Ready for some happy news for a change?
There are a couple of bills working their ways through Congress that are both bipartisan and much needed.
The first bill (it’s actually a set of proposals) would clarify how electoral votes are counted. Nobody cared about this vague law from 1887 because until Donald Trump, decent human beings naturally followed the rules of decent human behavior. But Trump tried to force a coup by insisting that his Vice President use the ceremonial act of counting electoral votes to hand the election to him. The new law, crafted over the last several months by a bipartisan group of Senators (led on the Democratic side by Joe Manchin, for all of you Manchin haters out there) would make it clear that the Vice President’s role is purely ministerial. The bill also doubles the penalty for harassing elections officials, something else that was unnecessary before Trump enabled and encouraged that kind of behavior.
One element of the package does bring up a troubling point, however. The bill would make it clear that governors certify electors. That’s already the case in Wisconsin, but both leading Republican candidates for Governor here refuse to say if they would have certified the electors in 2020. It’s also probably true that if the Supreme Court rules as expected in Moore v. Harper next year, it would make this provision moot. Under the ludicrous “independent state legislatures doctrine” only legislatures would have the power to certify electors. Governors and state courts would be out of the picture entirely. Watch this one. It’s a crisis in the making.
But I promised good news, so let me get back on track. The other good thing that happened this week is the surprising Republican support for gay marriage. In the wake of Justice Clarence Thomas’ comments about the need to revisit rulings like the one that blocked states from denying same sex couples the right to marry (though not his own biracial marriage), Democrats introduced a bill to codify that in law. It was thought to be a symbolic move that would die in the Senate.
But it passed the House with 47 GOP votes, including Rep. Bryan Steil from Wisconsin’s first district. This highlights the need for fair district maps. Steil no doubt did the right thing here only because his new district is now competitive. While he’s very likely to retain his seat in this red wave year, he could be successfully challenged by a Democrat or a more moderate Republican down the road.
To make matters better, it now seems like there is at least some chance that the bill could have the 10 Republicans it would need to pass the Senate. There are already two Republican senators sponsoring the legislation and two more are said to be supportive. Even Mitch McConnell hasn’t said where he stands on it. Make no mistake. McConnell isn’t exploring his conscience to determine what’s right. He’s waiting to see which way the political winds are blowing and how hard. So, we’ll have to see on this one, but it’s a little bit amazing that this is even still in play.
Take these two things and add in what appears to be a growing number of Republican presidential hopefuls willing to get in the race even if (when) Trump does, and an exceedingly optimistic person could start to see the dark cloud of hard-right Trumpist populism lifting out there on the horizon.
And on another matter… The evidence continues to come in showing that abortion just isn’t the game changer many Democrats hoped it would be. A just-in national poll (they usually do only polls of Wisconsinites) from Marquette found that the issue isn’t creating any more enthusiasm to vote for those on either side of the issue. The Dobbs decision has resulted in a dramatic reduction in confidence in the Supreme Court among pro-choice voters, but that isn’t translating into voting on that issue alone.