Tangle 2.0 — reader feedback & updates.

Plus, some impeachment coverage.

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Today’s read: 10 minutes.

Happy Wednesday. We’re doing something a little different today. First, a Tangle update. Then a correction and some quick hits, as well as some impeachment coverage. We’re also publishing some interesting reader feedback from the last few days.


Tangle 2.0

I’m doing some upgrading. Here are a few things to expect in Tangle soon:

  • The “Numbers” section is going to turn into “Number of the Day.” Far too often, fitting in 6-10 numbers in this section leaves me sharing statistics or poll numbers that may lack the context and nuance I try to bring to Tangle, so I’ve decided to use the space to focus on one or two numbers in more detail and expound on them in a few sentences.

  • The newsletters will be a tiny bit shorter. Things happen slowly, and twice in the last month Tangle newsletters have gotten clipped for length by Gmail. I’ve also noticed the average read time has gone from about 8-12 minutes to 11-13 minutes. I am going to try (again) to cut some fat.

  • The citation format is here to stay. So many readers have said they love the new link outs that tell you what the source is and whether a subscription is required, so I’m going to keep those.

  • We’re going to grow this audience. This month, expect some opportunities to win merch or prizes by sharing Tangle, as well as some plans to get involved in a Tangle ambassador program. If you’re interested in helping spread the word about Tangle in a concentrated way, reply to this email and let me know. Otherwise, just keep telling your friends when you get the chance!

  • Tangle mugs and stickers are coming. I know I keep saying that, but it’s more complicated than shirts. Designs are being processed right now, and I’m hoping they’ll be in our merchandise store by March.

  • Podcasts are coming too! But those of you who prefer to read won’t miss anything. I’ve heard two things from readers: yes, we want podcasts. And also, please don’t replace the newsletters with podcasts. The middle ground here is obvious: podcasts will be additional content and double as newsletters that are transcribed interviews. I’m also working on readings of the daily newsletter and booking guests as we speak. For now, please go give Tangle 5 stars on Apple podcasts and subscribe! I’m recording this week’s podcast tomorrow.


Correction.

First, a reader pointed out to me that my correction count actually needed a correction. Somewhere along the way, I missed one, or subtracted one, or did something funky — but on January 13th I reported the 27th Tangle correction. It was actually the 28th.

Yesterday, I wrote about Rep. “David” Kinzinger (R-IL) who voted for impeachment and penned an op-ed in The Washington Post supporting impeachment. I have no idea who David Kinzinger is. I have no idea why my brain did that. I have no idea how none of us caught it before publication. Rep. David Kinzinger doesn’t exist — but Rep. Adam Kinzinger, the Republican from Illinois, does. The error was fixed shortly after the newsletter was published.

This is the 29th Tangle correction in its 76-week existence and the first since January 13th. I track corrections in an effort to be transparent and will hopefully have much more sophisticated corrections to report in the future.


Quick hits.

  1. Even though he voted against advancing impeachment yesterday, Republican leader Mitch McConnell is signaling to colleagues that it’s okay to vote their conscience — and has said privately he’s unsure how he’ll vote in the end. (Bloomberg, subscription)

  2. Republicans are already laying the groundwork to win back the House of Representatives in 2022, and they may be able to do it on the strength of redistricting and COVID-19 lockdowns alone. The NRCC chair Tom Emmer spoke to Politico about their plan. (Politico

  3. Along with planning a House takeover, Republicans are also focusing on winning the working-class vote, and expanding their base to include Hispanic and Black voters. Traditional conservative agenda items like tax cuts or entitlement reforms are taking a back seat. (Axios)

  4. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats are still pushing to include a minimum wage hike in the American Rescue Plan, despite the measure running into opposition from Republicans and moderate Democrats early roadblocks in the legislative process. (Wall Street Journal, subscription)

  5. There are now at least 165 proposals in 35 states that would restrict mail-in voting, require voter identification and reduce options to register to vote, according to a new report from the Brennan Center. (Axios)


Impeachment.

After hearing arguments about the constitutionality of trying a former president, the Senate voted yesterday to move ahead with Donald Trump’s impeachment trial by a 56-44 vote. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), who had previously voted against advancing the trial, was the lone Republican to switch his vote. He was joined by Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Ben Sasse (Nebraska), Pat Toomey (Pennsylvania), Mitt Romney (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) in voting in favor of moving the trial forward, along with every Senate Democrat. Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) voted against having the trial.

Democrats opened the day by playing a 13-minute video recapping the Capitol riots. On the whole, the commentator consensus was that the House managers pushing to convict Trump had a much better day than Trump’s lawyers, the first of whom, Bruce Castor, was excoriated by Republicans and conservative columnists and apparently left Trump screaming at the television over his performance (which, I must confess, left me dumbfounded too).

For anyone on the left hoping that Trump may actually be convicted, Cassidy’s “flip” is — at the very least — a sign of the strength of the Democrats’ argument. Frankly, it was shocking. For a senator from deep red Louisiana to make this jump surprised everyone. “The House managers were focused, they were organized,” he said, according to Politico. “They made a compelling argument. President Trump’s team, they were disorganized… One side is doing a great job and the other side is doing a terrible job… As an impartial juror, I’m going to vote for the side that did the good job.”

For anyone on the right looking to be reassured that this won’t go anywhere, keep in mind that all but six Senate Republicans voted to throw the entire case out before hearing arguments — which basically tells you where this is headed. The odds of Trump getting convicted are somewhere between me starting an NBA career and you winning the lottery. If anything, I’d bet that fewer Republicans vote to convict him than the number who voted to advance the trial.

Yesterday, quite a few readers wrote in probing “my take” on the impeachment trial. I think the best metaphor I can come up with is that it feels to me like a dentist appointment: I know if I don’t go I’ll be worse off in the future, I am dreading it, the experience will be unpleasant, and in the end, I’ll be able to say I took care of my teeth (sorry to my readers who are dentists). When I say I don’t want to go this route, I mean it: I don’t want to have to cover this, write about it, think about it, especially when I feel the outcome is preordained and it’s going to be brutal for much of the country. I’d rather cover other issues. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it should happen.

For the counterpoint to my own opinion, The New York Post’s Michael Goodwin is making the definitive defense of Trump in a series of columns, and if you want to read his arguments you can find the latest one here. In The Washington Post, Megan McArdle called on Democrats to make a meticulous, thorough case against Trump, even if they know it will end in acquittal.


Your feedback, published.

Every day, when you open Tangle, you get to read some of the top headlines from around the news world and then you get to read an array of political opinions before my own take. But between each newsletter, my inbox fills up with fascinating letters. Feedback from teachers, mechanics, CPA’s, lawyers, Congressional staff, readers abroad, mayoral candidates, doctors, grocery store clerks, retired moms, high school students, single dads, former policymakers, leaders at think tanks and oftentimes one of the millions of Americans currently unemployed. It is, truly, my favorite part of the job. And it’s often where I learn the most.

Today, I wanted to share some of that feedback. Not just because it’s a Wednesday and I’m tired, but because I think it’s valuable for you, as a reader, to see how people across the political spectrum respond to some of what I write. Of course, lots of the feedback is positive, but today I’m sharing feedback that mostly consists of people pushing back on something I’ve written, or a position I’ve staked out, so as to better fulfill Tangle’s mission to be a space where you get views outside of just my own. I’ve also included a couple of notes from people who unsubscribed, just for fun.

I’m keeping some of today’s reader feedback anonymous unless the writer said in their letter that it was okay to share their name. These notes have been lightly edited for length, typos and clarity.


Your thoughts.

Responding to yesterday’s impeachment issue, Troy from Saugatuck, Michigan, said “Whether we want to go down this road or not, we are here. The country has to face the prospect of what to do with a President who refuses to acknowledge the results of a fair election and incites violence against a co-equal branch of government as part of that. The accountability for that lies with Donald Trump starting in November (or before given how he sought to undermine the election in advance). He's left office, but just because the suspect leaves the scene of the crime does not make them less accountable for their deeds. Now we as a nation have to figure out how to make sure this never happens again, next time we might not be so lucky.”

“Senate Trump trial?” another reader asked. “Not so fast. Trump probably won’t testify — (or he will plead the 5th as often as Hillary Clinton did). They have his public speech. There’s nothing to add to that. The Senate has the power to try him in order to remove him from office. He’s not in office. There is no precedent for the Senate to try an ex-president. If they try him, any ruling will come up before the Supreme Court because it raises a Constitutional question. I imagine the court will defend the First Amendment and force the Senate Democrats to back down. Trump will dominate the news cycle, and Democrats will be charged with attacking the Constitution they swore to defend. By 2022, many Democrats will lose their jobs. Sound like a smart plan?”

“I agree that we should just leave Trump in the past,” a reader named Braydn wrote. “I hate the moral high ground that Democrats pretend to have. I agree that our Senate is dysfunctional and that our political discourse is abnormal. But I disagree that Trump is at the top of the pyramid of blame. And I wholeheartedly disagree that this will worsen the divide. 

“Beginning with the pyramid of blame. I would argue that Trump is a symptom of our divisive political discourse, that goes well back into the last century, and not the cause. I believe the Dems are making a mistake going with the ‘singularly responsible’ path because while he is responsible, he is not solely responsible. OAN, Fox News, and members of Congress are just as responsible. OAN and Fox for stoking divisions and using violent language on broadcasts that are staples in fear-based reporting, further painting the Us vs. Them picture. Members of Congress who challenged the integrity of the U.S. elections with baseless claims or the .0002% of actual fraud (I don't know the real number I just remember it being extremely low, almost nonexistent). Hell, I even want to go as far as saying State Legislatures are responsible for this by underfunding education for decades leading citizens to believe sources like OAN, Fox News, or a ground-hog, but not the CDC. Or political parties existing in the first place. My point being, Trump is the embodiment of things that are already wrong in our Democracy. He is not at the top of the pyramid, but he did help build it.” 

Responding to yesterday’s reader question, Pelle from Queens said “I don't understand your definition of unity. Especially your ‘But Biden’s pledge for unity takes a bit of a hit’ made me laugh at how much I disagree. You've said that these people are sabotaging these agencies from within, are Trump loyalists, but we should give them a chance? If someone's been gleefully setting the government on fire, they've had a chance, they've made their choice. It's time for us to move on to a more united government, where the head of the CFPB believes in protecting consumers and the head of the NLRB believes in worker's rights.”

Another reader wrote in about my coverage of Biden’s quest for unity, writing “You said Biden is ‘not insulting the opposition or framing his counterparts as fundamentally evil,’ but plenty of Democrats ARE calling Republicans fundamentally evil and demanding their coworkers' resignation. The fact that Biden has stayed silent on these issues and Trump's impeachment says a lot about how he clearly will not be standing up to the radicals in his own party. Then couple that with the unprecedented amount of executive orders and how progressive many of the executive orders are, and Biden's complete dismissal of his ‘unity’ pledge really could not be any clearer at this point. I'm still holding out hope this changes, but right now, I have zero confidence that it will.”

On the $1.9 trillion stimulus, Dennis from California wrote in and said “How can we spend that much money when barely any of the $900 billion package passed seven weeks ago has even hit the market yet? Think about it, $900 billion passed on 12/21 and seven weeks later they want to more than double that amount. It is ridiculously poor management of taxpayer funds. It is a give away to pay off election promises and completely political.

“The economy is coming back, cases are dropping, those vaccinated are growing exponentially. By the time the $900 billion is halfway spent the economy will be moving along and a significant number of jobs lost will be recovered. Then another $1.9 trillion will start to hit the economy—but where will it go if the targeted beneficiaries no longer need the money?”

One reader wrote in responding to my $15 minimum wage piece, saying that where they live in Florida, $15 an hour is middle class, even if its poverty level in New York City.

“That is the problem with big, centralized government thinking. Very simply put: I worked for a nonprofit which employed mostly new immigrants, ex-offenders, people with other barriers to employment like illiteracy, lack of English, lack of education or who were physically and mentally handicapped. When the $15 first was bandied about, we did the math. We had [in] round numbers 1,000 employees. Half of those people made on average $12 an hour, so we would need to increase their wages by $3 an hour.

“500 people x 2080 hours of full time employment x $3 an hour equals $3,120,000.  Add to that 5% for unemployment compensation, 3% for workers compensation and 6.2% for FICA match for another $433,664 or a total of $3,563,664. Now, I know to anyone in the federal government $3.5 million is a pittance and any company with 1,000 employees should be able to pay that.

“The year that we did this exercise, our total profit for the year was $750,000. Our biggest expense was salaries and the only other thing to cut was ‘mission’ programs — every employee had a life coach, every employee was encouraged to take our free ESOL classes, our free budgeting classes, our free home buying classes. We had a veteran outreach, we had a job readiness outreach program. It is impossible to cut rent, mortgage payments, insurance rates, electric rates.  So salary and mission it would be.

“The only way we could come up with anything close to $3.5 million was to cut all mission programs ($1.5 million MOL) and cut $2 million in employment. That would mean while some people would now be earning $15 instead of $12 an hour, another big section would be earning zero dollars instead of $12. How does this help?”

Another reader wrote in with this note: “Please refund my payment. Offerings are not as broadcast as independent thinking; you sir are a liberal — my NYTimes subscription gives me all that thought I can stand!”

“You’re a bit too right for me,” a different reader said this week after unsubscribing. “It’s clear you can’t let go of those biases, unwilling to acknowledge the role and responsibility of conservatives in helping destroy the Senate and Congress, so while I enjoy your writing I’m not sure I can support this endeavor. Best of luck.”


A story that matters.

In January, another 275,000 women dropped out of the labor force, accounting for nearly 80% of all workers over the age of 20 who left the workforce last month. The latest data, compiled by the National Women’s Law Center, illustrates that the pandemic is hitting women — and especially mothers — the hardest on the job front. Since February 2020, 2.3 million women have left the labor force (compared to 1.8 million men), and the women’s labor force participation is now 57% — the lowest it's been since 1988. Many of the women have been forced to leave because of closures at schools and daycares, and since they are not seeking work, they are no longer included in the nation’s unemployment rate. (CNBC)


Number of the day.

— 48%. That’s the percentage of voters who oppose President Biden’s plan to allow 125,000 refugees into the U.S. in the upcoming fiscal year. Morning Consult polled voters on 28 of Joe Biden’s executive actions and this plan was the most unpopular, with just 39% supporting it. The poll was conducted among roughly 2,000 registered voters with a margin of error of 2%. The most popular action was mandating mask usage during public transit, with 78% supporting, 15% opposing and the remaining 7% saying they don’t know or didn’t have an opinion. 


Building Tangle.

Tangle is a little more than a year old, and you are on the ground floor. As you can tell, we’re still growing and adapting and incorporating reader feedback. We are trying to build a better kind of news — one that turns the temperature down, allows for reasonable debate and gives Americans of all political persuasions a common place to read about politics. If you are enjoying this work, please do consider subscribing. Subscribers get exclusive Friday editions and are the only way we can keep the Tangle newsletter ad-free and independent.


Have a nice day.

Here’s a nice piece of feedback to wash it all down:

“I like the ‘positioning’ of your newsletter,” Rich from New Jersey said. “Unfortunately today we are bombarded with two polar diametrically opposed distinct points of view either slanted right or slanted left. Independent news reporting is something that is a forgotten art. Your newsletter feed called Tangle is refreshing and I have enjoyed reading it over the past few days as this was recently forwarded to me by a business colleague… It is for that reason that I wanted to write, as I find your newsletter reporting exactly that… fair…balanced and leaving conclusions for your readers. I rarely, if ever, write a letter like this, but I felt it necessary to commend you and your team. Keep up the good work. Stay neutral in your reporting as this is what this country needs. We need to inform our public and stop leading them like Pavlov’s Dogs! My sincerest wishes for continued good luck and continued stellar reporting!”