More stories

  • in

    How Republicans Are Weaponizing Critical Race Theory Ahead of Midterms

    Republicans hope that concerns about critical race theory can help them in the midterm elections. The issue has torn apart one Wisconsin suburb.Little more than a year ago, Scarlett Johnson was a stay-at-home mother, devoted to chauffeuring her children to school and supervising their homework.That was before the school system in her affluent Milwaukee suburb posted a video about privilege and race that “jarred me to my core,” she said.“There was this pyramid — where are you on the scale of being a racist,” Ms. Johnson said. “I couldn’t understand why this was recommended to parents and stakeholders.”The video solidified Ms. Johnson’s concerns, she said, that the district, Mequon-Thiensville, was “prioritizing race and identity” and introducing critical race theory, an academic framework used in higher education that views racism as ingrained in law and other modern institutions.Since then, Ms. Johnson’s life has taken a dramatic turn — a “180,” she calls it. She became an activist, orchestrating a recall of her local school board. Then, she became a board candidate herself.Republicans in Wisconsin have embraced her. She’s appeared on panels and podcasts, and attracted help from representatives of two well-funded conservative groups. When Rebecca Kleefisch, the former Republican lieutenant governor, announced her campaign for governor, Ms. Johnson joined her onstage.Ms. Kleefisch’s campaign has since helped organize door-to-door outreach for Ms. Johnson and three other school board candidates.Ms. Johnson’s rapid transformation into a sought-after activist illustrates how Republicans are using fears of critical race theory to drive school board recalls and energize conservatives, hoping to lay groundwork for the 2022 midterm elections.“Midterm elections everywhere, but particularly in Wisconsin, are pretty dependent on voter turnout as opposed to persuasion,” said Sachin Chheda, a Democratic political consultant based in Milwaukee. “This is one of the issues that could do it.”Scarlett Johnson in Mequon, Wis., in September. Ms. Johnson is an activist against teaching critical race theory in schools, orchestrating a recall of her local school board.Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York TimesBallotpedia, a nonpartisan political encyclopedia, said it had tracked 80 school board recall efforts against 207 board members in 2021 — the highest number since it began tracking in 2010.Education leaders, including the National School Boards Association, deny that there is any critical race theory being taught in K-12 schools.“Critical race theory is not taught in our district, period,” said Wendy Francour, a school board member in Ms. Johnson’s district now facing recall.Teachers’ unions and some educators say that some of the efforts being labeled critical race theory by critics are simply efforts to teach history and civics.“We should call this controversy what it is — a scare campaign cooked up by G.O.P. operatives” and others to “limit our students’ education and understanding of historical and current events,” said Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers.But Republicans say critical race theory has invaded classrooms and erroneously casts all white people as oppressors and all Black people as victims. The issue has become a major rallying point for Republicans from Florida to Idaho, where state lawmakers have moved to ban it.In July, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, promised to abolish critical race theory on “Day 1” in office. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis, facing re-election next year, said recently, “I want to make sure people are not supporting critical race theory.” And in Arizona, Blake Masters, a Republican hoping to unseat Senator Mark Kelly in 2022, has repeatedly slammed critical race theory as “anti-white racism.”In some places, the tone of school board opponents has become angry and threatening, so much so that the National School Boards Association asked President Biden for federal law enforcement protection.Few places will be more closely watched in the midterm elections than Wisconsin, a swing state that Mr. Biden won by just over 20,600 votes and where Republicans would like to retain control of the Senate seat currently held by Ron Johnson, as well as to defeat Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.To succeed, Republicans must solidify support in suburban Milwaukee, an area of historical strength for the party. Recently, though, Democrats have made inroads in Ozaukee County, and particularly its largest city, Mequon, a mostly white enclave north of Milwaukee. President Donald J. Trump won the city last year with only 50.2 percent of the vote — a poor showing that contributed to his Wisconsin defeat.Now, with midterms on the horizon, prospective statewide candidates — including Ms. Kleefisch, Senator Johnson and the relative political newcomer Kevin Nicholson — have emphasized their opposition to critical race theory.Senator Johnson, who has not announced whether he will seek re-election, has talked about the importance of local elections as a prelude to next year’s midterms. He recently urged constituents to “take back our school boards, our county boards, our city councils.”Traditionally, school board elections in Wisconsin have been nonpartisan, but a political action committee associated with Ms. Kleefisch — Rebecca Kleefisch PAC — recently contributed to about 30 school board candidates around the state, including one elected last spring in Mequon.“The fact that this is being politically driven is heartbreaking,” said Chris Schultz, a retired teacher in Mequon and one of the four board members facing recall.Ms. Schultz relinquished her Republican Party membership when she joined the board. “I believe school boards need to be nonpolitical,” she said. “Our student welfare cannot be a political football.”Now, she thinks, that’s over. “The Republican Party has kind of decided that they want to not just have their say on the school board but determine the direction of school districts,” she said.Rebecca Kleefisch, Wisconsin’s former lieutenant governor, announces her candidacy for governor in September. Last week, volunteers from Ms. Kleefisch’s campaign organized outreach for Ms. Johnson’s school board candidacy.John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal, via Associated PressAgainst this political backdrop, Ms. Johnson, who calls herself a lifelong conservative, is waging her own battle in the district that serves 3,700 students. Ms. Johnson, 47, has five children, ranging in age from 10 to 22. Her two oldest children graduated from Mequon-Thiensville’s vaunted Homestead High School. Complaining about a decline in the system’s quality, she said she chose to send her younger children to private schools.Ms. Johnson first got interested in school board politics in August 2020, after a decision to delay in-person classes because of an increase in Covid-19 cases. Angered over the delay, Ms. Johnson protested with more than 100 people outside school district headquarters.“Virtual learning is not possible for the majority of parents that work,” Ms. Johnson told a reporter.The next day, protesters gathered outside the business of Akram Khan, a school board member who runs a private tutoring center.“There was this narrative that I, as a board member, elected to close the schools down because it would directly benefit my pocketbook, which is the farthest thing from the truth,” Mr. Khan said.He shut down his business temporarily as a result of the protests and is now facing recall.Things got worse. Protesters showed up outside the home of the district superintendent; relationships among neighbors began to fray. School board meetings, formerly dull affairs, dragged on for hours, with comments taking on a nasty and divisive tone.“We’ve been called Marxist flunkies,” Ms. Francour said. “We have police attending the meetings now.”Akram Khan is facing a school board recall.Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York TimesWendy Francour, who is facing a recall, said school board meetings have gotten divisive: “We have police attending the meetings now.”Carlos Javier Ortiz for The New York TimesAnger grew over masks, test scores and the hourlong video the school system posted about race, one of two that Ms. Francour said were offered because parents had asked what to tell their children about George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.Led by two consultants, the optional online seminar for parents included a discussion of the spectrum of racism — from lynching to indifference to abolitionism — and tips on how to become “anti-racist” through acts such as speaking up against bias and socializing with people of color. It ended with news clips about Mr. Floyd’s death.Ms. Johnson, who grew up poor in Milwaukee, the daughter of a Puerto Rican teenage mother and a father who had brushes with the law, said the video ran counter to her belief that people were not limited by their background or skin color.“For me the sky was the limit,” Ms. Johnson said in July on “Fact Check,” a podcast hosted by Bill Feehan, a staunch Trump supporter and the La Crosse County Republican Party chairman.The Wisconsin Democratic Party recently provided The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with deleted tweets by Ms. Johnson expressing nonchalance about the threat of white supremacy and accusing Planned Parenthood of racism.Spurred partly by the video, Ms. Johnson began leading an effort, Recall MTSD.com, to recall four of seven board members. Petitions were available at local businesses, including a shooting range owned by a Republican activist, Cheryle Rebholz.While the recall group insists theirs is a grass-roots effort, representatives of two conservative nonprofit organizations turned up to help.Amber Schroeder, left, and Ms. Johnson dropping off recall petitions in Mequon in August.Morry Gash/Associated PressOne of them, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty, is funded by the Bradley Foundation, known for promoting school choice and challenging election rules across the country.The organization stepped in to help Ms. Johnson’s group by threatening legal action against the city of Mequon when it tried to remove banners, placed on public property, that promoted the recall.Another volunteer with a high profile in conservative circles was Matt Batzel, executive director of American Majority, a national group that trains political candidates. Mr. Batzel’s organization once published a primer on how to “flip” your school board, citing its role overturning a liberal board in Kenosha, Wis.Mequon’s recall election is Nov. 2. One candidate is Ms. Rebholz, the shooting range owner, who wrote an essay arguing that, “If the Biden-Harris team wins in November, Americans won’t be safe.”Meanwhile, Ms. Johnson is branching out.She serves as a state leader for No Left Turn in Education, an organization against critical race theory, and has recently been named to a campaign advisory board for Ms. Kleefisch.She spoke at a Milwaukee event last month. The topic: “What is Critical Race Theory and How to Fight It.” More

  • in

    House Finds Bannon in Contempt for Defying Jan. 6 Inquiry Subpoena

    The vote came after a bitterly partisan debate over the Capitol attack and as Republicans sought to deflect questions about Donald J. Trump’s role in the violence.The House recommended that Stephen K. Bannon, a former top adviser to President Donald J. Trump, face criminal contempt charges for refusing to cooperate with its select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.Carlos Bernate for The New York TimesWASHINGTON — The House voted on Thursday to find Stephen K. Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress for stonewalling the investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, pressing for information from a close ally of Donald J. Trump even as Republicans moved to insulate the former president from accountability.The vote of 229 to 202, mostly along party lines, came after Mr. Bannon refused to comply with a subpoena from the House select committee investigating the assault, declining to provide the panel with documents and testimony. The action sent the matter to the Justice Department, which now must decide whether to prosecute Mr. Bannon and potentially set off a legal fight that could drag on for months or years.But what was clear on Thursday was that nine months after the deadliest attack on the Capitol in two centuries, many Republicans in Congress remain bent on whitewashing, ignoring or even validating what took place as their party continues to embrace the lie of a stolen election. Only nine Republicans joined Democrats in voting to enforce the panel’s subpoena.The rest followed the lead of Mr. Trump, who in a statement before the vote derided the election he lost as a crime and praised the mob attack — which injured 140 police officers and claimed several lives — as a legitimate response.“The insurrection took place on Nov. 3, Election Day,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Jan. 6 was the protest!”Before the vote, Republicans argued that the investigation — which Democrats undertook after Republicans blocked the formation of an independent, bipartisan inquiry — was a partisan exercise devised to smear Mr. Trump and persecute his supporters for their political beliefs.On the House floor, Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and an ardent Trump supporter, accused the committee of harassing Mr. Bannon and organizers of the “Stop the Steal” rally that preceded the riot.“You’re involved in political activity? They’re going to investigate you,” Mr. Jordan said. “You know what this is really about: getting at President Trump.”Representative Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, condemned the former president’s comments and the way Republicans continued to follow his lead.“We live in an age where apparently, some put fidelity to Donald Trump over fidelity to the Constitution,” he said.“He is so feared,” Mr. McGovern added, “that my Republican colleagues are going to keep denying what happened that day.”Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who broke sharply with Mr. Trump, pleaded with her fellow Republicans to stop following him down a path that she warned would lead to ruin.“There’s a moment when politics must stop if we want to defend and protect our institutions,” said Ms. Cheney, the vice chairwoman of the select committee. “A violent assault on the Capitol to stop a constitutional process of counting electoral votes is that moment.”The question of what will happen to Mr. Bannon now goes to the Justice Department, where Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has declined to say whether he will move forward with charges.“We’ll apply the facts in the law and make a decision, consistent with the principles of prosecution,” he told the House Judiciary Committee during an oversight hearing on Thursday.The question of what will happen to Mr. Bannon now goes to the Justice Department. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland has declined to say whether he will move forward with charges.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesPresident Biden has endorsed prosecuting those who do not cooperate with the investigation. On Thursday, he made a point of condemning the riot and its origins.“The violent, deadly insurrection on the Capitol nine months ago — it was about white supremacy,” Mr. Biden said in a speech on Thursday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Martin Luther King Jr. monument in Washington.Robert J. Costello, Mr. Bannon’s lawyer, informed the House committee this month that his client would not comply with its subpoena, citing Mr. Trump’s directive for his former aides and advisers to invoke immunity and refrain from turning over documents that might be protected under executive privilege.Under federal law, any person summoned as a congressional witness who refuses to comply can face a misdemeanor charge that carries a fine of $100 to $100,000 and a jail sentence of one month to one year.Members of the investigative committee, which is controlled by Democrats, believe that Mr. Bannon has crucial information about plans to undermine Mr. Biden’s victory, including conversations Mr. Bannon had with Mr. Trump in which he urged the former president to focus his efforts on Jan. 6.In its report recommending that the House find Mr. Bannon in contempt, the committee repeatedly cited comments he made on his radio show on Jan. 5 — when Mr. Bannon promised “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow” — as evidence that “he had some foreknowledge about extreme events that would occur the next day.”“He was deeply involved in the so-called Stop the Steal campaign,” Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the chairman of the committee, said of Mr. Bannon. “We know that the forces that tried to overturn the election persist in their assault on the rule of law.”Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, was stripped of her leadership post over her opposition to Mr. Trump’s election lies. She has pleaded with her colleagues to stop enabling him.Stefani Reynolds for The New York TimesMs. Cheney has suggested that Mr. Trump’s insistence on asserting executive privilege is evidence that he was “personally involved” in the plot to overturn the election on Jan. 6.“Today,” she noted, “the former president suggested that the violence was justified.”Ms. Cheney was one of nine Republicans to join House Democrats in voting to find Mr. Bannon in criminal contempt. The others were Representatives Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, the other Republican member of the panel; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; John Katko of New York; Nancy Mace of South Carolina; Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington; Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania; and Fred Upton and Peter Meijer, both of Michigan.Understand the Claim of Executive Privilege in the Jan. 6. InquiryCard 1 of 8A key issue yet untested. More

  • in

    Former Trump Lawyer to Oversee Election Review in Texas

    The selection of a new secretary of state arrives as Gov. Greg Abbott is facing pressure to allow an expanded 2020 election audit in Texas.HOUSTON — Amid pressure from former President Donald J. Trump to support a broad review of the 2020 election in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday appointed as secretary of state a lawyer who briefly joined Mr. Trump’s challenge to the 2020 results in Pennsylvania.The new secretary of state, John Scott, will oversee Texas elections at a time when a new law imposing further restrictions on voting and a Republican redistricting plan have raised alarm among voting rights advocates that the state’s growing nonwhite population would not be fairly represented.More immediately, Mr. Scott, a Fort Worth lawyer who worked for Mr. Abbott when he was the state’s attorney general, will take charge of a limited review of the 2020 election results that Mr. Abbott, a Republican, ordered last month for four of the most populous counties in Texas.“I am confident that John’s experience and expertise will enhance his oversight and leadership over the biggest and most thorough election audit in the country,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement announcing the appointment.Though he must eventually be confirmed by the State Senate, Mr. Scott can serve in the role in the interim. The Senate is not in regular session again until 2023.The appointment brought immediate criticism from Democrats and voting groups. “The timing of this announcement is clearly intended to subvert our democratic process in a way that allows Greg Abbott’s completely unsuitable nominee to oversee our 2022 elections without having to face confirmation hearings,” said Stephanie Gómez, the Texas associate director for Common Cause.Mr. Scott was among the lawyers representing Mr. Trump’s campaign as it filed suit to challenge the results of the November 2020 election in Pennsylvania, a state that President Biden won by 80,555 votes.But Mr. Scott withdrew from the case, as did another member of his law firm, Bryan Hughes, on the eve of a hearing, after a circuit court ruling that effectively gutted their arguments. The case was ultimately dismissed.“The lesson from the Pennsylvania case is that John Scott is a guy you can trust to follow the law,” said Mr. Hughes, a Republican state senator from Tyler, Texas. He added that, while in the attorney general’s office, Mr. Scott represented Texas in litigation over the state’s voter identification law, “so this area of the law is not unfamiliar to him.”Mr. Hughes was the lead sponsor of Texas’ restrictive new election rules, which passed this year over concerted opposition from Democrats. The new rules broaden the authority of the secretary of state in elections.No credible evidence has emerged of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election in Texas or in any other state. Mr. Trump carried the state by more than 5 percentage points and Republicans maintained a lock on the statehouse despite a well-funded effort by Democrats to try to flip control.Still, with supporters of Mr. Trump believing he should have won the state by an even greater margin, Mr. Abbott has faced growing calls for legislation authorizing a “forensic audit” of the 2020 presidential vote in Texas. Last month, Mr. Trump wrote a letter to Mr. Abbott urging him to back the legislation.“Despite my big win in Texas, I hear Texans want an election audit! You know your fellow Texans have big questions about the November 2020 Election,” read the letter, steeped in arcane Texas legislative language and signed by the former president.Political operatives in the state have suspected that the former president received assistance in his foray into Austin politics by Texas conservatives, perhaps the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, who twice chaired Mr. Trump’s campaign in the state. Under Mr. Patrick’s leadership, the Senate has already passed a 2020 election review bill.Trump’s Bid to Subvert the ElectionCard 1 of 6A monthslong campaign. More

  • in

    The Irony in Glenn Youngkin’s Push for Early Voting in Virginia

    Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor, is encouraging early voting despite catering to the Trump base that believes the former president’s election conspiracies.Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.With the much-watched election for Virginia governor 12 days away, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee, has been getting the word out: Vote early.His campaign texts supporters asking if they know their early voting site, and door knockers ask if voters have requested a mail-in ballot. Youngkin holds rallies near early polling locations, including a recent one in Rockingham County after which the campaign said 100 people walked in to vote.“We’ve been encouraging all Virginians to come vote, vote early,” Youngkin said when he cast his own ballot weeks before Election Day on Nov. 2.There is no small irony in that message. Former President Donald J. Trump has loudly, falsely and egregiously claimed that early voting, especially by mail, led to a “rigged” election in 2020 that cost him a second term. (His latest provocation was a statement on Thursday: “The insurrection took place on November 3, Election Day. Jan 6 was the protest!”)In response to baseless claims of fraud, Republican-led states around the country have enacted laws this year to narrow access to the polls by groups that tend to vote for Democrats.Virginia, where Democrats are in charge, has gone the opposite way, expanding voting access, including establishing a 45-day window to vote early in person or by mail, and extending the hours and locations of early polling sites.Youngkin, a former financial executive who reminds many of an even-tempered Mitt Romney more than the bullying Trump, has still catered to the Trump base that believes the former president’s election conspiracy theories.Youngkin early on said his top issue was “election integrity,” code for the false view that the 2020 vote was stolen, and he offered supporters a “membership card” in his Election Integrity Task Force. He campaigned with State Senator Amanda Chase, a prolific spreader of conspiracy theories about Jan. 6. This month he said voting machines should be audited, even though Virginia’s Elections Department audited machines after the 2020 vote and confirmed the results. (Trump lost by 10 points.)Still, Youngkin has invested heavily in turning out his supporters early, a strategy at which Republicans once excelled in many places. An early vote, cast in person or by mail, means a campaign doesn’t have to pursue that voter with phone calls and door knocks in the final frenzied weeks.Kristin Davison, a senior strategist for the Youngkin campaign, rejected the notion that Youngkin was sending supporters mixed messages about early voting through his emphasis on election security.“Glenn has been consistent the entire way through that the best way to ensure a safe and fair election is to go and be a voter,” Davison said.As of Wednesday, 515,000 Virginians had voted early, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, drawing on state Elections Department data.Virginia voters don’t register by party, but the Democratic data firm TargetSmart, using demographic information, has modeled the early voters. It estimates that 55.4 percent of early ballots have been cast by Democrats, 30.1 percent by Republicans and 14.4 percent by independents.The overall early voting total is 31 percent of early votes cast in the same period in 2020. Even though off-year turnout is bound to drop off from a presidential year, the Youngkin campaign maintained that it was an ominous sign for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic nominee, showing low enthusiasm from his supporters.“Republicans typically don’t win the early vote,” Davison said. “If Terry were in place to win, turnout would be at least 10 points higher.”McAuliffe’s campaign dismissed that analysis. It argued that there were important differences between early voting this year and last year, when the pandemic drove up the use of mail ballots. Last year was the first time Virginia offered no-excuse absentee voting; in 2021, the McAuliffe campaign said, Virginia voters are returning to what they are used to, namely Election Day voting.“The comparison to 2020 isn’t really a good one,” said Simon Vance, a data adviser to McAuliffe. “What you’re seeing is not any drop-off, but people reverting back to behaviors they’ve done for years.”The McAuliffe campaign pointed to the large number of mail ballots that have been requested but not yet returned — around 175,000. “We know those are our people and we’re aggressively chasing them,” Vance said.To boost his get-out-the-vote effort, McAuliffe is welcoming top Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and President Biden, to campaign with him in coming days. Last Sunday, Stacey Abrams, the Georgia voting rights activist, visited three churches in Norfolk, Va., and appeared with McAuliffe at a rally outside an early voting site. “We’ve got to get everybody out to vote,” McAuliffe said at the event.Total in-person early voters in Norfolk that day was 370. The Youngkin campaign called that an anemic figure. “If Terry’s base was excited, that number should have been at least three times that,” Davison asserted.Vance disagreed. He said that McAuliffe was on track to have the turnout needed to win.“If we’re seeing 70, 65 percent of the total electorate voting on Election Day, that’s where the real story will be told,” he said.nine days of ideas to remake our futureAs world leaders gather in Glasgow for consequential climate change negotiations, join us at The New York Times Climate Hub to explore answers to one of the most urgent questions of our time: How do we adapt and thrive on a changing planet? Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 3-11; in person and online. Get tickets at nytclimatehub.com.On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com. More

  • in

    Donald Trump Shouldn’t Be Underestimated

    Like most Democrats, I initially underestimated Donald Trump. In 2015, I founded a super PAC dedicated to electing Hillary Clinton. Through all the ups and downs of the campaign, I didn’t once imagine that Americans would vote Mr. Trump in.He was an obvious pig (see the “Access Hollywood” tapes), a fraud (multiple failed businesses and bankruptcies) and a cheat (stiffing mom-and-pop vendors). Not to mention the blatant racism and misogyny. About the outcome, I was spectacularly wrong.Once he was in office, I misread Mr. Trump again. Having worked inside the conservative movement for many years, I found his policies familiar: same judges, same tax policy, same deregulation of big business, same pandering to the religious right, same denial of science. Of course, there were the loopy tweets, but still I regarded Mr. Trump as only a difference of degree from what I had seen from prior Republican presidents and candidates, not a difference of kind.When a raft of books and articles appeared warning that the United States was headed toward autocracy, I dismissed them as hyperbolic. I just didn’t see it. Under Mr. Trump, the sky didn’t fall.My view of Mr. Trump began to shift soon after the November election, when he falsely claimed the election was rigged and refused to concede. In doing so, Mr. Trump showed himself willing to undermine confidence in the democratic process, and in time he managed to convince nearly three-quarters of his supporters that the loser was actually the winner.Then came the Capitol Hill insurrection, and, later, proof that Mr. Trump incited it, even hiring a lawyer, John Eastman, who wrote a detailed memo that can only be described as a road map for a coup. A recent Senate investigation documented frantic efforts by Mr. Trump to bully government officials to overturn the election. And yet I worry that many Americans are still blind, as I once was, to the authoritarian impulses that now grip Mr. Trump’s party. Democrats need to step up to thwart them.Are Democrats up for such a tough (and expensive) fight? Many liberal voters have taken a step back from politics, convinced that Mr. Trump is no longer a threat. According to research conducted for our super PAC, almost half of women in battleground states are now paying less attention to the political news.But in reality, the last election settled very little. Mr. Trump not only appears to be preparing for a presidential campaign in 2024; he is whipping up his supporters before the 2022 midterms. And if Democrats ignore the threat he and his allies pose to democracy, their candidates will suffer next fall, imperiling any chance of meaningful reform in Congress.Going forward, we can expect bogus claims of voter fraud, and equally bogus challenges to legitimate vote counts, to become a permanent feature of Republican political strategy. Every election Republicans lose will be contested with lies, every Democratic win delegitimized. This is poison in a democracy.As of late September, 19 states had enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for their citizens to vote. The Republican National Committee’s “election integrity director” says the party will file lawsuits earlier and more aggressively than they did in 2020. Trump wannabe candidates like Glenn Youngkin, running for Virginia governor, are currying favor with the Republican base by promoting conspiracy theories suggesting that Virginia’s election may be rigged.More alarmingly, Republicans in swing states are purging election officials, allowing pro-Trump partisans to sabotage vote counts. In January, an Arizona lawmaker introduced a bill that would permit Republican legislators to overrule the certification of elections that don’t go their way. In Georgia, the legislature has given partisan election boards the power to “slow down or block” election certifications. Why bother with elections?Democrats now face an opposition that is not a normal political party, but rather a party that is willing to sacrifice democratic institutions and norms to take power.The legislation Democrats introduced in Congress to protect our democracy against such assaults would have taken an important step toward meeting these challenges. But on Wednesday, Republicans blocked the latest version of the legislation, and given the lack of unanimity among Democrats on the filibuster, they may well have succeeded in killing the last hope for any federal voting rights legislation during this session of Congress.Having underestimated Mr. Trump in the first place, Democrats shouldn’t underestimate what it will take to counter his malign influence now. They need a bigger, bolder campaign blueprint to save democracy that doesn’t hinge on the whims of Congress.We should hear more directly from the White House bully pulpit about these dire threats. The Jan. 6 investigators should mount a full-court press to get the truth out. Funding voting rights litigation should be a top priority.Where possible, Democrats should sponsor plebiscites to overturn anti-democratic laws passed by Republicans in states. They should underwrite super PACs to protect incumbent election officials being challenged by Trump loyalists, even if it means supporting reasonable Republicans. Donations should flow into key governor and secretary of state races, positions critical to election certification.In localities, Democrats should organize poll watching. Lawyers who make phony voting claims in court should face disciplinary action in state bar associations. The financiers of the voting rights assault must be exposed and publicly shamed.The good news is that liberals do not have to copy what the right is doing with its media apparatus — the font of falsehoods about voter fraud and a stolen election — to win over voters. Democrats can leapfrog the right with significant investments in streaming video, podcasting, newsletters and innovative content producers on growing platforms like TikTok, whose audiences dwarf those of cable news networks like Fox News.Issues like racial justice, the environment and immigration are already resonating online with audiences Democrats need to win over, such as young people, women and people of color. Democratic donors have long overlooked efforts to fund the media, but with so much of our politics playing out on that battlefield, they can no longer afford to.David Brock (@davidbrockdc) is the founder of Media Matters for America and American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic super PAC.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

  • in

    In Debate, Adams Acts Like Front-Runner, While Sliwa Goes on Attack

    Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee in the New York City mayor’s race, and Curtis Sliwa, his Republican opponent, clashed on vaccine mandates and congestion pricing.For the better part of an hour on Wednesday, Eric Adams was accused of spending too much time with “elites,” losing touch with working-class New Yorkers and being a carbon copy of Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose popularity has steadily waned during his tenure.Yet when he was given openings to respond during the first general election debate of the New York City mayoral contest, Mr. Adams — the typically voluble Democratic nominee for mayor — often flashed a placid smile instead.Mr. Adams, the overwhelming favorite in the race, seemed to approach the matchup against his Republican foe, Curtis Sliwa, as if it were an infomercial for a mayoralty he had already secured.“I’m speaking to New Yorkers,” Mr. Adams said. “Not speaking to buffoonery.”Mr. Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels and an animated orator, worked to knock the front-runner off balance and strained to sow the kind of doubts about his opponent that could alter the trajectory of the race. There was little evidence he succeeded.Mr. Adams cast himself as a steady former police captain who is preparing to move past Mr. de Blasio and his divisive eight years in power and sought to chart a vision for a city still reeling from the pandemic and its consequences. He relied heavily on his biography as a blue-collar New Yorker with firsthand experience grappling with some of the most significant challenges facing the city.The debate, hosted by ​​WNBC-TV and unfolding three days before early voting is to begin, marked the most direct engagement to date between the candidates as they vie to lead the nation’s largest city.For an hour, Mr. Adams and Mr. Sliwa — both longtime New York public figures with colorful pasts — clashed over wide-ranging issues that the city confronts, from a new vaccine mandate for city workers (Mr. Adams backs the mandate, Mr. Sliwa does not) to a congestion pricing plan (again largely backed by Mr. Adams, with Mr. Sliwa expressing strong concerns) to whether outdoor dining structures should stay. (Mr. Adams said yes, Mr. Sliwa said they should be reduced in size.)At every turn, Mr. Sliwa sought to undercut Mr. Adams’s working-class credentials, criticizing his opponent’s support from real estate developers and the endorsement he has earned from former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, even as he also tried to link Mr. Adams to Mr. de Blasio, casting them both as career politicians.“How about we do something novel and stop trusting these politicians, like Eric Adams and de Blasio?” Mr. Sliwa said, as he expressed his objections to congestion pricing.Mr. Adams, for his part, noted his differences with Mr. de Blasio in his first answer to a question, suggesting that while he supported the mayor’s new vaccination mandate for municipal workers, he would have taken a more collaborative approach to implementing it.Mr. Adams sought to portray Mr. Sliwa as a candidate unfit and and unqualified to be mayor.WNBC-TV and the New York City Campaign Finance BoardMr. Adams, who has a meditation routine, appeared keenly focused on rising above many of Mr. Sliwa’s attacks. But he also sought to define his Republican opponent early in the evening as an untrustworthy public figure who does not have a significant record of accomplishments. He repeatedly referenced Mr. Sliwa’s own admission that he had fabricated crimes for publicity.“New Yorkers are going to make a determination of a person that wore a bulletproof vest, protected the children and families of the city and fought crime, against a person who made up crimes so that he can be popular,” Mr. Adams said. “He made up crime, New Yorkers. That in itself is a crime.”Given New York’s overwhelmingly Democratic tilt and Mr. Sliwa’s reputation as something of a celebrity gadfly, Mr. Adams is seen as far more likely to prevail in the Nov. 2 election, and he is poised to be New York’s second Black mayor. He has spent much of his time since winning the Democratic nomination in July focused on fund-raising and transition-planning and has only begun to accelerate his public events schedule in the last week, reflecting his front-runner status.Mr. Sliwa worked at every turn of the debate to goad Mr. Adams into a confrontation. At best, he managed to coax an occasional complaint from Mr. Adams that Mr. Sliwa was breaking the rules of the debate by speaking for too long.But while Mr. Adams tried to avoid engaging extensively with Mr. Sliwa, he found himself on the defensive at other times, especially when pressed on questions of his residency. He has said that his primary residence is an apartment in a multiunit townhouse he owns in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn — but he has had to refile his tax returns in part because of irregularities concerning his residency, among other issues, the news outlet The City reported. Mr. Adams said, as he has in the past, that he takes responsibility for omissions on his tax returns, even as he faulted his accountant, who he said was homeless.“He went through some real trauma,” Mr. Adams said of his accountant. “And I’m not a hypocrite, I wanted to still give him the support that he needed.”He pledged that the mistake would not be repeated.Mr. Adams also co-owns a co-op in Fort Lee, N.J., with his partner, and he has said that he moved into Brooklyn Borough Hall for a time after the pandemic arrived. Mr. Sliwa recently led a journey from Manhattan to Fort Lee “to find out where Eric Adams really lives.”Mr. Adams declined to specify how many nights he has spent at the Brooklyn apartment in the last six months, but did say again that it was his primary residence.Mr. Sliwa was also pressed on issues of transparency and trustworthiness.“I made mistakes,” he said, when asked about faking crimes — a practice he cast as a youthful folly. “I’ll continue to apologize for it, but I’ve earned the trust of New Yorkers. Just follow me in the streets and subways, I’m there, I’m the people’s choice. Eric Adams is with the elites in the suites.”For all of the stark differences between their candidacies, Mr. Sliwa and Mr. Adams have some political commonalities, reflecting Mr. Adams’s position as a relatively center-left Democrat and Mr. Sliwa’s more populist instincts. Indeed, the debate was far more civil than the matchup Mr. Sliwa had during the Republican primary. It was also less of a brawl than some of the multicandidate debate stage clashes that defined the crowded Democratic primary earlier this year, where Mr. Adams often found himself under fire on several fronts.Mr. Sliwa and Mr. Adams are both keenly focused on issues of public safety and support expanding access to the gifted and talented program in New York City schools, though they did not offer clear prescriptions for the fate of the controversial admissions test that governs the initiative.But they did not appear eager to dwell on any common ground. Mr. Sliwa even turned a prompt designed to elicit a positive response — to pitch those New Yorkers who left during the pandemic to return — into an attack on Mr. Adams, questioning whether he really intended to fly to Florida and collect wayward New Yorkers as he has pledged.Mr. Adams, in contrast, promised a safe, exciting and diverse city.“You will be bored in Florida,” he warned. “You will never be bored in New York.” More

  • in

    This Election Season, Look Out for Virginia

    We’re heading around the bend, people! Elections are just a couple of weeks away and the two biggest races in the nation are …You have no idea, right?OK, most of the voting is going to be about local government — mayors and council members and holders of even smaller offices. But there are a couple of contests for governor, in Virginia and New Jersey.It’s Virginia that’s obsessing the world. Or at least the world that’s already terrified about what’s going to happen in 2022 (Dems lose Congress?) or 2024 (Trump? Trump? Trummmpp?).The candidates are the Democrat Terry McAuliffe, a former governor who left office after one term because Virginia is the only state in the union that makes governors do that. Versus Glenn Youngkin, a former business tycoon who’s chipped in at least $16 million of his own money.McAuliffe isn’t exactly a pauper — Virginia’s very loose filing rules show he’s worth at least $6.9 million. But he’s always been a star at raising money. He once recalled a political event he was involved in when he was 7: “Nobody got in that door unless I got 50 dollars from them. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, 35 years later I’m still making sure that they pay.″OK, not all that inspiring, but everybody knows how important money is in these off-year elections. Virginia has evolved into a Democratic state, but what if McAuliffe loses — or just squeaks in? What if the turnout is puny? Will the nation read this as a prelude to disaster for congressional candidates next year?Democrats can’t think of anything else, and if you’ve wound up on any party mailing lists — truly, it can happen to anyone — you may have been getting more letters about Terry McAuliffe than you got greetings on your last birthday. Certainly bigger presents are involved.“I’m flabbergasted, Gail … ” reads one of the many, many missives I received from him recently. “We’ve been sending you email after email about just how important this race is, but it’s October, and it’s looking like a tossup right now.”Given my profession, I have never made a contribution to a political campaign in my life, but this doesn’t seem to have any impact on McAuliffe’s expectations.One of my all-time favorite donor requests came from Ellie Warner, McAuliffe’s finance director:“Gail, I’m freaking out right now! I meant to send this email earlier … but I forgot to press send, and now, we’re even more behind on our fund-raising goal than we were before.”That is so 2021. If, God forbid, McAuliffe somehow loses the election, “I forgot to press send” is going down in modern political history.New Jersey’s race has also had its moments. Republicans are trying to beat Gov. Phil Murphy over the head with his 2019 remark that if you’re a person whose only concern is tax rates, New Jersey is “probably not your state.”Now really, this is pretty obvious. Anybody who sits down with the family in, say, Montana, and announces, “Well, we’re going to relocate in the East, and the only thing we care about is taxes,” is not under any circumstances going to discuss real estate opportunities in the Trenton area.New Jersey is diverting but Murphy is expected to win handily. And the political world won’t be all that impressed. It’s Virginia that’s mobilized a national get-out-the-money campaign.“Gail, we don’t have much time, so I’ll make this quick,” wrote the political consultant James Carville in a mass email about a “critical fund-raising deadline.”Carville, who recently referred to himself as “an email-signing slut,” has reportedly sent out over 40 pleas for donations to various campaigns in the last three months, one darkly demanding to know if the recipient wants “Democrats to lose every election from here to eternity.”Meanwhile, Donald Trump is, of course, online constantly (“Did you see my RALLY in IOWA? It was INCREDIBLE”). He is supporting Youngkin, but not with nearly the enthusiasm he’s dedicating to raising money for his own political action fund.“President Trump specifically told us he wants this one-of-a-kind HAND-SIGNED football to go to YOU, Friend,” says one missive, looking for a contribution for a chance to be in a drawing for said memento.In the Virginia race, Youngkin, whose nickname is reportedly “Yunk,” is delicately dancing around the Trump issue. It’s tricky — if you want to be a winning Republican, you have to keep his fans happy while assuring the suburban moderates that you know Joe Biden was actually elected president.McAuliffe’s job is to make voters turn out, and one main strategy is to terrify them into action. (“I thought folks would be fired up to get out the vote, but at this point, it seems like enthusiasm is at an all-time low.”)Same thing goes for money. (“You can imagine how confused I am about why people aren’t stepping up and donating. We’re blowing this one, Gail.”)Everybody’s jumping in. John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania who’s planning to run for the U.S. Senate next year, wrote suggesting that I split an early bird $10 donation between his campaign and McAuliffe’s. There’s quite a lot of this going on, but Fetterman’s campaign website is notable for including the picture of a dog on the bottom, saying: “Hi, I’m Levi Fetterman. Boop my nose to donate $1.”Indeed, if you poked Levi’s nose, a special donation box did pop up. Like I said, they’re everywhere.The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram. More

  • in

    What We Learned in the Latest Campaign Cash Reports

    Financial disclosures show who has the early money edge in key races, as well as the value of a Trump endorsement.Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox on Tuesdays and Thursdays.A startling amount of money is pouring into American elections, especially the race for control of Congress in 2022. Every House and Senate candidate in the country was recently required to detail their spending and fund-raising through the end of September. Here are some takeaways, tidbits and trends from those financial reports.How Trump factors inFormer President Donald J. Trump has been doing a lot of endorsing in Republican primaries ahead of the 2022 midterms. His backing is, by far, the most coveted in the party. But a Trump blessing has not necessarily translated to a cash boom for those Senate hopefuls he backs, the records show.In Alabama, Mr. Trump is supporting Representative Mo Brooks — who has literally worked the endorsement into his logo — but Mr. Brooks was nonetheless badly out-raised for the second consecutive quarter, pulling in only $670,000 compared with $1.5 million for Katie Boyd Britt, a former chief of staff to Senator Richard Shelby.In Alaska, Mr. Trump is supporting Kelly Tshibaka, a primary challenger to Senator Lisa Murkowski, who voted to convict Mr. Trump in his second impeachment trial. Ms. Murkowski doubled Ms. Tshibaka’s haul. In North Carolina, Mr. Trump’s preferred choice, Representative Ted Budd, was narrowly edged by former Gov. Pat McCrory.In Pennsylvania, Mr. Trump’s endorsement did seem to boost Sean Parnell, who has been a regular on Fox News and whose fund-raising doubled in the most recent quarter. But Mr. Parnell still faces a former Trump-appointed ambassador, Carla Sands, in the Senate primary and she gave her campaign $3 million from her personal fortune.In House races, Mr. Trump has made clear he is focused on defeating those who voted to impeach him. One such Republican has already retired. But none of the other nine House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr. Trump in January were out-raised last quarter by a primary challenger, with Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming setting the pace by raising $1.7 million. (In some races, challengers combined to out-raise the Republican incumbent.)One notable fund-raising haul was from Representative Nancy Mace of South Carolina. She verbally lacerated Mr. Trump in January for his incitement of the Capitol riot but ultimately didn’t vote to impeach. She has since, as my colleague Catie Edmondson put it over the summer, “quietly backpedaled into the party’s fold.” Now, the $973,000 she raised is among the highest sums for a freshman.The House leaderboardAmong the rank and file, the strongest Democratic fund-raiser in the House was, by far, Representative Katie Porter of California, who represents a swingy region in Orange County. She raised $2.7 million and spent only $1 million — and now has $14.5 million in the bank. That could help her no matter how her district is redrawn in 2022 — or in a potential future Senate bid. One problem with the latter is that the only House member with more money currently in their treasury is Representative Adam Schiff, another ambitious Democrat from California with $15.3 million in his treasury.On the Republican side, Representative Dan Crenshaw of Texas has emerged as a top fund-raiser, pulling in nearly $3 million. But Mr. Crenshaw was spending far more to raise those funds: He spent roughly 88 percent of what he raised in the third quarter, records show, including more than $1 million related to direct mail.On the left, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York continues to be one of her party’s strongest fund-raisers, bringing in nearly $1.7 million. On the right, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, the freshman congresswoman from Georgia, has continuously stirred controversy and cashed in along the way, raising $1.5 million, roughly the same sum as Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of Mr. Trump’s favorite pugilists on the Hill.In the political center, two moderate Democrats, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Tom Suozzi of New York, both topped the $1 million threshold.Democrats have an early money edge in key Senate racesTo keep the Senate next year, Democrats must first defend four incumbents up for re-election in the battleground states of Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia and Arizona. The good news for the party is that all four incumbents far out-raised their Republican challengers, with Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia raising the most of anyone in the country, $9.5 million.The picture is murkier in three Republican-held battlegrounds: North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where the Republican incumbents are retiring, and Wisconsin, where Senator Ron Johnson has not said for certain if he is running again. Democrats face potentially messy primaries in all three races as do Republicans in the two open seats.But in each of the three states, the top fund-raiser last quarter between the two parties was a Democrat (not including those donating to themselves, like Sands).In Florida, Representative Val Demings, a Democrat, has emerged as the surprise fund-raising star of the cycle, raising nearly $8.5 million — nearly $2.5 million more than the Republican she is challenging, Senator Marco Rubio. But Ms. Demings is spending extraordinary sums to raise that money — $5.6 million in the last quarter alone, much of it devoted to Facebook ads seeking new online contributors.What campaigns are spending to raise money — known in the industry as the burn rate — is a key indicator, because it shows how much of what is raised will be available when voters are paying closer attention.Of the top dozen Senate fund-raisers last quarter, Ms. Demings had the highest burn rate at 66 percent.One Democratic senator on the ballot in 2022 actually spent more than she raised last quarter: Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire. She raised $3 million last quarter, but she spent $3.1 million. Records show she made a $1.5 million media buy to highlight her work for veterans.The early ad was an unusual strategic choice. Most operatives believe TV ads that air a year from an election will be long forgotten when voting begins. But with money already flooding key states, the ad could be a chance to make an early, positive impression, especially with outside Republican groups on the airwaves.nine days of ideas to remake our futureAs world leaders gather in Glasgow for consequential climate change negotiations, join us at The New York Times Climate Hub to explore answers to one of the most urgent questions of our time: How do we adapt and thrive on a changing planet? Glasgow, Scotland, Nov. 3-11; in person and online. Get tickets at nytclimatehub.com.On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com. More