Democratic Party transforming as it searches for leaders
By BILL BARROW and BOB SALSBERG
Thursday, September 6
EDITOR’S NOTE: Associated Press reporters are on the ground around the country, covering political issues, people and races from places they live. The Ground Game series highlights that reporting, looking at politics from the ground up. Each week, in stories and a new podcast, AP reporters examine the political trends that will drive the national conversation tomorrow.
BOSTON (AP) — When Ayanna Pressley topped a 10-term congressman in a Massachusetts district once represented by John Fitzgerald Kennedy, she became the latest face of a burgeoning movement of the grassroots left. “This is a fight for the soul of our party and the future of our democracy,” Pressley said. That movement is reshaping a Democratic Party still searching for leaders and identity in the era of Donald Trump.
Grassroots activists on the left have a mixed record in Democratic primaries this election year, but the self-described progressive movement has scored enough victories to suggest its popularity is based on more than just protesting the Trump White House. The movement is also remolding the Democratic Party into a younger, more diverse and decidedly liberal party.
Ayanna Pressley and New York’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, two women of color, both defeated Democratic incumbent congressmen in their primaries. The progressive movement has helped nominate three black Democrats for governor’s seats, including a clear upset in Florida, where Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum knocked off establishment favorite Gwen Graham. Graham’s establishment credentials could not have been stronger. Her father, Bob, is a Florida icon who served as governor and U.S. senator.
Georgia’s Stacey Abrams, meanwhile, trounced a primary opponent recruited and backed by much of her state’s Democratic old guard. Abrams would become the first black woman elected governor in any U.S. state.
Scores of other down-ballot candidates are running for local, state and federal offices with backing from grassroots groups like Indivisible, MoveOn.org, the Working Families Party and the offshoot of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, Our Revolution.
WHY IT MATTERS
The diversifying, more liberal slate will be measured by the outcome in the November vote.
Republicans — and some Democrats — argue that the party is going too far to the left for American voters, particularly outside of the cities and close-in suburbs where Democrats’ base of white liberals and non-white voters is concentrated.
Progressive nominees like Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez are running in Democratic strongholds, so their wins in November are all but guaranteed. But Republicans will use the rise of the left — and its support for policies like single-payer health care and scrapping U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — to tar all Democratic candidates.
The counter argument from Democrats and activists on the left is two-fold: 1) Many issues that more liberal candidates support — some gun regulation, expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage — actually have widespread public support, even among independents and some Republicans; and 2) the more openly liberal candidates from outside the old-guard establishment can bring in new voters who don’t regularly cast midterm ballots.
Beyond November, the new generation of Democrats will have a say in how the party governs. Pressley and Ocasio-Cortez won’t determine whether Democrats pick up the 23 new House seats they need for a majority, but they’ll help shape the arguments within the Democratic caucus.
They and their fellow freshmen will have a say in whether a new Democratic majority returns Nancy Pelosi to the speaker’s chair. They’ll have leverage — much like the arch-conservative Freedom Caucus does with the House GOP leadership — over every debate, from health care to the potential impeachment of Trump.
So, for example, while there might not be enough support for a real push toward single-payer health care, the movement could draw the party toward supporting a public health insurance option to compete alongside for-profit companies selling policies in Affordable Care Act exchanges. And, even if an immediate $15 minimum wage is too heavy a lift, perhaps the left-flank forces a compromise of graduated raises over time.
WHAT TO WATCH
Before primary season concludes, there are a few more key matchups to measure the left’s influence. In Delaware, military veteran and activist Kerri Evelyn Harris is aiming Thursday to knock off moderate Democratic Sen. Tom Carper. She’s a big underdog, but even a competitive finish will serve notice anew that incumbents must at least contend with the left base. Similar dynamics exist in New York, where actress Cynthia Nixon is trying to topple Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Sept. 13 primary.
Some of the most intent observers of party’s evolution are the gaggle of aspiring presidential candidates. Certainly, some of those figures have helped drive the shift — Sanders and his 2016 campaign, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her outspoken economic populism.
But Sanders, Warren and rest also are careful to watch the base and not get caught flat-footed as it evolves. That’s one reason potential candidates like Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden have made sure that their endorsement and campaign finance activity this midterm cycle has spanned the spectrum of the party’s down-ballot candidates: If the so-called progressive movement becomes the center of the party, no one who wants to be the Democratic presidential nominee wants to be boxed out.
Barrow reported from Atlanta.
Follow Barrow and Salsberg on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP and https://twitter.com/bsalsberg_AP
Politicians, lies and election legitimacy – it’s an old story
September 6, 2018
Graduate Student in History, Northwestern University
Gideon Cohn-Postar is a PhD candidate in American History at Northwestern University. He has received funding from the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and the Mellon Foundation. He is a member of the Democratic Party.
If you lose an election to an opponent because an interest group runs ads based on false information against you, is the election result legitimate?
The 2016 presidential election featured a Russian troll farm that used fake social media accounts to try to turn voters against Hillary Clinton in key swing states.
Politicians and experts from both sides of the partisan divide have argued over how many votes the Russian campaign changed, but there is little doubt it had some effect.
Some have even raised the question: If the election was decided by the influence of such lies, should the result be invalidated?
I’m a scholar of 19th-century American history and politics. Whether an election should be overturned because of the lies of a third-party group may seem like a very contemporary and topical issue, but in my research I have found that 2016 was not the first time the question arose.
Mudslinging from the outset
In 1894, on the Lower East Side of New York, a congressional election between two famous men took a crazy turn because of bicycles in Central Park.
The election in the 12th District of New York pitted Republican Robert Augustus Chesebrough, the wealthy inventor of Vaseline, against equally wealthy Democrat George Brinton McClellan Jr., the son of the Civil War general and failed presidential candidate.
Throughout most of the campaign, Chesebrough thought he would have the upper hand by focusing on two issues: corruption and the economy. Helpfully, McClellan was a proud member of Tammany Hall, the New York Democratic organization renowned for political corruption.
Even better, from Chesebrough’s perspective, the national economy was in freefall. Since the Democrats were in charge in Washington, they owned the blame for it.
Understandably, McClellan did not want to discuss the national economy or his Tammany ties, so he sought desperately to change the story.
McClellan tried to paint his opponent as member of the out-of-touch elite while emphasizing his own patriotism. Most of his campaign literature emphasized his own personal integrity and his “honored name” in a shameless and seemingly successful attempt to woo the veteran vote. A Washington Post article after the election claimed that if not for McClellan’s famous last name, critical votes from members of the Grand Army of the Republic, the largest Union Army veterans organization in the country, “would otherwise have been cast in the Republican fold.”
But as election day grew closer, McClellan and his advisers knew they were still behind.
‘Wheelmen’ join the fight
Two days before the election, thousands of copies of a cheaply printed pamphlet flooded the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
The pamphlet was issued by the Committee on Political Action of the Metropolitan Association of Cycling Clubs. It claimed that eight years before, Chesebrough had opposed allowing bicycles and tricycles to use the streets and paths of Central Park. The pamphlet called upon “all wheelmen to both work and vote against” Chesebrough.
The invention and popularization of the safety bicycle and pneumatic tires had produced what bicycle historians termed a bicycle boom in the early 1890s. By 1895, over 100,000 people had joined the League of American Wheelmen. Bicycle advocates became involved in social and political issues ranging from gender propriety to the morality of biking on the Sabbath.
Their focus at the time of the Chesebrough-McClellan fight, however, was good roads. Bicycle manufacturers and enthusiasts extensively petitioned and lobbied state and federal legislatures in support of better infrastructure for bicycles.
Eight years earlier, opposing bike access to certain roads would have been no scandal at all. But in the midst of the bike boom of the 1890s, it was a potent charge against Chesebrough.
Chesebrough knew that bicyclists were “opposed to the election to public office of all persons who object to the free use by their machines of public streets and places.”
The attack was expertly timed. Because it was distributed so close to the election, Chesebrough had no time to effectively rebut the accusation. He dashed off a response to the friendly New York Tribune, denying the charge and claiming that the “political committees of the said associated clubs, if they are in earnest, have been greatly deceived.”
Pamphlet does the job
Chesebrough’s denial was published the day of the election, but it was too late. McClellan won, 10,933 to 9,592.
In its sudden appearance, the bicycle ad differed from the contemporary Russian disinformation campaign. The Russian trolls’ interference was spread over years and was carefully concealed.
This made it difficult to determine the Russians’ effect in terms of votes. As political analyst Nate Silver wrote, “If it’s hard to prove anything about Russian interference, it’s equally hard to disprove anything.”
Chesebrough, however, was certain that the bicycle ad caused his defeat. He knew that the militant cyclists of New York were one-issue voters, and what’s more the charge was false. As far as he could remember he had never opposed bicycles in any way.
Chesebrough decided to contest the election. He brought his case to the House Committee on Elections, joining 37 other election cases alleging bribery, intimidation, fraud and every sort of shenanigan in between.
He met with the leaders of the Cycling Clubs, who admitted they had signed and distributed the ad “upon the statements and request of others.” But they refused to disclose who those others were.
Unable to prove his opponent colluded with the wheelmen, Chesebrough asserted that McClellan’s campaign had probably “instigated” its publishing. McClellan, he said, was responsible for the lies in the ad and thus the votes cast by the misled bicycle enthusiasts should be put in Chesebrough’s column.
A novel claim
Chesebrough was demanding something quite extraordinary: that Congress assess the accuracy and impact of campaign ads and reapportion votes after the fact to the wronged candidates.
The New York Times, which had supported McClellan in the campaign, dismissed the “novelty” of Chesebrough’s claim that he deserved to win because “a campaign publication used against him was effective.”
Chesebrough never got a chance to make his case before Congress. A few weeks after the election, McClellan – while still denying involvement in the ad – announced that he possessed a copy of an anti-bicycle petition that Chesebrough had signed eight years before.
Somewhat rashly, the Vaseline magnate publicly announced that if McClellan could “show me without delay my name subscribed to that petition… I will at once withdraw from the contest.”
McClellan was happy to oblige. And though Chesebrough claimed he had no memory of signing it, he could not deny that the heavily creased paper bore his signature.
Chesebrough’s withdrawal meant that the House did not have to face the question of whether lies uttered by a political opponent provided a basis to overturn an election.
As a historian of politics, I suspect that politicians have told lies to win elections for as long as there have been politicians and elections. Over the decades, the legality of false speech in campaigns has been debated. Laws have been passed criminalizing lies in political campaigns; many of those laws have been struck down as violations of free speech.
And while Donald Trump’s election may seem to U.S. voters to present unprecedented questions of legitimacy, such questions were first asked more than a century ago, in an election that turned on bicycles.
2003 email reveals different tone on abortion by Kavanaugh
By LISA MASCARO and MARK SHERMAN
Thursday, September 6
WASHINGTON (AP) — A newly disclosed email shows Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has questioned whether the 1973 Roe v. Wade case on abortion access is settled law. The email was obtained by The Associated Press as senators were launching a final round of questioning Thursday of President Donald Trump’s nominee.
Kavanaugh’s 2003 comments came as he was reviewing an op-ed article in support of two judicial nominees while he was working at the George W. Bush White House, according to the document.
“I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so,” he wrote, referring to justices at the time, in an email to a Republican Senate aide. The document is partially redacted.
The tone is different from Kavanaugh’s remarks stressing how difficult it is to overturn precedent like Roe during confirmation hearings, which opened for a third day Thursday with angry complaints and finger-pointing among senators over the unusual vetting process for the judge. It has resulted in hundreds of thousands of pages of Kavanaugh’s documents being withheld as confidential or kept from release under presidential privilege by the Trump White House.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. called the process “a bit of a sham.”
Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said more documents would be released Thursday and stood by his handling of Kavanaugh’s paper trail.
“My process was fair,” Grassley said as he opened the session. “Before this day is over members will have the documents they need to ask the questions.”
So far, Kavanaugh appears to have avoided any major missteps that could block his confirmation. But after a marathon 12-hour session Wednesday, he also does not seem to have changed minds on the Judiciary Committee, which is split along partisan lines.
The judge left unanswered questions over how he would handle investigations of the executive branch and whether he would recuse himself if cases involving Trump under special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe end up at the court.
Trump says he’s pleased with his nominee’s performance, and Republicans are united behind him, eager to add a conservative judge to the court.
Late in the evening, Kavanaugh seemed to stumble at first when questioned by Democrat Kamala Harris of California about whom he might have spoken with at a certain law firm concerning the investigation into Russian election meddling. The firm in question was founded by Marc Kasowitz, who has represented Trump.
Kavanaugh eventually said he couldn’t think of any such conversations but would need to see a list of lawyers who work at the firm.
The questioning of Kavanaugh has carried strong political overtones ahead of the November congressional elections. Democrats lack the votes to block confirmation, but have been pressing Kavanaugh for his views on abortion rights, gun control and other issues. Protesters have added to the challenges for the hearing, repeatedly interrupting proceedings.
Pressured by Democrats with Trump on their minds during Wednesday’s grueling session, the judge insisted that he fully embraced the importance of judicial independence. But he refused to provide direct answers to Democrats who wanted him to say whether there are limits on a president’s power to issue pardons, including to himself or in exchange for a bribe. He also would not say whether he believes the president can be subpoenaed to testify. Still, he began his long day in the witness chair by declaring that “no one is above the law.”
Democrats are concerned that Kavanaugh will push the court to the right and that he will side with Trump in cases stemming from Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible ties to the Trump campaign. The 53-year-old appellate judge answered cautiously when asked about most of those matters, refusing an invitation from Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut to pledge to step aside from any Supreme Court cases dealing with Trump and Mueller’s investigation.
Under questioning by Republicans, Kavanaugh stressed the importance of judicial independence, “not being swayed by political or public pressure.”
On abortion, Kavanaugh said the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision has been affirmed “many times.” He defended his dissenting opinion last year in the case of a pregnant immigrant teen in federal custody. Kavanaugh would have denied her immediate access to an abortion, even after she received permission from a Texas judge.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, praised Kavanaugh for hiring female lawyers as clerks as a judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, and then posed questions about whether Kavanaugh was aware of sexual harassment allegations against retired circuit court Judge Alex Kozinski in California. Kavanaugh, who considered the judge a friend and mentor, said he had known nothing about the allegations until they were disclosed last year.
“It was a gut punch for me,” he said, and he was “shocked, disappointed, angry.”
Kavanaugh told Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, he had been unaware of the domestic violence allegations against Rob Porter, who was Trump’s staff secretary, until they were publicly disclosed. Journalist Bob Woodward’s new book about Trump says Kavanaugh recommended Porter for the job.
Kavanaugh had served as staff secretary to George W. Bush, and his work in the White House has figured in the hearing. Democratic senators have fought for access to documents from his three years as staff secretary, saying those could shed light on his views about policies from that era, including the detention and interrogation of terror suspects. Republicans have declined to seek the papers, and instead have gathered documents from his work as White House counsel to Bush.
When questioned about the honesty of his 2006 testimony during his nomination for the appellate court when he said he was not involved in some Bush-era policies, Kavanaugh said he was “100 percent accurate.”
Late Wednesday, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., drew a rare partnership with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, to release of some of the Bush-era documents. Lee complained that Booker was relying on an unreleased email to question Kavanaugh’s openness to racial profiling by police, but then agreed to work for its release.
Republicans hope to confirm Kavanaugh in time for the first day of the new Supreme Court term, Oct. 1.
Associated Press writer Jessica Gresko contributed to this report.
Read more on AP’s coverage of Kavanaugh at https://apnews.com/tag/Kavanaughnomination
Climate change will reshape the world’s agricultural trade
September 5, 2018
Research Scientist, Agriculture & Food, CSIRO | Visiting fellow at the Fenner School of Enviroment & Society, CSIRO
Team Leader, Australian And Global Carbon Assessments, CSIRO
Leader, Complex Systems Science, CSIRO
Luciana Porfirio is affiliated with The Australian National University as Visiting Fellow.
David Newth and John Finnigan do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
CSIRO provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation AU.
Ending world hunger is a central aspiration of modern society. To address this challenge – along with expanding agricultural land and intensifying crop yields – we rely on global agricultural trade to meet the nutritional demands of a growing world population.
Read more: How many people can Australia feed?
But standing in the way of this aspiration is human-induced climate change. It will continue to affect the issue of where in the world crops can be grown and, therefore, food supply and global markets.
In a paper published today in Nature Palgrave, we show that climate change will affect global markets by reshaping agricultural trading patterns.
Some regions may not be able to battle climate impacts on agriculture, in which case production of key commodities will decline or shift to new regions.
The negative impacts of climate change on agricultural production are of great concern to farmers and decision-makers. The concern is increasingly shared by governments including those most hostile to the advancement of climate change mitigation.
Even the United States, which has opted out of the Paris Agreement, acknowledged at last year’s G7 summit that climate change was one of a number of threats to “our capacity to feed a growing population and need[ed] to be taken into serious consideration.”
The UN median population projection suggests that the world population will reach some 10 billion in 2050. Between 2000 and 2010, roughly 66% of the daily energy intake per person, about 7,322 kilojoules, was derived from four key commodities: wheat, rice, coarse grains and oilseeds. However, the most recent UN report on food security and nutrition shows that world hunger is on the rise again and scientists believe this is due to climate change.
World hunger is increasing thanks to wars and climate change
We must ask: what is the cost of adapting to climate change versus the cost of mitigating carbon emissions? And assuming that changes in climate and crop yields are here to stay, are we prepared for permanent agricultural shifts?
Disruptions and opportunities
Agricultural production is significantly affected by climate change. Our results suggest that global trade patterns of agricultural commodities may be significantly different from today’s reality – with or without carbon mitigation. This is because climate change and the implementation of a carbon mitigation policy have different effects on a regions’ agricultural production and economy.
Take the US, which in 2015 had 30% of the global market share of coarse grains, paddy rice, soybeans and wheat. We modelled production between 2050-59 under two scenarios: in a world 2℃ average temperature rise, and with a 1.5℃ increase. In both cases, the US market share would shrink to about 10%.
As global food demand rises, climate change is hitting our staple crops
China is currently a net importer of these commodities. If temperature increases by 1.5℃, we expect to see an increase in exports of some products, like rice to the rest of Asia.
(However, it’s worth bearing in mind that limiting warming would be very expensive for China, as it would need to absorb a costly technological transition to a low carbon economy.)
China’s story is different in the 2℃ scenario. Our projections suggest that climate change will make China, as well as other regions in Asia, more suitable to produce different commodities.
China’s economy will keep expanding, whilst the new climatic conditions create opportunities to produce other food commodities at a greater scale and export to new regions.
Our results also suggest that, regardless of the carbon policy scenarios, Sub-Saharan Africa will become the greatest importer of coarse grains, rice, soybeans and wheat by 2050. This significant change in Sub-Saharan Africa imports is driven by the fact that the largest increase in human population by 2050 will occur in this region, with a significant increase in food demand.
In our research Australia was aggregated in “Oceania” with New Zealand. The exports from Oceania to the rest of the world comprised about 1.6% of the total in 2015, which is dominated by wheat exports from Australia.
Our projections suggest that carbon mitigation policies would favour the wheat industry in this region. The opposite occurs without carbon mitigation: the production and exports of wheat are projected to decline due to climate change impacts on agriculture.
The benefits of mitigation
A recent report published by the European Commission about the challenges of global agriculture in a climate change context by 2050 highlights that
…emission mitigation measures (i.e. carbon pricing) have a negative impact on primary agricultural production […] across all models.
However, the report does not mention the technological costs to buffer (or adapt to) the effect of climate change on agriculture.
Our results suggest that the cost paid by the agricultural sector to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is offset by the higher food prices projected in the non-mitigation scenario, where agricultural production is significantly affected by climate change. We found that there is a net economic benefit in transitioning to a low carbon economy. This is because agricultural systems are more productive under the mitigation scenario, and able to meet the demand for food imposed by a growing population.
Australian farmers are adapting to climate change
Mitigating CO₂ emissions has the side benefit of creating a more stable agricultural trade system that may be better able to reduce food insecurity and increase welfare.
Changes in the agricultural system due to climate are inevitable. It is time to create a sense of urgency about our agricultural vulnerabilities to climate change, and begin seriously minimising risk.