Photo: Democrat Summer Lee gives a speech after Republican Mike Doyle conceded the race in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
By Megan Guza Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NOV 13, 2022 – Summer Lee’s historic victory in Tuesday’s midterm election secured her a place in history as Pennsylvania’s first Black congresswoman, but experts and organizers say her win speaks to a broader movement that is focused on representation and beliefs rather than solely electability.
“I think this is a moment that Black voters have been waiting for for quite some time here in Pennsylvania — to know that our voices are being heard and that our needs will begin to get to be met,” said Kadida Kenner, executive director of the New Pennsylvania Project, an organization that focuses year-round on registering Pennsylvanians to vote.
Ms. Lee’s underdog campaign earned her a U.S. House seat last week, but it began in earnest in 2018 when she unseated a 10-year Democratic establishment incumbent in the primary for the Pennsylvania House 34th District.
In her campaign for Congress, she faced replacing the retiring Mike Doyle, a 15-term moderate Democrat, all while going up against a Republican candidate of the same name.
Rep. Austin Davis, D-Allegheny, Josh Shapiro’s running mate and the lieutenant governor-elect, will be the first African American to hold an executive branch elective office in Pennsylvania.
“She is an amazing story of organizing and campaigning and, in many ways, proving the skeptics wrong,” said Debbie Walsh, director of Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics.
She said Ms. Lee’s win is particularly notable because of the odds she had against her: women of color face myriad systemic issues on top of a lack of resources and questions of electability.
Ms. Lee acknowledged those long odds herself in an election-night speech as outlets such as CNN and NBC began calling her race.
“Our work is not done,” she said. “We had to go through ugly to get here. There’s a reason why there had never been a Black woman — ever — to serve in the history of Pennsylvania. They’re not going to let up on us. They’re not going to relent.”
The historic nature of Ms. Lee’s election reverberated far beyond Western Pennsylvania: From the New York Times and MSNBC talk shows to Teen Vogue and Essence, writers and analysts took note of the Mon Valley native.
Ms. Kenner said Black voters — particularly Black women — have acted as a firewall in recent years against extremist policies and legislation and overall come to “the defense of democracy.
“So to know that our voices are being heard, that we can put people who look like us into the highest levels of government — not just here in Pennsylvania but in Congress and D.C. and the presidency, the vice presidency — it just says that … progress is happening,” she said. “It doesn’t always happen as fast as you want it to happen, but it is happening.”
Summer Lee to be 1st Black woman from Pa. in U.S. House after defeating Mike Doyle in 12th district
Black candidates were elevated to state and federal offices in historic firsts nationwide last week.
In Maryland, Democrat Wes Moore became the state’s first Black governor, while Democrat Anthony Brown was elected the first Black attorney general in Maryland. Andrea Campbell, too, became the first Black attorney general in Massachusetts history.
In Connecticut, Democrats Erick Russell and Stephanie Thomas will become the state’s first Black and out LGBTQ treasurer and secretary of state, respectively.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov.-elect Austin Davis, of McKeesport, will become the highest serving Black man in the state.
“I’m excited to know that Black folks, Black children, and all people are going to see a Black man in the second-highest level of executive leadership in the state in Austin Davis,” Ms. Kenner said.
Mr. Davis, currently serving in the statehouse as the representative from the 35th District, acknowledged his history-making night during a victory remarks late Tuesday night.
“Pennsylvania has elected its first Black lieutenant governor in our Commonwealth’s history,” he said. “I can’t even put into words what this moment means for me and my family … and the message it sends to millions throughout Pennsylvania and the nation.”
Indeed, Ms. Walsh said, the election of Black candidates give children new figures to look up to. She said Ms. Lee’s election is particularly significant for Black girls.
“It just opens up a world of possibilities of things that Black girls in her district can look to her and say, ‘a member of Congress can look like me,’” she said. “She becomes a powerful role model, and it’s important for the future so that new generations of young Black women will step forward and want to follow in her footsteps.”
Devoutly Jewish, Josh Shapiro wants to persuade voters that his opponent’s Christian nationalism doesn’t represent the values of the state.
By Holly Otterbein Politico
Sept 14, 2022 – PHILADELPHIA — In one of the poorest neighborhoods in one of the poorest big cities in the country, blocks away from where a woman was gunned down just the day before, Josh Shapiro is singing with a group of Black pastors.
Shapiro, a type-A attorney general running to be the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania, rocks in his pew. When a reverend asks the churchgoers to lift up their voices, he looks her in the eye and finishes her sentence, pronouncing “me” when she croons, “What God has for me, it is for me.” He then proceeds to give a 30-minute speech that was supposed to be closer to half as long.
Unlike some before him, Josh Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting anti-Semitism — a central part of his political persona.
“I want you to know that being up here on the pulpit means a lot to me — and it is a place where I feel comfortable,” says Shapiro. “I feel comfortable here because this is a place of spirituality, this is a place of purpose.”
Shapiro, 49, who describes himself as a Conservative Jew from the Philadelphia suburbs, talks about being raised to bring faith “out in the community and make a difference.” He refers to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, the spiritual icons who forged a friendship during the civil rights movement. He quotes from an ancient collection of Jewish teachings: “No one is required to complete the task, but neither are we free to refrain from it.”
The battle for governor in Pennsylvania is one of the most consequential races in the country: It could determine whether women have the right to an abortion and all voters have the right to cast a ballot in a pivotal battleground state. Shapiro’s Republican opponent, Doug Mastriano, led the movement in the state to overturn Joe Biden’s election and opposes abortion with no exceptions.
Mastriano, a state senator who is widely seen as the archetype of the rise of Christian nationalism in the GOP, is courting MAGA-aligned Evangelicals and other conservative Christians. Though he rejects that label, he has said the separation of church and state is a “myth.” Mastriano also has ties to antisemites, and this week he used an antisemitic trope, portraying Shapiro as out of touch with everyday Pennsylvanians for attending what he called “one of the most privileged schools in the nation,” a Jewish private school.
Shapiro’s response has not been to decry the entry of religion into the race; in some ways, he has amplified it. He says he doesn’t want to tell anyone “what to believe.” (“I’ll be a governor that relies on my faith and my upbringing to actually look out for everybody,” Shapiro says. “And I think he’s the exact opposite.”) But he refuses to cede Pennsylvania’s churches to his opponent. Instead, he deliberately highlights his religiosity to appeal to Christians and people of other faiths who might feel alienated by Mastriano’s brand of religion-tinged conservatism.
If Shapiro can fend off the far-right firebrand, he would catapult into the position of one of the most prominent Jewish elected officials in the country — and be talked about within political circles as a future presidential or vice-presidential candidate. And he’d do it by being a new kind of Jewish politician. Unlike some before him, Shapiro hasn’t downplayed his religion out of a fear of appearing different. To the contrary, he’s made his faith — and fighting antisemitism — a central part of his political persona.
“People are looking for someone who has strong faith. It almost doesn’t matter what denomination it is,” says former Democratic governor Ed Rendell.
Shapiro sees his Judaism as a tool to bond with people, not as something that sets him apart. On this sun-drenched September morning in Philadelphia, at least, his strategy seems to be working.
Speaking to the dozen powerful pastors of nearby AME churches, all of whom could help him turn out critical Black voters in November, Rev. Dr. Janet Jenkins Sturdivant says Shapiro is “not a perfect man.” But he is a “man of God — and all we need is someone who will listen to God.”
Josh Shapiro in a Quiet Rage
“NO good jews.” “America jews themselves are a cancer on any society.” “I hope no one votes Jew.”
The frothing messages from users of Gab, a far-right social media network, flash on the screen. A narrator explains that Mastriano’s campaign paid the website, the same one where Robert Bowers posted antisemitic screeds before police say he massacred 11 people in 2018 at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. Mastriano, the spot hammers, is “way too extreme.”
By Bruce Siwy The Times: Pennsylvania State Capital Bureau
Three prominent Pennsylvania Republicans have been identified as “a grave danger to American democracy” in a new report.
The report — expected to be issued this week by the Defend Democracy Project, an organization founded by two men who worked for the Obama campaign and administration — gives these distinctions to state senator and gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry (R-10) and U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-16). Authors cited the trio’s involvement in an array of activities related to former President Donald Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 election results.
“These three individuals all took part in unprecedented attempts to overturn the will of American voters, but that is not all they have in common — Mastriano, Perry, and Kelly continue to pose a grave danger to American democracy,” the report states. “Together with other MAGA Republicans, they are leading a scorched earth campaign to consolidate power over elections for decades to come, both in Pennsylvania and across the country.”
Michael Berman, a state director for the Defend Democracy Project, characterized Trump and some of his allies as part of an “ongoing, violent criminal conspiracy” in a call with reporters Tuesday.
The organization’s mission is to “work with leading organizations, noted experts and critical validators to make sure this plot to overturn elections can’t go forward under the cover of darkness,” according to its website. It’s working in six other states besides Pennsylvania — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
A “wanted” flier distributed by activists with the 10th District Network that accuses U.S. Rep Scott Perry (R-10) of sedition.
In their rationale for Mastriano’s inclusion, the Defend Democracy Project listed the following concerns:
His call for treating the popular vote as non-binding for presidential electors if the “election was compromised.”
His legally questionable proposal to force all Pennsylvanians to re-register to vote.]
His use of campaign cash to bus supporters to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
And his attempts to bring an election audit to Pennsylvania, similar to what was conducted in Arizona.
Mastriano — who’s demonstrated a routine avoidance of media outside of explicitly right-wing circles — has consistently doubled down on unproven claims of widespread voter fraud. Earlier this year his bill to expand the use of poll watchers across the commonwealth was vetoed by Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, who cited concern that the measure would undermine “the integrity of our election process and (encourage) voter intimidation.”
Regarding Perry, the nonprofit noted:
Testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson stating that Perry met with Trump officials bent on overturning the 2020 election.
His use of conspiracy theories to urge investigations from White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, according to records provided by Meadows.
His work as a liaison between the White House and Pennsylvania Legislature in coordinating efforts to delay or object to the commonwealth’s Electoral College votes for now-President Joe Biden.
Perry’s office did not return a call by press deadline. Earlier this year he said he’d done nothing wrong in relation to these matters.
“My conversations with the president or the Assistant Attorney General, as they have been with all with whom I’ve engaged following the election, were a reiteration of the many concerns about the integrity of our elections, and that those allegations should at least be investigated to ease the minds of the voters that they had, indeed, participated in a free and fair election,” Perry said in a statement in January.
House investigators said May 12, 2022, that they have issued subpoenas to House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and four other GOP lawmakers, including Perry, as part of their probe into the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, an extraordinary step that has little precedent and is certain to further inflame partisan tensions over the 2021 attack. (AP
Kelly, meanwhile, was cited for:
His unsuccessful court challenge to the legality of 2020 mail ballots in Pennsylvania.
His vote to overturn the 2020 election results. An allegation by U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) that he helped to orchestrate a false elector scheme.
Comments such as his claim that former President Barack Obama “is to run a shadow government that is gonna totally upset the new (Trump) agenda.”
Asked in July if he still believed that the election was stolen from Trump, Kelly told an Erie Times-News reporter: “Well, we’re already what, almost two years into this administration? So I think that’s past tense. There’s no use discussing it today. Nothing’s going to change today. I stated my opinions back when it took place.”
Kelly’s office did not return a phone call by press deadline.
What’s on voters’ minds:’In a whirlwind of trouble’: PA poll reveals top concerns (spoiler: It’s the economy…)
About the Defend Democracy Project The Defend Democracy Project describes its mission as ensuring that “American voters determine the outcome of elections.” It was established earlier this year.
According to Berman, the organization was founded by Leslie Dach and Brad Woodhouse.
An online bio for Dach states that he served as senior counselor to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services as its global Ebola coordinator. He’s also served as senior adviser to six presidential campaigns, including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 run.
Woodhouse, in his bio, is characterized as “a longtime Democratic strategist, having previously served as President of some of the nation’s leading progressive groups including Correct the Record, American Bridge 21st Century, and Americans United for Change.” It also states that he worked as a senior strategist for the Obama campaign and communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
Berman said the Defend Democracy Project examined the public records and statements of politicians across the country and compiled its list based on those who objected to certifying the 2020 election or implied that it was “stolen” from Trump.
Bruce Siwy is a reporter for the USA TODAY Network’s Pennsylvania state capital bureau. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @BruceSiwy.
Photo: Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano speaks during a rally at Archery Addictions on May 13, 2022 in Lehighton, Pennsylvania. With less than a week until Pennsylvania’s primary election on Tuesday May 17, polls have Republican candidate Doug Mastriano as the front runner in the Governor’s primary race. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Stop the Steal is only a pretense for seizing control.
By Amanda Carpenter
JULY 5, 2022 – By now, political junkies are familiar with the rucksack of election-denying baggage that Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano schleps around: He organized a faux post-election legal hearing for Rudy Giuliani in Gettysburg; he asked Congress to deny Pennsylvania’s electors; he spent thousands of campaign funds busing people to the Capitol on Jan. 6th; he was filmed crossing police barricades; some of his supporters were arrested for their activities that day, and he visited Arizona to observe its disastrous Cyber Ninjas audit in hopes of replicating it in Pennsylvania.
Those are only the highlights of what Mastriano has done in the past. But what about the future? People like Mastriano are never going to let Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss go. If anything, Trump’s “Stop the Steal” lies provide a pretext for actions intended to ensure MAGA types win in future elections.
How will they do it? Well, Mastriano has some ideas. (Well above and beyond hiring Trump’s throne-sniffing flack Jenna Ellis as his legal adviser.)
Although Mastriano evades scrutiny by blockading typical media interviews, with some help from his insurrection-friendly friends, he doesn’t hesitate to talk about his plans when he feels comfortable. Put those snippets together, and it shows Mastriano has a pretty well-thought-out election takeover plan in mind.
His platform includes the following:
–loosening restrictions on poll watchers to make it easier to challenge votes;
–repealing vote-by-mail laws;
–appointing a fellow 2020 election-denier to be secretary of state who could enable him to decertify every voting machine “with a stroke of a pen”;
–forcing all Pennsylvania voters to re-register;
–and defunding the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Let’s take them one by one.
Last month, Mastriano’s legislation to loosen restrictions on poll watchers passed both houses of the General Assembly. Its passage on party-line votes by the GOP-controlled legislature is not surprising, since one of the problems that frustrated Trump supporters in 2020 is that they could not recruit in-county residents in blue areas, such as Philadelphia, to serve as poll workers and make challenges to votes. Mastriano’s bill changes that.
If the bill were signed into law—which Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has said he will not do—it would increase the number of poll watchers permitted by candidates from two to three, kill in-county residency requirements for poll watchers, and give poll watchers a “clear line of sight to view and hear” election workers and voters “at a distance of six feet or less.”
What could these poll watchers do with this increased capacity? Per Pennsylvania state guidance, poll watchers are empowered to “make good faith challenges to an elector’s identity, continued residence in the election district, or qualifications as an eligible voter.”
Such challenges are directed to the judge of elections, who “has the obligation to determine if the challenge is based on actual evidence and whether there is a good faith basis to believe that the person is not or may not be a qualified elector.” Democratic critics of the bill object that the close proximity of poll watchers brought in from out of the county raises the likelihood of voter intimidation.
In a statement, Trump encouraged Pennsylvania Republicans to tie passage of this bill and other election-related restrictions to the state budget:
Just as Trump called for, Mastriano has also promoted legislation to ban dropboxes and private funding for elections, as well as to eliminate “no excuse” mail-in voting and the permanent absentee voter list.
But Mastriano’s potential powers as governor far exceed that of a state senator when it comes to controlling Pennsylvania’s elections.
Unlike many other states where the secretary of state is an elected position, in Pennsylvania, the governor gets to make an appointment for the position. Mastriano already has his pick in mind and, although he hasn’t provided a name, he has teased that with this appointment and his powers, he could “decertify every machine in the state with a stroke of a pen via the secretary of state.” He said, as captured via audio, here:
“I’m Doug Mastriano, and I get to appoint the secretary of state, who’s delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs, and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the, you know, with the stroke of a pen via my secretary of state. I already have the secretary of state picked out. It’s a world-class person that knows voting integrity better than anyone else in the nation, I think, and I already have a team that’s gonna be built around that individual.”
This is why Mastriano probably feels like he has a sporting chance to reset the voter rolls and force all of Pennsylvania’s 9 million voters to submit new voter applications to re-register to vote.
Federal voting laws prohibit such a practice, but that doesn’t deter Mastriano from campaigning on it and may not prevent Governor Mastriano from trying it—and creating a massive tangle of legal problems in the face of looming election deadlines.
Where would those legal challenges be decided? Most likely, in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. And for that, Mastriano has another idea in mind in case things don’t go his way.
If the state’s highest court doesn’t do as he pleases, he thinks it should be defunded, which is something he’s called for after the 2020 election. Here he is on a podcast* in November 2020:
“I wish the General Assembly, we would do our darn job here, and make them feel some pain. We could, we could, rein in elements. Even, we even, budget and fund the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. If we are so, we’re out there as you know, shouting outrage about how they’re rewriting law, then, okay, maybe we should defund them. And let them figure out how they’re going to run a business without a budget. …” Read More
For decades, steel mills lined Western Pennsylvania’s rivers, and though they belched out soot and pollution, they put food on the table. It’s a familiar story, nowhere more true than in beaver county, says Skip Homan.
“Steel in Beaver County was the major source of employment,” said Homan, vice-chair of the Beaver County Partnership for Community and Economic Development. A former CEO of the engineering firm Michael Baker, Homan said when steel left in the 1980s, the county’s tax base tanked, as did its population and school enrollments.
But then came Shell. In 2012, the company said it was considering Beaver County as a potential site for an ethane cracker, a massive chemical plant that would turn natural gas produced from the region’s fracking industry into 1.6 million metric tons of plastic pellets a year. In 2016, it committed to the site.
Homan sensed a big moment coming. “I was thrilled,” he said. “Before Shell, Beaver County was really not recognized, not known. Now Beaver County is on the map.”
The plant received the largest subsidy ever in Pennsylvania – a $1.65 billion dollar tax credit over 25 years. Homan says he didn’t have a problem with that – if that’s what it took to lure the plant to Beaver County.
Now the site, which stretches along about a mile of riverfront, is nearly built. Shell spokesman Curtis Thomas said the workforce is down to 3,000, and has been testing equipment to begin operations this summer.
At its peak, construction of the plant employed 8,500 workers. Many were from out-of-state, and they crowded the county’s hotels, restaurants, and rental apartments. When it opens it will have 600 permanent jobs.
Hopes and fears
Since the company’s plans were first announced, the plant has conjured hope as well as fear for many in Beaver County. Some hope for good jobs, while others fear a return of toxic skies and waterways that plagued western Pennsylvania during the steel era.
Count Skip Homan in the former group.
“I see the light [of the plant] at night from my house,” said Homan. “And no, I’m not bothered…I have a high degree of confidence that Shell will be good for the environment here.”
Joyce and Don Hanshaw But some are not so happy. Joyce Hanshaw lives across the Ohio River from the plant in the town of Vanport.
She and her husband Don, a retired steelworker, used to have bonfires in their backyard but stopped since the plant was constructed.
“The whole area here is all lit up all the time. So there’s no really no nighttime here,” said Hanshaw, 72.
Hanshaw and her husband bought their house in 1973. She doesn’t want to move, mostly because the house is paid off. She says she’s already heard strange sounds coming from the plant.
“You heard this whoooo – and didn’t even know what the devil was going on. I thought it was a train coming down the street,” she said.
Hanshaw, who uses an inhaler to help her breathe because of a lung condition, says she’s worried about what kind of health problems the plant might cause when it goes online.
“I’m just wondering for health reasons,” Hanshaw said, “what’s it going to be like?”
In Beaver County, a mix of hope and fear over startup of Shell’s ethane cracker – The Allegheny Front
Worries about air pollution
Hanshaw is not alone. A couple of miles away lives Dave Blair. He’s a retired shop teacher formally from Bedford County. He built a new house in Monaca, about two miles from the plant, so that he and his wife could be close to their adult children, who live in Beaver County.
Blair has asthma. He wears a dust mask whenever he’s in his basement wood shop. Chemicals in wood finishing products give him the biggest reactions, he says. He manages the condition with medication.
“I get two shots every ten days and then I take an inhaler that costs me $90 a month,” Blair said.
The United Democracy Project, a super PAC for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, poured millions to defeat Lee in a Pennsylvania House primary. Similar dark money groups have targeted several progressives.
BY ABIGAIL TRACY Wanity Fair
MAY 19, 2022 – Around seven weeks before Pennsylvania’s primary elections, Summer Lee commanded a lead of 25 points over rival Steve Irwin in the race for Pennsylvania’s 12th District, a blue stronghold encompassing Pittsburgh and its surrounding suburbs. It appeared that Lee, 34, a Black woman and progressive activist who currently serves as a Pennsylvania state representative, would make history.
Then came the outside money. By election day, Democratic groups had dumped more than $2 million into the primary race to defeat Lee—dwarfing the outside money spent attacking Irwin, a mere $2,400. Specifically, the United Democracy Project (UDP)—a political action committee for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)—spent $2,025,297 against Lee and $660,317 in support of Irwin, 62, a Pittsburgh lawyer and county Democratic Party organizer. The ads painted Lee as anti-Israel and claimed she was “not a real Democrat,” following a playbook that moderate groups have run against other progressives nationwide, including against Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman.
Lee declared victory on election night, at 12:30 a.m.; as of midday Wednesday, news outlets still hadn’t called an official winner—the race was too tight. Progressive groups and lawmakers including Senator Bernie Sanders congratulated her on the win. Lee declared, “This is the mightiest movement in the land!” Much of Pennsylvania’s Democratic establishment, including the retiring representative Mike Doyle, whose seat Lee and Irwin are after, had thrown their support behind Irwin. “They say a Black woman can’t win. Well, we came together. We can’t be stopped. We have a lot of work ahead of us. When we set out to do this, we believed a better world was possible; now we have to go do it,” Lee said in her remarks early Wednesday morning.
But the efforts to stop Lee are part of a broader trend in Democratic politics, as super PACs with big budgets have sought to prevent progressives—often women of color—from winning races across the country. “It’s really concerning to see the huge influx of outside money flowing into this race and the disingenuous effort to paint a progressive woman of color and the only sitting elected official in the race as an opponent of the Democratic Party,” a senior progressive official in the House told me.
How did Ohio and Pennsylvania become ground zero for Trumpian unreality? Three Dangers to Defeat
By Tony Norman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Columnist
MAY 5, 2022 – I was not a fan of J.D. Vance’s “Hillbilly Elegy” when it was riding high on the bestseller lists a few years ago. Even then, I suspected that there was something forced and inauthentic about it.
I felt vindicated when then Senate-majority leader Mitch McConnell gassed on and on about how great the book was, because that alone meant it was actually terrible. Mr. McConnell then encouraged Mr. Vance to run for the open Senate seat in Ohio in 2018.
Not too long ago, “Hillbilly Elegy” was made into a bad movie by director Ron Howard. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment had moved on from an initial infatuation with Mr. Vance to get behind Josh Mandel, an over-the-top Trump loyalist best known for nearly coming to blows with a 70-year-old rival candidate during a primary debate.
Despite his frantic attempts to earn Donald Trump’s blessings as the Trumpiest of the candidates, Mr. Mandel was outmaneuvered by former Never Trumper J.D. Vance at every turn.
Both candidates willingly debased themselves to get Mr. Trump’s endorsement in ways that would have made a North Korean apparatchik blush.
But even after audio clips of Mr. Vance insulting his autocratic style resurfaced from the 2016 presidential race, Mr. Trump endorsed the author and venture capitalist, knowing that he had an excellent chance of nabbing a servile Senate ally in a crucial state if he won.
Even though Mr. Vance is technically a fellow celebrity whose life had been turned into a movie, he isn’t particularly memorable. Days before the Ohio primary, Mr. Trump still didn’t have a firm grasp of his own endorsed candidate’s name. “We’ve endorsed J.P., right? J.D. Mandel,” he said after deciding it simply didn’t matter and that people would figure it out. “He’s doing great.”
During his victory speech, J.D. Vance wrapped his arms around the entirety of Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda without a scintilla of embarrassment. His transformation into America’s least authentic politician was complete. He needed Mr. Trump’s endorsement, raced to the bottom against determined primary foes to get it, and now has an excellent chance of being elected to a six-year term in the U.S. Senate in November.
As part of the identity shift, Mr. Vance has had to lose whatever integrity he had left to come across twice as dumb as he actually is. He’s devolving before our eyes so that he can be considered more “relatable” to the Trump-faithful in November.
But as odd and dispiriting as the race in Ohio appears to the rest of the country, it may actually pale in sheer awfulness and stupidity to the Multiverse of Madness that is Pennsylvania politics.
Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat has no shortage of Republican operators eager to kiss the ring of the MAGA King even if it meant kneeling in the middle of the Pa. Turnpike to get it.
Just like in Ohio, the Republican establishment has a preference that the former president couldn’t care less about. David McCormick got wealthy in software and hedge fund management and has actually served in a Republican White House where he made powerful friends, including several high profile veterans of the Trump administration.
The problem for Mr. McCormick is that Mr. Trump doesn’t respect meritocratic presumption. Of the seven GOP candidates, Mr. Trump sees only one viable candidate — Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV doctor Oprah Winfrey launched to fame.
Dr. Oz was able to corral the coveted endorsement largely on the strength of his own celebrity and willingness to genuflect before Mr. Trump on everything, including conspiracy theories about the 2020 election, contempt for Dr. Anthony Fauci and criticism of Democratic governors over “harsh” COVID measures.
Dr. Oz’s reputation as a flim-flam artist precedes him, so he was more likely than the others to land Mr. Trump’s endorsement. His primary opponents have accused the Turkish-born candidate of being a carpetbagger who doesn’t really live in the state, but sees an opportunity to pick up an open Senate seat while benefitting from his two-decade career as a snake oil salesman.
His opponents have recently circulated pictures of Dr. Oz voting in an election in Turkey as recently as 2018. He’s a dual citizen and defends his 2018 vote as his right and responsibility. The problem is that it is impossible to find a photo of him voting in a Pennsylvania election.
Still, he’s considered the Republican frontrunner because in the context of this race, he’s the Trumpiest and has the benefit of the Trump imprimatur.
But the wackiest race of all is the GOP gubernatorial primary. That’s where all the laziest, least distinguished candidates are, some of whom actually scoff at those with actual political experience. Mr. Trump has yet to endorse anyone among the nine candidates, but no one doubts that it is state Senator Doug Mastriano’s endorsement to lose.
Mr. Mastriano is a Christian nationalist and QAnon-friendly politician who organized a bus convoy from Pennsylvania to the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on Jan. 6th. He was spotted on the Capitol grounds that day, but swears he never breached the Capitol itself with the rioters. He was just an innocent bystander as American democracy came close to being permanently hijacked.
Since November 2020 when Mr. Trump lost the presidential race, Mr. Mastriano has demonstrated an unwavering loyalty to the sorest loser in American history. He’s a true believer whose fervent constituency overlaps with the former president’s perfectly, establishing a deeper legitimacy with Mr. Trump than even raw charisma — which he lacks — could.
When Mr. Trump finally gets around to endorsing GOP frontrunner Doug Mastriano as his choice for governor, the Multiverse of Political Madness in Pennsylvania will have its triggering event.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1631 or Twitter @Tony_NormanPG.
April 4, 2022 – The Congressional Progressive Caucus Pac Is Throwing Its Weight Behind A Democratic Socialist Running For The House In Pennsylvania.
The Political Action Committee Is Endorsing State Rep. Summer Lee In The 12Th Congressional District, The Hill First Reported, Offering A Boost In The Crowded Democratic Primary From Top Lawmakers On The Left.
“The Progressive Caucus Has Been Building Power In Congress To Hold Our Party Accountable To The Needs Of Everyday Working People Across The Country,” Lee Said On Monday About The Endorsement.
“They Led The Movement To Pass President Biden’S Full Agenda And Have Been On The Frontlines Of Expanding Our Labor Movement, Advocating For Medicare For All And A Green New Deal And Putting People Back At The Center Of Our Policy.”
Progressive Reps. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) And Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Who Co-Chair The Pac, Called Lee A “Champion For Union Rights And The Labor Movement, A Leader For Environmental Justice And Strong Advocate For Working Families Across Pennsylvania” In A Joint Statement.
Lee, Who Entered The Five-Candidate Primary In The Fall, Has Already Earned The Support Of Other Major Figures Among The Party’S Left Flank, Including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) And Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.). She Is Also Backed By National Progressive And Labor Groups Like The Seiu, Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement, Justice Democrats And The Pro-Female Candidate Organization Emily’S List.
“She Has Led The Progressive Movement In The Pennsylvania State Legislature And Has Built Power For Her Community From The Ground Up – Helping Elect Progressives Up And Down The Ballot,” Pocan, Jayapal And Raskin Said Of Lee.
“We Know She Will Bring This Dedication To Progressive Advocacy And People-Powered Organizing To Congress, And We Are So Proud To Endorse Her In This Campaign.”
Lee Is The Pac’S Latest Endorsement. The Committee Is Seeking To Help Elect Progressive Candidates Into Office — Including By Wading Into Intraparty Primaries — That Share Leaders’ Vision For A Fairer And More Expansive Version Of Government.
‘This is what the fight for a habitable planet looks like in real time.’
By Julia Conley Common Dreams
April 9, 2022 – Organizers of the “Coal Baron Blockade” protest which targeted right-wing Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s coal empire Saturday afternoon reported that state police almost immediately began arresting campaigners who assembled in Grant Town, West Virginia.
“Sen. Joe Manchin’s policies hurt poor people and hurt our environment so deeply that activists are ready to put themselves on the line,” tweeted the Poor People’s Campaign, which joined grassroots group West Virginia Rising and other organizations in the blockade.
Hundreds of campaigners participated in the blockade of Grant Town Power Plant, which receives coal waste from Enersystems, the company owned by the West Virginia senator’s son. Manchin earns $500,000 per year from Enersystems—”making a very lucrative living off the backs of West Virginians,” said Maria Gunnoe, an organizer of the action, this week.
At least 10 demonstrators had been arrested as of this writing.
“This is what the fight for a habitable planet looks like in real time,” said Jeff Goodell, author of The Water Will Come, of the dozens of campaigners who risked arrest.
Speakers and other participants highlighted the need for a just transition away from fossil fuels including coal, carrying signs that read “Solidarity with all coal workers.”
“My dad worked in a chemical plant until he retired with a disability from acute exposure,” said Holly Bradley, a ninth-generation West Virginian. “We can all find common ground, but Joe Manchin is making it impossible.”
We can best understand the major political parties in the U.S. as constantly changing coalitions with no firm commitment to program or discipline.
The electoral strategic terrain is constantly changing, and we don’t want to be stuck with old maps and faulty models. In 2014, I first suggested setting aside the traditional “two-party system” frame for US politics, which obscures far more than it reveals, and making use of a “six-party” model instead. Every two years, I’ve revised the model, and now, with the November 2022 elections coming up, it’s time for another update. What follows is an abbreviated version of the explanation; you can read it in full here.
Some critics have objected to my use of the term “party” for factional or interest group clusters. The point is taken, but I would also argue that the major parties in the U.S., in general, are not ideological parties in the European sense. Instead, they are constantly changing coalitions of these clusters with no firm commitment to program or discipline.
The Democratic and the Republican Party each contain three such clusters, as they have since 2016. Under the Democratic tent, the three main groups remain the Blue Dogs, the Third Way Centrists and the Rainbow Social Democrats. The GOP umbrella covers Donald Trump’s Rightwing Populists, the Christian Nationalists, and the Never-Trumpers.
But since our last update in 2018, the question of a clear and present danger of fascism has moved from the margins to the center of political discourse. Far from an ongoing abstract debate, we are now watching its hidden elements come to light every day in the media. We also see the ongoing machinations in the GOP hierarchy and in state legislatures reshaping election laws in their favor. Now, the question is not whether a fascist danger exists, but how to fight and defeat it.
So here’s the new snapshot of the range of forces for today.
The Six-Party System
The Right-wing Populists
This “party,” as mentioned, has taken over the GOP and is now tightening its grip.
The economic core of right-wing populism remains anti-global “producerism versus parasitism.” Employed workers, business owners, real estate developers, small bankers are all “producers.” They oppose “parasite” groups above and below, but mainly those below them—the unemployed (“Get a Job!” as an epithet), the immigrants, poor people of color, Muslims, and “the Other” generally. When they attack those above, the target is usually George Soros, a Jew.
Recall that Trump entered politics by declaring Obama to be an illegal alien and an illegitimate officeholder (a parasite above), but quickly shifted to Mexicans and Muslims and anyone associated with Black Lives Matter. This aimed to pull out the fascist and white supremacist groups of the “Alt Right”–using Breitbart and worse to widen their circles, bringing them closer to Trump’s core. With these fascists as ready reserves, Trump reached further into Blue Dog territory, and its better-off workers, retirees, and business owners conflicted with white identity issues—immigration, Islamophobia, misogyny, and more. Today they still largely make up the audience at his mass rallies.
Trump’s outlook is not new. It has deep roots in American history, from the anti-Indian ethnic cleansing of President Andrew Jackson to the nativism of the Know-Nothings, to the nullification theories of John C. Calhoun, to the lynch terror of the KKK, to the anti-elitism and segregation of George Wallace and the Dixiecrats. Internationally, Trump combines aggressive jingoism, threats of trade wars, and an isolationist ‘economic nationalism’ aimed at getting others abroad to fight your battles for you. At the same time, your team picks up the loot (“We should have seized and kept the oil!”).
Trump’s GOP still contains his internal weaknesses: the volatile support of distressed white workers and small producers. At present, they are still forming a key social base. But the problem is that Trump did not implement any substantive programs apart from tax cuts. These mainly benefited the top 10% and created an unstable class contradiction in his operation. Most of what Trump has paid out is what WEB Dubois called the “psychological wage” of “whiteness,” a dubious status position. Trump’s white supremacist demagogy and misogyny will also continue to unite a wide array of all nationalities of color and many women and youth against him.
Trump’s religious ignorance, sexual assaults and a porn star scandal always pained his alliance with the Christian Nationalist faction (Mike Pence, Betsy DeVos, et. al.), and the DeVos family (Amway fortune). They were willing to go along with Trump’s amoral lifestyle for the sake of his pending judicial appointments. The Feb 7, 2022 5-4 Supreme Court ruling on gerrymandering against Black voters in Alabama is only one case in point. The Trump-Christian alliance, nonetheless, has become more frayed since Jan. 6 and the ‘Hang Mike Pence’ spectacle.
2. The Christian Nationalists
This “party” grew from a subset of the former Tea Party bloc. It’s made up of several Christian rightist trends developed over decades, which gained more coherence under Vice President Mike Pence. It includes conservative evangelicals seeking to recast a patriarchal and racist John Wayne into a new warrior version of Jesus.
A good number of Christian nationalists are Protestant theocracy-minded fundamentalists, especially the “Dominionist” sects in which Ted Cruz’s father was active. The ‘End Times’ Domininists present themselves as the only true, “values-centered” (Biblical) conservatives. They argue against any kind of compromise with the globalist “liberal-socialist bloc,” which ranges, in their view, from the GOP’s Mitt Romney to Bernie Sanders. They are more akin to classical liberalism than neoliberalism in economic policy. This means abandoning nearly all regulations, much of the safety net, overturning Roe v. Wade, getting rid of marriage equality (in the name of ‘religious liberty’) and abolishing the IRS and any progressive taxation in favor of a single flat tax.
The classic liberalism of most Christian Nationalist is also a key reason they attract money from the Koch Brothers networks. While the Kochs hold Trump and his populists in some contempt, the Christian Nationalist faction has access to Koch funds and its American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) legislative projects, along with access to the DeVos fortunes. Effectively, Christian nationalist prosperity economics amounts to affirmative action for the better-off, where the rise of the rich is supposed to pull everyone else upwards. Those below must also pay their tithes and pull upward with their “bootstraps.” They argue for neo-isolationism on some matters of foreign policy. But as “Christian Zionists” they favor an all-out holy war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” to the point of “making the sand glow” with the use of nuclear weapons. They pushed for moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and ripping up the Iran nuclear deal. All this is aimed at greasing the skids for the “End Times” and the “Second Coming.” With Cruz, Pence and DeVos as leaders, they have become the second most powerful grouping under the GOP tent, and the one with the most reactionary platform and outlook, even more so than Trump himself in some ways.
3. The Establishment Neoliberal ‘RINOs’
This is the name now widely used in the media for what we previously labeled the Multinationalists. It’s mainly the upper crust and neoliberal business elites that have owned and run the GOP for years, but they are now largely out in the cold. This neoliberal grouping included the quasi-libertarian House Freedom Caucus, the smaller group of NeoCons on foreign policy (John Bolton and John McCain), and the shrinking number of RINO (Republican In Name Only) moderates in The Lincoln Project. The Establishment also favors a globalist, U.S. hegemonist, and even, at times, a unilateralist approach abroad, with some still defending the Bush-Cheney disaster in Iraq. Their prominent voice today is Liz Cheney of Wyoming.
We also need to keep in mind the global backdrop to these shifts. The worldwide process of technology-driven financialization has divided the ruling class of late capitalism in every major country into three—a local sector of the transnational capitalist class, the nation-based multinationals, and an anti-globalist national sector. Thus among traditional U.S. neoliberals, some are U.S. hegemonists, but many have a transnational globalist understanding of the world with vast amounts of their money in foreign stock. China and global value chains integrate them with other global capitalists. This is why Trump’s trade policy is so controversial with Wall Street elites of both Republican and Democratic leanings. U.S. economic hegemony makes no sense at this financial and productive integration level. The global three-way division also serves to explain why Trump’s rightwing populism, despite its American characteristics, is connected to the rightwing nationalist-populist rise in all European countries. He is not ‘explainable’ in American terms alone.
This subordination is a big change for the traditional GOP top dogs. They would like to purge a weakened Trump from the party and rebuild, but so far lack the ability. They could try to form a new party with neoliberal Dems. Or, more likely, they could join the Dems and try to push out or smother those to the left of the Third Way grouping. At the moment, however, the much-weakened GOP’s old Establishment is left with the choice of surrender, or crossing over to the Third Way bloc under the Dem tent. A good number already did so to vote for Biden in the Dem 2020 primary and general, expanding the Dem electorate to the right.
Now let’s turn to the Dem tent, starting at the top of the graphic.
4. The Blue Dogs
The Blue Dog grouping has close ties to big corporate interests, including the fossil fuel and health insurance industries and Big Pharma. It has PACs “that raise millions of dollars every cycle from hundreds of corporate PACs, then send maximum donations of $10,000 back out to their members and more business-friendly Democratic House candidates.”
This small “party” has persisted and gained some energy. The recent effort of West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin to block or gut Biden’s reforms is a case in point. One earlier reason was that the United Steel Workers and a few craft unions had decided to work with Trump on tariffs and trade. The USW also got firmly behind Connor Lamb (D-PA) for Congress. Lamb won a narrow victory in a rural, conservative Western Pennsylvania congressional district, but with many USW members’ votes. He was endorsed by the Blue Dog PAC, although he is not a formal member of the caucus. Getting into a nearly physical floor fight with the GOP over Jan. 6 “radicalized” Lamb a bit, moving him leftward.
But the small Blue Dog resurgence may not last. On the one hand, the DNC Third Way gang currently loves people like Lamb, and wants to see more candidates leaning to the center and even the right. On the other hand, an unstable Trump out of office has little to offer on major infrastructure plans save for “Build The Wall” chanting at rallies. His potential votes among USW and other union members may shrink.
5. The Third Way New Democrats
First formed by the Clintons, with international assistance from Tony Blair and others, this dominant “party” was funded by Wall Street finance capitalists. The founding idea was to move toward neoliberalism by creating distance between themselves and the traditional Left-labor-liberal bloc, i.e., the traditional unions and civil rights groups still connected to the New Deal legacy. Another part of Third Way thinking was to shift the key social base away from the core of the working class toward college-educated suburban voters, but keeping alliances with Black and women’s groups still functional.
Thus the Third Way had tried to temper the harsher neoliberalism of the GOP by ‘triangulating’ to find neo-Keynesian and left-Keynesian compromise policies. The overall effect has been to move Democrats and their platform generally rightward. With Hillary Clinton’s narrow defeat, the Third Way’s power in the party diminished somewhat, but it gained clout with the Biden victory.
As mentioned above, its labor alliances have weakened, with unions now going in three directions. Most of labor has remained with the Third Way. Some moved rightward to the Blue Dogs while others—Communications Workers, National Nurses United, and the U.E.—endorsed Bernie Sanders and are part of the social-democratic bloc. Regarding the current relation of forces in the party apparatus, the Third Way has about 60% of the positions and still controls the major money.
The key test was the November 2020 battle with Trump: Which political grouping under the Dem tent in 2020 inspired and mobilized new forces within the much-needed ‘Blue Wave’, gave it focus and put the right numbers in the right places? This question brings us to the last of the six “parties.”
6..The Rainbow Social Democrats
This description is better than simply calling it the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), as this article’s first version did. I’ve kept the “Rainbow” designation because of the dynamic energy of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Squad. (The Third Way has kept the older and more pragmatic voters of the rainbow groupings under its centrist influence.)
The “Social Democrat” title doesn’t mean each leader or activist here is in a social-democrat or democratic socialist group like DSA. It means the core groups–the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Progressive Democrats of America (PDA), Working Families Party (WFP), Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Justice Democrats and Our Revolution and Indivisible—all have platforms that are roughly similar to the left social democrat groupings in Europe. Germany’s Die Linke’s election platform, for example, is not that different from Bernie’s or the Working Families Party. This is made even more evident with AOC and Bernie’s self-descriptions as “democratic socialists” in the 2020 primaries and the general election, where it only seemed to help. The platform, however, is not socialist itself, but best described as a common front against finance capital, war, and the white supremacist and fascist right. This is true of groups like Die Linke as well, which met recently with PDA and Congressional Progressive Caucus members.
This grouping has also been energized by the dramatic growth of the DSA since the 2016 Sanders campaign. Now with nearly 100.000 members and chapters in every state, DSA has already won a few local and statehouse races. They are now an important player in their own right within these local clusters.
This overall growth of this “party” is all for the good. The common front approach of the Social Democratic bloc can unite more than a militant minority of people who identify as socialists. It can draw a progressive majority together around both immediate needs and structural reforms, expressed in a platform like the “Third Reconstruction” program championed by the Poor People’s Campaign.
What does it all mean?
With this brief descriptive and analytical mapping of American politics, many things are falling into place. The formerly subaltern rightist groupings in the GOP have risen in revolt against the Neoliberal Establishment of the Cheneys, Romneys and the Bushes. Now they have rightwing populist and white nationalist hegemony. The GOP, then, can be accurately called the party of the neo-Confederates and the main target of a popular, anti-fascist front. Under the other tent, the Third Way is seeking a new post-neoliberal platform, through President Joe Biden’s reforms. The progressive-center unity of the earlier Obama coalition, with all its constituency alliances, is still in place. At the same time, the Third Way still wants to co-opt and control the Social Democrats as an energetic but critical secondary ally. The Sanders forces have few illusions about this pressure on them, and don’t want to be anyone’s subaltern without a fight. So we on the Left are continuing to press all our issues, but adapting some policies to the common front against the fascist right. If we work well, we will build more base organizations, more alliances, and more clout as we go.
A longer version of this article can be found HERE at the Online University of the Left