We need to take on the gun lobby. First stop, Colorado

What do you call a group of ideologues that actively works to inflame radicals, arm them with weapons of war, and then put innocent people in the line of their hate-fueled fire?

Generally, you’d call them a terrorist organization. But at this point, even that term seems a bit too generous for Republicans and the NRA, because at least terrorists claim credit for their massacres.

This weekend, we experienced a flare-up in our national epidemic of gun violence, as nearly 30 people were murdered in cold blood in two separate incidents in Texas and Ohio. The massacre on Saturday was explicitly inspired by the racist bile spewed out by Donald Trump and the alt-right goons he hosts at the White House, and both were enabled by dangerously lax gun laws pushed by Republicans.

Instead of showing any self-awareness or remorse, Republicans trotted out the same old “thoughts and prayers” pablum, blaming video games and politicization for the slaughters carried out by their followers.

It’s obvious that these cannot be shamed into even saying the right things, let alone doing them. So how do we end the madness? We take away their power. And while that sounds abstract and feels impossible, there are some concrete steps we can take right now to begin turning the tide against these cowardly gun nuts.

The first opportunity to make a difference is playing out in Colorado as we speak, where two brave Democrats are facing recall petitions from fringe right-wingers angry that they voted to pass several gun control laws. Democratic State Sens. Brittany Pettersen (SD-22) and Pete Lee (SD-11) are facing recall campaigns led by Republicans and groups such as Rocky Mountain Gun Owners because they voted for a new red flag law that gives law enforcement the right to temporarily take guns away from people considered high risks to harm themselves and others.

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Of the 129 Democrats who voted to cage children, 15 ran unopposed in 2018.

As we’ve come to expect this year, House Democratic leadership disappointed us by caving to Republicans yesterday, this time on a border funding bill.

Stories out of DC yesterday said that Speaker Pelosi decided to bring up the Senate GOP’s bill, which would fund ICE with no strings attached, because of the revolt of a dozen or so “moderate” Democrats who desperately needed to help the Trump gestapo’s regime of caging children in concentration camps. That may be the case, but in the end, a whopping 129 Democrats voted for the bill, which is an absolutely disgraceful number.

What’s even more disgraceful is how many of them are in safe blue seats. I’ve put together a full list of the Democrats that voted for the bill yesterday and discovered that nearly 20 of them ran unopposed by any Republicans last year. Over 30 of them won by over 50 points. Nearly 70 of them won their races by over 20 points. We worked our asses off for them last year, and this is what we get?

I firmly believe we should be impeaching Trump, but Democratic leadership sees it differently right now. Frustrating, but something I can handle for the moment. But voting to let ICE jail kids in concentration camps, with no remedies or improvements at all required? Unconscionable.

So many of these bad Democrats voted this way because they’re not afraid of the consequences. They saw AOC and Ayanna Pressley defeat corporate Dems in primaries, saw Tiffany Caban prevail with grassroots help in Queens on Tuesday, but figured it couldn’t happen to them. They need to be proven wrong.

Of course, some voted for it because they were in close races last year and knew the GOP will pummel them if they didn’t vote otherwise. I get it. Not everyone is from a super blue district. I don’t think ICE is particularly popular, but I know some House members have to be more cautious. But if you won by more than 20% last year, you could have likely voted no and not suffered any consequences, especially this far out.

So far, I think only three of these bad Democrats — Steny Hoyer, Henry Cuellar, and Dan Lipinski — have media-covered primary challengers (Cueller and Lipinski’s are especially legit).  We need to support those challengers and encourage more to step forward. I’ve put together an ActBlue page to help all of them; you can donate here. If you hear of more, please let me know: ProgressivesEverywhere@gmail.com.

Targeting the worst anti-vaxxer lawmakers

It’s long been clear, thanks to their humanity-dooming inaction on climate change, that Republicans either don’t believe in science or just don’t care about it. Since the rise of birtherism and accelerating with the sickening ascent of Donald Trump, it also became apparent that modern Republicans don’t care much about truth, either — blatant lies and conspiracy theories are now the lifeblood of all GOP discourse.

That has created the perfect storm for the anti-vaccination movement, a parade of malicious absurdity led by cynical goblin lawmakers and paranoid fringe-right lunatics. A rise of parents who have not vaccinated their children has led to a rash of measles outbreaks, with Washington State suffering in particular, and instead of acknowledging this as a public health crisis, these goons have been working overtime to make it worse.

Malicious far-right lawmakers are pushing bills in legislatures nationwide that would weaken vaccination requirements and cater to the paranoid and religious nuts that are their base. The idea that vaccinations cause autism and other disorders has long been discredited, but that hasn’t stopped them from weaponizing the suggestion and pairing it with their deep state conspiracy theories to undermine the health of children. While YouTube and Facebook have pledged to take down anti-vaxxer propaganda, we need to work to take down the lawmakers pushing to turn that spook nonsense into crippling public policy.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the most blatant and awful anti-vaxxer lawmakers. This list can and will be updated as more of them come to the forefront.

Arizona:

State Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-HD-6) is one of the most pernicious and unhinged legislators in office today. The two-term Republican pairs absurd public statements that read like InfoWars headlines with vicious legislation that read like Breitbart wishlists. Among other distinguished positions she has staked out, Townsend is a sworn enemy of teachers and rape victims (and, sidenote, is very confused by furries). Earlier this month, she ramped up her attacks on vaccinations, calling them communist plots and comparing them to concentration camp tattoos. It’s all insane.

While Townsend is the most vocal anti-vax voice in the Arizona legislature, two of her colleagues are taking concrete action, pushing several bills that would loosen child vaccination requirements in the state.

State Rep. Nancy Barto (R-HD-15) is sponsoring three bills in the State House of Representatives that would, among other things, add religious exemptions to vaccination requirements, allow parents to skip required education about the risks of not vaccinating their children, and require medical providers to give parents a detailed ingredient list. That last part is generally considered by experts as counterproductive and fuel for conspiracy theories. Barto is a first-term legislator who squeaked out a victory in 2018, meaning she could be ripe for a flip in 2020.

State Sen. Paul Boyer (R-SD-20), meanwhile, is sponsoring similar bills in the State Senate. He’s also a first-termer (he previously served in the State House) who won his race by less than four points, making him a prime target for 2020, as well.

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Unlike Scott Walker, new Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has a soul

We focus on winning elections, and a lot of times, it feels more like team sports or a fight based on abstract principles. But these races matter — just look at what’s happening in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and several other newly blue (or purple) states.

Wisconsin:

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers unveiled his first budget and it did not disappoint. It’s loaded with progressive priorities, from a raised minimum wage and increased public school funding to automatic voter registration and nonpartisan redistricting reform. It would also fully expand Medicaid, decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, freeze school vouchers, and undo Scott Walker’s signature Right to Work For Less law, which nearly caused the lifelong government succubus to be recalled during his first term.

Even though Democrats won a vast majority of votes in November, the GOP’s egregious gerrymander helped the party keep control of the state legislature, which means that this ambitious budget will have to be scaled back. Republicans have vowed to ignore the funding levels and begin working from their paltry austerity budgets of the past few years, but Evers has laid down some bold markers, and there’s a lot he can do without GOP support.

Fully expanding Medicaid is particularly notable, because Scott Walker refused to do so for six years out of sheer malignant principle. He slightly expanded eligibility, but refused to take it to the point at which the state (and working people) would get hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government. That’s what we call being a spiteful jerk.

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Womp womp: Tony Evers says he was totally misunderstood and will follow Republican laws

There are two types of Democrats: Those that talk tough, and those that are actually willing to fight. There are far too many of the former already, and unfortunately, we know that at the very least, new Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers does not belong in the latter camp.

Yesterday, the newly elected governor drew cheers and many, many upvotes when he said that he would be ignoring at least some of the ridiculous, restrictive laws passed by Republicans during a dirty lame-duck session last month. He had won a lawsuit against the power-grab that Republicans had enacted against him when he was the state’s school superintendent, so this didn’t seem like that unusual a statement for him.

Turns out, when he said that he expected to be sued, he didn’t mean for non-compliance. Instead, he says he was suggesting that outside groups might sue the state (ie him) to lift the restrictions on his power (something he’d welcome, but won’t do himself). Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“I have no intent of breaking the law,” Evers told reporters at a news conference Thursday.

The incoming Democratic governor said he believed he would be sued not by detractors trying to force him to follow the laws passed in a lame-duck session but by supporters who want to get him out from under the laws. Provisions of those laws will limit his ability to write state rules and oversee economic development.

“I personally have reviewed (the new laws) and reviewed them with attorneys and other legal staff,” Evers said. “We haven’t decided what to do personally. It’s just that in my experience that when this happens, it likely will happen from the outside.”

This comes after (expected) Republican backlash to his comments. Perhaps he’s trying to make peace before the legislative session, or maybe not show his hand (or,  pull it back, as it were). Either way, he will follow the laws, he says,  until a court strikes them down.

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