I’m gonna level with you all: I really hate this mad tea party ride we’re all trapped on for the week. We do have some relatively firm facts, which I will certainly report on, and I feel very confident that there was a lot of voter suppression and racism this year. Beyond that? We’re stuck reading tea leaves as I write this, even the day after a major election. And that’s hard to sit with, but I’m here if I can be a support, and I think we all deserve to have the good news first this week.
Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a polling place!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
- LGBT Representation. As I mentioned above, we may not know much, but we do know we hit some LGBT representation landmarks yesterday! In Ohio, a police officer fired for being gay became the new sheriff in her county, beating out the guy who fired her. Additionally, we know there will be at least eleven openly-LGBTQ representatives in the 117th Congress, including our first-ever openly gay Black representatives. Additionally, San Diego is poised to elect its first-ever openly gay mayor, though that region still has votes to tally. Progress!
- Substance Use and Recovery Reform. Oregon voted by referendum to pass an incredibly progressive piece of recovery legislation yesterday, and I’m really excited about it! The referendum decriminalized personal possession of several types of narcotics and created a state-funded recovery program that will be subsidized in part by taxation of marijuana. An Oregon official described the approach as “like taking a sledgehammer to the War on Drugs,” because the approach heavily prioritizes a public health framework for recovery rather than a criminal one. I’m honestly really really excited to see this approach pioneered!
Constitutional Crisis Corner:
We did see some disturbing Presidential election things that landed in this section, but we also saw more Original Flavor Disregard of Governing Norms this week. Here’s what I have for you:
- I Hereby Claim You Are The Worst. As foretold by prophecy, Trump didn’t even wait for election results to begin messing with them. By Tuesday night he was issuing some disturbing tweets and a preemptive acceptance of victory, which state officials simply ignored as they resumed counting on Wednesday morning. (Twitter, for its part, applied warnings to his tweets labeling them as election misinformation.) When it became clear that counting was continuing on Wednesday, and that pausing the counting would actually lose him the election, Trump pivoted to suing for recounts in three states, despite the lack of official results in those states. He also announced on Twitter that he was “hereby claiming” three states’ electoral college votes, despite absolutely no legal authority to do so. Needless to say, we knew this part of his re-election plan was coming, but that doesn’t make it fun to see in action, and I have suggestions for response below.
- Trump Tax Redux. In the wake of the election, surprise, we’re back to this again! Current news is that Deutsche Bank is now trying to sever ties with 45 after the election, apparently because they are tired of the liability he creates. This is particularly noteworthy because several of his giant loans from them become due in the next few years. And just in case we forgot, the New York Times would also like to remind us that Trump has not, in fact, paid income tax most years (despite his recent claims otherwise). As Deutsche Bank appears to be sensing, all of these things are likely to carry consequences for Trump if he’s kicked out of the Oval Office in January.
- The U.S.: Not A Party. A federal judge issued his full ruling this week explaining that Trump can’t make a defamation case go away by adding the U.S. Government as a party and then claiming sovereign immunity applies. This means E. Carroll’s lawsuit can go forward, at least for now, and we have more precedent clarifying that Trump isn’t acting in his official capacity as President when he says mean things about private citizens on the Internet. Which sure is a thing we have to build precedent about, because 2020 is the year that never stops giving.
Your “Normal” Weird:
- Other Presidential Election Updates. There is plenty of Presidential race news other than Trump’s twitter tantrums, of course. In the days leading up to the election, there was a giant rush of court cases about voting laws, several of which did make their way to the Supreme Court. At the time that I type this, outlets are estimating Joe Biden has anywhere from 253 to 264 of 270 needed electoral college votes, with several swing states still inconclusive–in North Carolina and Pennsylvania’s cases, because the Supreme Court mandated full counting of ballots in said court cases. There was also a court case ordering the U.S. Postal Service to reverse mail collection limits and sweep USPS locations for ballots left behind–and the USPS did not comply. It’s not fully clear what this means for the 2020 election, other than “more evidence of voter suppression,” but the case is ongoing and I’ll keep folks posted.
- State of the COVID-19. Our eyes were fixed on election news this week, but COVID news remains quite bad, and it deserves our attention as well.On Friday, the United States broke a global record with a horrifying 100,000 new COVID cases in one day and over 9 million cases total. Many of these jumps are biggest in swing states, where Trump rallies have created superspreader events. Nonetheless, the administration claimed in the week leading up to the election that it “END[ED] THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC”–a truly stunning claim even from an administration known for its blatant lies–and that a daily death rate of nearly 1,000 was “almost nothing.” There is also some indication it is obfuscating which hospitals have reached capacity, as hospital admissions are also increasing. Top health official Dr. Anthony Fauci, unsurprisingly, is warning that we are reaching “a critical point” as we head into the winter, and describes the U.S. as “in a bad position” with regard to the virus. Equally unsurprisingly, Trump is already openly talking about firing Dr. Fauci, even though he can’t legally do that.
- Black Lives Still Matter. There was a lot of unrest in Philadelphia in the week leading up to the election due to the shooting of Walter Wallace Junior in front of several family members who say they were trying to de-escalate the situation. Philadelphia imposed a curfew and called in the National Guard by mid-week, but protests continued for the entire week. The situation was further inflamed when Philadelphia police seized a toddler and used him for a photo op. This contextualized Philadelphians’ unrest today after the election, when Black communities protested both voter suppression and extrajudicial shootings as one interrelated issue.
The Potentially Very Bad:
- Senate Race Updates. Control of the Senate is looking way tighter than we want it to, and we’ll have to sit with that for at least a week. At least five races still require voter counts as I type this, though the exact number of confirmed seats is varying from outlet to outlet. North Carolina may count through November 12, and Alaska will take at least a week as well. We may get full results sooner in Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona, particularly because some outlets are already calling the Arizona race. Compounding that long wait, several close races resulted in states staying red, and only one net gained seat (Colorado) has been confirmed by every outlet. We’re definitely stuck with Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham another term, and Susan Collins is the presumed victor in Maine as well. The Democrats may end the election season with a slight majority in the Senate, but it’s absolutely possible that they won’t, and that would make rebuilding very hard even if Biden does take the Presidency.
What We Can Do:
- Protect the Counting Process. This one shouldn’t be a big deal, but thanks to the scary tweets that Trump has been issuing and threats to send armed federal officers into voter counting locations, it is–we need to make sure state officials actually count all valid votes under their own election laws. Some GOP officials are already breaking with Trump on this one, and Democrats are calling for every vote to be counted en masse. Several cities are seeing protests or rallies on this topic as well, advocacy tools like Count All Votes are starting to pop up, and Democracy Docket can keep you up to speed on all of Trump’s lawsuits. Especially if you live in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, or Wisconsin, please call your reps and state party to keep up pressure on this issue and find out what is being done to protect the counting process!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this soothing Townsend video and the world’s largest devil’s toothpaste experiment, as well as an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week with more (and hopefully better) 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 a Tums value pack!