This past week was probably slightly better in sum total than the previous week, but that’s honestly not saying much, because it was still very bad. As we gear up for Election Day, we’re contending with a lot of disgusting rhetoric around immigrants especially, and this type of xenophobia is not a good look for this country. I’ve prepped a document you can throw at people who espouse Xenophobia Greatest Hits, but the best thing you can do this week to help is to go vote tomorrow! (Suggestions for ironing out common voting snags in the Good section.)
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a HBO show! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Constitutional Crisis Corners:
We’re still seeing a marked uptick in incitement of hate-based vandalism and violence this week, which remains a disgusting perversion of our First Amendment rights — and it’s made even worse by the fact that communities are still recovering from last week’s violence. I’ve tentatively settled on referring to this section as tracking Stochastic Terrorism, since that’s basically what we’re dealing with here. Things to know from this past week:
- Antisemitic Aftermath. The prosecution of the Pittsburgh shooter has begun, but the ripple effects from the tragedy are far from over. At a campaign rally two days after the massacre, Mike Pence introduced a messianic ‘rabbi’ — who turned out to not even be a messianic rabbi — as “a leader of the Jewish community.” (If you’re interested in understanding why this move stoked existing flames, this entry on messianic Judaism is surprisingly well-cited.) It’s not surprising, against this backdrop, that there were seven cases of arson at Jewish centers in Brooklyn on Saturday as well as other forms of vandalism, and a swastika was burned at a white supremacy rally in Georgia.
- Shifting Gaze Back to Immigrants. In the lead-up to Election Day, Trump threatened to write an Executive Order that revokes birthright citizenship of children of immigrants, which is as illegal and unconstitutional as it is outrageous. (Though, as the Onion notes, he likely plans to fall back on “the little-known ‘who is going to stop me’ loophole.”) This is particularly upsetting when viewed in tandem with his actions regarding the border — more on that below — and it remains a good time to be kind to any immigration-adjacent people in your life.
- Domestic Terrorism Allowed to Flourish. The Trump administration indicated this week that they will not renew a DHS program that fights domestic terrorism, because nothing says We’ve Got It Under Control like four separate terrorist attacks in two weeks. (I’ll be honest, the only part that surprises me here is that they finally met a Department of Homeland Security program they didn’t like.) But the timing could not be worse, and as if to underscore this point, there was another attack in Tallahassee at the end of this week; a self-described member of the ‘incel’ movement opened fire in a yoga studio and killed two people.
We also saw a brief blip on the Russia Investigation, which has been fairly quiet over the past few weeks:
- Sex Scandal Scam Scandal. Special investigator Robert Mueller had to contend with a poorly-constructed sexual misconduct scam that was targeting him this week. Ever the consummate professional, Mueller simply referred the matter to the FBI for investigation. (And then, presumably, watched the inevitably bonkers press conference that followed from a safe distance away.)
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Iran Waiver Wavering. Trump announced on Friday that he plans to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear deal in 2015. Waivers have already been approved for eight different countries, which should undercut the actual impact of the sanctions (though of course they provide a good photo op for the GOP in the days leading up to the election). To make sure the message was received by his base, Trump tweeted an advertisement with the phrase “Sanctions Are Coming” in the classic Game of Thrones font. HBO was not impressed, noting that it would prefer its trademarks not be appropriated and tweeting back, “How do you say trademark misuse in Dothraki?”
- Ryan Zinke Rodeo. The Justice Department is looking into Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke, who is alleged to have engaged in misconduct surrounding land purchase in Whitefish, MO. This isn’t Zinke’s first misconduct violation, and nor is he the first member of the cabinet to face investigation, but he may be the first to be referred by his own agency watchdog.
- Election Lows. With Election Day tomorrow, the nation is showing a characteristic divide; this means election news can be similarly divided into good and bad. Among the lowlights: North Dakota passing laws that make it hard for tribes to vote and receiving court backing on it (though tribes are mobilizing to vote anyway); the obnoxious claim from Brian Kemp (who recently was forced to let 3,100 Black people vote) that the DNC hacked him to gain points after said court order (more on that below); and Kansas literally taking the polling location out of Dodge. In general, strategies based on racial animosity or impeding minorities’ exercise of civic duty have become so common that some pundits are calling this year’s midterms a referendum on racist tactics in politics generally.
- Immigration Updates. The number of troops being deployed at the border continues to climb, with Trump now saying he may send as many as 15,000 troops down — a move that might cost up to $220M to implement. He also originally said that troops should treat any thrown rocks as rifle attacks, which blatantly contradicts both military assessment and ordinary military instruction, and probably incentivized private militias to show up. (He did eventually walk that back, thankfully.) Trump also introduced an obnoxiously racist and misleading political ad about the border, which CNN refused to air, and even Fox News eventually pulled it.
- Tech Companies for Trans Rights. Some support for trans rights came from an unlikely corner this week, as Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google (among many, many other companies) told Trump not to weaken trans rights via official business statement. All told, about fifty-six companies signed the statement, which argued that diversity is good for business and noted that more than 80% of the Fortune 500 companies had gender identity protections in place. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure what the angle is here — but I’m also not sure I care, because they’re speaking a language he might respect.
- Recent Court Resilience. As mentioned above, a Georgia court ordered Brian Kemp to permit 3,100 predominantly Black blocked voters to vote on Friday, leaving him no time to appeal before election day. And the Supreme Court refused to block a lawsuit on climate change. So it was a pretty good week for courts, other than the North Dakota case.
- Election Highs. Just like there are a lot of election lows, there are a fair number of exciting developments. I think the most exciting is very high early voting turnout, especially among people 18–30; Texas in particular had numbers so high they surpassed the 2014 total turnout. And several entities have withdrawn funding for Steve King in response to his recent white nationalist interview, which polls are starting to suggest may have election implications. Overall, 538 still thinks it’s likely Dems will take the House, though the Senate is likely to remain in GOP hands for now. But anything could happen, so definitely go and vote if you’re able! The Internet can help you out if you’re not sure where your polling station is or whether you’re registered. If you run into trouble once you’re at your polling location, reach out to 866 Our Vote, which conveniently has its name as both its URL and its phone number.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it’s better than it could have been. I think it’s fair to say that this week, we all deserve harvest mice sleeping in tulips and an eventual better government. At any rate, tomorrow will be exciting, and we’ll all know more soon. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully good) news, and I hope you will be back as well — but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me photos of your I Voted sticker!