Friday 5&5 (Guns, Greitens, and Gerrymandering)

Nothing to see here. Happy Friday!

News of the Week

Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (Photo: St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

1. Marjory Stoneman Douglas students are not letting the issue of gun reform go away. And that may make this time different.

Students who survived the Parkland school shooting last week are ready to take matters into their own hands, after Florida state legislators made it clear they are unwilling to do anything.

In the seven days that have followed the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people, students from the Florida campus have moved from terror to grief to activism, inspiring a national youth-led protest against political inaction on gun reform.

Parkland victims’ protest has mobilized students all over the country who are fearful of yet another fatal school shootings. From coast to coast teens are staging walk outs of their own, urging national and local legislators to enact laws that might prevent future gun violence in schools.

  • Washington Post: The Florida school shooting is not fading from headlines

On Wednesday, CNN hosted a town hall with the students, teachers, and parents of the Stoneman Douglas community, which allowed those in attendance to ask questions of U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, Congressman Ted Deutch, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch (seen here). The forum at times turned tense, and drew a national audience of 2.9 million.

If you missed the event, here is a recap of what happened.

Since the town hall, some key Republican leaders in Florida have begun changing their tune, though there is reason to remain wary in each case. Republican Governor Rick Scott, who was conspicuously absent from Wednesday’s CNN town hall, today said he favored raising age limits for purchasing assault rifles:

Gov. Rick Scott and top state lawmakers proposed on Friday the most significant move toward gun control in Florida in decades, in defiance of the National Rifle Association, though some of their ideas fell short of what student advocates pleaded for after they lost 17 classmates and staff members last week in one of the deadliest school shootings in American history.

The governor, a Republican, backed raising the minimum age to buy any firearm, including semiautomatic rifles, to 21 from 18, a restriction opposed by the N.R.A., one of the most powerful special interest groups in Tallahassee. The minimum-age limit already exists for handguns, and it would have prevented Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old shooting suspect, from lawfully purchasing the AR-15 the police say he used to massacre 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

The worst-kept secret in Florida is that Scott is planning to challenge Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (who attended the town hall) this November. Chances are, Scott will not want to cross the NRA, which holds immense sway in Florida politics and from which Scott has received an “A+” rating, ahead of such a pivotal contest. If he is serious about these reforms, watch for him to take actual, concrete steps to follow through with his rhetoric, steps that might put him at odds with the NRA.

Similarly, Rubio claimed at the town hall to have evolved somewhat on the issue of gun laws:

The mass shootings in Newtown, Orlando, Las Vegas and even Fort Lauderdale didn’t get Sen. Marco Rubio to seriously reconsider his position on guns.

But Rubio shifted on firearms Wednesday night […] He broke with President Donald Trump on whether to arm teachers. Rubio said it was a bad idea. He said he would favor raising the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21. And he said he would consider restricting the size of magazines for firearms.

It was a striking turnabout for Rubio, who never met a gun-rights bill he didn’t vote for in the Florida Legislature and, later, in Congress.

Rubio was once believe by some to be his party’s savior (which didn’t last long). But since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he has consistently shown that he is unwilling to actually take unpopular stances (and follow through on them) or fall out of line with his party’s leadership. Like Scott, his rhetoric is one thing; like Scott, he is supported by the NRA. The actions he takes upon returning to Washington next week — and in the subsequent weeks — will tell us a lot about the extent to which he is serious about reform.

2. A new Quinnipiac poll this week has good news for Democrats all around.

From the poll:

  • Generic congressional ballot: After a few weeks of polling that showed the gap for voters’ preference between Republicans and Democrats narrowing, Democrats have begun pulling away again. The Q poll showed that voters favor Democrats to win control of Congress this November, 53–38%, including 47–36% among independent voters.
  • Immigration: Voters support allowing “Dreamers,” or the undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children by their parents, to remain and eventually apply for citizenship by an 80–16% margin.
  • Gun reform: Americans support stricter gun laws by a 66–31% margin, including 50–44% support among gun owners, 62–35% support from white voters with no college degree, and 58–38% support among white men. But what’s startling: A whopping 97% of voters (including 97% of gun owners) support universal background checks. I can’t think of anything that generates that kind of support among Americans.

3. A big step in the fight against partisan gerrymandering.

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has redrawn the map of the state’s congressional districts, overturning a Republican gerrymander that’s been used in the past three congressional elections.

The new map more closely reflects the partisan composition of the state, all but ensuring that Democrats will pick up several new U.S. House seats in November. It’s also more compact than Republicans’ original map, and it splits fewer counties and municipal areas — a key concern of the court as it sought to ensure voters’ ability to participate in “free and equal” elections.

  • The New York Times’ Upshot blog has an excellent breakdown of how the districts changed with the redraw.

However, Pennsylvania Republicans, who are poised to lose power in this arrangement, are not simply deferring to the third branch of government on the matter. They are actively discussing impeaching the justices who delivered the decision:

When a Pennsylvania Republican legislator responded to the invalidation by his state’s Supreme Court of the congressional map he and his colleagues had fashioned by introducing articles of impeachment of the five justices involved, nobody was terribly surprised, even though Cris Dush’s argument that the court was defying the sovereignty of God was a bit exotic.

And when Republican U.S. representative Ryan Costello joined the impeachment parade, that, too was predictable: The new congressional map made his relatively safe district highly competitive. Of course he’d respond to this existential threat to his career with every weapon imaginable.

But now the impeachment talk is getting serious.

4. Missouri’s Republican governor indicted on felony invasion-of-privacy charges.

Pobre Eric Greitens. The once-next president of the United States — who went from bipartisan sweetheart candidate to creature of the swamp in no time — is now being indicted by a grand jury for being a creep.

  • Some background on the matter from KMOV, which first broke the story about Greitens’ alleged affair and blackmailing
  • The most recent updates on the indictment and felony charges from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • The Atlantic: The Spectacular Implosion of Eric Greitens

This may very well be the end of Trump’s mini-me. Unless it’s just fake news. Which it probably is. Right, Eric?

5. The latest news in the world of healthcare policy.

The human cost of the Trump administration’s recent changes to Medicaid.

  • Washington Post: After Trump clears the way, GOP states move to charge poor for health care

Trump is slowly, quietly finding ways to continue chipping away at Obamacare.

  • Vox: Trump’s quiet campaign to bring back preexisting conditions

Will single-payer soon be the mainstream Democratic position on healthcare?

A new “framework” for a comprehensive health-care plan just released by the prominent center-left think tank the Center for American Progress is drawing attention for two very different reasons. Its heart is a new program based on Medicare, dubbed Medicare Extra, that would be open to all Americans and that would soon absorb Medicaid and CHIP, and presumably the private insurance sold on Obamacare’s exchanges.

One way of looking at it is as a notable shift to the left on health-care policy by a staid, Establishment organization that usually reflects a consensus among staid, Establishment Democrats.

Alternatively, you can view the CAP proposal as representing a more centrist entry in the health-care-policy field to compete with full-on single payer, as proposed most notably by Bernie Sanders, which has become the default concept whereby progressives show they are not satisfied with the Affordable Care Act.

*Bonus: Our government has declared we are no longer a nation of immigrants.

This story was too important to let fly under the radar.

  • New York Times: Is America a ‘Nation of Immigrants’? Immigration Agency Says No

The federal agency that issues green cards and grants citizenship to people from foreign countries has stopped characterizing the United States as “a nation of immigrants.”

The director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services informed employees in a letter on Thursday that its mission statement had been revised to “guide us in the years ahead.” Gone was the phrase that described the agency as securing “America’s promise as a nation of immigrants.”

Perspectives of the Week

Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Bill Nelson, and Rep. Ted Deutch at CNN’s town hall Wednesday (Photo: New York Magazine)

1. Some perspective this week on our nation’s gun culture.

The kids are all right.

Every year, before I teach 1984 to my seniors, I run a simulation. Under the guise of “the common good,” I turn my classroom into a totalitarian regime; I become a dictator.

I’ve done this experiment numerous times, albeit not consecutively, and every year I have similar results. This year, however, the results were different. This year, a handful of students did fall in line as always. The majority of students, however, rebelled.

Teenagers will save us. So, just like Emma Gonzalez, my students did not back down nor conform. They fought for their rights. They won. And, adults can learn a lot from the teens of this generation.

It’s not all about the NRA.

One of the most enduring and predictable answers is that the NRA squelches any and all forward movement on the issue of gun legislation. Many point to the power of the gun lobby as the most insidious and powerful force in all of politics.

However, pointing the finger at the gun lobby misses the underlying values that define the owning of a gun in the first place — the values of safety and freedom. In the American version of the ‘hierarchy of needs,’ these two values are at the top. According to Pew Research polling, 67 percent of gun owners own a weapon for ‘protection.’ Guns = safety and security. Those who want more gun restrictions argue that guns are often used to harm not protect. That even the most conscientious gun owners can cause accidents. But, gun owners don’t see things that way. That may not make sense to many of us who don’t own one, but it does to them.

Successful politicians and political movements meet people where they are, not where they believe they should be. Portraying the NRA as an all-powerful manipulator of gullible gun owners not only insults gun owners but only further deepens the cultural divide on the issue.

BUT. How much credence should we give to the “safety” and “freedom” arguments? Because the reality is, although there are personal safety considerations for owning a gun to protect one’s household, 63% of mass shootings occur inside private homes. Moreover, firearms are more likely to be used against their owner.

So, what about the idea that we need these firearms to fend off an overreaching government?

  • New York Magazine: Do We Need Assault Weapons in Case We Decide to Kill ‘Tyrannical’ Cops and Soldiers?

There has also been talk this week of arming teachers. I’ll just let the following pieces do the talking here:

  • New York Times: An Armed Principal Detained a Campus Gunman. But He’s Against Arming School Staff.

Despite Mr. Myrick’s firm stance against arming faculty members, he has long advocated placing trained personnel, possibly retired law enforcement officers, in every school, as a deterrent. “We protect our banks that way,” he said. “We protect things we love. America protects things it loves. We don’t care if it’s expensive.”

  • Washington Post: A big question in the debate about arming teachers: What about racial bias?
  • Victoria Barrett: Why I will never carry a gun in my classroom

And, for the dozens of other questions that need to be answered before even considering implementing a policy like this (this is part one of several tweets):

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2. What do you think Robert Mueller’s investigation will discover? Anything?

This piece in POLITICO — “Confessions of a Russiagate Skeptic” — made the rounds this week.

However, here are a few alternate perspectives:

3. Trump should think twice before rejecting an interview with Robert Mueller, both for his own sake and that of the presidency’s.

So far, all signs have pointed to Trump’s refusing the interview request, which would almost certainly force [Robert] Mueller to issue a grand jury subpoena to compel the president to talk. If this comes to pass, and the president refuses to comply with such a subpoena, the country will be in unchartered constitutional territory, and the courts will need to intervene. But history shows that when courts intervene because a president is trying to shield his own conduct, the deck is stacked against him. If Trump isn’t careful, he will end up shrinking his own authority — and diminishing the presidency for years to come.

4. Making the case for being a Democrat.

Rick Smith analyzes the the work of George Lakoff, a cognitive linguist who has made it his mission to help Democrats re-frame issues and explain, essentially, why they are Democrats:

It is the only major party to accept the founding idea of our nation, that citizens care about their fellow citizens and work through the government to provide public resources for the benefit of all.

Whether private lives or private enterprise, public resources from roads, bridges, airports, and sewers to public education and public health, to science and technology — computer science to satellite communication (thank NASA) to modern medicine (thank National Institutes of Health). The private depends on public resources! Every Democrat knows this truth, and it is assumed by almost all Democratic legislation.

Yet almost nobody says these truths out loud and defends them in public discourse. A short paragraph each, powerful truths, yet there is no Democratic message expressing these truths. These are among the deepest reasons to be a Democrat…

5. The case for allowing former convicts to vote.

New Jersey, a state that trails most of its neighbors in terms of ensuring that all of its citizens have the right to vote, now has the opportunity to carry out such an unapologetic agenda of voting rights restoration […] The rest of the country sure needs it. Twelve states bar felons from voting even after they have completed their sentences. In Florida, more than 10 percent of the voting-age population is stripped of a voice at the polls, according to a 2016 report from the Sentencing Project. Other states, like Mississippi and Kentucky, aren’t far behind.

The importance of not depriving any citizen of a voice in government becomes especially clear in light of the origins of felon disenfranchisement laws, which spread in the decades after the Civil War and have long been a central part of the arsenal with which states have tried to exclude African-Americans from politics.

Your weekly cute gif for making it to the end.

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