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Highlights From Night 1 of the Democratic National Convention

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  • Speeches from the first night of the Democratic National Convention caught a lot of attention, including one from Michelle Obama, who delivered her strongest criticism of President Donald Trump to date.
  • Other speeches that made waves were from Bernie Sanders and John Kasich, who both delivered clashing messaging on whether Joe Biden will be progressive or cater to conservatives who have disavowed Trump.
  • The daughter of a Trump supporter who died of COVID-19 and George Floyd’s family also spoke, giving remarks about the pandemic and the fight for racial justice, two of the biggest issues facing the country right now. 
  • Trump later condemned many of the speeches and speakers, and both he and his campaign continued to paint the Democrats and Biden as radical leftists.

Michelle Obama’s Speech

Day one of the first ever virtual Democratic National Convention is now officially on the books. On Monday, Democrats, Republicans, and progressive speakers from across the political spectrum kicked off the four-day event.

Former first lady Michelle Obama headlined the night with a nearly 20-minute keynote address that has been described as her strongest public criticism of President Donald Trump ever.

“Whenever we look to this White House for some leadership or consolation or any semblance of steadiness, what we get instead is chaos, division, and a total and utter lack of empathy,” she said. “But right now, kids in this country are seeing what happens when we stop requiring empathy of one another.” 

“They see an entitlement that says only certain people belong here, that greed is good, and winning is everything because as long as you come out on top, it doesn’t matter what happens to everyone else,” she continued. 

“And they see what happens when that lack of empathy is ginned up into outright disdain. They see our leaders labeling fellow citizens enemies of the state while emboldening torch-bearing white supremacists.” 

“So let me be as honest and clear as I possibly can: Donald Trump is the wrong president for our country. He has had more than enough time to prove that he can do the job, but he is clearly in over his head. He cannot meet this moment. He simply cannot be who we need him to be for us. It is what it is,” the former first lady added before going on to argue that all the reasons she outlined show why Americans need to vote for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in November.

“So if you take one thing from my words tonight, it is this: if you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change in this election,” she said. “If we have any hope of ending this chaos, we have got to vote for Joe Biden like our lives depend on it.” 

Sanders and Kasich Share Competing Messages

Some of the other most talked-about speeches of the night were delivered by political figures who are less politically aligned with Biden.

In addition to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) giving his highly anticipated address, multiple Republicans also called on their party to reject Trump, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich. While both Sanders and Kasich spoke about putting aside their political differences with Biden to defeat Trump, both seemed to describe two very different Bidens.

Sanders, for his part, appealed to his supporters by trying to paint Biden as someone who has adopted some of the progressive policies he supports, starting off his speech by talking about how some of his views had become more mainstream in recent months.

“Our campaign ended several months ago, but our movement continues and is getting stronger every day,” he said. “Many of the ideas we fought for, that just a few years ago were considered ‘radical,’ are now mainstream. But let us be clear. If Donald Trump is reelected, all the progress we have made will be in jeopardy.” 

Sanders also listed a number of Biden’s policies he said are examples of how the former vice president would move the progressive agenda forward, including raising the minimum wage, making it easier for workers to join unions, fighting climate change, and reforming the criminal justice system, among other things.

Notably, Sanders’ most significant remarks actually came the day before he spoke at the convention. During an interview on “Meet the Press,” the self-described Democratic Socialist said he was confident that progressives would be able to influence Biden’s policies if he won.

“What I will credit strongly the Biden campaign for is that Joe and I talked about this and he and I agreed that we should have task forces dealing with some of the major issues facing this country,” he said.

“But I think if people look at the outcome of those task forces, they’ll find the reality that if those task force proposals are implemented, you know what, Joe Biden will become the most progressive president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt.” 

In his convention speech, Kasich went the opposite way, emphasizing his Republican roots and presenting Biden as someone who Republicans and conservative Independents could vote for because he would not be influenced by those same progressive ideas.

“I’m a lifelong Republican. That attachment holds second place to my responsibility to country,” he said. “I’ve known Joe Biden for 30 years. I know his story of profound grief that is so deeply affected his character joins a good man. A man of faith. A unifier. Someone who understands the hopes and dreams of the common man and the common woman.” 

“I’m sure there are Republicans and independents who couldn’t imagine crossing over to support a Democrat,” he continued. “They believe he may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don’t believe that. I know the measure of the man. Reasonable. Faithful, respectful and no one pushes Joe around.”  

These two very different and contradictory narratives raise some important questions about Biden’s campaign. Currently, it is unclear if the former vice president will try to appeal to progressives like Sanders’ base, court conservatives who may have voted for Trump before but now are dissatisfied, or try to straddle a middle ground.

Regardless, this is likely something Biden will have to address, and soon, because if he leans too far one way, he risks alienating one of those groups, and both could be essential to sway the election.

Other Notable Moments 

While political figures headlined the first day of the convention, some of the most notable moments of the nights came from remarks made by everyday people.

One now-viral clip came from a woman named Kristin Urquiza, whose father was a Trump supporter who died of coronavirus in Arizona this summer.

“My dad, Mark Anthony Urquiza, should be here today, but he isn’t. He had faith in Donald Trump. He voted for him, listened to him, believed him and his mouthpieces when they said that coronavirus was under control and going to disappear,” she said. 

“So, in late May, after the stay-at-home order was lifted in Arizona, my dad went to a karaoke bar with his friends,” she continued. “A few weeks later, he was put on a ventilator. And after five agonizing days, he died alone in the ICU with a nurse holding his hand. My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only preexisting condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life.”

At another moment during the evening, the family of George Floyd, specifically his brother, Philonise Floyd, spoke about the nationwide protests against racial injustice and police brutality before asking for a moment of silence.

“It’s a fitting legacy for our brother, but George should be alive today,” he said. “Breonna Taylor should be alive today. Ahmaud Arbery should be alive today. Eric Garner should be alive today. Stephon Clark, Atatiana Jefferson, Sandra Bland– they should all be alive today. So it’s up to us to carry on the fight for justice. Our actions will be their legacies.”

Trump’s Response

With three more days of the Democratic National Convention to go and the Republican National Convention slotted for next week, Trump has been going on the offensive.

In addition to scheduling multiple campaign events in battleground states in an attempt to counterprogram the convention, Trump has also responded to the Democratic event by targeting both individual speakers and the party as a whole.

Before Kasich gave his speech, the president sought to undermine him by personally attacking his character.

“He was a loser as a Republican, and he’ll be a loser as a Democrat,” Trump told reporters. “Major loser as a Republican. I guess you can quote me on that. John was a loser as a Republican. Never even came close. And as a Democrat he’ll be an even greater loser.”

The president also went after the former first lady on Tuesday.

“She was over her head,” he said, using the same words she used to describe him in her speech. “And frankly, she should have made the speech live, which she didn’t do. She taped it. … If you gave a real review, it wouldn’t be so fawning. I thought it was a very divisive speech, extremely divisive.” 

Both the president and his campaign have also gone after Democrats more broadly by continuing their efforts to present them as radical and far left.

“Democrats can try to conceal the dangerous truth with a Hollywood-produced infomercial, but they can’t hide the fact that the radical socialist leftist takeover of Joe Biden is complete,” Trump’s campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley said statement Monday.

Trump himself also made similar remarks during a campaign rally in Wisconsin the same day.

“You want to crush our economy. Under the crazy socialist policies of Sleepy Joe Biden and his boss, Kamala Harris — Kamala — and his other boss, Nancy Pelosi — she’s a beauty — and his ruler, Bernie Sanders, Crazy Bernie, or do you want to quickly rebuild the strongest economy in the history of the world?” he said. 

See what others are saying: (NPR) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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White House Endorses Bipartisan Senate Bill That Could Ban TikTok

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The measure does not target TikTok specifically but instead would set up a framework to crack down on foreign products and services that present a national security threat.


The RESTRICT Act

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill Tuesday that would allow the federal government to restrict or even outright ban TikTok and other technologies produced by foreign companies.

Under the legislation, dubbed the RESTRICT Act, the Commerce Department would have sweeping authority to identify and regulate technologies that pose a risk to national security and are produced by companies in six “foreign adversary” countries: China, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea.

In other words, the proposal would not explicitly ban TikTok, but instead creates a path for future prohibitions on the Chinese-owned platform. 

While the bill’s text does not specifically mention TikTok, the group of senators made it clear that the app is their number one target, directing most of their criticism to the platform in statements announcing the measure.

The legislation, however, would go way beyond TikTik: it is also designed to prepare for future situations where apps or technologies from an “adversary” country become popular in the U.S.

The bill’s Democratic sponsor, Sen. Mark Warner (D-Ma.), echoed that point in his remarks Tuesday.

“Today, the threat that everyone is talking about is TikTok, and how it could enable surveillance by the Chinese Communist Party, or facilitate the spread of malign influence campaigns in the U.S.,” he said. “Before TikTok, however, it was Huawei and ZTE, which threatened our nation’s telecommunications networks. And before that, it was Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, which threatened the security of government and corporate devices.”

“We need a comprehensive, risk-based approach that proactively tackles sources of potentially dangerous technology before they gain a foothold in America, so we aren’t playing Whac-A-Mole and scrambling to catch up once they’re already ubiquitous.”

Proponents of the bill also hope that, given the broad scope of the legislation, it will gain more traction than past proposals that zeroed in on TikTok. Support for the measure was further bolstered when the White House announced it would back the move shortly after it was rolled out.

“This bill presents a systematic framework for addressing technology-based threats to the security and safety of Americans,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement. “We look forward to continue working with both Democrats and Republicans on this bill, and urge Congress to act quickly to send it to the President’s desk.”

A Bumpy Road Ahead

Despite the bipartisan push, there are still some hurdles for the RESTRICT Act to overcome.

Although the legislation does not directly ban TikTok, because that is clearly its intent, the same issues with an outright prohibition still stand. One of the most serious concerns is that banning TikTok would violate the First Amendment.

There is past precedent on this front: in 2020, a federal magistrate judge blocked the Trump administration from requiring Apple and Google to take the Chinese-owned app WeChat off their app stores.

In that decision, the judge argued that the government only had “modest” evidence about the app’s risks and that removing it from app stores would “burden substantially more speech than is necessary to serve the government’s significant interest in national security.”

TikTok has emulated that argument. In a statement responding to the RESTRICT Act Tuesday, a spokesperson for the company said the legislation could “have the effect of censoring millions of Americans.”

Meanwhile, even if the act does pass, there is also the question of whether the Biden administration would decide on a full-scale ban. 

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo would be the one responsible for overseeing the process under the bill, and while she said she said in a statement that she “welcomed” the proposal and promised to work with Congress to pass it, she has also previously expressed hesitation for a full prohibition.

On the other end of the equation, there are concerns that this measure will not ultimately get enough bipartisan support from Republicans who do want an outright ban and will refuse to accept anything that falls short of that.

While speaking with Fox News on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) said the new plan did not go far enough and argued that Congress “should pass a bill that bans TikTok.”

Even if the legislation does get enough support in the Senate, its path is unclear in the GOP-held House, where it also does not yet have a companion bill. Republicans in the House recently introduced a measure that would give the president the power to unilaterally ban TikTok in the U.S.

That proposal, however, is not bipartisan like the RESTRICT Act, which will be a key test to see if legislators can find a middle ground on the matter.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Reuters) (NBC News)

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What You Need to Know About Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race — The Most Important Election in 2023

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Gerrymandering, abortion, the 2024 presidential election, and much more are on the line.


Primary Election

An election to fill an empty seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court that has been described as the most consequential race of 2023 has now been narrowed to two candidates after the primary Tuesday.

Liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz easily took first place, winning 46.4% of the vote with nearly all precincts reporting. In second place with 24.2% was conservative Daniel Kelly, a former Wisconsin State Supreme Court justice who was appointed by the state’s then-Republican governor in 2016 but lost his re-election in 2020.

Notably, the wide discrepancy in votes can be explained by the fact that Kelly split Republican ballots with another conservative candidate who came in a close third with 21.9%. As such, the general election is expected to be tight.

Also of note, this race is technically supposed to be non-partisan, but Protasiewicz has closely aligned herself with Democrats and Kelly has done the same with Republicans. Both parties, as well as dark money groups, have poured millions of dollars into the high-stakes election that will determine whether liberals or conservatives will have a 4-3 majority on the state Supreme Court at an incredibly consequential time.

There are a number of paramount issues at play here that have widespread implications not just for Wisconsin but America at-large.

Gerrymandering and Elections

Wisconsin is one of the most important swing states in the country: it helped decide the outcomes of both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, and it is the center of debates on gerrymandering and free and fair elections that have played a role in those races.

The state Supreme Court, which has had a conservative majority for the last 14 years, has been instrumental in shaping those policies, having weighed in on many of the most crucial topics and almost always siding with Republicans.

For example, in what VICE described as “arguably the most important decision the court made in recent years,” the court ruled 4-3 last year to uphold one of America’s most gerrymandered maps that gave Republicans a massive advantage.

“The maps are so gerrymandered that Republicans hold six of Wisconsin’s eight House seats and nearly two-thirds of legislative seats in the state—even though Democrats won most statewide races last year,” the outlet reported.

That ruling created something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: the conservative majority court has decided so many critical topics because the state government is deadlocked with a Republican majority in the legislature and a Democratic governor.

So, by approving a map that massively favored Republicans, the conservative court kept that system in place, ensuring that they would continue to have the final say on so many of these essential areas.

However, if Protasiewicz wins the general election, the court is all but certain to revisit the gerrymandered map. Protasiewicz, for her part, explicitly stated in a recent interview that a liberal majority could establish new election maps. Kelly, meanwhile, has said he has no interest in revisiting the maps. 

A decision unfavorable to the GOP-drawn maps would have significant implications for the internal politics of Wisconsin and control of the U.S. House of Representatives, where Republicans currently hold a very slim five-seat majority.

To that point, the Wisconsin Supreme Court also plays a big role in how the state’s elections are administered and how its ten Electoral College votes will be doled out in the 2024 presidential election. 

Last year, the conservative court banned absentee ballot drop boxes, and in 2014, it upheld a GOP voter ID law that studies have shown suppressed Black voters. While the court did vote against considering former President Donald Trump’s lawsuit to try and overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin, it only did so by a thin margin of 4-3.

The court will very likely be tasked with wading into elections-related cases in the coming years. Already, it is anticipated that the justice will hear a lawsuit by a conservative group aiming to further limit voting access by banning mobile and alternate voting facilities.

Abortion and Other Important Statewide Subjects

In addition to the ramifications for America broadly, there are also plenty of paramount issues concerning the state Supreme Court that will materially impact the people of Wisconsin.

Much of the race has been centered heavily on the topic of abortion and reproductive rights because the composition of the court will almost positively determine whether or not abortion will be legal for the state’s six million residents.

Following the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade, an 1849 Wisconsin law banning abortion went back into effect. Currently, a lawsuit against the ban is winding its way through the court system, and it is all but assured that battle will eventually go before Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.

Experts and analysts say that if Kelly wins, it is essentially guaranteed that abortion will remain illegal in almost all cases. Protasiewicz, by contrast, has campaigned extensively on abortion rights and vocally supported the right to choose.

Beyond that, there are also several other major issues the court will likely rule on in the coming years. For example, Protasiewicz has also said she believes a liberal majority could reverse a 12-year-old law that basically eliminated collective bargaining for public workers. All of that is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Everything is at stake, and I mean everything: Women’s reproductive rights, the maps, drop boxes, safe communities, clean water,”  Protasiewicz told VICE. “Everything is on the line.” 

See what others are saying: (VICE) (The New York Times) (The Washington Post)

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Republicans Want to Cut Food Stamps — Even As Pandemic-Era Programs Wind Down

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Experts say cuts to food stamps could have a devastating impact on the 41 million Americans who rely on the program.


GOP Weighs SNAP Cuts in Budget

In recent weeks, top Republican lawmakers have floated several different ideas for cutting food stamp benefits.

Earlier this month, Republicans now leading the House Budget Committee flagged food stamps — formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or SNAP —  as one of the ten areas they would support cuts to in their new budget proposal. 

In a memo, the panel argued that stricter work requirements would “save tens of billions,” while a more rigid verification process for applicants would limit waste, fraud, and abuse. The idea comes as part of a broader effort to reduce the federal deficit.

Experts, however, say the proposed changes could result in debilitating cuts for the 41 million Americans who rely on food stamps and exacerbate an ongoing hunger crisis at a time when inflation has sent food prices rising.

SNAP provides low-income households with an average of around $230 a month for groceries. For many of those families who are also the most impacted by inflationary price increases across the board, that money is absolutely essential.

Experts have also noted that any additional cuts to SNAP would be especially harmful because Republicans are still proposing new cuts despite the fact that Congress already agreed just two months ago to end a pandemic-era program that had increased benefits in some states.

Under the pandemic policies, SNAP was expanded so households could receive maximum benefits instead of benefits based on income testing while also giving bigger payouts to the lowest-income Americans.

That expansion is now set to expire in March, and according to the anti-hunger advocacy group the Food Research and Action Center, an estimated 16 million households will see their per-person benefits drop by around $82 a month.

The Farm Bill Debate

Even if Republicans do not end up cutting SNAP in the budget, the program may still be in hot water.

While raising the debt limit is at the forefront of ongoing partisan battles at the moment, there is already a fight shaping up over another essential piece of legislation: the farm bill.

The farm bill is a package that has to be updated and reauthorized every couple of years. One of the most important legislative tasks Congress is responsible for, the farm bill includes many important subsidies and programs that are imperative to America’s food systems, farms, and much more.

SNAP is among the nutrition-based programs that fall under the purview of the farm bill, and Republicans have already tossed around the idea of cutting food stamp benefits in their ongoing negotiations.

Those debates are quite forward-looking, though it is normal for such discussions to occur early during a year in which Congress is charged with passing the farm bill. Lawmakers have until Oct. 1 to either enact a new version or agree on some kind of extension.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Business Insider) (Axios)

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