Polling Which Taylor Swift Album Is The Most Popular? We don’t actually know — and that can teach us something about polling. By Nathaniel Rakich Mar. 24, 2023, at 6:00 AM PHOTO…
TikTok Chief Executive Shou Chew’s appearance in Congress on Thursday did little to calm the bipartisan fury directed at the viral video-sharing service. If anything, his more than four hours of testimony…
All eyes have been on the Manhattan district attorney’s office this week to see whether Donald Trump will become the first former American president to be indicted on criminal charges. It appears…
(WASHINGTON) — A federal appeals court in a sealed order Wednesday directed a lawyer for Donald Trump to turn over to prosecutors documents in the investigation into the former president’s retention of…
About Vote Democrat
Vote Democrat is a platform for in-depth news on progressive issues, candidates and election news. We also act as a hub for educational resources and information to promote civic engagement and participation.
Subscribe to get progressive news and updates delivered to your inbox!
Nathaniel Rakich: Joe Biden is racing toward the political center. First, reports surfaced that his administration may resume detaining immigrant families who cross the border illegally. Then he came out in favor of blocking a Washington, D.C., law that would have reduced the penalties for certain crimes. Finally, he approved a massive new oil drilling project in Alaska that’s ardently opposed by environmentalists. So today we’re asking the question that a lot of progressive Democrats are asking themselves too: What’s the deal with Biden’s move to the center?
I can’t read Biden’s mind, but I suspect he’s doing this to improve his chances in the 2024 election. Biden hasn’t yet officially announced his reelection campaign, but moves like this leave little doubt that he’s running again. His approval rating is around 44 percent, according to FiveThirtyEight’s average. So he’s got to put in the reps to pump those numbers up.
Now, a lot of the people who disapprove of Biden are Republicans, and he’s never going to win most of their votes. But he could win over independents — and according to a February poll from Morning Consult/Politico, 43 percent of registered voters who identify as independent think Biden is too liberal.
Some of these specific moves seem tailor-made to shore up his biggest weaknesses. According to a February poll from YouGov/The Economist, only 23 percent of independents approve of the way Biden is handling the issue of immigration. And only 21 percent approve of the way he is handling crime.
And Biden probably feels comfortable moving toward the center because he’s confident in the support of his liberal base. According to that Morning Consult poll, only 21 percent of Democrats think Biden is too conservative. And even if that share increases after these moves, he’s got a long way to go before he’s in any danger of losing in a primary. A different Morning Consult poll recently found that among potential Democratic primary voters, Biden is currently leading his only declared challenger, author Marianne Williamson, 77 percent to 4 percent! And that lead is really similar across the spectrum of Democratic voters. Plus, it looks increasingly likely that anyone who could pose a serious threat to Biden is going to give the primary a pass.
Of course, disgruntled progressives could still hurt Biden if they don’t vote for him in the general election. But remember, every independent that Biden persuades to vote for him is worth twice as much as a Democrat who simply doesn’t vote. A converted independent probably takes a vote away from the Republican column in addition to adding one to Biden’s, while a Democrat who stays home is just minus-one for him. Plus, Biden is probably betting that progressives’ hatred of Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis will motivate them to hold their nose and vote for him anyway. And he’s probably right.
PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court has declined to hear most of Republican Kari Lake’s appeal in a challenge of her defeat in the governor’s race, but revived a claim that was dismissed by a trial court.
In an order Wednesday, the state’s highest court said a lower-court had erroneously dismissed Lake’s claim challenging the application of signature verification procedures on early ballots in Maricopa County. The court sent the claim back to a trial court to consider.
Lake, who lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs by just over 17,000 votes, was among the most vocal 2022 Republican candidates promoting former President Donald Trump’s election lies, which she made the centerpiece of her campaign. While most other election deniers around the country conceded after losing their races in November, Lake did not.
Read More: How Kari Lake Went From Local Anchor to New Face of the MAGA Right
In her challenge, the former TV anchor focused on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of the state’s voters.
The defective printers produced ballots that were too light to be read by the on-site tabulators at polling places. Lines backed up in some areas amid the confusion. Lake alleged ballot printer problems were the result of intentional misconduct.
County officials say everyone had a chance to vote and all ballots were counted because those affected by the printers were taken to more sophisticated counters at election headquarters.
In mid-February, the Arizona Court of Appeal rejected Lake’s assertions, concluding she presented no evidence that voters whose ballots were unreadable by tabulators at polling places were not able to vote.
The appeals court noted that even a witness called to testify on Lake’s behalf confirmed ballots that couldn’t initially be read at polling places may ultimately have been counted. And while a pollster testified that the polling place problems disenfranchised enough voters to change the election’s outcome, the appeals court said his conclusion was baseless.
Lake’s attorneys also said the chain of custody for ballots was broken at an off-site facility where a contractor scans mail-in ballots to prepare them for processing. The lawyers asserted that workers put their own mail-in ballots into the pile rather than returning them through normal channels, and that paperwork documenting ballot transfers was missing. The county disputes the claims.
Hobbs’ attorneys have said Lake was trying to sow distrust in Arizona’s election results and offered no proof to back up her allegations.
Lake faced extremely long odds in her challenge, which required proving misconduct specifically intended to deny her victory and that it resulted in the wrong woman being declared the winner.
Hobbs took office as governor on Jan. 2.
On Saturday, despite a possible indictment looming, former President Donald Trump is holding a rally in Waco, Texas. The Trump 2024 presidential campaign told TIME they chose the city because of its central location and Texas’ role in the primary, but Waco has an infamous, violent history: it was the site of a deadly standoff between an anti-government cult and federal law enforcement thirty years ago.
The conflict started on Feb. 28, 1993, when agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) raided the compound of the Branch Davidians cult near Waco because federal and state law officials were afraid that members were stockpiling weapons. Cult leader David Koresh, who claimed he was God, had convinced more than a hundred people to join him at the armed fortress “to await the end of the world,” as TIME described the group’s beliefs back then. Koresh was willing to be a martyr who would “die in a battle against unbelievers, then be joined in heaven by the followers who chose to lay down their lives for him.” As the magazine reported, Koresh got a phone call tipping him off that the federal agents were coming and the Branch Davidians met them with gunfire. Four agents died and 16 were wounded, as well as about a dozen cult members and their children.
A 51-day standoff ensued. Reporting on the incident at the time, TIME obtained two letters that Koresh sent the FBI over the weekend of April 10, dictated to one of his 19 wives on lavender notepaper. “I AM your God,” he wrote, “and you will bow under my feet. Do you think you have the power to stop my will?” The fatal siege culminated on April 19, 1993, when a fire set by the Branch Davidians killed 76 compound members, including children, and several ATF agents.
Read More: ‘Very Symbolic!’: Trump’s Plan for Waco Rally Spurs Anti-Government Supporters
Waco had long been a hub of white power activity. Among white power activists who were already fearing racial extinction, the disastrous raid just reaffirmed that the state was “inherently evil” and gave rise to “a new surge in militia organizing,” according to Bring the War Home by Kathleen Belew, an expert on the history of right-wing extremism. In the aftermath, “the militia movement surged to more than 50,000 members in 47 states, and focused increasingly on taking violent action to stop the rampant federal government.” Belew’s research finds the surge was even greater than the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s. And Waco directly inspired another famous act of violence: the mastermind behind the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, Timothy McVeigh, went to Waco during the standoff and launched the attack on the two-year anniversary of the April 19 siege, which he saw as “a massacre carried out by a rampant superstate and its corrupt agents,” as Belew put it.
Waco has since become a pilgrimage site for some members of the far-right who see special significance in the city’s history of civilians confronting what they viewed as government overreach. In an adapted excerpt from the new book Waco Rising, author Kevin Cook writes about how Waco is now a tourist attraction, visited by families and militia members who see it as one of the hubs of the modern-day extremist “patriot movement.” Several thousand people around the world still call themselves Branch Davidians. There’s a chapel on the site of the compound, thanks to a fundraising drive by conspiracist Alex Jones. Merchandise for sale at the chapel include Trump shirts and a poster with Koresh wielding a rifle over a line directed at President Joe Biden: “SLEEPY JOE, WAKE UP OR WACO! COME GET IT!”
Donald Trump could make history once again—this time as the first former U.S. president ever to be criminally indicted.
A Manhattan grand jury could return an indictment as early as this week in a case involving his alleged hush-money payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels. Daniels says she and Trump had an affair; Trump denies this.
“Like all things with Trump, it’s unprecedented,” says Barbara Perry, a presidential historian at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. President Ulysses S. Grant was technically the first President to be arrested for speeding on a horse and buggy in 1872. But the Trump case will go down in history as one of the biggest political scandals in American history—even if the charges relate to the seemingly mundane offense of bookkeeping fraud. Criminal history, as it pertains to U.S. presidents, is pretty brief.
In terms of the seriousness of the scandal, Perry argues the Watergate scandal is the closest parallel because it was the first time a President resigned. President Richard Nixon stepped down in 1974 after tapes revealed he participated in the cover-up of the 1972 break-in at a Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate complex. Several Nixon advisors, from the White House lawyer to the Attorney General, served prison time. While the Department of Justice initially argued that a sitting president couldn’t be indicted on a criminal charge, Nixon was not assured that protection post-presidency, so his successor Gerald Ford pardoned him. As Ford put it, “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.” But a Sept. 1974 Gallup poll reported 53% of Americans thought the pardon was the wrong thing to do, and it’s one of the reasons Ford was voted out of office in the next election.
Read more: What Was the Biggest Political Scandal in American History? 7 Historians Make Their Picks
Arrests of major federal officials have an even longer history. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall was convicted of bribery in 1929 for accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in Liberty Bonds after allowing a private company to lease oil reserves in Wyoming known as Teapot Dome. Back then, TIME called Fall “the first felon in a President’s cabinet in U.S. history.” As biographer Robert Dallek explained the significance of the scandal, “People in the government were selling the administration to the highest bidder, using their government power to exploit bad positions to make a lot of money.” Fall served under President Warren G. Harding from 1921-1923, and Harding came to be viewed as corrupt. Increased press scrutiny revealed that he had a mistress. The stress of the scandal is thought to have led to his fatal heart attack in August 1923.
Bill Clinton was the last President who was close to facing criminal charges. Paula Jones, a receptionist, claimed she suffered emotional damage after Clinton exposed himself to her in a hotel room in May of 1991, back when he was the Governor of Arkansas, and sued for sexual harassment. In Clinton v. Jones, “the Supreme Court sets a precedent that a president can be sued for actions allegedly taken before he becomes president—that in turn led to an impeachment,” says Perry. President Clinton did have to pay civil damages to Paula Jones, and the suit brought to light the other womanizing he had engaged in, including a roughly two-year relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. However, while he was impeached in Dec. 1998 and acquitted in Feb. 1999, the scandal didn’t impact his popularity. His approval ratings kept going up.
There are similar worries that charging Trump could further boost his popularity with his sympathetic base. Yet Clinton wasn’t trying to run for re-election; the impeachment happened in his second term. Trump, however, is trying to stage a comeback after losing the 2020 election. With GOP rivals already making hay of the scandal—Florida Governor Ron DeSantis quipped, “I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star”—it remains to be seen whether criminal charges would help or hinder his 2024 bid.
When a low-profile U.S. military base in Syria came under rocket attack last week, a U.S. Central Command spokesperson accused the assailants of endangering civilians and undermining “the hard-earned stability and security of Syria and the region.”
But exclusive records obtained by The Intercept suggest that U.S. personnel at Mission Support Site Green Village in northeast Syria have been under attack before — not just by local fighters, but also by fellow U.S. personnel. A National Guard soldier was assaulted by a U.S. Marine there in July 2018, according to a detailed criminal investigation report obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.
Shortly after being deployed to the base in northeast Syria, the soldier from the 65th Field Artillery Brigade said that, during a bathroom break while on guard duty, she was approached by a Marine. “I heard from one of your guys that you like to get around,” he allegedly said before grabbing her arms, pulling her toward him, and attempting to kiss her. As she struggled, the soldier threw a punch that connected with her attacker’s right jaw, then shoved her way free, according to the report.
The criminal investigation documents obtained by The Intercept provide details about a base where anonymity was the norm, and local partners — the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-backed Kurdish-led group — were not trusted. “For operational security reasons relative to coalition members the U.S. military works alongside, there were no name tapes on U.S. military members’ uniforms at Green Village,” according to the investigation report. “Additionally, U.S. military members at Green Village commonly did not ask other military members their names and members of [redacted] platoon only identified themselves as being assigned to Green Village and attached to Task Force 95.” As a result, while the soldier recognized the distinctive digital camouflage pattern worn by Marines, she did not know the identity of the man who attacked her.
The lack of basic transparency that protected the identity of the Marine accused in the assault is a direct consequence of the penumbra of secrecy covering U.S. military operations in Syria and so much of the Pentagon’s activities around the world. Since 9/11, a proliferation of covert and clandestine activities, unattributed attacks, and programs employing foreign proxies has, as a 2022 Brennan Center report noted, resulted in the U.S. waging more than a dozen “secret wars.”
Conflicts cloaked in secrecy allow the U.S. to conduct missions without meaningful oversight — preventing the public and Congress from knowing where and why U.S. forces are operating — and have led the U.S. to partner with abusive allies and cover up its role in the killing of civilians in countries where the U.S. isn’t even at war. In Syria, for example, the U.S. is currently fighting an overt, if low-profile, war against the Islamic State group and a shadow conflict of dubious legality against Iranian proxies.
Far-flung military operations and the secrecy that surrounds them have also allowed the Pentagon to manipulate its sexual assault statistics. A 2021 investigation by The Intercept found that sexual assault of U.S. military personnel in Africa was far more widespread than the Pentagon reported to Congress.
While the 2018 assault at Green Village has not previously been disclosed, the outpost has periodically attracted attention. It has been the subject of intermittent — and frequently inaccurate — attacks over the years, including on March 13, when two rockets landed harmlessly nearby. Green Village was also in the news two days later when an American airman accused of an insider attack there last year was acquitted at court martial. The government argued that, in April 2022, Air Force Tech. Sgt. David Dezwaan, an enlisted explosive ordnance disposal technician, detonated explosives that injured four service members, including himself, and destroyed $50,000 worth of military equipment. Dezwaan was charged with destruction of military property, reckless endangerment, and aggravated assault but was acquitted on all counts.
The case against Dezwaan resulted in an eight-day court-martial proceeding. The 2018 sexual assault case, on the other hand, never got off the ground. After noticing red scratches that ran from her elbows to her wrists and that she was unusually quiet, the soldier’s platoon sergeant asked her what was wrong. When she told him about the attack, it was passed along to her commanding officer, prompting the investigation. Unable to identify her attacker, uncomfortable with the attention generated by the complaint, and with the Marines scheduled to rotate out of Syria in a matter of days, the soldier told a Navy criminal investigator that she wished to “let it be” and not take part in an investigation. The inquiry was subsequently closed.
Even if she had pursued the case, the military justice system rarely results in significant accountability for victims of sexual assault. Just 225 of 5,640 eligible cases went to court-martial and only 50 of those resulted in convictions for nonconsensual sexual offenses, according to 2020 Defense Department statistics. That’s a conviction rate of less than 1 percent.
About 900 U.S. personnel are currently deployed in Syria, according to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Dana Stroul. American forces are ostensibly stationed at Green Village and elsewhere in that country “to ensure ISIS cannot resurge” according to Maj. Gen. Matthew McFarlane, the officer in charge of U.S. operations in Iraq and Syria. Those forces increasingly also fight Iran-backed militia groups. The legal basis for this unacknowledged mission is murky at best and has been questioned repeatedly by experts and members of Congress.
“The highest priority for President Biden and for Secretary of Defense [Lloyd] Austin is the security and safety of [U.S.] forces while they continue to implement the one mission that they are in northeast Syria for, and that is the deterrent — enduring defeat of ISIS,” Stroul said in a recent conference call with The Intercept and reporters from other media outlets. “U.S. forces are present in Syria for no other purposes, and we seek conditions that enable us to continue our focus on that mission.”
The post The Pentagon’s Obsession With Secrecy Protected a Marine Accused of Sexual Assault appeared first on The Intercept.
Get Prepared for Election Day 2020
Register to Vote and Update Your Registration Information