Plus, who should Biden pick as VP?
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Today’s read: 9 minutes.
Warren drops out, a follow up about black voters and Biden, Chuck Schumer’s rough day, and I answer reader questions about when a Vice President will be chosen and who it might be.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer | CBP Photo by Glenn Fawcet
Elizabeth Warren is dropping out of the presidential race. Warren informed campaign staff of her decision during a phone call this morning, though it’s unclear yet when or if she plans to endorse someone. Yesterday, despite having an aversion for political predictions, I predicted that Warren would drop out by the end of the week. You can read my reasoning for why it was time for her to go here.
Tangle hits your inbox Monday-Thursday, with the occasional Friday or weekend newsletter. I’m heading to New Orleans tonight for a brief vacation, so you won’t be hearing from me until Monday. As always, if you have any great food or tourism recommendations for New Orleans, please do drop me a line! You can just reply to this email.
“Black vote” & Biden.
In yesterday’s Tangle, I wrote this as one of my takeaways from Super Tuesday:
Liberals, especially the white ones, still don’t understand black voters. Especially young, wealthy, educated white liberals. If you want to know why so many black voters are throwing their support behind another “old white guy” from the “establishment” and not an intersectional feminist or the guy calling for a revolution, don’t ask the pundits on Twitter. Go talk to actual black voters, read some writers of color who back Biden, or spend some time in the south.
I’m proud to say this about my readers: dozens of you wrote in demanding more. You asked for resources, elaboration or challenged my comments. To answer your questions, there are a few things I want to say:
One, black voters are not a monolith. And I never intend to speak of them that way. Not to get all hippy-dippy, but every person — regardless of race — has a unique set of experiences, learned and unlearned consciousness, and a valuable perspective to offer. In the case of politics, I can say that generally speaking young black voters and older black voters are divided, much like young white voters and older white voters are divided. My main point from yesterday’s newsletter is that a lot of liberals, particularly young, wealthy white liberals, pontificate about what candidates would be best for minorities in America instead of actually looking at who minorities are choosing. Joe Biden is a great example. This happens across class divides, too: wealthy Americans are very fond of telling poor Americans what politicians would be best for them.
Elie Mystal wrote beautifully in The Nation about how older black voters know what white people are capable of, especially in elections, and that’s why they’re not about to run Bernie Sanders against Donald Trump. His is probably my favorite piece about this topic, and was the one that made me think the most. You can read that here. You can also read Michael Harriot in The Root about how “there is no black vote.” I especially like this section:
When black voters finally got a chance to cast votes in South Carolina, the white political punditry posited that S.C.’s black voters were more moderate and less progressive than the rest of the country, an idea that is being parroted across the political landscape by smart white people in well-lit cable network studios. Meanwhile, Sanders’ white supporters claim that black Southerners are “low-information voters” who lack information. While I was elated to learn that black people have finally become part of the mythical-but-now-dreaded “establishment” after 401 years, a close examination of the actual data reveals a surprising fact: Everyone is wrong.
I also very much enjoyed Charles Blow, a New York Times opinion columnist from Louisiana, who wrote about the data on black voters, the flaws in how they’re polled and drew a contrast between white working-class voters feeling that they are losing power and black voters in the South finally feeling like they are gaining it. Click.
There’s a ton more out there, and I encourage you to follow where these pieces lead you, but these are three of my favorites.
What D.C. is talking about.
Chuck Schumer. The Senate Majority leader stepped on a landmine yesterday after he blasted the Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. His comments came as the Supreme Court weighs the first huge abortion case since the Kavanaugh joined the justices. The fight is over a Lousiana law that requires abortion clinics to have admitting privileges with nearby hospitals. Advocates say it keeps women safe if an abortion goes wrong — challengers say it forces clinics to close and provides no benefit to women. At a rally about the case before the court, Schumer said this:
"I want to tell you, Gorsuch, I want to tell you, Kavanaugh, you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price. You won't know what hit you if you go forward with these awful decisions."
The comments were widely perceived as a threat. Chief Justice John Roberts took the very unusual step of responding directly to Schumer: "Justices know that criticism comes with the territory, but threatening statements of this sort from the highest levels of government are not only inappropriate, they are dangerous… All Members of the Court will continue to do their job, without fear or favor, from whatever quarter."
Schumer’s communications director responded with a comment of his own:
“Sen. Schumer's comments were a reference to the political price Senate Republicans will pay for putting these justices on the court, and a warning that the justices will unleash a major grassroots movement on the issue of reproductive rights against the decision. For Justice Roberts to follow the right wing's deliberate misinterpretation of what Sen. Schumer said, while remaining silent when President Trump attacked Justices Sotomayor and Ginsberg last week, shows Justice Roberts does not just call balls and strikes.”
What the right is saying.
This morning, #SchumerResign was trending on Twitter. Conservatives were irate, saying Schumer had openly threatened a Supreme Court Justice. Mark Levin said Schumer “threatens, endangers and seeks to intimidate Supreme Court justices by name.” Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton called on supporters to light up Schumer’s Senate office with phone calls and ask what would be done to punish him. Schumer’s excuse — that he was actually referring to the political price Senate GOPers would pay — was also laughed out of the building. “Just like Chuck Schumer, whenever I want to address unnamed senators, I preface what I'm saying with ‘I want to tell you, Gorsuch. I want to tell you, Kavanaugh,’” Charles Cooke quipped. “That way it's clear that I'm talking to the members of the Senate… You’d be surprised how well it works. I was in a bar last week thinking about how annoyed I was with the agriculture commissioner, so I said, ‘hey, you in the red t-shirt, with the whiskey, you better watch yourself, asshole.’ He knew what I meant.” Trump chimed in, too, saying, “there can be few things worse in a civilized, law abiding nation, than a United States Senator openly, and for all to see and hear, threatening the Supreme Court or its Justices. This is what Chuck Schumer just did. He must pay a severe price for this!”
What the left is saying.
They’re not going to die on this hill. Plenty of people on the left have already criticized Schumer. Laurence Tribe, the Harvard Law School professor who helped advise Democrats during the impeachment hearings, said the remarks were “inexcusable.” “Chief Justice Roberts was right to call him on his comments,” Tribe tweeted. “I hope the Senator, whom I’ve long admired and consider a friend, apologizes and takes back his implicit threat. It’s beneath him and his office.” Jeffrey Toobin, the CNN law expert who often falls down on the left side of things, said flatly, “it was wrong.” “It was not the way you should talk about the Supreme Court," Toobin said, adding that it was “political hyperbole of a sort that politicians shouldn't engage in." Some on the left could only scoff at the idea that Trump and Republicans were pearl-clutching over the remarks.
When Trump was coming into office, one of the things I often told Trump supporters was that his rhetoric did, actually, matter. A lot of people on the right laughed off the most absurd things Trump has done or said, and even sitting Republican members of Congress will revert to “that’s just Trump being Trump” when he does something totally unhinged. The presidency, in a lot of ways, is a symbolic office. And it has a huge impact on the way the nation thinks, acts, and perceives what’s normal.
I’m not blaming Trump for Schumer’s remarks, which were totally inappropriate (and definitely a threat!). I am, however, going to say that the hypocrisy of Trump supporters for getting upset about this is too much for me to pass over. Trump threatens journalists, members of Congress, judges, the Department of Justice, witnesses, and the FBI on a weekly basis. As a reporter, I log onto Twitter on an almost daily basis to see the president tweeting in all caps that I am the “ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE.” You’ll have to forgive me if I don’t feel particularly disturbed by Schumer’s remarks. Trump called on two Supreme Court justices to recuse themselves from any case involving him just a week ago. He attacked a federal judge overseeing the case of his longtime advisor just 3 weeks ago. This stuff is a regular part of his presidency, and after three years we’ve become numb to it.
Now, unfortunately, we’re also numb to comments like Schumer’s. If Trump supporters and the president want Schumer to pay a political price for these absurd remarks, which should be condemned (and I agree with conservatives that he should own the comments and apologize), then they should not stand for the president’s weekly offenses. It all just proves what a total horror show American politics have become in 2020 — and POTUS carries some of that blame.
Your questions, answered.
Reminder: Tangle is all about reader questions. To ask something, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in.
Q: Yesterday, I got one question over and over: who would be the best Vice President pick for Biden? Michael and Brendan from New York City asked about the possibility Biden picks Warren or Bernie. Brendan from Madison, Wisconsin asked, “who would be the best strategic pick for VP?” Jacob from Detroit asked, “Who do you think would fall into that category of ‘smart, unifying pick’ that you mentioned?” A number of you also asked about the timing of the VP pick. When will it happen?
Tangle: First, some history on the way Vice Presidents are chosen, courtesy of my research assistant Cameron: Unsuccessful candidates for office are very rarely chosen as the VP pick. Lyndon B. Johnson (1960), George H.W. Bush (1980), John Edwards (2004), and Joe Biden (2008) are the only defeated rivals in the last 60 years chosen for a VP spot. So while folks are looking to Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren, history shows it’s unlikely. The Democratic National Convention (July 13th-16th, 2020) is the deadline for a candidate to share their VP pick. Many use the convention to generate press around the pick, so it’s possible we don’t hear anything until then. In recent elections, no VP pick has been announced earlier than July of an election year — so it’s likely to be a while before we know anything, though every year there’s speculation a candidate may announce a VP to generate some press or momentum.
Given the likelihood that Biden is going to get the nomination, I’ll focus on the questions I got about who he should pick for VP should he win the primary. I did Vice President power rankings in December and the importance of the VP pick was a huge part of my conversation with Rachel Bitecofer.
First, I’ll tell you about the conventional wisdom. Then my pick, if it were up to me. And then what I think is going to happen.
In years past, most pundits believed the pick for VP didn’t really matter. That idea is slowly dying, and Bitecofer — an emerging pollster — is one of the people leading the charge against it. Her belief, which I subscribe to, is that the VP pick matters a great deal in uniting the party, especially with a candidate like Biden. The thought before was you should pick a VP from an important swing state to try to win over voters there — something safe. The efficacy of that move has been called into question. Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine, a Virginia senator, in 2016. Some saw that as a major missed opportunity to pick someone to the left of her and unite the party. How Biden decides to proceed will impact the election in a huge way. John Harwood, a well-sourced, old school reporter in D.C., said the two names he was hearing the most from Democratic strategists for Biden were Kamala Harris and Stacey Abrams.
Both these picks would make sense and (I think) would serve Biden well. It’s no coincidence that they’re both black women, either. Democrats recognize that this moment demands something other than an all-white, all-male ticket in the Democratic party. They’re also two great politicians. You might remember Abrams from the hotly contested Georgia governor race or the Democratic response to the State of the Union address in 2019. She’s a powerful speaker with a humble upbringing who has a record of grassroots organizing. Harris would be an interesting pick, too. She and Biden famously clashed during the early debates, having some of the most pointed interactions on stage. Bringing her on would be quite the unifying gesture for the two camps, and it would also give Biden a VP with far more experience than Abrams — someone who has served in the Senate and proven she can go toe-to-toe with just about anyone (Harris is a famously sharp questioner on the Senate floor). Harris could also vacate a Senate seat Democrats are likely to hold onto, something that is a big part of the calculation — if you’re Biden, you don’t want to pull someone from Congress and then lose that seat to a Republican.
That being said, they both have flaws, too. Abrams is young, hasn’t really won anything, and her biggest claim to fame is losing a governor’s race. Her grassroots organization also took millions of dollars from Bloomberg, something that is sure to catch the eyes of the “anti-billionaire” Bernie Bros Biden is trying to bring into his corner. Kamala also lacks wide appeal, as evidenced by her early exit from the Democratic primary. She’s been absolutely excoriated for her criminal justice record as a prosecutor and was dubbed “Kamala the cop” by a lot of folks on the left during the early goings of this race. Her record, like Biden’s, lends itself to a lot of brutal ads, no matter how good she is on stage.
I sincerely doubt Biden would pick up Sanders, and I’m sure the party knows that they can’t run two of the oldest white guys in politics together. Warren is an intriguing choice, and picking her would definitely bring in some votes, but it means pulling her from the Senate, where she has a ton of power. It’s a cost-benefit the Biden campaign will have to weigh. I’m also not sure Warren would even take the offer, given that the VP is considered a “do nothing” role. I’ve heard other names: Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Val Demings. Demings is an intriguing idea — she’s a woman of color, represents Florida (a state Democrats could put back in play) and she’s quite popular. She also endorsed Biden, so she’s clearly someone who viewed his nomination positively. As Scott Powers put it on FloridaPolitics.com:
Congresswoman Val Demings has a high profile stage right now in Congress, a great personal back story, an impressive professional background, preacher-esque oratory skills, a reputation for a sharp, no-nonsense, strategic and tactical intellect, a lifelong commitment to law and order and enormous popularity back home.
Oh. And she’s black. And a woman. And she’s from a critical swing state worth 29 electoral votes in an area considered one of the state’s most crucial voting blocs.
In my eyes, of all the rumored picks, Demings would be the strongest choice for Biden.
What’s the name I’d throw into the ring that I’m surprised I haven’t heard more of? Rep. Ayanna Pressley. Pressley is a member of “The Squad,” the group of four ultra-progressive women that entered Congress together: Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Pressley represents Massachusetts. On the identity politics side of things, she fits the bill for the moment: she’s a woman of color. But unlike Abrams or Harris or even Demings, Pressley has something the others don’t: flawless progressive politics. She endorsed Warren for president, the other Squad members backed Bernie, and she’s been aligned with Sanders on basically everything.
Unlike Rashida Tlaib or AOC, though, Pressley isn’t young enough to be dunked on as inexperienced. She’s 46. And unlike some other potential VP picks, she has a ton of experience at the local political level — something that other candidates like Pete Buttigieg effectively sold as a positive during their campaigns. That makes her old and experienced enough to be looked to for wisdom, but she will still look like a youthful alternative standing next to Biden, Trump or Pence. She’s also got some broad appeal election credentials: she was the first black American woman to be elected to Boston’s City Council and to Congress in her state’s history, no small feat in place that still has a sordid history with racism. Some people speculated that Pressley endorsed Warren because she was making a play for Warren’s senate seat, which would be vacated when Warren won the nomination. I’m not so cynical.
And what intrigues me most: Pressley has some connections to the Biden camp. Symone Sanders, who had a top role in Bernie’s 2016 campaign and is now helping run Biden’s campaign, explained to BuzzFeed News how coveted an endorsement from Pressley would be.
Do I think it’s possible Pressley gets tapped? I’d say the odds are probably 1 in 50. But if I were Biden’s campaign I’d strongly consider her — and I absolutely think she would excite the progressive base Biden will need while also appealing to voters who may be unsure about his candidacy. As for the most likely choice, I think it’s probably Stacey Abrams. And I think she would be a perfectly good pick to help Biden get elected, though — much like Beto O’Rourke or Buttigieg — I think she’s enjoying a bit of her “media darling” status and there will probably be a good deal of oppo research dumped on her whenever she stepped that close to the sun.
A story that matters.
“U.S. law enforcement agencies signed millions of dollars worth of contracts with a Virginia company after it rolled out a powerful tool that uses data from popular mobile apps to track the movement of people's cell phones, according to federal contracting records and six people familiar with the software,” Protocol reports. The product is called Locate X and it allows investigators to create a “digital fence” around an area to find mobile devices in that area, then track where those devices have gone in the last few months. The tool tracks the location of the devices anonymously. Babel Street, the company that is selling Locate X, has kept it a secret and neglected to mention it in public-facing marketing materials. Even the existence of the data is being called “confidential information.” But some federal records show that U.S. Customs and Border Protection is one of the agencies that purchased Locate X. Protocol has the story here.
- 25. The death toll in Tennessee after tornadoes ripped across four counties in the Nashville area.
- 17.6%, 14.5%, 14.2%. The surge in stock prices for health insurers Centene, Cigna and Anthem yesterday after Joe Biden’s Super Tuesday romp.
- 27.3%. The percentage of Democratic voters in Michigan who say the No. 1 issue facing the country is beating Donald Trump in the general election.
- 20%. The percentage of Democratic voters in Michigan who say the No. 1 issue facing the country is health care.
- 7.5%. The percentage of Democratic voters in Michigan who say the No. 1 issue facing the country is the economy and jobs.
- 1,200. The number of majority-black towns and cities in America, according to the Brookings Institution.
- 1,000. The number of those towns and cities that are in the South.
Have a nice day.
In good news that I wish I didn’t have to report in the first place, the FDA has officially banned electrical shock devices “used to discourage aggressive, self-harming behavior in patients with mental disabilities.” If you’re thinking, “holy crap, people were using electrical shock devices on humans?” then you’re having the same reaction I did when I read that news. For years, one “educational center” in Massachusetts has been the last place to use such devices in the U.S. The FDA estimates that 45 to 50 people at the school were being “treated” with the device, which will now be illegal. You can read the “good news” here.
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