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Moderate Democrat Elissa Slotkin Enters Race for Michigan Senate Seat

Slotkin is seeking to replace outgoing Senator Debbie Stabenow, as Democrats try to defend their seat in the battleground state.

Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

On Monday, Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin announced her candidacy for outgoing Senator Debbie Stabenow’s Michigan seat. Slotkin is the first Democrat to enter what may be among the most highly contested and expensive Senate races in 2024.

In her announcement video, Slotkin highlights working for the Central Intelligence Agency and her experience working in the White House under both the Bush and Obama administrations.

One primary focus of Slotkin’s announcement video was the tragic loss of her mother to ovarian cancer; the loss came following financial pang after pang, her mother grappling with the diagnosis without health insurance and even being forced to declare bankruptcy.

“We seem to be living crisis to crisis,” Slotkin said. “But there are certain things that should be really simple,” she continued, listing things like increasing domestic production, protecting children from gun violence, and protecting democracy.

Slotkin first entered Congress in 2019, riding the Democratic wave spurred in backlash to Donald Trump. She narrowly won, becoming the first Democrat to represent Michigan’s eighth district since 2001, when the seat was held by Stabenow herself. Slotkin was again narrowly reelected in 2020, after becoming one of the forefront voices to call for Trump’s impeachment. And in 2022, Slotkin ran in the seventh district, in what was among the most expensive House races of the year; in this race, Slotkin became the first ever Democrat endorsed by Liz Cheney.

The Michigan Senate seat is part of a larger challenging map for the Democrats. They’re defending 23 of the 33 seats up for reelection. Some, like Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia, are ones that Trump won by no small margins; others, like Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin, are pivotal swing states whose results will reveal how strong a message the party really has.

But the moment is more than just about tough political races; it’s the consequences of the races that matter the most, of course. And the times—of cross-partisan-tolerated corporate greed leading to disaster, of mass shooting after mass shooting, of conservative attacks on everything from the basic humanity of LGBTQ people and migrant workers to Social Security and Medicare—require Democrats willing to go up to bat on each and every one of those battles.

While Slotkin has positioned herself to be a liberal in good standing (she has voted 100 percent of the time with Biden, was a leading voice on Trump’s impeachment, and has won close races while standing true to basic liberal ideals around abortion and health care), she also embodies parts of the Democratic establishment wedded to conservative impulses.

Slotkin opposed student debt assistance on a vote supported by 93 percent of the caucus, voted against 85 percent of her caucus on whether the United States should even study the impact of its sanctions on other countries, voted to overturn locally enacted criminal justice and voting rights reforms in Washington, D.C., and even voted against 94 percent of her caucus to bar security clearance from anyone who has used cannabis.

Slotkin also does not openly support Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or abolishing the death penalty.

Primaries are meant for debate and for candidates to earn the support of their parties. Slotkin has led impressive wins before; while some candidates have bowed out of running, the party would do best to welcome, and not discourage competition. Previous attempts to anoint moderates in consequential races—from Kyrsten Sinema to Hilary Clinton—have not gone well.

Other potential candidates, like Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Representative Debbie Dingell, and former Representative Andy Levin, have not outwardly indicated their intentions yet. Slotkin is a proven formidable candidate. May she will have to continue proving herself—and whether her politics are the ones for this moment—against a field of candidates, rather than an open path.

Paul Ryan Says He’ll Skip the 2024 RNC if Trump Is the Nominee: “We’re Going to Lose With Him”

The former House speaker endorsed Donald Trump in 2016.

Paul Ryan
Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Former House Speaker Paul Ryan said he won’t attend the Republican National Convention if Donald Trump is the presidential nominee, a lackluster and pretty on-brand rebuke.

Speaking to a local Milwaukee news station Sunday, Ryan said that even though the 2024 convention will be held in his home state of Wisconsin, his attendance “depends on who the nominee is.”

“I’ll be here if it’s somebody not named Trump,” Ryan said. “I’m not interested in participating” if Trump does become the GOP presidential nominee.

Ryan argued Trump has been bad for the party, noting the former president “cost us the House in ’18, he lost the White House in ’20, he cost us the Senate in ’20, he cost us the Senate again in 2022, and he cost us probably a good dozen House seats in 2022.”

It’s not entirely clear, though, what Ryan thinks his tepid protest will accomplish. It’s been a while since he had any real political influence. He was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and then served as House speaker for four years, leaving behind a chaotic legacy.

Ryan repeatedly criticized Trump’s actions during the 2016 presidential campaign but always stopped just short of actually taking a stand against him. He ultimately endorsed Trump in June that year.

In the two years he served as speaker under Trump, Ryan took advantage of Republican control of the White House and Congress to help push through his own agenda. Since leaving office, having gotten what he wanted, he has become more outspoken against Trump, previously calling him a “proven loser.”

But Ryan has stayed true to his lukewarm brand of criticism. As a result of his unwillingness to stand up to Trump, Ryan briefly landed on Wikipedia’s list of invertebrates in 2017.

Trump hit back at Ryan on Truth Social, also taking the opportunity to plug his lie that he won the 2020 election. “Paul Ryan is a loser, Mitt Romney could have won without him. I won twice, did much better the second time, and was 233 Wins out of 253 Races in the Midterms. Paul Ryan is destroying Fox, and couldn’t get elected dogcatcher in the Republican Party!” he said.

Ex-Senator Jim Inhofe Retired Due to Long Covid, Says at Least Five Other Congress Members Also Have It

The Oklahoma Republican called out his colleagues.

Stefani Reynolds/Pool/Getty Images
Senator Jim Inhofe

Former Senator Jim Inhofe revealed that he suffers from long-term effects of Covid-19, which played a part in his decision to retire from Congress, and at least five other members of Congress suffer from the same thing.

The Oklahoma Republican announced last February he planned to retire after almost 40 years on Capitol Hill. During the same press conference, his chief of staff announced that Inhofe had contracted a “very mild” case of Covid-19. But clearly, the effects of the virus have been much longer-lasting. And he’s not the only one.

“Five or six others have (long Covid), but I’m the only one who admits it,” Inhofe told Tulsa World in a recent interview.

He did not say what symptoms of long Covid he suffers from, nor which other members of Congress are struggling with long Covid. But Democratic Senator Tim Kaine has been open about his mild long Covid symptoms.

Inhofe struck a highly contradictory tone during the start of the coronavirus pandemic. He warned people to take the virus seriously, telling Tulsa World in a March 2020 interview, “You know I’d be the first to say we’re overreacting because that’s kind of how I am, but we’re not. By people not believing, by not taking precautions, they’re making it more likely to spread.”

In the same interview, however, he said he had tried to annoy a reporter by saying he wasn’t doing anything to protect himself against Covid and then trying to shake hands.

Inhofe also voted against several key Covid relief bills, including the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which required employers to give employees paid sick leave or expanded medical and family leave for Covid-related reasons. That bill had enormous bipartisan support, with 90 senators voting for it.

Inhofe also voted against the American Rescue Plan, which was aimed at providing economic relief due to the crisis caused by the pandemic. The bill included funding for the national vaccination program, the stimulus checks, and the expanded unemployment benefits.

Republicans Suddenly Pretend to Care About Infrastructure, Just to Criticize U.S. Aid to Ukraine

Well, that’s a new one.

Josh Hawley bends down to talk to Ted Cruz, seated, who holds up a clenched fist
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Senators Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz

Republicans who have spent years blocking critical infrastructure spending suddenly seem incensed at the idea that we are not spending money on critical infrastructure.

Friday marked one year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and throughout the week, Republicans increasingly and in larger numbers criticized the Biden administration’s support of the attacked nation. And they’ve been using the disastrous Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, as fodder for their complaints.

Regardless of one’s specific views on sustained military support for Ukraine, the argument is rich coming from conservatives, who have fought tooth and nail to water down massive infrastructure investments over the past few years, especially in Biden’s Build Back Better effort.

Tucker Carlson, for example, has dedicated countless hours on his program to bullying Republicans for supporting infrastructure spending, only to suddenly change tune when he could then blame it all on Ukraine.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was first introduced by the Biden administration as a $2.3 trillion appendage of the larger investment effort. After conservative stonewalling, the bill was cut to $1.2 trillion in what was then called the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. About $14 billion of rail modernization dollars were cut out in the watered-down framework. Such is the cost of “bipartisan” collaboration with intransigent Republicans, it seems. And this was just one of many losses incurred after conservatives—including Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema—hamstrung Democratic efforts to deliver on the infrastructure-building agenda they were elected to carry out.

Two years ago, Senator Ted Cruz bragged about standing strong alongside Senators Ron Johnson and Mike Lee against any Republicans expressing a willingness to work with Democrats.

And now Cruz, who cosplayed as an ally to rail workers asking for more industry regulation, is in fact holding his tune for deregulation:

And while celebrating more deregulation, Cruz also spent his week podcasting to complain about Biden visiting Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Johnson is busy fundraising off the East Palestine derailment, complaining that “the media is barely covering this.” Beyond taking money from Norfolk Southern and fighting against infrastructure spending alongside Cruz, one of the only rail-related bills Johnson has signed off on was one backed by the Association of American Railroads. It sought to delay the industry-wide implementation of a monitoring system to help prevent train collisions and derailments. Norfolk Southern is among the companies represented by the association.

Senator Josh Hawley is also now pitting spending on Ukraine and East Palestine against each other, but years ago, he complained about the proposed infrastructure bill. He took specific issue with the bill’s environmental investments. (Conservatives now feign concern for the kinds of environmental issues in East Palestine that plague communities all across the country, ones that would in fact have been addressed by Green New Deal–esque investment).

It is reasonable to question how long the United States may stay involved in Ukraine—or any affairs elsewhere, given our track record. But it’s unserious for conservatives who have already dedicated much of their careers to fighting against government investment to now posture as eager proponents of mass infrastructure projects. But, hey, if it’s sincere, be our guest: We’ll be waiting for the legislation!

Georgia Republicans Want to Charge People Who Get Abortions With Homicide

Meanwhile, the majority of Georgians say they want to keep the procedure legal.

Sign reads: "The Land of the free? Choice = freedom"
Megan Varner/Getty Images
A protester holds a sign while marching and chanting through Downtown Atlanta on July 23.

Georgia Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would classify abortion as a homicide, despite their own constituents’ widespread opposition to banning the procedure.

The bill, introduced Thursday, would classify a human as an “unborn child at every stage of development from fertilization until birth.” As a result, terminating a pregnancy could be considered and prosecuted as a homicide. Writer Jessica Valenti noted that since the bill says life begins at fertilization, people who use IUDs or emergency contraception—both of which prevent fertilized eggs from implanting—could be charged with murder.

The legislation makes exceptions for medical procedures carried out to save the life of the pregnant person, done because there were no viable other options to save the fetus, or that resulted in an accidental miscarriage. People who got abortions would be found not guilty of homicide if they could prove they were coerced or misled into getting the procedure.

If it passes, this bill would both fly in the face of what people actually want when it comes to abortion legislation and be incredibly dangerous for people’s health and well-being.

The majority of Americans, 64 percent to be exact, support legalizing abortion, which made the Supreme Court’s overturning Roe v. Wade all the more bitter a pill to swallow. A new study by the Public Religion Research Institute looked at levels of support at the state level and found that 57 percent of Georgians think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Currently, abortion in Georgia is banned after six weeks, before most people even know they are pregnant, with exceptions for rape, incest, or to save the pregnant person’s life.

Clamping down on abortions would also cause far more harm than good. A study published in November by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that if Georgia bans abortion, maternal mortality will increase 29 percent. Georgia already has the second-highest rate of maternal mortality in the United States, which has the highest rate of maternal mortality among developed nations, according to the World Population Review.

Classifying abortion as a homicide would significantly deter people from seeking the procedure, even if they need it, and could put their health at risk.

Unfortunately, Georgia is not alone in seeking to criminalize people who get abortions. Republican lawmakers in Kentucky, where 50 percent of residents support legalizing abortion, and Alabama, where 55 percent of residents support abortion, have also debated bills that would classify abortion as a homicide in the past week. Representatives in South Carolina, where 50 percent of residents back abortion access, introduced a bill Wednesday that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty.

Not only do these bills go against the will of the people, some lawmakers are actively trying to circumvent what their constituents want. Kentucky was one of five states that voted to protect abortion access during the midterm elections. In Kansas, lawmakers are trying to let cities and counties ban abortion after residents overwhelmingly voted to keep abortion protections in the state constitution.

Florida Republicans’ New Bill May Be the Biggest Attack on Academic Freedom Yet

The bill, backed by Governor Ron DeSantis, goes after degrees, tenured professors, and more.

Ron DeSantis
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After Ron DeSantis’s months of attacks on colleges, schools, teachers, librarians, and students, the Florida governor is now pushing a sweeping legislation package that further threatens academic freedom at Florida universities.

House Bill 999 presents radical concentrations of power, taking liberties away from students and teachers and instead subjecting them to constant surveillance and paranoia for simply trying to embrace a fulsome education.

The bill calls for the removal of degrees in gender studies and critical race theory (or “any derivative major or minor of these belief systems,” perhaps left intentionally ambiguous) and bars anything else that promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. The bill also prohibits universities from promoting, supporting, or maintaining any program or campus activities that “espouse diversity, equity, and inclusion or Critical Race Theory rhetoric.”

The bill additionally directs university boards of trustees to be responsible for faculty hiring, and reads that a faculty member’s tenure could be reviewed “at any time.” In a vacuum, that may not seem inherently bad; given the chiling nature of the rest of the bill (and the broader Florida academic context), such a note suggests a regime eager to threaten tenure loss for those who step out of bounds.

If that all wasn’t enough, the bill also says that general education courses may not “suppress or distort significant historical events or include a curriculum that teaches identity politics, such as Critical Race Theory, or defines American history as contrary to the creation of a new nation based on universal principles stated in the Declaration of Independence.” And they ought to “promote the philosophical underpinnings of Western civilization.”

These general education courses further must “promote the values necessary to preserve the constitutional republic through traditional, historically accurate, and high-quality coursework,” and cannot be “based on unproven, theoretical, or exploratory content.”

The standards are largely to be overseen by the state Board of Education and Board of Governors—bodies whose members are appointed by the governor. And so determinations of what does and does not constitute “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” or “values necessary to preserve the constitutional republic,” or even “accurate” are all ill-defined, amorphous, and ambiguous enough for Governor DeSantis’s authoritarian regime to carry out its desire to carve away any chance for Florida students to maintain a holistic and open-minded education.

House Bill 999 is indeed a focused continuation of DeSantis’s assault against academic freedom. But it is also a broader test: about how much power an aspirational fascist state executive can openly accumulate in America.

Tennessee Becomes the First State to Pass a Ban on Drag Shows

The bill is so vaguely worded it could also target trans people and Pride celebrations generally.

Danielle Del Valle/Getty Images
Kameron Michaels performs onstage for RuPaul’s Drag Race Werq the World Tour in Nashville, Tennessee, on August 9.

Tennessee lawmakers passed the country’s first ban on drag performances Thursday, part of an onslaught of bills restricting LGBTQ rights across the United States that could have much further-reaching consequences.

House Bill 9 is headed to Governor Bill Lee, who has said he will decide whether to sign the bill once it reaches his desk. If he does, the measure will go into effect on April 1, two months ahead of Pride Month.

The bill bans “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interest,” meaning of a sexual nature, either in public or if there is a minor present. The language is vague and makes no distinction between drag performers and transgender people.

When H.B. 9 was first introduced in November 2022, the ACLU of Tennessee noted that “dance, fashion, and music—essential components of a drag performance—are all protected by the First Amendment. Yet, these laws are written so broadly and vaguely that they would allow government officials to censor performers based on their own subjective viewpoints of what they deem appropriate on any given day.”

“So, let’s call this what it is—a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life,” the group said in a statement.

The bill’s vagueness could also affect Pride celebrations, which last for the month of June. Drag performers or trans people appearing in public could be charged with felonies simply for existing.

“By passing House Bill 9, the Tennessee legislature has done nothing but spread hate, misinformation, and extremism,” Human Rights Campaign legal director Sarah Warbelow said in a statement. “Drag is a longstanding, celebratory form of entertainment and a meaningful source of employment for many across the state. Yet, rather than focus on actual policy issues facing Tennesseans, politicians would rather spend their time and effort misconstruing age-appropriate performances at a library to pass as many anti-LGBTQ+ bills as they can.”

It should go without saying that drag, like any performance, can be tailored to be appropriate for any audience. Seeing drag performances can actually be beneficial to younger people who are LGBTQ, because it shows them that they are not alone. More than half of LGBTQ youth struggle with depression, and 45 percent of trans kids have considered suicide, according to the HRC. But those with at least one adult in their life who accepts them are 40 percent less likely to attempt suicide.

Tennessee’s bill, unfortunately, is part of a homophobic and transphobic backlash to the increasing visibility of LGBTQ people. Drag performers have become a particular target for Republicans and right-wing extremist groups, who accuse the entertainers of being pedophiles.

There are dozens of bills being moved through state legislatures across the U.S. that would ban drag performances. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently revoked an organization’s liquor license because it hosted a drag show.

Live Nation–Ticketmaster Reports Record $16.7 Billion in Revenue

Meanwhile, artists and fans continue to pay the price.

Ticketmaster site open on a browser
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

At a time of growing public pressure on the monopolistic practices of Live Nation and Ticketmaster, the ticketing giant doesn’t seem to be crumbling one bit. On Thursday, the company announced record profits, reporting a 2022 operating income up 125 percent from pre-pandemic levels to $732 million, and revenue up 44 percent to $16.7 billion.

Last month, the Senate held a hearing on Live Nation and Ticketmaster’s hold over the ticketing industry. And in November, Senators Amy Klobuchar, Richard Blumenthal, and Ed Markey sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking for a Justice Department investigation into the massive company, even suggesting the department consider breaking up the dominating duo’s merger. Members of Congress from all sides of the aisle have expressed their interest in taking on the massive company and helping consumers not be hounded by exorbitant fees and no alternatives.

And since then? Not too much. But in the meantime, Live Nation–Ticketmaster is swimming in cash.

The struggle against the de facto monopoly spans years. Thirty years ago, members of Pearl Jam began advocating for the breakup of Ticketmaster’s hold on consumers. “All the members of Pearl Jam remember what it’s like to be young and not have a lot of money,” said guitarist Stone Gossard. “We have made a conscious decision that we do not want to put the price of our concerts out of the reach of our fans.”

Public pressure has spiked more recently after fans of performers like Bad Bunny and Taylor Swift suffered from prohibitive prices and poor ticketing practices that led to people being turned away from concerts even though they had valid tickets. Millions of frustrated fans, big artists who care about those fans, and smaller artists’ income streams suffer from the monopoly power of entities like Live Nation and Ticketmaster.

On Wednesday, Senators Klobuchar and Mike Lee sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust Jonathan Kanter, citing their findings from the January hearing and encouraging the Justice Department’s antitrust division to investigate further and act if it finds the company has indeed “walled itself off from competitive pressure at the expense of the industry and fans.” If that’s the case, so long as the division really looks for even a moment, it’ll have plenty of justification to take action.

Students Across Florida Walk Out in Protest of Ron DeSantis

The Florida governor has led an authoritarian onslaught on education in the state.

Octavio Jones/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Students at a Defend New College protest in Sarasota, Florida, on January 31

Students at Florida public universities, including Florida State University, the University of Florida, and Florida International University, among others, staged a coordinated walkout Thursday in protest of Governor Ron DeSantis’s ongoing attacks on education, including policies targeting people of color and LGBTQ people.

The student protests were inspired in part by the DeSantis administration’s order for public universities to provide data on how many people seek gender-affirming care. But the collective action also came to be a stance against the broader authoritarian onslaught directed underneath the DeSantis administration.

Florida school districts are banning books en masse, while others are closing their libraries in order to avoid prosecution under a new law that requires a “specialist” to review every book in school. The New College of Florida’s president was forced out by the DeSantis-stacked board of trustees and replaced with another DeSantis ally. DeSantis has pushed through the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which prevents discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity through third grade. He has lobbied for the “Stop Woke Act,” which restricts teaching on race in colleges. And he has announced plans to mandate Western civilization courses and to defund diversity, equity, and inclusion programs on state college campuses.

DeSantis also banned schools from being able to teach Advanced Placement African American Studies, after his administration first pushed the College Board to water down the class anyway. He even filed an administrative complaint against the Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation for hosting a drag show, stripping the organization of its liquor license.

While it may feel easy to yield to frustration or cynicism in the face of DeSantian authoritarianism, the kids, as always, are not relenting—for themselves, and those they may not ever know.

“Ron DeSantis, we’re on our way to take you down and we’re full-steam ahead for a better day,” Dream Defenders Tallahassee organizer Malik Gary told Teen Vogue. “For people that work in the minority class, for people of the Black and brown community, for people that identify in the LGBTQIA community, for folks that are somebody, no matter what color, or race, or gender, or ethnicity. Everybody is somebody and deserves respect.”

Democrats Slam Joe Biden for “Repackaged Trump-Era” Asylum Ban

The new policy makes it harder for people who are otherwise eligible to seek asylum in the United States.

Joe Biden
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Democrats are slamming President Joe Biden’s new immigration policy, with many branding it no better than the measures seen under his predecessor, Donald Trump.

The convoluted policy prevents adults or families from receiving asylum in the United States if they traveled through another country en route and did not apply for (and were denied) asylum there. The new process to apply for asylum in the U.S. includes multiple steps that are neither obvious nor easy to accomplish. It also requires immigrants to use a phone app, CPB One, that is poorly designed and glitchy.

Democratic Representative Jamaal Bowman slammed the policy Thursday as “extreme” and “not supported by U.S. law.” His fellow New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez urged Biden’s administration to rethink the policy, which she argued was far too restrictive.

Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley both called seeking asylum a “fundamental human right,” with Omar adding the policy “flies in the face of international law, U.S. law, and basic morality.”

Other Democrats have been pushing back on the policy since it was unveiled on Tuesday. Senators Bob Menendez, Cory Booker, Alex Padilla, and Ben Ray Lujan released a joint statement warning the policy “only perpetuates the harmful myth that asylum seekers are a threat to this nation.”

Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Jerry Nadler called on the president in another joint statement to increase the number of pathways to asylum instead of restricting them. “The ability to seek asylum is a bedrock principle protected by federal law and should never be violated,” they said.

Biden has come under fire since taking office for what Republicans have deemed a crisis at the southern border. Border crossings have reached their highest level in 20 years, and many lawmakers have warned that the U.S. is not equipped to handle the massive influx of people. This latest policy is an attempt to stem that flow, but many immigration rights groups say it could prevent tens of thousands of people from claiming asylum.

“This asylum ban is, at its core, Trump’s asylum ban under a different name. It will leave the most vulnerable people in much the same position as Trump’s policy did—at risk and unfairly denied the protection of asylum for reasons that have nothing to do with their need for refuge,” Anu Joshi, the deputy director of the ACLU’s National Political Advocacy Department, said.

The National Immigration Justice Center and its partner groups are preparing to sue the Biden administration if the law passes, noting that a similar Trump policy did not stand up in court.

Adding to the sting was Biden praising Poland for accepting so many Ukrainian refugees, just hours before his administration unveiled the new measure.