Facebook keeps policy protecting political ads | ABS-CBN News

ad
Facebook logos are seen on a screen in this picture illustration taken Dec. 2, 2019. Johanna Geron, Reuters/file

SAN FRANCISCO — Defying pressure from Congress, Facebook said on Thursday that it would continue to allow political campaigns to use the site to target advertisements to particular slices of the electorate and that it would not police the truthfulness of the messages sent out.

The stance put Facebook, the most important digital platform for political ads, at odds with some of the other large tech companies, which have begun to put new limits on political ads.

Facebook’s decision, telegraphed in recent months by executives, is likely to harden criticism of the company heading into this year’s presidential election.

Political advertising cuts to the heart of Facebook’s outsize role in society, and the company has found itself squeezed between liberal critics, who want it to do a better job of policing its various social media platforms, and conservatives, who say their views are being unfairly muzzled.

The issue has raised important questions regarding how heavy a hand technology companies like Facebook — which also owns Instagram and the messaging app WhatsApp — and Google should exert when deciding what types of political content they will and will not permit.

By maintaining a status quo, Facebook executives are essentially saying they are doing the best they can without government guidance and see little benefit to the company or the public in changing.

In a blog post, a company official echoed Facebook’s earlier calls for lawmakers to set firm rules.

“In the absence of regulation, Facebook and other companies are left to design their own policies,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management overseeing the advertising integrity division, said in the post. “We have based ours on the principle that people should be able to hear from those who wish to lead them, warts and all, and that what they say should be scrutinized and debated in public.”

Other social media companies have decided otherwise, and some had hoped Facebook would quietly follow their lead. In late October, Twitter’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, banned all political advertising from his network, citing the challenges that novel digital systems present to civic discourse. Google quickly followed suit with limits on political ads across some of its properties, though narrower in scope.

Reaction to Facebook’s policy broke down largely along party lines.

The Trump campaign, which has been highly critical of any attempts by technology companies to regulate political advertising and has already spent more than $27 million on the platform, largely supported Facebook’s decision not to interfere in targeting ads or to set fact-checking standards.

“Our ads are always accurate so it’s good that Facebook won’t limit political messages because it encourages more Americans to be involved in the process,” said Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for the Trump campaign. “This is much better than the approaches from Twitter and Google, which will lead to voter suppression.”

Democratic presidential candidates and outside groups decried the decision.

“Facebook is paying for its own glowing fake news coverage, so it’s not surprising they’re standing their ground on letting political figures lie to you,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Twitter.

Warren, who has been among the most critical of Facebook and regularly calls for major tech companies to be broken up, reiterated her stance that the social media company should face tougher policies.

The Biden campaign was similarly critical. The campaign has confronted Facebook over an ad run by President Donald Trump’s campaign that attacked Joe Biden’s record on Ukraine.

“Donald Trump’s campaign can (and will) still lie in political ads,” Bill Russo, the deputy communications director for Biden, said in a statement. “Facebook can (and will) still profit off it. Today’s announcement is more window dressing around their decision to allow paid misinformation.”

But many Democratic groups willing to criticize Facebook had to walk a fine line; they have pushed for more regulation when it comes to fact-checking political ads, but they have been adamantly opposed to any changes to the ad-targeting features.

On Thursday, some Democratic outside groups welcomed Facebook’s decision not to limit micro-targeting, but still thought the policy fell short.

“These changes read to us mostly as a cover for not making the change that is most vital: ensuring politicians are not allowed to use Facebook as a tool to lie to and manipulate voters,” said Madeline Kriger, who oversees digital ad buying at Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC.

Other groups, however, said Facebook had been more thoughtful about political ads than its industry peers.

“Facebook opted against limiting ad targeting, because doing so would have unnecessarily restricted a valuable tool that campaigns of all sizes rely on for fundraising, registering voters, building crowds and organizing volunteers,” said Tara McGowan, chief executive of Acronym, a non-profit group that works on voter organization and progressive causes.

Facebook has played down the business opportunity in political ads, saying the vast majority of its revenue came from commercial, not political, ads. But lawmakers have noted that Facebook ads could be a focal point of Trump’s campaign as well as those of top Democrats.

Facebook’s hands-off ad policy has already allowed for misleading advertisements. In October, a Facebook ad from the Trump campaign made false accusations about Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. The ad quickly went viral and was viewed by millions. After the Biden campaign asked Facebook to take down the ad, the company refused.

“Our approach is grounded in Facebook’s fundamental belief in free expression, respect for the democratic process and the belief that, in mature democracies with a free press, political speech is already arguably the most scrutinized speech there is,” Facebook’s head of global elections policy, Katie Harbath, wrote in the letter to the Biden campaign.

In an attempt to provoke Facebook, Warren’s presidential campaign ran an ad falsely claiming that the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, was backing the reelection of Trump. Facebook did not take the ad down.

Criticism seemed to stiffen Zuckerberg’s resolve. Company officials said he and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s president, had ultimately made the decision to stand firm.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University in October, Zuckerberg said he believed in the power of unfettered speech, including in paid advertising, and did not want to be in the position to police what politicians could and could not say to constituents. Facebook’s users, he said, should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.

“People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society,” he said.

Facebook officials have repeatedly said significant changes to its rules for political or issue ads could harm the ability of smaller, less well-funded organizations to raise money and organize across the network.

Instead of overhauling its policies, Facebook has made small tweaks. Leathern said Facebook would add greater transparency features to its library of political advertising in the coming months, a resource for journalists and outside researchers to scrutinize the types of ads run by the campaigns.

Facebook also will add a feature that allows users to see fewer campaign and political issue ads in their news feeds, something the company has said many users have requested.

There was considerable debate inside Facebook about whether it should change. Late last year, hundreds of employees supported an internal memo that called on Zuckerberg to limit the abilities of Facebook’s political advertising products.

On Dec. 30, Andrew Bosworth, the head of Facebook’s virtual and augmented reality division, wrote on his internal Facebook page that, as a liberal, he found himself wanting to use the social network’s powerful platform against Trump.

But Bosworth said that even though keeping the current policies in place “very well may lead to” Trump’s reelection, it was the right decision. Dozens of Facebook employees pushed back on Bosworth’s conclusions, arguing in the comments section below his post that politicians should be held to the same standard that applies to other Facebook users.

For now, Facebook appears willing to risk disinformation in support of unfettered speech.

“Ultimately, we don’t think decisions about political ads should be made by private companies,” Leathern said. “Frankly, we believe the sooner Facebook and other companies are subject to democratically accountable rules on this, the better.”

2020 The New York Times Company

Related posts

Why the fight against disinformation, sham accounts and trolls won’t be any easier in 2020

2020 Election

The big tech companies have announced aggressive steps to keep trolls, bots and online fakery from marring another presidential election — from Facebook’s removal of billions of fake accounts to Twitter’s spurning of all political ads.

But it’s a never-ending game of whack-a-mole that’s only getting harder as we barrel toward the 2020 election. Disinformation peddlers are deploying new, more subversive techniques and American operatives have adopted some of the deceptive tactics Russians tapped in 2016. Now, tech companies face thorny and sometimes subjective choices about how to combat them — at times drawing flak from both Democrats and Republicans as a result.

This is our roundup of some of the evolving challenges Silicon Valley faces as it tries to counter online lies and bad actors heading into the 2020 election cycle:

1) American trolls may be a greater threat than Russians

Russia-backed trolls notoriously flooded social media with disinformation around the presidential election in 2016, in what Robert Mueller’s investigators described as a multimillion-dollar plot involving years of planning, hundreds of people and a wave of fake accounts posting news and ads on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Google-owned YouTube.

This time around — as experts have warned — a growing share of the threat is likely to originate in America.

“It’s likely that there will be a high volume of misinformation and disinformation pegged to the 2020 election, with the majority of it being generated right here in the United States, as opposed to coming from overseas,” said Paul Barrett, deputy director of New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights.

Barrett, the author of a recent report on 2020 disinformation, noted that lies and misleading claims about 2020 candidates originating in the U.S. have already spread across social media. Those include manufactured sex scandals involving South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and a smear campaign calling Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “not an American black” because of her multiracial heritage. (The latter claim got a boost on Twitter from Donald Trump Jr.)

Before last year’s midterm elections, Americans similarly amplified fake messages such as a “#nomenmidterms” hashtag that urged liberal men to stay home from the polls to make “a Woman’s Vote Worth more.” Twitter suspended at least one person — actor James Woods — for retweeting that message.

“A lot of the disinformation that we can identify tends to be domestic,” said Nahema Marchal, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute’s Computational Propaganda Project. “Just regular private citizens leveraging the Russian playbook, if you will, to create … a divisive narrative, or just mixing factual reality with made-up facts.”

Tech companies say they’ve broadened their fight against disinformation as a result. Facebook, for instance, announced in October that it had expanded its policies against “coordinated inauthentic behavior” to reflect a rise in disinformation campaigns run by non-state actors, domestic groups and companies. But people tracking the spread of fakery say it remains a problem, especially inside closed groups like those popular on Facebook.

2) And policing domestic content is tricky

U.S. law forbids foreigners from taking part in American political campaigns — a fact that made it easy for members of Congress to criticize Facebook for accepting rubles as payment for political ads in 2016.

But Americans are allowed, even encouraged, to partake in their own democracy — which makes things a lot more complicated when they use social media tools to try to skew the electoral process. For one thing, the companies face a technical challenge: Domestic meddling doesn’t leave obvious markers such as ads written in broken English and traced back to Russian internet addresses.

More fundamentally, there’s often no clear line between bad-faith meddling and dirty politics. It’s not illegal to run a mud-slinging campaign or engage in unscrupulous electioneering. And the tech companies are wary of being seen as infringing on American’s right to engage in political speech — all the more so as conservatives such as President Donald Trump accuse them of silencing their voices.

Plus, the line between foreign and domestic can be blurry. Even in 2016, the Kremlin-backed troll farm known as the Internet Research Agency relied on Americans to boost their disinformation. Now, claims with hazy origins are being picked up without need for a coordinated 2016-style foreign campaign. Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who has spent recent years focused on online disinformation, points to Trump’s promotion of the theory that Ukraine significantly meddled in the 2016 U.S. election, a charge that some experts trace back to Russian security forces.

“It’s hard to know if something is foreign or domestic,” said Rosenberg, once it “gets swept up in this vast ‘Wizard of Oz’-like noise machine.”

3) Bad actors are learning

Experts agree on one thing: The election interference tactics that social media platforms encounter in 2020 will look different from those they’ve trying to fend off since 2016.

“What we’re going to see is the continued evolution and development of new approaches, new experimentation trying to see what will work and what won’t,” said Lee Foster, who leads the information operations intelligence analysis team at the cybersecurity firm FireEye.

Foster said the “underlying motivations” of undermining democratic institutions and casting doubt on election results will remain constant, but the trolls have already evolved their tactics.

For instance, they’ve gotten better at obscuring their online activity to avoid automatic detection, even as social media platforms ramp up their use of artificial intelligence software to dismantle bot networks and eradicate inauthentic accounts.

“One of the challenges for the platforms is that, on the one hand, the public understandably demands more transparency from them about how they take down or identify state-sponsored attacks or how they take down these big networks of authentic accounts, but at the same time they can’t reveal too much at the risk of playing into bad actors’ hands,” said Oxford’s Marchal.

Researchers have already observed extensive efforts to distribute disinformation through user-generated posts — known as “organic” content — rather than the ads or paid messages that were prominent in the 2016 disinformation campaigns.

Foster, for example, cited trolls impersonating journalists or other more reliable figures to give disinformation greater legitimacy. And Marchal noted a rise in the use of memes and doctored videos, whose origins can be difficult to track down. Jesse Littlewood, vice president at advocacy group Common Cause, said social media posts aimed at voter suppression frequently appear no different from ordinary people sharing election updates in good faith — messages such as “you can text your vote” or “the election’s a different day” that can be “quite harmful.”

Tech companies insist they are learning, too. Since the 2016 election, Google, Facebook and Twitter have devoted security experts and engineers to tackling disinformation in national elections across the globe, including the 2018 midterms in the United States. The companies say they have gotten better at detecting and removing fake accounts, particularly those engaged in coordinated campaigns.

But other tactics may have escaped detection so far. NYU’s Barrett noted that disinformation-for-hire operations sometimes employed by corporations may be ripe for use in U.S. politics, if they’re not already.

He pointed to a recent experiment conducted by the cyber threat intelligence firm Recorded Future, which said it paid two shadowy Russian “threat actors” a total of just $6,050 to generate media campaigns promoting and trashing a fictitious company. Barrett said the project was intended “to lure out of the shadows firms that are willing to do this kind of work,” and demonstrated how easy it is to generate and sow disinformation.

Real-life examples include a hyper-partisan skewed news operation started by a former Fox News executive and Facebook’s accusations that an Israeli social media company profited from creating hundreds of fake accounts. That “shows that there are firms out there that are willing and eager to engage in this kind of underhanded activity,” Barrett said.

4) Not all lies are created equal

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are largely united in trying to take down certain kinds of false information, such as targeted attempts to drive down voter turnout. But their enforcement has been more varied when it comes to material that is arguably misleading.

In some cases, the companies label the material factually dubious or use their algorithms to limit its spread. But in the lead-up to 2020, the companies’ rules are being tested by political candidates and government leaders who sometimes play fast and loose with the truth.

“A lot of the mainstream campaigns and politicians themselves tend to rely on a mix of fact and fiction,” Marchal said. “It’s often a lot of … things that contain a kernel of truth but have been distorted.”

One example is the flap over a Trump campaign ad — which appeared on Facebook, YouTube and some television networks — suggesting that former Vice President Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine into firing a prosecutor to squelch an investigation into an energy company whose board included Biden’s son Hunter. In fact, the Obama administration and multiple U.S. allies had pushed for removing the prosecutor for slow-walking corruption investigations. The ad “relies on speculation and unsupported accusations to mislead viewers,” the nonpartisan site FactCheck.org concluded.

The debate has put tech companies at the center of a tug of war in Washington. Republicans have argued for more permissive rules to safeguard constitutionally protected political speech, while Democrats have called for greater limits on politicians’ lies.

Democrats have especially lambasted Facebook for refusing to fact-check political ads, and have criticized Twitter for letting politicians lie in their tweets and Google for limiting candidates’ ability to finely tune the reach of their advertising — all examples, the Democrats say, of Silicon Valley ducking the fight against deception.

Jesse Blumenthal, who leads the tech policy arm of the Koch-backed Stand Together coalition, said expecting Silicon Valley to play truth cop places an undue burden on tech companies to litigate messy disputes over what’s factual.

“Most of the time the calls are going to be subjective, so what they end up doing is putting the platforms at the center of this rather than politicians being at the center of this,” he said.

Further complicating matters, social media sites have generally granted politicians considerably more leeway to spread lies and half-truths through their individual accounts and in certain instances through political ads. “We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an October speech at Georgetown University in which he defended his company’s policy.

But Democrats say tech companies shouldn’t profit off false political messaging.

“I am supportive of these social media companies taking a much harder line on what content they allow in terms of political ads and calling out lies that are in political ads, recognizing that that’s not always the easiest thing to draw those distinctions,” Democratic Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington state told POLITICO.

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine

Related posts

2020 presidential race could weigh on FANG stocks

person

The 2020 presidential race could weigh on ‘FANG’ stocks as Democrats attack big tech

As 2020 presidential campaigns accelerate, the dominance of Silicon Valley technology companies is likely to remain a key issue for Democratic candidates, Bank of America analyst Justin Post said in a note to investors on Monday.

“Campaign focus on FANG regulation [is] likely here to stay,” Post said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren last week unveiled a plan to break up the biggest tech companies if she is elected president. The Massachusetts Democrat is especially focused on four of Wall Street’s beloved “FAANG” stocks: Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google-parent Alphabet. The group also includes Netflix.

“The giant tech companies right now are eating up little, tiny businesses, start-ups – and competing unfairly,” Warren told CBS on Sunday.

“We’ve got to break these guys apart,” Warren added. “It’s like in baseball: You can be the umpire or you can own one of the teams, but you don’t get to be the umpire and own the teams.”

Post analyzed the “breakup scenarios” for Alphabet, Amazon and Facebook, which Warren referred to repeatedly in her criticism. While forced spinoffs may largely help the former two tech giants, Post thinks Facebook is the most at risk to seriously losing shareholder value.

Bank of America sees “a partial breakup of Alphabet (including spin of YouTube or Waymo)” as possibly “value enhancing.” With the broad reach of each of Alphabet’s business units, as separate entities, each brand “has enough scale to capture vast advertiser interest,” Post added.

Similarly for Amazon, Post said a breakup “would be somewhat neutral for the stock,” as investors in Jeff Bezos’ empire “are generally comfortable” with how much Amazon’s businesses would be worth on their own.

Breaking up Facebook “could be most concerning for investors,” Post said. He found that if Facebook’s Instagram and WhatsApp platforms were separated, they “would likely compete directly with Facebook for usage and advertisers, raising concerns on increased competition.”

That overlap in Facebook’s businesses is a key reason Warren believes they should be separated.

“They bought the competition and now they’re sucking the data out of the competition,” Warren said.

While Bank of America did not include Apple in its breakup analysis, Warren confirmed to CNBC that she intends to break up the iPhone maker. In her interview with CBS, Warren argued that she is not against markets, which she said “produce a lot of good,” but instead thinks “markets have to have rules.”

“It is not capitalism to have one giant that comes in and dominates, a monopolist that dominates a market,” Warren said.

Warren said recent talks with technology venture capital firms revealed that the places where Amazon, Facebook and Google compete are known as “kill zones” to entrepreneurs.

“They call it the kill zone because they don’t want to fund businesses in that space because they know Amazon will eat them up, Facebook will eat them up, Google will eat them up,” Warren said.

Related posts

7 takeaways from the CNN/New York Times Democratic presidential debate

person

7 highlights from the Democratic debate - CNNPolitics

Westerville, Ohio (CNN)Polls show that Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is now a front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. And on Tuesday night in Ohio, her 11 rivals acted like it.

And moderate candidates — some, like South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, fighting to climb into the top tier; others, like Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, just desperate to make the next debate stage — dropped the euphemisms and pressed their progressive foes in direct and sometimes personal terms.
Here are seven takeaways from Tuesday night’s debate:

    Warren under attack for the first time

    news

      Warren attacked from all sides on the debate stage

    Warren’s months-long march to the front of the polls finally put her in the position of being the most heavily targeted and scrutinized candidate on stage.
    Buttigieg and Klobuchar led the charge, assailing Warren over her answers on health care.
    Warren supports Sanders’ proposal for “Medicare for All” — replacing private insurance with everyone receiving coverage through a government-run plan. And while Sanders has acknowledged that Americans’ taxes would need to increase to pay for the plan, Warren refused to say whether the middle class’s taxes would go up — instead only saying that, because deductibles, premiums and co-pays would be eliminated, overall costs would decrease.
    Buttigieg accused her of dodging a yes-or-no question. “Your signature is to have a plan for everything, except this. No plan has been laid out to explain how a multi-trillion dollar hole in this plan that Sen. Warren is putting forward is supposed to get filled in,” he said.
    Klobuchar accused Warren of being dishonest. “We owe it to the American people to tell them where we will send the invoice,” she said.
    Warren later addressed the question of taxes, when former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke asked her — during a discussion about Warren’s proposed wealth tax and child care coverage — whether she would raise middle-class taxes. “No,” she said — but the moment was mostly lost amid cross-talk.

    Bernie Sanders won the night

    And it had nothing to do with what happened on stage.
    In the debate’s final moments, the Washington Post broke the news that New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez plans to endorse Sanders. CNN then reported that two other members of the “Squad,” Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, will do the same.
    The pick-ups are huge. Some Democratic strategists think that outside of the Obamas, Ocasio-Cortez represents the most influential potential endorsement of the 2020 primary race.
    It also comes at a key moment for Sanders. Warren’s months-long ascent, fueled in part by progressives as she advocated some similar policies to Sanders, was on display Tuesday night, when the rest of the field treated her as the front-runner. If Ocasio-Cortez had supported her, it could have been the beginning of the end of Sanders’ chances.
    Instead, he gets a major injection of energy — and sends the signal that he’s far from done yet.

    Echoes of 2016 as the front-runners fight

    politics

      Warren takes a jab at Biden while complimenting Obama

    For most of the night, as Warren wore the biggest target, Biden slipped into the background. That changed near the end of the debate, when the field’s top tier — Biden, Warren and Sanders — finally unloaded on each other.
    The question that loomed over their: Biden has a lengthy record — but is it one that’s in line with where the Democratic electorate is now?
    It began when Biden touted his record in former President Barack Obama’s administration, pressuring Republicans to vote for measures such as the federal stimulus package.
    “We all have good ideas. The question is who is going to be able to get it done? How can you get it done?” Biden said. “And I’m not suggesting they can’t, but I’m suggesting that’s what we should look at.”
    That’s when Sanders pounced, attacking Biden — in a moment that felt similar to the Vermont senator’s 2016 debates with Hillary Clinton — over legislation Biden had supported and Sanders opposed over the last three decades.
    “Joe, you talked about working with Republicans and getting things done. But you know what, you also got done, and I say this as a good friend,” Sanders said. “You got the disastrous war in Iraq done. You got a bankruptcy bill, which is hurting middle class families all over this country. You got trade agreements like NAFTA and (trade relations) with China done, which have cost us 4 million jobs.”
    Then Warren jumped in.
    Responding to Biden’s assertion that he is best able to get things done, she pointed to her role in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama administration.
    Seemingly miffed to be denied a share of the credit, Biden interjected, nearly shouting, “I went on the floor and got you votes. I got votes for that bill. I convinced people to vote for it, so let’s get those things straight, too.”
    Warren responded by thanking Obama — but notably omitting Biden.
    “I am deeply grateful to President Obama, who fought so hard to make sure that agency was passed into law,” she said.

    Trouble for Biden?

    For the former vice president, fading into the background of a debate is a troubling sign because of what it suggests: that his foes view him as less of a threat than they once did.
    But just as the good news had come late for Sanders, the real bad news for Biden’s campaign came even later Wednesday night.
    In a scheduling oddity, reports covering the third quarter of 2019 were due in to the Federal Election Commission by midnight — an hour after the debate ended.
    Biden’s report revealed that his campaign ended September with just $9 million on hand. That’s far short of Sanders’ $33.7 million, Warren’s $25.7 million and Buttigieg’s $23.4 million — and is even below California Sen. Kamala Harris’ $10.5 million.

    A more aggressive Buttigieg

    7 highlights from the Democratic debate - CNNPolitics

      Buttigieg to O’Rourke: I don’t need lessons from you

    The South Bend, Indiana, mayor had made it obvious he planned to come out swinging. In the days before the debate, he’d launched an ad that was critical of Warren and Sanders over Medicare for All, criticized Warren’s grassroots fundraising strategy for the general election as being reliant on “pocket change,” and attacked O’Rourke over his support for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles in an interview on Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.”
    The exchanges with Warren over health care might be the night’s most memorable.
    But he also got a chance to tout an element of his own biography — his military service — in clashing with Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only other military veteran in the field, over her call to end “endless wars.”
    “The slaughter going on in Syria is not a consequence of American presence, it a consequence of a withdrawal and a betrayal by this President of American allies and American values,” he said.
    Buttigieg also sharply criticized O’Rourke — at one point, in personal terms — over the former Texas congressman’s proposed mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles.
    7 highlights from the Democratic debate - CNNPolitics
    “You just made it clear that you don’t know how this is going to take weapons off the street,” he said. “If you can develop the plan further, we can have a debate. But we can’t wait.”
    O’Rourke responded that mass shootings are a “crisis” and that Democrats should make the case for farther-reaching gun control measures. “Let’s decide what we are going to believe in, what we are going to achieve, and let’s bring this country together in order to do that,” he said.
    Buttigieg shot back: “The problem isn’t the polls, the problem is the policy. And I don’t need lessons from you on courage, political or personal.”
    “I don’t care what that meant to me or my candidacy,” O’Rourke replied. But to survivors of gun violence, and March For Our Lives, the gun control advocacy group founded by students after the Parkland, Florida, shooting last year, “that was a slap in the face to every single one of those groups,” he said. Moments later, the organization tweeted praise for O’Rourke’s position.

    Klobuchar, unleashed

    With the Democratic National Committee raising its fundraising and polling thresholds for the November debate, Klobuchar walked on stage facing the real possibility that this debate could be her last.
    Her response: Go hard at the Democratic primary’s most ascendant candidate, Warren.
    “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream is something that you can actually get done,” she said of Warren at one point, as she criticized her support for Medicare for All.
    Klobuchar’s performance on Tuesday stands in stark contrast to her first three debate performances, which were more muted.
    And there is a reason for that: After qualifying for the first four debates, Klobuchar is on the verge of not qualifying for the fifth Democratic debate in November. While Klobuchar has the required number of donors, she has yet to reach the polling threshold, something that her team believes she can boost with a well-reviewed debate.
    Then there’s the portion of her approach that’s in the eye of the beholder: One of her trademarks as a candidate — goofy humor — continued on Tuesday night.
    “Vladimir Putin is someone who has shot down planes over Ukraine, who has poisoned his opponent and we have not talked about what we need to do to protect ourselves from Russia invading our election,” Klobuchar said. “This wasn’t meddling. That’s what I do when I call my daughter on a Saturday night and ask her what she’s doing.”

    Yang’s ‘Freedom Dividend’ gets an airing

    Andrew Yang launched his presidential campaign in 2017 with a plan to give every American $1,000 a month to combat job losses and automation — and very little attention from media and voters.
    Almost two years later, Yang’s plan for a universal basic income, which he’s calling a “freedom dividend,” remains his signature policy proposal. But his impact on the race has increased dramatically — a reality that was on display on Tuesday night when the candidates on stage debated a universal basic income and job losses to automation in depth on national television.
    “We have a freedom dividend of $1,000 a month, it recognizes the work in our families and communities. It helps all Americans transition,” Yang said. “When we put the money into our hands, we can build a trickle up economy from our people, our families and our communities up. It will enable us to do the work that we want to do. This is the sort of vision in response to the fourth industrial revolution that we have to embrace.”
    Yang has talked about his universal basic income at previous debates. What made Tuesday different was that other candidates — some of whom largely ignored Yang in previous debates — began to seriously debate automation and a basic income.
    “I believe that we need to address a community being impacted by automation,” said former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro.
    “I agree with my friend Andrew Yang. Universal basic income is a good idea to help provide that security so people can make choices that they want to see,” Gabbard said.
      But what clearly cemented Yang’s rise is that the debate over universal basic income got him into a direct argument with Warren, who said the issue is broader.
      After the debate, Yang told CNN that Warren — who, with Biden, is at the top of the Democratic field — had asked him to send her details on his proposal. “She said she wanted to see the data,” he said.

      Related posts

      Bernie Sanders and the 2020 age debate

      (CNN)With only120daysuntil the Iowa caucuses, the 2020 election will be here before you know it.Every Sunday, I round up the5BIG storylines you need to know to understand the upcoming week on the campaign trail. And they’re ranked — so the No. 1 story is the most important of the coming week.

      5. Trump, unleashed: Donald Trump has spent the last week talking and tweeting almost nonstop as he tries to fight his way out of mounting allegations over his pressure campaign to get the Ukrainians to look into debunked allegations of wrongdoing against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
      And the rhetoric from Trump has gone to previously unseen heights — even for Trump. He’s accused Rep. Adam Schiff (California) of treason, he’s attacked Mitt Romney in deeply personal terms — more on that directly below — and he’s repeating, repeating, repeating long disproven lies.
      All of which means that when Trump travels to Minneapolis on Thursday for a “Keep America Great” rally, well, look out. Trump is always at his most, well, Trump-y at these campaign rallies — and, given the walls closing in on him in Washington, he could well use the Minnesota rally as a venting session the likes of which even longtime Trump observers rarely see.
      Stay tuned. It’s going to be a doozy.
      4. Any other Mitt Romneys out there?: Republicans have, almost uniformly, closed ranks around Trump even as a second whistleblower has emerged regarding the President allegedly using the power of his office for political gain during interactions over the summer with Ukraine.
      Only Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah) has publicly criticized Trump in any way, calling the President’s urgings of China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens “wrong” and “appalling.” Trump immediately struck back, referring to Romney as a “pompous ‘ass'” (I have no idea why he put “ass” in quotes) and suggesting that the 2012 Republican nominee was “begging” to be his secretary of state.
      Any Republican who was weighing speaking out about Trump’s behavior with Ukraine (and his plea for China to investigate his main rival for the 2020 nomination) now can have no illusions about what such criticism will be met with: Pure, unadulterated anger from Trump — and likely vilification from the President’s base.
      Is any prominent Republican other than Romney willing to risk speaking out when that reaction is assured? Principle vs. politics, anyone?
      3. Fundraising losers…: With the third fundraising quarter ending at the close of last month, most of the major candidates have released how much they brought in and how much they spent between July 1 and September 30.
      Let’s go through the losers first.
      * Joe Biden: When you are a former vice president and the race’s frontrunner, you need to be at or very close to the top of the money chase. Biden’s $15 million raised in the third quarter is well off the pace and a significant drop-off from when Biden raised $21.5 million from April 1 to June 30 — his first three months of active fundraising. His numbers will re-ignite the debate over whether he has real grassroots energy behind his establishment candidacy. Think about this: The mayor of South Bend, Indiana — Pete Buttigieg — raised $4 million more than Biden in the third quarter and has now out-raised the former vice president for six months straight.
      * Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator’s plea for $1.7 million in the final days of the quarter — in order, he said, for him to remain in the race — drew a ton of publicity. Even though Booker met his goal, he still only brought in $6 million for the entire three-month period. That likely means he will be facing another dire financial deadline in the not-too-distant future.
      2. … and fundraising winners: 
      * Bernie Sanders: Even as his poll numbers have stagnated somewhat, the Vermont senator’s small-dollar, online fundraising network continues to deliver. Sanders topped the field in the third quarter with more than $25 million raised and has now raised more than $71 million this year. That ensures he will not only have real organizations in all of the early states but will also be able to continue fighting for the nomination for months.
      * Elizabeth Warren: While Sanders edged out Warren for the top spot by about $500,000, Warren’s third quarter fundraising is yet another data point proving how much momentum she has built behind her candidacy. Warren already has the best organization in Iowa, and fundraising like she put on the board over the last three months ensures her campaign will be able to fund a (TV) air assault as well.
      * Andrew Yang: The tech entrepreneur raised $10 million in the third quarter, which, at least to me was the single most surprising result of the fundraising race. Yang’s total put him well above what Booker, as well as Sen. Michael Bennet (Colorado) and Gov. Steve Bullock (Montana) raised, and within shouting distance of Sen. Kamala Harris (California). That’s a stunner, and shows how far he’s come since the year started and almost no one knew who he was.
      1. The age/health debate is here: It was probably inevitable, given that the four most likely candidates to be president in 2021 are 70+ years old, but Bernie Sanders’ recent heart attack has officially injected the issue of age and health into the 2020 campaign.
      After several days of uncertainty, Sanders’ campaign confirmed that he had suffered a heart attack on the campaign trail and, following his release from the hospital late last week, he has returned to Vermont. His campaign has canceled its events until further notice but has said Sanders will be at the next debate — set for October 15 in Ohio.
      While the relatively advanced ages of Sanders (78), Joe Biden (76) and Elizabeth Warren (70) has been a sort of low buzz in the background of the Democratic race so far, those days are now over. All three candidates had previously pledged to release their medical records before the Iowa caucuses on February 3, 2020, but the urgency of those releases is significantly higher now than it was even a week ago.
      (Remember that Donald Trump was the oldest person ever elected to a first term when he won the presidency in 2016 at age 70. During the campaign, his personal physician released a letter proclaiming that Trump “would be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.” Trump is now 73. In January of this year, he underwent a physical which found him in “very good health overall.”)
      In a May Pew Research Center poll, just 3% of Democrats said their ideal candidate would be in their 70s. A near- majority — 47% — said a candidate in their 50s would be best. On the other hand, more than 6 in 10 people told Gallup in May they would vote for a presidential candidate over 70 years old.

      Related posts

      Trump and RNC raise $125 million for reelection bid in third quarter

      news

      (CNN)President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $125 million during the July-to-September fundraising quarter as Trump faces a fast-moving impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives and what will be a costly reelection fight in 2020.

      “President Trump has built a juggernaut of a campaign, raising record amounts of money at a record pace,” Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said in a statement.
      Ronna McDaniel, the RNC’s chairwoman, said attacks from Democrats have spurred the President’s supporters to open their wallets.
        “We are investing millions on the airwaves and on the ground to hold House Democrats accountable, highlight their obstruction, and take back the House and reelect President Trump in 2020,” she said.
        The haul by Team Trump exceeds the $105 million that Trump and the national party raised through their joint efforts during the second quarter of the year. Trump’s campaign has already announced plans to deploy big sums to mount a defense of the President, running Facebook and television ads that focus on impeachment.
        Some of the Democrats hoping to challenge Trump next year are raising substantial sums, too.
        On Tuesday, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders reported collecting $25.3 million during the third quarter — the largest three-month haul posted so far by any of the 2020 Democratic presidential contenders and a sign of Sanders’ enduring strength with small-dollar contributors.
          South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg raised $19 million, his campaign announced Tuesday. Several other leading candidates — including the frontrunners in recent polling, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President joe Biden — had not disclosed their third quarter totals as of Tuesday evening.
          All candidates must report the details of their fundraising and spending to the Federal Election Commission by October 15.

          Related posts

          Elizabeth Warren Leads Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders for First Time in New Iowa Poll

          Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) took the lead in a new Des Moines Register Iowa poll on Saturday night, marking the first time the Massachusetts senator led both former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the first caucus state in the poll.

          According to the new survey, Warren leads at 22 percent, with Biden following at 20 and Sanders at 11 percent. No other candidate reached double digits but South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg followed at 9 percent, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) at 6 percent to round out the top five. Additionally, the poll found that Warren was drawing the support of 32 percent of those who say that they caucused for Sanders in 2016 and that she narrowly led him among voters under age 35.

          Its the first time weve had someone other than Joe Biden at the top of the leader board, J. Ann Selzer, president of Selzer & Co. which conducted the poll, said.

          The poll comes as Sanders campaign has shaken up its staff in two early voting states.

          The Independent from Vermont remains at or near the top of most primary polls and no other candidate has matched his fundraising and grassroots organization capacity. But even with his staying power, he has been increasingly eclipsed in the eyes of opponents by Warren as the main progressive force in the race.

          Stuck in this position, Sanders campaign has shuffled staff in two early crucial primary states, where his operation replaced their New Hampshire state director and Iowa political director and a deputy Iowa field director. Some sympathetic to Sanders have noted that changing around staff at this juncture obviously demonstrates a sign of dissatisfaction with the senators status in the race. He continues to build and demonstrate a massive legion of support, hitting one million donors this weeka milestone no other candidate has reached yet.

          That explains why now, internally, the only message that Sanders team would convey is confidence, with one surrogate noting that the Vermont senators resources are so vast that his campaign will kick into an even higher gear with an anticipated television ad buy in the early states.

          There are two advantages that Senator Sanders has, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), a campaign co-chair, told The Daily Beast. Hes got the largest grassroots fundraising base. He hasnt yet gone on television in the early states. Hes going to go on television in the early states. Some of the other candidates have already been on television. Once he goes on television, hes going to be able to sustain it and have more resources to do that not just in the early states but in places like California.

          Despite Khannas claim about the senators plans, a spokesperson for the campaign later quickly denied that there would be an ad buy soon.

          Whether or not there will be, Sanders campaign for now is chalking up the staffing changes to isolated incidents and natural growing pains through the course of a campaign.

          Pundits in the Beltway might not believe it, but Bernie Sanders campaign in Iowa is out-organizing the entire field, and this is all powered by the most grassroots volunteers and donors of any campaign in the country.
          Iowa State Director Misty Rebik

          For instance, there had been some annoyance with how Joe Caiazzo had been running the New Hampshire operation. That was made clear by reported cheering last weekend when members of the state steering committee heard that he had been reassigned to Massachusetts.

          Sanders dominated in his neighboring state in the 2016 primary, which helped propel his campaign to become a major threat against Hillary Clinton. Now, he is locked in a tight contest with Biden and Warren, according to the Real Clear Politics average of recent polls.

          In Iowa, the campaign parted ways with political director Jess Mazour, though in that case there was far less apparent open negativity about the way in which she was running things.

          Well continue to make moves that we feel best position this campaign to win, campaign manager Faiz Shakir said in a statement to The Washington Post about the move. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

          Sanders famously fought Clinton to a near-draw in the Hawkeye State in 2016, portending the strength of his campaign to come. Though famously difficult to poll, he is now basically deadlocked in second place with Warren behind Biden. Yet his campaign announced on Friday that they had surpassed one million voter contacts in the state, another sign of the strength of their ground operation that they hope pays off next year.

          Pundits in the Beltway might not believe it, but Bernie Sanders campaign in Iowa is out-organizing the entire field, and this is all powered by the most grassroots volunteers and donors of any campaign in the country, Iowa State Director Misty Rebik said in a statement.

          The purgatory status for Sanders campaign was demonstrated by an Iowa poll on Saturday night that showed him slipping. But theres no doubt that he remains among one of the top contenders for the nomination, with other campaigns even saying as much. In a memo on Saturday, Sen. Cory Bookers (D-NJ) campaign manager issued an urgent plea for fundraising in the next 10 days to effectively keep him in the race. Within it, he noted that Biden, Sanders, Warren and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are the four campaigns with enough resources to compete for the long haul currently.

          Warren has completely out campaigned him. I scratch my head and go how is Bernie going to get around her?
          Unaffiliated Democratic consultant

          While he still is among the top tier of candidates in the crowded field, there is some evidence to suggest that Sanders opponents are more interested in training their fire on Warren for now. On Thursday, a number of the other presidential contenders leveled various criticisms at the Massachusetts Democrat, with Buttigieg explicitly invoking her by name to say that she was extremely evasive in answers about Medicare for All, the primary policy plank that has animated Sanders political vision for years.

          Warren also won the support this week of the Working Families Party, a left-wing political outfit that supported Sanders in the last primary. The voting process, and the lack of a revealed tally, has led to some acrimony from Sanders supporters who have leveled charges that the leadership of WFP essentially commandeered the process to back Warren.

          Maurice Mitchell, WFPs national director and Nelini Stamp, national organizing director at WFP, wrote about the selection process in response to criticism that they had heard. In turn, they also urged that supporters remain positive about both candidates.

          Both Warren and Sanders are fighting for the world we want to see, and both have brought new and vital ideas into the political debate, they wrote. Our endorsement of Senator Warren does not diminish our respect for Senator Sanders, and to be clear, were going to be relentlessly positive about both of them in the months ahead.

          Sanders and Warren appear poised to remain relentlessly positive about each other as wellas neither side has demonstrated a willingness or desire to go negative. In fact, Khanna defended both of them against Buttigiegs attack line in a tweet on Friday.

          But underscoring some of the recent moves by the campaign appears to be a notion from some that Warren is outflanking Sanders for now. And it remains to be seen whether she is having an ephemeral moment or steadily climbing her way to the nomination.

          Warren has completely out campaigned him, an unaffiliated Democratic consultant familiar with the campaign told The Daily Beast. I scratch my head and go how is Bernie going to get around her?

          Related posts

          Bernie Sanders Hails Volunteer Army As Advantage Over Rivals

          Volunteers for the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have organized and hosted over 11,000 events, including more than 2,000 in California, the campaign announced Tuesday evening.

          The achievement, which top Sanders campaign organizers revealed in a conference call with over 7,000 supporters, reflects what the Sanders campaign sees as a secret weapon as it seeks to stand out in a crowded field of candidates: a “distributed” ― or volunteer-run ― organizing system that it innovated in the 2016 race and has fine-tuned.

          Joining the call with volunteers after several of his advisers spoke, Sanders affirmed that, although the campaign would engage in conventional tactics like television and radio advertisements, its strength was the devotion of its supporters, many of whom have become volunteers.

          “We are going to win this campaign because we … are going to have the strongest grassroots movement of any campaign,” he said. “That is how we win this thing. We win this going to our base, our strength of support.”

          The conceit of distributed organizing, which has its fair share of skeptics, is that campaigns can amplify by orders of magnitude the effect of the staff they employ directly by empowering exceptionally motivated volunteers to run their own house parties, lead their own canvasses and develop, and monitor their own voter contacts by phone and text message. It differs from traditional campaign volunteering in terms of the resources and technology the Sanders campaign, and others inspired by it, have expended on creating an infrastructure to facilitate the work of its most dedicated supporters.

          news

          Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks at the Democratic National Committee’s summer meeting in San Francisco on Aug. 23.

          It will be difficult to fully measure the organizing technique’s effectiveness prior to Feb. 3, when Sanders competes in Iowa’s Democratic caucus.

          On Tuesday evening’s call, the campaign said its volunteers had made 2 million calls and sent 30 million text messages to voters in early states. It also recently concluded a two-week campus organizing boot camp, or “summer school,” that it says graduated more than 1,500 college and graduate school students who plan to serve as campaign ambassadors and organizers at their universities.

          A viral initiative earlier this month asking Sanders supporters to share on social media the life experience that brought them to the campaign ― dubbed “#MyBernieStory” ― doubled as a volunteer recruitment technique. The campaign directed Sanders supporters who used the campaign’s organizing app, Bern, to post “#MyBernieStory” on Twitter or Facebook to use a digital tool to contact several other voters by text message and encourage them to get involved in the campaign. The campaign estimates that it reached the equivalent number of voters through those digitally facilitated connections as it would normally reach from knocking on 63,000 doors.

          Critics of distributed organizing argue that it is no substitute for the professionally run field organizing teams that have powered successful presidential campaigns. And on that front, Sanders got a later start than some of his rivals, beginning hiring field organizers in the early states only in May. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, by contrast, already had 50 staff members in Iowa by that time.

          The Sanders campaign insists, though, that distributed organizing aims not to supplant traditional field organizing but to magnify its impact. It now has dozens of paid, full-time field organizers in each of the four early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, as well as in California, a Super Tuesday state with a primary open to all registered voters.

          The conference call noted the campaign’s distributed organizing strategy has gone from identifying and recruiting volunteers to now putting that volunteer army to work more aggressively. Campaign organizing leaders invited call participants to volunteer in real time to host a “Plan to Win” house party in September, where volunteers will bond with their peers and receive marching orders for the next phase of the campaign. The campaign said it received 1,700 commitments from volunteers on the call to host such house parties.

          The Sanders campaign is hoping to capitalize on the momentum it has developed in recent weeks after a series of high-profile policy rollouts and endorsements, including his first official declaration of support from a national labor union

          The Sanders campaign, which has tangled bitterly with media outlets and pollsters for what it believes is bias against the Vermont senator, touted a national poll released Monday that showed Sanders in a statistical three-way tie for first place with Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden.

          But Sanders still trails Biden in the averages of polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that are essential to his success.

          His campaign has argued that polls, which generally survey a universe of likely voters, do not account for the ways in which his campaign is seeking to turn out infrequent and new voters often left out of polling. At least one leading pollster has disputed the Sanders campaign’s analysis of the polls’ shortcomings.

          Still, the Sanders campaign believes its success hinges on reaching those non-traditional voters ― and sees distributed organizing as a key tool to do it.

          “We will win this election ― we will win the Democratic nomination, we will defeat Trump ― because we are going to bring out people who, in many cases, have not participated in politics before,” Sanders said Tuesday evening. “And I’m talking about a generation of young people who in my view are the most progressive generation in the history of our country ― anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobia, anti-religious bigotry.”

          Related posts

          Democratic candidates unite in rage at Trump following latest mass shootings

          Democratic candidates unite in rage at Trump following latest mass shootings - CNNPolitics

          (CNN)The mass shootings in Texas and Ohio have turned the 2020 presidential campaign into an increasingly visceral referendum on the nature of Donald Trump’s presidency and the message that delivered him to the White House.

          The strategies and tactics adopted by the candidates have provided new insight and clues into how they would govern if elected, and the ways — over the coming months — they will seek to defeat not only Trump, but the principles underlying Trumpism. Their reactions have also signaled an a new willingness to draw a straight line between the President’s words and racist violence.

          Biden and Booker lash Trump in speeches

            Former Vice President Joe Biden and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker laced their calls for unity on Wednesday with lacerating attacks on Trump in specially scheduled speeches, Biden’s in Iowa and Booker from the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, where nine black parishioners were killed by a white supremacist gunman in 2015.
            From the beginning of his campaign, Biden has cast the 2020 election as a “battle for the soul of this nation.” But in the video announcing his candidacy, and in subsequent talks, he also suggested that Americans might look back at a one-term Trump presidency as “an aberrant moment in time.”
            Biden’s words on Wednesday in Iowa suggested he is moving toward a more historically complete message — reminiscent of the view that has been advocated most often by more progressive candidates, like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
            “I wish I could say that this all began with Donald Trump and will end with him. But it didn’t — and I won’t,” Biden said. “American history is not a fairytale. The battle for the soul of this nation has been a constant push-and-pull for 243 years between the American ideal, that says we’re all created equal, and the harsh reality that racism has long torn us apart.”
            The former vice president also offered a taunting dismissal of Trump’s recent, scripted remarks condemning the violence in Texas and Ohio.
            “In both clear language and in code, this President has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” Biden said, before baiting Trump — successfully — by describing the comments as a “low-energy, vacant-eyed mouthing of the words written for him.”
            Trump, who was traveling between stops in the Ohio and Texas during Biden’s speech, obviously caught wind of Biden’s remarks and responded on Twitter.
            “Watching Sleepy Joe Biden making a speech. Sooo Boring!,” he wrote, before suggesting a Biden presidency would please the Chinese government. Before setting out on his trip, Trump outside the White House drew an equivalence between white supremacist and antifascist groups.
            “I have concerns about the rise of any group of hate,” Trump said. “Whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy, whether it’s Antifa, whether it’s any group of hate I’m very concerned about it and I’ll do something about it.”
            Hours before Biden’s speech and almost a thousand miles away, Booker in South Carolina also cast the violence of the past days in a more sweeping context. Like Biden would, the New Jersey senator referenced the similarities between the language used by Trump to describe immigration and immigrants and the words found in the manifesto of the alleged Texas killer.
            “The act of anti-Latino, anti-immigrant hatred we witnessed this past weekend did not start with the hand that pulled the trigger,” Booker said. “It did not begin when a single white supremacist got into his car to travel 10 hours to kill as many human beings as he could.”
            Though he did not address Trump by name, Booker accused the President and his allies of emboldening racists and inciting the El Paso attack.
            The alleged killer’s dark fervor, he said, had been “planted in fertile soil, because the contradictions that have shadowed this country since its founding remain a part of our body politic. It was sowed by those who spoke the same words the El Paso murderer did: warning of an ‘invasion.’ It was sowed by those who spoke of an ‘infestation,’ and ‘disgusting cities,’ ‘rats and rodents,’ talking about majority-minority communities.”

            O’Rourke stays at home to fight

            While Booker and Biden purposed their remarks to specifically address the recent violence, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native whose life and campaign is still based in the city, has clung tight to his frightened community, effectively leaving the stump to lead the way back home.
            O’Rourke, whose 2018 Senate campaign became a national cause for Democrats following his viral defense of activist professional athletes, has spoken over the past few days with a moral vigor and clarity that seemed to have eluded him during a stagnant to-date presidential bid.
            Asked by a reporter after a Sunday in El Paso if there was anything Trump could do “to make this any better,” O’Rourke — emotional after a vigil for the victims and their families — shot back in frustration.
            “What do you think? You know the s–t he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know, like, members of the press, what the f–k?,” he said. “You know, I — it’s these questions that you know the answers to. I mean, connect the dots about what he’s been doing in this country. He’s not tolerating racism, he’s promoting racism. He’s not tolerating violence, he’s inciting racism and violence in this country.”
            O’Rourke’s profanity might have drawn the initial attention, but his message to the public echoed the indignation of voters who argue that the time for speculating over or trying to predict Trump’s behavior — when it has become so plain to see — should be over.
            The Texan will not go to Iowa this weekend, as previously planned, and has not yet decided when he will return to the campaign trail. But like the other candidates, he has been firm in connecting the President’s words to the bloody attack launched against his city.
            “(Trump) is trying to intimidate this community, to make us afraid of the border, of immigrants,” O’Rourke told reporters in El Paso on Wednesday morning.
            Like Biden, O’Rourke during a morning memorial at El Dorado High School, looked back to the founding of the country — pointing to its aspirations and how, despite great strides, “we have never fully lived up to that promise” — before turning to a defense of El Paso and similar places.
            “We are one of the safest cities, if not the safest, cities in the United States of America,” O’Rourke said. “We must remind ourselves and tell the rest of the country that we are safe not despite the fact that we are city of immigrants and asylum-seekers and refugees, people who came from the planet over to find a home here in El Paso, Texas, but that very fact is what makes us strong and successful and safe and secure in the first place.”
            Later on, as Trump made his way from Dayton, Ohio, where he visited shooting victims in the hospital, to El Paso, O’Rourke joined protests against the presidential visit, which local leaders like Rep. Veronica Escobar had advised against. In Trump’s last appearance in the city, for a political rally, a supporter attacked a BBC reporter and the President spread misleading claims about the city’s safety.
            After speaking at a demonstration, O’Rourke told CNN he planned to attend victims’ funerals and make a trip to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where seven of the 22 victims lived, before continuing on with his national campaign. Later on, he gave a young, tearful man who said he was at the Walmart during the shooting his personal phone number, and a promise to help him in any way he could.

            A week after fierce debates, Dems unite

            Only a couple weeks ago, Booker and Biden were engaged in a heated debate over the former vice president’s record on race. And during the debates last week in Detroit, Democrats were at one another’s throats, sometimes warning the country that their rivals were unelectable, while sparring over health care, foreign policy and, in the case of immigration, former President Barack Obama’s record.
            But those arguments have largely evaporated from sight since the Saturday shooting in El Paso. Trump, who has mostly stuck to his inflammatory rhetoric on Twitter, did for the Democrats what he could not for the country: inspired solidarity.
            Candidates other than Biden, Booker and O’Rourke have mostly kept to their previous commitments, while flooding television and social media with increasingly pointed denunciations of Trump and notes of solidarity with the victims — and one another. California Sen. Kamala Harris’ campaign bought lunch for the O’Rourke staff in El Paso and Harris spokesman Ian Sams told CNN the campaign has raised nearly $100,000 for gun violence prevention organizations since the shootings.
            They also roundly condemned the White House over a CNN report, published Wednesday afternoon, that the White House had rebuffed a push by the Department of Homeland Security to prioritize domestic terror threats, like those posed by white supremacists.
            news
            “Homeland Security officials battled the White House for more than a year to get them to focus more on domestic terrorism,” one senior source close to the Trump administration told CNN. “The White House wanted to focus only on the jihadist threat which, while serious, ignored the reality that racial supremacist violence was rising fast here at home. They had major ideological blinders on.”
            Harris linked to the story on Twitter and said, “People are getting killed, and this President is turning a blind eye to America’s national security threats.”
            The former prosecutor has, in the aftermath of the shootings, repeated her promise to use the power of the presidency to implement strict new gun control measures within the first few months of her term.
            “Whether at a festival, place of worship, school, movie theater, or Walmart, you should always be able to feel safe,” Harris tweeted. “As president, I’ll give Congress 100 days to send gun safety legislation to my desk. If they refuse to act, I’ll take executive action to protect our communities.”
            The killings in El Paso have also brought added attention to former Housing and Urban Development secretary Julián Castro, the only Latino in the primary.
            Speaking to NBC, Castro underscored the heightened intensity of the campaign and painted a stark image of Trump’s political maneuvering.
            “For a President now to base his entire political strategy on turning the Latino community, and especially recent immigrants, into ‘the other,’ into the danger toward America — it doesn’t belong in this country, he doesn’t belong as President,” Castro said. “And that’s one of the reasons I know that I’m running to replace him and I bet that a lot of other people who are in this race feel the same way.”
            Outside of Texas, the gravity of the El Paso killings has emboldened Democrats to be more direct, and in the case of Sanders, more personal in how they describe their reasons for running.
            Sanders, who has repeatedly denounced Trump as a “racist” and “xenophobe” on the campaign trail this year, also kept to his planned campaign stops — though he, like others, will now attend a forum on gun control in Iowa this weekend. But in a Medium post on Sunday, he took the unusual step of tying the current situation to his own, painful family history.
            “I am personally all too familiar with the barbarity that comes from hateful ideology,” Sanders wrote. “Most of my own father’s family was brutally murdered at the hands of Hitler’s white supremacist regime. That regime came to power on a wave of violence and hatred against racial and religious minorities. We cannot allow that cancer to grow here.”
              His fellow progressive, Warren, issued a similar warning against what the campaigns have almost uniformly described now as a wave of hate drawing strength underfoot from the White House.
              “White supremacy is a domestic terrorism threat in the same way that foreign terrorism threatens our people. And it is the responsibility of the President of the United States to help fight back against that,” Warren told CNN. “Not to wink and nod and smile at it and let it get stronger in this country.”

              Related posts