Dec 16, 2019

A Democrat jumps ship to the Republican party.

A Democrat jumps ship to the Republican party.

Plus, a question about the alleged "Bernie blackout."

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Today’s read: 8 minutes.

A Democrat switches parties, a question about the “Bernie blackout,” and some of the news you missed this weekend.

Rep. Jeff Van Drew, the Democrat who is said to be announcing his party switch this week. | Photo: WikiCommons /U.S. House Office of Photography/House Creative Services

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What D.C. is talking about.

New Jersey Democrat Jeff Van Drew. Over the weekend, news broke that the freshman representative was planning to switch political parties and announce his intention to run in 2020 as a Republican. Rep. Van Drew has been a vocal opponent of the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump, often saying that it was too divisive to impeach the president leading up to an election. Van Drew is one of many House Democrats who serve in a pro-Trump district that the president won in 2016. On Friday, Van Drew had a lengthy meeting with President Trump. On Sunday, The Washington Post reported that Van Drew had notified his staff he was planning to switch parties. Six members of his staff resigned in protest.

What the right is saying.

At the national level, the news is a boon for Trump. House and Senate Republicans are expected to use Van Drew’s jump as evidence of how far off the deep end Democrats have gone. There are even some rumors Trump will tout the switch during a public event next week when House Democrats could be taking their final vote on impeachment. The Washington Post described the news as “politically damaging” for Democrats. Charlie Kirk, a conservative leader of TPUSA, posed it like this on Twitter: “How badly is impeachment backfiring?  Not only are House Democrats choosing to vote against impeachment, they are completely abandoning the Democrat Party as a whole—Jeff Van Drew had enough and is switching parties entirely. One of the greatest political miscalculations ever!” New Jersey Republicans, however, are less than happy. Three Republicans had already registered to run against Van Drew in 2020, and if he switches to the Republican ticket — and picks up Trump’s endorsement along the way — he could do serious damage to their chances. One of those candidates, Brian Fitzherbert, asked: “how stupid does Desperate Jeff Van Drew think South Jersey Republicans are?”

What the left is saying.

Traitorous. Stupid. And transparently cynical. Democrats have been at their wits end with Van Drew before this news, but this put things over the top. Jerry Nadler, the Democrat leading the impeachment inquiry on the House Judiciary Committee, said Van Drew was switching parties because Democrats in South Jersey were going to vote him out. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said the move was “cynical and desperate” and added that “Jeff Van Drew has chosen his political career over our Constitution.” Brigid Callahan Harrison, a liberal professor who has been rumored to be running against Van Drew, said Republicans, Democrats and Independents will “recognize a traitor” and “value loyalty.” One of the staffers who resigned in protest this weekend, CeCe Doherty, issued the following comment to the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Defeating Trump has and always will be the main goal for me,” Doherty told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s the reason I got involved in politics. I could not, in good conscience, continue working in an office where mutual morals and values were no longer present.”

My take.

There’s only one reason Van Drew is doing this: he’s in deep trouble in his district. I understand how people are landing on the conventional wisdom that this will damage Democrats politically, but I actually think it tells a far more frightening story for Republicans. A Democratic source leaked to the press internal polling that showed 60 percent of Democrats in Van Drew’s district said someone new should be elected to Congress, and just 24 percent said he deserved to be re-elected. In political speak, we call that being “underwater.” Republicans are framing Van Drew’s defection as proof of the backlash against impeachment, but the opposite actually seems to be true: voters in Van Drew’s district who elected him just two years are so appalled that he is opposing impeachment that they are gearing up to vote him out. By making a jump to the Republican ticket, and perhaps picking up Trump’s endorsement, Van Drew seems hopeful he can carry some Democrat support and dominate the Republican ticket on his way to another victory.

There’s some other context worth noting here, too: a Fox News poll yesterday showed 54% of Americans supported impeachment and 50% supported removal. The same poll also showed Trump losing to every top Democrat in a general election. Republicans and Trump can keep claiming that impeachment is great for Trump, but their actions tell a totally different story. They’re fighting impeachment tooth and nail. Donald Trump Jr. is on Twitter pleading with followers to light up the phone lines of Democrats in Trump-friendly districts. Trump is spending his Friday night meeting with Democrats like Van Drew asking them to switch parties. It’s totally possible that some Democrats in Trump-friendly districts lose in 2020 or are hurt by their voter for impeachment, but on the whole, Republicans know impeachment is not going to help them.

Long read.

Over the weekend, I read a frightening story about the dark web. In it, Harper Magazine’s Brian Merchant details the “dark world of online murder markets,” where people are putting bounties on someone’s head using cryptocurrency and shady websites. It’s a bizarre, new and scary phenomenon and U.S. law enforcement seems unfit to handle the problem. It took me about 40 minutes to get through, but it was worth it. Click.

Interview of the weekend.

Fox News’ Chris Wallace continues to be one of the best on-air interviewers in the game. For all the (deserving) flack that Fox News primetime hosts like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity get, Wallace is one of the few major network hosts who consistently pins people of all political backgrounds. He’s a sharp, persistent interviewer, and this weekend he sat down with former FBI Director James Comey. It was a fascinating and fair back-and-forth where Comey defends the FBI and how it was portrayed in the recent IG report while Wallace gets Comey to admit he was “wrong” in previous defenses.

A story that matters.

After three years of President Trump, almost no new border wall has been built in Texas. The lack of any progress on Trump’s signature campaign promise comes down to a simple reality: to build the wall, the federal government would need to steal the privately owned land of American citizens. All across South Texas, land owned by everyone from “ranchers to a Catholic diocese” have resisted Trump, and now plan to go to court to fight him. Trump promised a 2,000 mile long border wall, and so far his administration has built just 80 miles — most of which replaced existed fencing in California. You can read more here.

Your questions, answered.

One of my favorite parts of Tangle is answering reader questions. Please consider submitting your own question — all you have to do is reply to an email or Tweet at me by clicking here.

Q: Why does it seem some media outlets are not covering Bernie Sanders? It feels like he gets less airtime and his position in the polls is widely ignored in reports.

- Katelyn, New York, NY

Tangle: So there are a few different ways to look at this: the data, the optimistic side, the pessimistic side.

I’ll start with the data. There’s plenty of reason to think Sanders, like some other candidates, is treated unfairly by the media. One simple way to look at it is to contrast his strength in the polls (consistently second or third amongst Democratic nominees) with the amount of coverage he gets from big cable television networks. Check out this tweet:

Of course, Biden’s relatively huge numbers there is a product of him being at the center of the impeachment inquiry against Trump (whether justified or not). But seeing the disparity between Warren and Sanders, or that Bloomberg and Buttigieg eclipse him, is definitely eyebrow-raising. Ryan Grim, a reporter for The Intercept, has also dedicated significant time to documenting the “media blackout” of Sanders. In 2015-2016, both Trump and Hillary crushed Sanders in free media, despite the fact he was drawing similarly big crowds for his rallies and bringing in millions of votes in the primary. Grim also notes several instances where Bernie is left out of graphics on TV showing top-polling candidates despite polling better than the candidates featured in the on-screen graphics.

So, there are definitely instances of him being overlooked and left out. Now, the optimistic take here is that this stuff is just innocent. News organizations make mistakes like messing up a graphic or leaving people out all the time, and that’s just a product of the fact they’re running 24/7 newscasts. It’s not malicious, but when hundreds of thousands of Sanders voters are looking for that kind of thing like hawks, it tends to pop up more and get elevated in a malicious context. Andrew Yang, too, has made quite the fuss about the media ignoring his campaign, not giving him enough time in debates or leaving him out of polling graphics while featuring more establishment candidates who are doing worse than him with voters. There’s also the possibility that the media is simply responding to Sanders’ “electability” problem. I wrote last week about how Sanders’ path to the nomination is better than it has ever been, but he still faces significant hurdles. He’s trailing Biden in basically every state that matters, he has been unable to bring together a crucial black voter coalition and compared to Elizabeth Warren and Biden he’s in some trouble in Super Tuesday states (based on the limited data we have).

What’s the pessimistic, conspiratorial side of me say? It’s not difficult to conjure up a tale of the corporate media silencing Sanders. As Bernie’s campaign manager pointed out on CNN, major news networks are practically sponsored by the giant pharmaceutical companies that Sanders is trying to restructure. 15 of the wealthiest Americans, who Sanders rails against every chance he gets, own practically all the giant corporate media companies you know about. While Sanders is promising to tear down corporate interests that dominate our politics, Joe Biden was kicking off his campaign at the home of Comcast executive David Cohen. Is it possible that these corporate media companies are getting instruction from the top to lockout Sanders? It seems unlikely. I’ve worked for corporate, billionaire-owned media companies (both full-time and freelance) and I’ve never experienced anything like that. But I’ve also never been a wealthy, on-screen talent at one of the major news networks, and I have no idea what kind of pressure they feel to avoid or cover certain candidates.

All this being said, it’s tough for me to make a ruling here. My best swing at a specific response to your question would be this: take all the “Bernie left out of graphic” stuff with a grain of salt. I don’t think those mistakes are malicious, and I’d remind you that the people creating those graphics are much more likely to be some 25-year-old underpaid staffer who is probably a Sanders supporter than a billionaire corporate interest media mogul. They just strike me as mistakes being overblown. But when you see the disparity between how Sanders’ campaign is covered (the frequency and negative vs. positive light), it’s worth considering the culture of some major corporate news networks and why they don’t understand the appeal of Sanders to so many voters.


  • 31. The number of House Democrats serving in districts that President Trump won in the 2016 election.
  • $55 million. The average amount of money the Vatican collects in donations each year.
  • 10%. The percentage of that $55 million that actually goes to charitable work, according to a bombshell report from The Wall Street Journal.
  • 47-45. The percentage of men that would vote for Donald Trump (47) over Joe Biden (45) in a presidential election, according to a Fox News poll.
  • 51-36. The percentage of women that would vote for Joe Biden (51) over Donald Trump (36) in a presidential election, according to a Fox News poll.
  • 52-38. The percentage of men that would vote for Donald Trump (52) over Elizabeth Warren (38) in a presidential election, according to a Fox News poll.
  • 53-38. The percentage of women that would vote for Elizabeth Warren (53) over Donald Trump (38) in a  presidential election, according to a Fox News poll.

Have a nice day.

In Colorado, the children of coal miners are now being trained in solar energy. At Delta High School in Delta County, Colorado, seniors take a class on “Solar Energy Training.” More than 900 coal mining jobs have been lost in Delta over the last decade, and the class is giving students interested in blue-collar trade work an opportunity to get a leg up in the market. After 120 years of students graduating and moving into coal mining jobs, Delta High School says it’s trying to give them an opportunity for just as seamless a transition into the clean energy job sector. Their classes could become part of a broader national initiative. Check it out here.

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