Apr 14, 2020

Wisconsin's 'shocking' election results come in.

Wisconsin's 'shocking' election results come in.

Plus, a question about why Bernie doesn't win.

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Today’s read: 8 minutes.

The wild Wisconsin results, some updates from yesterday and a question about why people don’t vote for Bernie Sanders.

Sgt. Monica Miggins, a Soldier with the 1158th Transportation Company out of Beloit, Wis., sanitizes voters’ hands before entering a polling place in Fitchburg, Wis., April 7, 2020. More than 2,400 Citizen Soldiers and Airmen were mobilized to state active duty to assist as poll workers in the state’s elections. Wisconsin National Guard Photo by Spc. Emma Anderson

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In the last 24 hours, a new group of paid subscribers have come on board. I just wanted to thank you for joining Tangle (and I will keep thanking you this week). I’m blown away by the support. My only ask now is simple: please spread the word. Take a minute to forward this email to friends or share Tangle on social media and tell other people why you think they should subscribe.

2020 update.

  • Yesterday, Bernie Sanders endorsed Joe Biden in a live stream conversation the two had. “We need you in the White House,” Sanders said to Biden. “And I will do all that I can to see that that happens.” Click.
  • Today, several news outlets reported that Barack Obama will be releasing a video endorsement of Joe Biden. It’s the first time Obama has stepped directly into the race and thrown his support behind a candidate — and now it’ll be for his former Vice President.
  • Michigan Rep. Justin Amash sparked rumors of a presidential run yesterday when he told a supporter on Twitter he was thinking about it this week. Amash left the Republican party last year to become an independent and was the only House Republican who voted to impeach Trump.

What D.C. is talking about.

Wisconsin. Yesterday, the results from the Wisconsin election started to come in. The biggest news of the day was that the Trump-backed, right-leaning Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly lost to liberal challenger Jill Karofsky. That means Karofsky will serve a 10-year term on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. While the court is technically non-partisan, the election has huge implications nationally, as Karofsky brings the court from a 5-2 conservative advantage to a 4-3 conservative advantage. Wisconsin, a crucial swing state in November’s presidential election, is currently in a dogfight over whether to purge some 200,000 people from voter rolls before November (Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by just 23,000 votes). Kelly was expected to be a swing vote in that decision, which pollsters say would favor Republicans. Now his seat is gone. Karofsky beat Kelly by a staggering 160,000 votes, a result that “came as a shock to Republicans and Democrats alike,” The New York Times reported. Previous elections for president, governor and the Supreme Court in the last four years have all been decided by 30,000 votes or less, as Wisconsin is one of the most politically divided states in the U.S. Democrats plan to hold their national convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this August.

As Tangle covered last week, the election came after weeks of debate over whether it was safe to send voters to the polls in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Republicans had insisted on holding the elections while Democrats had filed lawsuits and fought to push the election back. Ultimately, after Democrats claimed Republicans were closing polling places and pushing to have the election in an effort to suppress the vote, they came out victorious. Joe Biden also defeated Bernie Sanders — who dropped out of the race the 24 hours after Wisconsin election day — handily. Despite how positive the result looks for the left, Democrats, Republicans and pollsters alike cautioned that the bizarre circumstances of the election make it hard to interpret for November.

What the left is saying.

Buckle up. Liberals see the result as a strong signal for November, and proof their get-out-the-vote efforts are working. Enthusiasm is high and the chaos of election day didn’t slow them down. Despite how difficult it was to get some absentee ballots counted, this could also prove a blueprint for the left to keep turnout up: make absentee ballot voting as widely available as possible. Three weeks before the election, Democrats had become focused entirely on virtual outreach and absentee ballot promotion. Before the results came in, Democrats were already preparing for defeat and accusing Republicans of voter suppression. “It was voter suppression on steroids,” Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said before results were public. “They tried to steal this election in Wisconsin.”

After the results came in, his tone changed marginally. “In the face of unprecedented voter suppression efforts by Republicans, Judge Karofsky has won the Supreme Court race—a result that speaks to Democrats’ incredible enthusiasm advantage and should terrify Donald Trump and every other Wisconsin Republican,” he said. Joe Biden, who never explicitly called to postpone the election until after it happened, thanked supporters for turning out.

“As grateful as I am for your support, and as proud I am of the commitment and courage shown by so many in Wisconsin—it never should have come to that,” Biden said in a video Monday night. “No one should ever have to choose between their health and our democracy.”

What the right is saying.

The insanity of the election is sort of an out. A lot of Trump loyalists on the right who were pumping up his endorsement of Kelly went quiet. Trump campaign spokesperson Tim Murtaugh said that Kelly was hurt by Bernie Sanders still being on the ballot and by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers trying to postpone the election via executive order the day before election day. He dismissed any strength for Joe Biden as being the reason for the victory. “In November against hapless Joe Biden, President Trump will win Wisconsin again, as he did in 2016,” Murtaugh said in a statement.

Local Republicans had a different attitude. Matt Batzel, the Wisconsin-based director of a conservative grassroots training organization, said Democrats capitalized on the chaos. “Democrats and Governor Evers flip-flopping from there is no reason to postpone the election to fear-mongering that people shouldn’t vote in person, gave them an advantage that carried the day. All the while, the left organized a historic number of absentee ballot requests.”

Many on the right have been focused on the absentee ballot push in Wisconsin. President Trump says absentee ballots are ripe for fraud and Republicans have pledged to limit their use to avoid opportunities for Democrats to “steal” the election. "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and former Vice President Joe Biden say we must throw election integrity to the wayside in favor of an all-mail election, fundamentally changing how Americans vote in eight months," RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in an op-ed for Fox News. "The overhaul would vastly expand opportunities for fraud and weaken confidence in our elections, but all Washington Democrats see is a potential benefit for their party."

My take.

I very rarely do this, but I’m going to take a moment to pat myself on the back, so you’ll have to exucse me. Last week, when everyone was deriding Republicans for their admittedly dangerous push to have the election as-is, there was this overarching narrative forming: voter suppression and coronavirus was going to help them. I included this section of writing in “What the right is saying” because I thought it was a really good point being overlooked:

Some conservatives also rejected the idea that this was helping Republicans, noting that the elderly vote by absentee ballot more often than young voters and are far more likely to be scared away from the polls given the fact they are the at-risk population. The elderly also tend to vote for Republicans. If anything, this ruling could hurt absentee ballots and favor those who showed up in person — which just as easily might mean an advantage for the left.

We’ll need some more time to sift through the ballots, figure out who voted and get a grip on what exactly happened — but this is something to keep an eye on. As Democratic pollster Nick Gourevitch tweeted, “Tonight’s results in Wisconsin is part 1 of the series called ‘everything you assume about voter turnout in a pandemic will be wrong.’” A lot of people made a lot of assumptions about how this would impact the outcome, but nobody seemed to think this outcome was possible. We still have a lot to learn.

Relatedly, I want to emphasize one other thing that’s suddenly being overlooked: there were still huge problems with the way this went down. More than 11,000 voters requested absentee ballots and were never sent one. 185,000 ballots were sent to voters and not returned. Plenty of people got screwed out of a chance to vote, and major fixes need to be made in Wisconsin and nationally before November to get this right.

Anyway, for some levity, here is the first tweet from Katie Rosenberg after she was elected mayor of Wausau, Wisconsin, yesterday:

Follow up.

Going forward, I am going to do my best to give periodic updates via a “Follow up” section to make sure I keep you appraised on news related to past coverage. Several readers have written in and asked for this, and I think it’s a great idea.
  • Yesterday, the White House called rumors it was planning to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci “ridiculous.” Tangle covered the rumors in its lead story of the day. Then, hours later, Trump took the podium for a raucous daily press briefing and called Fauci a “wonderful guy,” insisting he had no plans to fire him. The rumors came after the president shared a tweet with the #FireFauci hashtag that was critical of the nation’s top epidemiologist. Fauci also took the podium and tried to clarify comments he made on Sunday morning that implied the government could have moved faster, saying it was a “poor choice of words.” Asked if he was being forced to walk the comments back, Fauci seemed to bristle. “Everything I do is voluntarily,” he said. “Please. Don’t even imply that.”
  • Last week, I answered a question about U.S. colleges and their plans for the fall semester. I said most were in “triage” mode trying to figure out how to handle this semester and the summer. But yesterday, The Boston Globe broke a new story that universities — including Brown, Harvard and MIT — are now laying out plans for a “fully online” fall semester “just in case.” The Boston Globe has the story here.

Your questions, answered.

Reminder: Reader questions are a big part of Tangle. To ask a question, all you have to do is reply to this email and write in. Give it a try!

Q: I've been a serious Bernie supporter throughout the campaign, but I totally agree with you that Sanders and his campaign bear all the blame for their failure to not do better and it's honestly left me pretty disillusioned about the Sanders "movement," or whatever you want to call it. However, it seems like in each state Sanders loses, you see polling that shows his policies outdoing Biden's (like the poll you referenced where a solid majority of voters preferred a government health plan). What should we make of this? A sign that a sizeable amount of Democrats are voting for Biden only (or at least primarily) because they think he has the best chance to beat Trump? A fear that Sanders would not be able to accomplish any of what he's promising? Something else?

- David, New York, NY

Tangle: I think this is a question the Democratic party, Sanders and Biden are all going to be asking themselves going forward. I actually thought Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who served as a surrogate for Sanders during his campaign, made some interesting points about this in a recent New York Times interview. She was being asked about whether she would work with Joe Biden and if he had reached out to her yet. It turned out the two have still never spoken, but then the Times pressed her on the elephant in the room: Biden won by rejecting Sanders’ ideas. Why should Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives expect him to embrace those ideas now? This how she responded:

I think the ideological argument is a false one, and I think that’s backed up by exit polling. While Biden is the nominee, we also know that he didn’t win because of policy — I don’t think he won because of his agenda, he won because ofdifferentfactors. In state after state after state, Democratic voters support a progressive agenda.

I want to respect his win, he won because of his coalition building, he won because of his service, he won for a lot of different reasons — but I don’t think he won because Americans don’t want “Medicare for all.”

For me, I think there are three big reasons. The first two, I think, are ideas that don’t really belong to me and are out there in the ether. The most obvious is one you broached in your question: the perception that Biden will win. Politico had a really good feature about these voters, folks who “love Bernie” but don’t know if he can beat Trump because he’s so far to the left. Sanders campaign, of course, knew this — which is why they focused so much of their efforts on trying to convince voters Sanders would beat Trump in a general election. This reality was reflected in poll after poll: Democrats had more faith Biden could beat Trump than they did that Sanders could.

The second is one that’s less talked about but has also been reported on. It’s about the culture of a candidate’s following. Bernie may have the policy initiatives that most liberal voters want, but those same voters are resistant to the political culture he ushers in. The best example of this is probably Elizabeth Warren supporters, so many of whom I’ve heard say they just don't like the “feel” of Bernie’s campaign: the revolution, the edginess, past accusations of sexism, the burn it all down feel of his approach, the nasty online supporters. Is health care for everyone great? Yes. Is threatening the “Democratic establishment” and saying they are going to tear the whole thing down and rebuild it? Maybe not so much. One Hispanic voter who was rejecting Bernie had a quote in Politico that really caught my eye. It was more in reference to him not voting for Bernie because of his stance on Cuba, but I think it applies more generally: “I’m more progressive than Biden,” the voter said. “But I also don’t want to stand next to the dummy in the Che Guevara T-shirt at a rally, and that’s true here regardless of age.”

That sentiment — “I don’t want to be next to the idiot in the Che Guevara T-shirt” — is something a lot of pro-Bernie-policy-but-I’m-voting-for-Biden voters feel.

Finally, I’ll add my own take: I think a lot of voters just aren’t following this that closely. That’s the sad truth in America. Basically every candidate in the Democratic primary was promising to make college tuition cheaper, to make sure everyone got health care, to defeat Trump, to reduce wars, to make our immigration system less evil. Imagine watching a Democratic debate without a strong base of knowledge — it’d be pretty hard to tell exactly how the candidates differed on policies. At some point, for people who casually check into politics, it all starts to sound the same. Health care. Minimum wage. Legalizing marijuana. Ending wars. Immigration reform. And on and on and on.

Every candidate this year was a move to the left, and so policy differences can start to fade out to the background noise of things like “How do I feel when I watch him speak?” or “Who do I know that supports this candidate?” or “Is he experienced enough?” or “Can he win?” When those questions start getting asked, I think Biden has an edge over Sanders. As some popular pundits say, sometimes the presidential race is a lot simpler than you think: it’s just a popularity contest, not much different from prom king or queen. And people just seem to like Biden more.

A story that matters.

The $1,200 checks the Trump administration promised to Americans making less than $75,000 a year have started to arrive, and will continue to hit bank accounts this week via direct deposit. Many people, though, will have to wait longer — or may lose their check altogether. The Trump administration announced yesterday that some Americans will have to wait weeks or months for the check, but they’ll be able to speed up the process by going to the IRS website later this week and entering their direct deposit information. However, millions of low-income Americans who need the checks the most don’t have traditional bank accounts. Nonprofit organizations representing those Americans are pushing the White House to offer debit cards or send checks directly to these Americans. They’re also warning about debt collectors. Experts say that debt collectors can pull money directly from your bank account and often do when big lump sums like a tax return come in. To avoid that, they say the best thing to do is to check your account a few times a day for the money and try to cash it out or use it before the debt collectors get to it. Some bipartisan members of Congress are pushing for a provision that will stop the debt collectors, but it’s unclear when it’ll be implemented. You can read more from NPR here.


  • 42-54 million. The number of American jobs (out of 150 million total) that are vulnerable to furloughs, permanent layoffs or reductions in hours and pay because of coronavirus.
  • 86%. The percentage of those vulnerable jobs that pay less than $40,000 a year.
  • 98%. The percentage of those jobs that pay less than $68,808 a year, the national living wage for a family of four.
  • 13 million. The number of those vulnerable jobs that are in the restaurant industry.
  • 500,000. The number of Zoom passwords that were on sale on the dark web for less than one cent each, according to researchers.
  • 56-19. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) lead over challenger Brenda Jones in the fight for her Michigan House seat, according to a June poll.
  • 43-34. Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s (D-MI) lead over challenger Brenda Jones in the fight for her Michigan House seat, according to a poll released this week.
  • 100%. The percentage of counties in Wisconsin Joe Biden won over Bernie Sanders, according to The New York Times results tracker.

Have a nice day.

More than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins have now been recorded in the lower reaches of the Potomac River, a remarkable recovery for a river once seen as a national treasure. When George Washington first built his estate on the river, he called it “the nation’s river” and wrote about the frequency with which he saw dolphins. Bald eagles were also common. But by the 1960s, the river was considered a “national disgrace” for how polluted it was. After 50 years of pollution regulation, clean-up and restoration efforts, though, the river is returning to its once cherished glory. “People actually forgot that there were dolphins in the river because they hadn’t been seen since the 1880s and because the river was in poor condition, people weren't seeing them,” Melissa Diemand, spokesperson for Potomac Conservancy, said. You can read about how they did it here.

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