Automatic Voter Registration
Since January, Oregon has been automatically registering residents already in the state’s DMV database. According to Ari Berman at The Nation, the system has added 51,000 voters so far. About half of the new voters are millennials. A bunch of other states are starting to pay attention and thinking about copying the success story — and probably looking at Oregon’s mail-in ballots, too. That’s great! There are always going to be new ways to make it easier for Americans to vote — and given how few people had a voice in this year’s primary process, it’s good to see that some states are working hard to implement some of them.
Jim Gray, Lexington’s first openly gay mayor, won the Democratic Senate primary in Kentucky last night and will compete against Senator Rand Paul this fall. If he wins in November, he would become the second openly gay senator in U.S. history — and in the state where Kim Davis tried to fight the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage. Earlier in the day, the Senate also confirmed Eric Fanning as Army Secretary. He is the first openly gay Army secretary — in fact, the first openly gay person to ever run any branch of the U.S. military. Kate Brown, the first LGBT governor of Oregon, won her first gubernatorial primary after the previous governor quit after a scandal. Progress is nice.
Burlington College, a very small liberal arts school in Vermont, announced on May 16 that the school would be closing later this month. The college cited the "crushing weight of debt" that resulted from $10 million in loans and bonds it took out in 2010 in order to expand the campus. So what elevates this from a sad but ordinary story into a Juicy Literal Metaphor and Instructive Cautionary Tale with Implications for the Presidential Campaign, and more importantly An Entry in Our Much-Watched Winners/Losers Election Scorecard?
The president of Burlington College, and originator of the plan, was one Dr. Jane O'Meara Sanders, wife of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Even though the school only had a budget of $4 million, Dr. Sanders believed that they would be able to cover the debt with increased donations and enrollment. It didn't work. Dr. Sanders left in 2011, taking $200,000 in severance pay with her. Her successors tried to right the ship but failed. In January of this year, a request for an investigation into bank fraud was filed with Vermont's U.S. attorney, alleging that Dr. Sanders presented evidence of confirmation of $2.6 million in grants and donations when she applied for the loans, while she actually didn't have confirmation.
An avowed democratic socialist, whose appeal is bound to expensive proposals he promises are financially feasible and will in fact put the country on better footing, being married to a college administrator promising the same thing? And those promises falling flat, leaving the college to drown in an ocean of unsustainable debt, while the administrator suffered no consequences and lived to fight another day? I mean, the jokes pretty much write themselves, right?
The Irrelevance of Nazis in Mainstream American Politics
Melania Trump defended her husband, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (that still sounds weird in my mouth when I say it aloud), by saying that her husband was "not Hitler." On the one hand, this is a refreshingly clear statement in sharp contrast with Heidi Cruz's mealymouthed non-denial of the Internet joke claiming that her husband, Ted Cruz, was the Zodiac Killer. On the other hand, it's hard to think of a weaker endorsement or a lower bar to clear. It's kind of reminiscent of the various watered-down endorsements and defenses of Ted Cruz by his fellow Republicans, like when Marco Rubio said that he didn't think Cruz was Lucifer.
It's actually even worse than it sounds, because Melania Trump wasn't using Hitler's name as a generic stand-in for The Worst Person In The World or History's Greatest Monster. She was using it to specifically absolve her husband of the anti-Semitic bile, insults, and death threats aimed at journalist Julia Ioffe by Nazis angered by Ioffe's profile of Melania (please read and share this profile, ‘cause fuck Nazis).
We live in a world in which an American presidential candidate's wife defends her husband from anti-Semitism by saying her husband doesn't rise to the level of wanting to wipe Jewish people off of the face of the earth. And not only did she defend her husband, she defended the literal neo-Nazis who propagated the hate threats, saying that they had been "provoked." A mainstream, non-fringe presidential candidate has the support of Nazis and white supremacists specifically because they believe that his views strongly align with theirs.
It is 2016 in America and there are 173 days until the presidential election.
Not Being Mad Online
Marco Rubio took to Twitter (I one day hope to attain the level of success and fame necessary for the media to describe me tweeting as "taking to Twitter") to deny rumors sourced to "people close to him" that he was thinking about getting back into politics, positioning himself for another shot at running for president. Maybe he was cranky after not getting a great night's sleep because of the cramped seating on his red-eye flight from L.A. early that morning, but Rubio started out with the classic, nonchalant "this whole thing is funny to me" tweet.
But it soon became obvious that "funny" probably wasn't the correct word. Perhaps "infuriating," "enraging," or even "annoying" would have been more accurate choices.
At this point, the streets would describe Rubio's string of tweets as "going in." He got so worked up that he roped in an oblique shot at Donald Trump and the reporters who had thought Trump's run for the nomination doomed.
Given the length of Rubio's tirade, the streets would probably upgrade Li'l Marco's status to "on one." Rubio, recognizing that perhaps he was coming off a little too bitter, downshifted into playful sarcasm mode and fired off a couple of jokes before logging off.
This is the classic "I'm not mad" maneuver that reframes your rant as something amusing that you don't take too seriously, rather than something that has broken through your impenetrable armor of cool. Unfortunately, your reporters saw right through it, which is why Rubio is in the "Losers" section on account of Getting Mad Online, rather than in the "Winners" section for his Epic Owns.
Headline: "Paul Ryan: Voters are right to trust Trump more than me." Yikes, LOL. Even though he said this IRL rather than online, this is a close cousin to Rubio's "I'm Not Mad, I'm Laughing" move above, the ol' "This Is Actually Good." The man is breaking inside.
Trying to Make People Stop Talking About Your Faults by Talking About Your Faults
Donald Trump revealed his secret plan to make all debates about his many less-than-eloquent election moments go away: Keep bringing them up over and over again over the next couple of months. He showed off his excellent explanations to the Washington Post this week. Remember that controversy about Trump mocking a reporter with a disability? "I would never say anything bad about a person that has a disability," he said. "I swear to you it’s true, 100 percent true. ... I’ve spent a lot of money making buildings accessible." He then reenacted the moment when it looked like he mocked a reporter with a disability.
Well, that definitely cleared up all our questions! Someone who has to make buildings accessible by law must be pretty great! No need to bring that up ever again! But what about that time he said that Megyn Kelly had blood coming out of her whatever? He was talking about blood coming out of her nose or ears! Because that’s something that happens when people are angry, of course. But that doesn’t even matter anyway, because they made up on Fox News, and will live so happily ever after that blood never comes out of anyone's nose ever again.
We assume he will soon bring up all the times he judged women by physical appearance, the taco bowl tweet, and that time he called Mexican immigrants rapists. Wow, the idea of bringing up all of his worst moments is so foolproof, maybe he could really win this thing! Especially since adding footnotes to all of your past mistakes involves going on TV, a place that has never hurt you and that makes you invincible to all potential harm — and just gets you loads more press in the process. Who knows, maybe his poll numbers will go up when he repeats all the awful things that helped him win the primary. Oh dear, so many things are going to happen in the next couple of months that none of us want to remember.
Sending Threatening Text Messages
This past weekend, Nevada held its Democratic convention, which decided which delegates would be sent to represent the state in Philadelphia this summer. It was a disaster. After the event, Nevada’s Democratic Party chairwoman received death threats and texts filled with sexist insults. Nevada reporter Jon Ralston, who was at the event, wrote that it was clear to him that the Sanders campaign was "out-organized by a Clinton campaign" and that "when shown the truth, [they] attacked organizers and party officials as tools of a conspiracy to defraud the senator of what was never rightfully his in the first place." The fight in Nevada was over a pretty negligible number of delegates. And as Philip Bump at the Washington Post points out, "If frustration over rules changes and credentialing can spur death threats and vandalism over a four-delegate difference, imagine what the final nomination vote might engender."
The Supreme Court
Hey, Justices. What’s up? Oh, not much? Just sitting around waiting for the election to end? Same. Well, not exactly — obviously this campaign season is keeping me busy at work, which appears not to be the case for you since you might decide fewer cases than any court in the past 70 years, according to FiveThirtyEight. Yeah, yeah. We know it’s not your fault, and that your unplanned sabbatical is just because you don’t want every decision to end as a 4-4 stalemate until we have a new president and you and Merrick Garland or Maryanne Trump or whoever can finally stop singing "Somewhere Out There" to each other to pass the time. Anyway, if you ever get bored, and you probably will, just let us know and we’ll send you fun YouTube videos that you can watch on your phone instead of listening to oral arguments.
Again, there are 173 days until the election. That's just under six months. Also, a baby model of our new national mammal was put down this week because a Canadian decided to temporarily kidnap it — if for noble reasons — which seems like a bad omen for some reason.
CORRECTION (5/21/15, 8:47 a.m. ET): Since this post was published, the story of chairs getting thrown at the Nevada Democratic convention has been questioned. We have removed the reference to this incident from the post.