]
    Kuromantis
    (edited )
    Link
    Why Democrats might need to play dirty to win: The party is trying to ban partisan gerrymandering nationwide, but with the threat of Republicans redrawing districts in red states, doing the same...

    Why Democrats might need to play dirty to win: The party is trying to ban partisan gerrymandering nationwide, but with the threat of Republicans redrawing districts in red states, doing the same in blue states like New York might be the only way to preserve the Democratic House majority.

    [...] The shuffling of House seats as a result of the decennial census is expected to shift power from mostly Democratic states like California, New York, and Illinois to states like Texas, Florida, and North Carolina—all of which will have legislatures controlled by Republicans who will be in charge of drawing new districts. “The bottom line is: If this becomes an arms race, and both parties maximize their advantage in the states that they control, Republicans will come out ahead,” [...] The GOP needs to flip just five Democratic seats to recapture the House majority in 2022, and conceivably, the party could gain all of those seats through gerrymandering alone. Wasserman projects that Republicans could net anywhere from zero to 10 seats from redistricting.

    While I think most of the article is a decently interesting talk about how Democrats in New York are adapting to this, I think the part of the article I quoted really sums it all up. With the paper-thin margin Democrats hold in the house, Democrats are basically playing prisoner's dilemma with gerrymandering.

    7 votes
    1. [4]
      MonkeyPants
      Link Parent
      This is really interesting, and you've articulated it so well. This rings false to me. Democrats can work to gerrymander blue states while offering federal legislation that would presumably stop...

      This is really interesting, and you've articulated it so well.

      What could impede the Democratic effort to make the most of its dominance in New York is not the fear of hypocrisy but the party’s internal politics.

      This rings false to me. Democrats can work to gerrymander blue states while offering federal legislation that would presumably stop all gerrymandering.

      Democrats have a culture of being afraid. Fear of right wing anger.

      On one hand, death threats are real and scary. The tall poppy gets cut.

      On the other hand, wars have been fought over much less.

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        stu2b50
        Link Parent
        I don't think that's true, though, because in general, characterizing the entirety of the Democratic party in some shape or fashion tends to be wrong. Being the coalition of the entire left of...

        I don't think that's true, though, because in general, characterizing the entirety of the Democratic party in some shape or fashion tends to be wrong. Being the coalition of the entire left of center (and arguably center too) it's just functionally impossible to be in agreement like that.

        Some members of the party are more idealistic, some are more realpolitik. That's a real distinction - it's just not that everyone is "afraid of right wing anger". Even on this small site, whether or not to be pursue the utilitarian optimal or the idealistic principle in politics is constantly debated.

        Clearly it would be best for districting to be done algorithmically, or by neutral 3rd parties, or both, and that's exactly what many Democrat dominated states have done (California, for example).

        It's not an easy sell to say "Hey guys, we should instead actively disenfranchise the Republican voters in our state to tit-for-tat with Republican states", because disenfranchising anyone sounds pretty bad!

        Some people can perfectly justifiably take the stance that it's a long term move - do the tit-for-tat until we have enough national political capital to rid ourselves of gerrymandering for good. But you cannot simply blame the people who don't want to do that with "oh, they're just afraid of Republican anger".

        4 votes
        1. [2]
          MonkeyPants
          Link Parent
          It's difficult, but finding a unifying commonality is incredibly useful. Great point. Gerrymandering is a state level decision. Getting all Democrats on board is like herding cats. Republicans are...

          characterizing the entirety of the Democratic party in some shape or fashion tends to be wrong.

          It's difficult, but finding a unifying commonality is incredibly useful.

          Some members of the party are more idealistic, some are more realpolitik.

          Great point. Gerrymandering is a state level decision. Getting all Democrats on board is like herding cats. Republicans are much better at forcing everyone fall into line. But why? It fundamentally comes down to fear again. Fear of being labeled a RINO. Fear of death threats. Look at poor Mitt Romney.

          And although something is hard to do it doesn't mean it should be avoided.

          2 votes
          1. stu2b50
            Link Parent
            Fundamentally the modern Republican coalition is one based around the identity politics of being white and conservative in the US - that inherently is a more unifying demographic than the...

            Fundamentally the modern Republican coalition is one based around the identity politics of being white and conservative in the US - that inherently is a more unifying demographic than the Democrats, who traditionally have far more minorities. Additionally, while not entirely, policy is much more important to the Democratic coalition, while the Republicans literally ran without a policy platform in 2020.

            Getting all Democrats on board is like herding cats.

            ...

            And although something is hard to do it doesn't mean it should be avoided.

            Implied by this is that counter-gerrymandering is the correct thing to do, you just need to "herd" all the unruly cats to it. That's not the case? Disenfranchising people is a terrible thing to do. It's far from the objectively, clear-cut thing to do.

            The decision between not doing something shitty, and doing something shitty for the greater good is classic philosphical problem. I cannot see how you're just reducing it to "oh, they should do it, but they're just not in enough FEAR".

            1 vote
  3. stu2b50
    Link
    Two Capitol Police officers are injured in a vehicle attack; complex is on lockdown.

    Two Capitol Police officers are injured in a vehicle attack; complex is on lockdown.

    The Capitol Police said Friday that a suspect was in custody after two officers had been struck and injured by a vehicle near the heavily guarded northern entrance to the U.S. Capitol.

    The Capitol complex was locked down, as the agency instructed staff to remain indoors, away from doors and windows, as eyewitnesses posted videos of a large law enforcement response.

    “A suspect is in custody,” the Capitol Police said on Twitter. “Both officers are injured. All three have been transported to the hospital.”

    Images from the scene posted on social media appeared to show emergency workers treating someone on the driveway of the Capitol.

    7 votes
  4. dubteedub
    Link
    The military doesn’t even know how bad its extremism problem is

    The Jan. 6 siege on the Capitol rattled the nation. Among the alleged perpetrators were a number of individuals with U.S. military experience, many of whom played leading roles in the riot. Their involvement points to long-standing concerns over the prevalence of extremism in the military.

    The problem of extremism in the military community, which we define as including both current and former military personnel, has been around for decades, but the events of Jan. 6 provide a useful snapshot of what it looks like today. Our review of the almost 330 Capitol Hill cases being prosecuted in federal jurisdiction turned up 40 alleged perpetrators with military experience — about 12 percent. This is a higher proportion than the 7 percent share of people in the general population with military experience, although not as high as some early estimates suggested.

    4 votes
  5. Kuromantis
    Link
    New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang discharged from hospital after kidney stone

    New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang discharged from hospital after kidney stone

    "Have been discharged and will now proceed to drink lots of water for the rest of the day," Yang said in a tweet Friday.

    Yang visited an emergency room earlier this morning after experiencing abdominal pain and was diagnosed with an apparent kidney stone, his campaign said in a statement.

    His public events for Friday were canceled, "but he looks forward to getting back out on the trail in the days ahead," the campaign said.

    On Twitter, Yang thanked the team at Mount Sinai West for the "excellent care" and his wife Evelyn "for keeping me company as I experienced my first (and hopefully last) kidney stone."

    4 votes
  6. Kuromantis
    Link
    I think this is a great follow-up article for any article that talks in decent detail about Republicans' very negative response to changes in voting derived from the pandemic, like the one posted...

    I think this is a great follow-up article for any article that talks in decent detail about Republicans' very negative response to changes in voting derived from the pandemic, like the one posted here or this article or this one:

    This could be Democrats’ only chance to stop the GOP's assault on voting rights

    The most explosive battle in decades over access to the voting booth will reach a new crescendo this week, as Republican-controlled states advance an array of measures to restrict the ballot, and the U.S. House of Representatives votes on the federal legislation that represents Democrats’ best chance to stop them.

    It’s no exaggeration to say that future Americans could view the resolution of this struggle as a turning point in the history of U.S. democracy. The outcome could not only shape the balance of power between the parties, but determine whether that democracy grows more inclusive or exclusionary. To many civil-rights advocates and democracy scholars I’ve spoken with, this new wave of state-level bills constitutes the greatest assault on Americans’ right to vote since the Jim Crow era’s barriers to the ballot.

    Democrats may have only a brief window in which to block these state-level GOP maneuvers. Typically, the president’s party loses House and Senate seats in the first midterm election after his victory. Democrats will face even worse odds if Republicans succeed in imposing restrictive voting laws or gerrymandering districts in the GOP’s favor across a host of red states.

    If Democrats lose their slim majority in either congressional chamber next year, they will lose their ability to pass voting-rights reform. After that, the party could face a debilitating dynamic: Republicans could use their state-level power to continue limiting ballot access, which would make regaining control of the House or the Senate more difficult for Democrats—and thus prevent them from passing future national voting rules that override the exclusionary state laws.

    "More and more Democrats", Sarbanes said, are coming to recognize that “this isn’t just about trying to do something now that we can do later. This is about doing something now that we may not get the chance to do again for another 50 years.” Democrats face an unforgiving equation: a fleeting window in which to act, and potentially lasting consequences if they don’t. “If you look at all the stakes that are involved,” Sarbanes continued, “the notion that you would miss this opportunity becomes incomprehensible.”

    2 votes
  7. [2]
    Kuromantis
    Link
    Party Primaries Must Go: Extremely low turnout means partisan primaries motivate legislators to keep in lockstep with a narrow and extreme slice of the electorate rather than govern in the public...

    Party Primaries Must Go: Extremely low turnout means partisan primaries motivate legislators to keep in lockstep with a narrow and extreme slice of the electorate rather than govern in the public interest.

    Why did so many Republicans—147 of them—object to the Electoral College result on January 6?

    Most voted to overturn the election out of fear. Not fear of the angry mob that had invaded the Capitol hours earlier, but fear of the voters who might threaten their reelection––specifically in their next party primary.

    The problem stems from the fact that most members of Congress represent districts that have become reliably Democratic or Republican; some districts have been gerrymandered that way, but most are now “safe” for one party because of the electorate’s own self-sorting, driven by our growing rural and urban divide. Without any real competition in the general election, the only election of consequence in the large majority of congressional districts––and the only mechanism for accountability––is the primary.

    Further, in lopsided districts, only the primary of the dominant party actually matters. In a majority of states, laws prohibit either unaffiliated voters or members of the other party from participating in these elections, sometimes both. And among those who can participate, very few do. Despite record turnout in the November 2020 election, just 10 percent of eligible voters nationwide cast ballots in primaries that effectively decided the outcome of more than 80 percent of U.S. House elections, according to a new report by Unite America, an organization I lead.

    A solution to this problem that he mentions on the article is this:

    [...] in November, Alaska became the latest state to ditch partisan primaries when its voters adopted a sweeping election-reform package on the ballot.

    Known as “final-four voting,” this system has two major advantages. First, by abolishing party primaries, it eliminates elected leaders’ fear of being “primaried” by a small base of voters within their own party. Second, by abolishing plurality-winner elections and the “spoiler” effect they produce, it levels the playing field for independent and third-party candidates.

    Personally I find this to be definitely far better than the current system, albeit I think primaries would still be good in a national level because they can highlight differences inside the parties and encourage reconciling them (which is why primaries exist in the US) as opposed to generally having your party's candidate for president be a choice left to a far smaller group, albeit this would be far better if the US had an electoral system that truly allowed multiple parties.

    2 votes
    1. nukeman
      Link Parent
      Frankly, I’d rather move toward a multi-party system (probably via MMP) with parties being allowed stricter primaries. These massive big tent parties aren’t exactly productive.

      Frankly, I’d rather move toward a multi-party system (probably via MMP) with parties being allowed stricter primaries. These massive big tent parties aren’t exactly productive.

      3 votes
  8. [2]
    MonkeyPants
    Link
    The G.O.P. Has Some Voters It Likes and Some It Doesn’t aka The Republican Party Is Driving the Nation's Democratic Decline.

    The G.O.P. Has Some Voters It Likes and Some It Doesn’t aka The Republican Party Is Driving the Nation's Democratic Decline.

    This is what happens when a political party turns against democracy.

    If Republicans are building the infrastructure to subvert an election — to make it possible to overturn results or keep Democrats from claiming electoral votes — then we have to expect that given a chance, they’ll use it.

    1 vote
    1. MonkeyPants
      Link Parent
      Curiously, I prefer the Yahoo News highly partisan click baity title to the NY Times title which seems completely divorced from the content of the opinion piece.

      Curiously, I prefer the Yahoo News highly partisan click baity title to the NY Times title which seems completely divorced from the content of the opinion piece.

  9. [5]
    LukeZaz
    Link
    Starting to feel like these threads are really quieting down. Maybe it's time to move this to fortnightly/monthly?

    Starting to feel like these threads are really quieting down. Maybe it's time to move this to fortnightly/monthly?

    10 votes
    1. Omnicrola
      Link Parent
      Tangent thought: It's a real mental balm to see this recurring topic pop up, and have it be up for hours (or days) and only have a small handful of things in it. I think about how much fear,...

      Tangent thought: It's a real mental balm to see this recurring topic pop up, and have it be up for hours (or days) and only have a small handful of things in it. I think about how much fear, anticipation, dread, and anger I felt over the last year or so around politics (never mind a pandemic) and looking at these increasingly empty threads allows me to take notice of the absence of the insanity that was here previously. This is not to say that there's not still things wrong in the political arena, far from it. But it's a really refreshing moment when I notice the difference.

      16 votes
    2. [2]
      nacho
      Link Parent
      Or just have people submit US political news as stand-alone submissions whenever they please. The volume of contetnt is way down. I'd argue it never was a problem and needed these threads in the...

      Or just have people submit US political news as stand-alone submissions whenever they please.

      The volume of contetnt is way down. I'd argue it never was a problem and needed these threads in the first place, but now it surely stifles conversation more than it's a benefit.

      8 votes
      1. MimicSquid
        Link Parent
        I mean, there was a time when there were 25-30 links posted each week, and corralling them was helpful; it's definitely less of a thing now.

        I mean, there was a time when there were 25-30 links posted each week, and corralling them was helpful; it's definitely less of a thing now.

        13 votes
    3. nukeman
      Link Parent
      Maybe convert it to a broader discussion thread (here or in ~misc or ~talk), rather than just a news link?

      Maybe convert it to a broader discussion thread (here or in ~misc or ~talk), rather than just a news link?

      3 votes