Highlights from The Downballot: Ben Wikler on how Democrats can win big in Wisconsin

This week on The Downballot, hosts David Nir and David Beard recapped recent elections, including a special election for a congressional seat in Texas and primaries in South Carolina that saw one pro-impeachment Republican go down in defeat. The pair also discussed an unusual Saturday special election in Alaska for the seat that had been held for decades by the late Republican Rep. Don Young.

Nir and Beard welcomed the chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, Ben Wikler, as this week’s guest. Wikler shared more about what a state party like his does and the key races they're focusing on this November.

You can listen below or subscribe to The Downballot wherever you listen to podcasts. You can also find a transcript for this week right here. New episodes come out every Thursday!

Beard kicked off the program with the top headlines from Tuesday night.

Texas held a special election to fill the remaining term for Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned earlier this year to take a job with a lobbying firm. Conservative activist Mayra Flores flipped this Rio Grande Valley-based district to the GOP, winning about 51% of the vote. There were four candidates on the ballot, but just one major Republican and one major Democrat. Flores won 51% of the vote, and the major Democratic candidate, former Cameron County commissioner Dan Sanchez won about 43% of the vote.

Beard noted that there wasn't a ton of investment in trying to hold this seat on the Democratic side and that Republicans noticed an opportunity and spent heavily on the race:

Republicans spent over a million dollars on this race. They really invested. Democrats only began airing TV ads in the final week. They didn't spend very much money. This district is changing a significant amount. Biden won the current district, which is still from the 2010 redistricting cycle, by a 52-48 margin, but Biden wins the new district that will go into effect this November by a 57-42 margin, so it's getting noticeably more Democratic.

“That being said, that's definitely a shift in the margin from 52-48 Biden to—if you combine the Democrats and the Republicans—about 53% voted Republican and 47% voted Democrat, so that's a noticeable shift. It's certainly in line with a more Republican-leaning year, which is what we've been seeing with the polling and with other information that's been coming in,” Beard added. “The other factor here that's certainly worth noting is that it was very, very low turnout, so that can also be a factor in why there was somewhat of a shift. So you don't want to take this and just say, ‘Oh, we saw this shift. It'll translate all the way to November in every way,’ but it's certainly a signal worth acknowledging that it is certainly a sign of a Republican-leaning environment right now.”

The hosts then recapped primaries in South Carolina, which some have framed as “Trump's revenge.” Trump did, in fact, exact revenge against a Republican congressman in the 7th district, Tom Rice, who was one of the ten GOP House members who voted for impeachment. Rice was soundly defeated by state Rep. Russell Fry, who beat him 51-25. “What was even more remarkable about this is there were five Republicans total challenging race so for Fry to get a majority of the vote was pretty unexpected. Even Fry claimed that his own polling showed the race going to a runoff,” Nir said.

The other South Carolina race that was really closely watched this week was in the 1st District, where Rep. Nancy Mace beat former state Rep. Katie Arrington 53-45, thus avoiding a runoff. Trump endorsed Arrington, as he was furious at a few of Mace’s critical comments of him after Jan. 6, even though she very quickly backed off.

On Saturday, Alaska held a special election for Alaska's at-large congressional seat, which has been vacant since GOP Rep. Don Young passed away earlier this year. Alaska has a fairly distinct electoral system: all of the candidates were on the ballot in this first round, and the top four candidates will advance to a second round on Aug. 16. That ballot will use ranked-choice voting to determine the winner. Ballots are still being counted, but the AP has declared three of the four candidates who will advance to the second round, the first being former Gov. Sarah Palin, who has a clear lead so far with about 30% of the vote.

Beard summarized the outcome so far:

Of course, Palin is a Republican, as is the so far second-place candidate, businessman Nick Begich, who has about 19% of the vote. And then independent Al Gross, who is also the former 2020 Democratic nominee for Senate but is running now as an Independent; he's also been called to advance. He has about 13% of the vote so far. And then, the fourth slot hasn't been called yet, but former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola is currently in that spot and will likely advance as well, unless late-breaking ballots are radically different than what's been counted so far.

Palin's strong first-round showing, getting over 30% of the vote, makes it likely that she will be one of the last two candidates standing when this ranked-choice voting takes place. The big question, Beard points out, is: Who is going to make it into that other slot where the fourth-place candidate and then the third-place candidate are eliminated?

While Palin has always been a polarizing figure, she has Donald Trump's endorsement, which makes it much more likely that Begich would pick up Independents and Democrats, if it is those two facing off against each other at the very end of the instant runoff tabulations.

At this point, Wikler joined the hosts to discuss the crucial work of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

“Let's talk a little bit about what that rollercoaster ride has been like. I'm sure that some of our listeners are probably pretty plugged into their own state Democratic parties. But I'll bet that many folks aren't necessarily all that familiar with what their state parties do. And of course, the goal of any party organization is to get its candidates elected. But what exactly does the Wisconsin Democratic Party do to make that happen?” Nir asked.

The biggest part of the organization’s budget and its crown jewel, Wikler asserts, is its organization model, which allows it to reach voters in every corner of the state:

Our state party unusually uses the Obama campaign model, where our organizers actually build teams of volunteers that run door-to-door canvassing and phone banking operations in their own communities. And when you do that on a continuous basis, as we've done now since my predecessor, who launched these neighborhood teams in the spring of 2017, and we've built and built and built them; we now have hundreds across the state. When you do that continuously, you actually build momentum over time. So, every dollar you spend on organizing goes further, because you can have one organizer who's working with multiple teams to coach and support them and make sure they have the data they need.

A robust voter protection operation that is run on a year-round basis is now a mainstay of the organization’s work, as well. Wikler highlighted how the party has increasingly focused on voting rights over these last few years to make sure that local clerks aren't rolling back voting rights. The state Democratic Party also recruits and supports poll workers, poll observers, and lawyers who are able to help voters resolve issues. A voter protection hotline is also available for anyone in Wisconsin to call at 608-DEM-3232.

Last, but not least, the party’s data team helps make sure they’re figuring out where the voters they need to mobilize are and who they need to persuade.

Next, the trio delved into Wikler and his team’s plan to defeat Republican Sen. Ron Johnson this fall. As Wikler put it, “Ron Johnson is so, so appallingly extraordinarily bad”:

It’s not just that he says that COVID can be cured with mouthwash or says that the Jan. 6 insurrectionists were patriots who love their country and love law enforcement—which is something he actually said. He said he would've been scared if it had been Black Lives Matter protestors, but he wasn't scared with the protestors that were actually there. It's not just all that stuff. It's that he's profoundly self-serving. His claim to fame as a senator is that he insisted on an extra tax break on top of Trump's giant tax scam that personally benefited him and his biggest donor massively. It's one of the most regressive tax cuts ever passed through the United States Congress that he insisted on putting in, and that he's been billing taxpayers to fly him back to Congress from his vacation home in Florida.

So we've been making this case against him, and so many independent and grassroots organizations have done the same thing. His approval rating is now 36%, which is stunning in a year that's supposed to be tough for Democrats and good for Republicans. The Political Report called him the most vulnerable incumbent from either party in the Senate in 2022. And meanwhile, on the Democratic side, there's a contested primary. There's a bunch of candidates who've made the ballot, but we won't know our nominee until Aug. 9. And so this is a perfect kind of case in point for why having a strong party matters, because we have to build the whole general election apparatus before Aug. 9. It's like building a spaceship right on the launchpad. And then once we have the nominee, they jump into the cockpit and they hit ignition.

“Can you tell us a little bit more about this spaceship that you're building on the launchpad for the eventual Democratic nominee for the Senate race?” Nir asked.

Wikler discussed the intersection of the digital, the data, the organizing, the voter protection, the communications—all the different elements. He also mentioned that, due to state party rules, the Wisconsin Democratic Party is bound and committed to remaining neutral in the primary. “So we're not putting our thumb on the scale, but all the candidates have told us that once we have a nominee, they will work with the infrastructure that we've put in place,” he added. “As opposed to doing what has often happened in different states around the country, which is: you get a Senate nominee, and they decide they want to reshuffle all the staff and reshape how the program works and all this kind of stuff.”

As far as goals from the point of view of the state party for the state legislative elections that are coming in November, and candidates to highlight for those races, Wikler had the following to say:

Republicans have managed to re-gerrymander the maps, at least for now, with some help, I should mention, from the U.S. Supreme Court, which unlike in other states, decided to reach down and strike down our state legislative maps for reasons that will puzzle constitutional scholars for decades. So we have really, really tough maps this cycle.

Republicans are explicitly trying to get supermajorities in both chambers yet again, and we are explicitly determinedly working to stop them. We have great Democratic leaders in both chambers that we're working closely with: Greta Neubauer in the Assembly, Janet Bewley in the state Senate. We have strong candidates across the state. ...

Then next year, just to squeeze this in, in April of 2023, we have a state Supreme Court race. There will not be a lot happening across the country in elections that spring, but that race will be for the majority in Wisconsin state Supreme Court. If we can sustain the governor's veto and if we have a non-hyper right wing majority in our state Supreme court, that sets us up to have a secure and fair and legitimate election in 2024, when Wisconsin will probably be the tipping point state yet again.

Lastly, Beard asked Wikler how listeners could help: “So how can our Wisconsinite listeners get in touch with the Democratic Party in their state and get more involved?”

Wikler replied:

Wherever you might be, you can support Democrats and the Democratic Party of Wisconsin in fighting for victory for Gov. Evers and defeating Ron Johnson. I think Dems up and down the ballot, including defeating Derek van Orden, who's an insurrectionist currently on probation for trying to bring a gun on a plane. He's running for Congress in the third congressional district, which is an open seat. We need help across the board, and you can get involved. You can become a monthly donor. That is the single, my favorite thing you can do.

If you go to wisdems.org/monthly, you can sign up to give a few bucks a month; that helps us to hire and know that we'll be able to keep our staff on month over month, year over year, and that in turn allows us to do the kind of deep, long term organizing, building neighborhood teams … that help us win, especially in these tough elections like the spring state Supreme Court race next year. And finally, I'll give the link wisdems.org/volunteer. You can join our virtual phone banks. You can join our volunteer operation to turn out every possible Democratic voter. Races here are so close, so often.

The Downballot comes out every Thursday everywhere you listen to podcasts. As a reminder, you can reach our hosts by email at thedownballot@dailykos.com. Please send in any questions you may have for next week's mailbag. You can also reach out via Twitter: @DKElections.

Our all-time favorite loser prays the fifth time will be the charm on his endless quest for Congress

We have more primary action Tuesday as voters in Maine, Nevada, North Dakota, and South Carolina select their party’s nominees. Additionally, there will be an all-party primary in Texas’ 34th District to replace Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela, who resigned early to take a job at a lobbying firm. 

Below you'll find our guide to all of the top contests, arranged chronologically by each state’s poll closing times. When it’s available, we'll tell you about any reliable polling that exists for each race, but if we don't mention any numbers, it means no recent surveys have been made public.

And of course, because this is a redistricting year, every state on the docket has a brand-new congressional map. To help you follow along, you can find interactive maps from Dave's Redistricting App for Maine, Nevada, and South Carolina. (North Dakota retains its lone congressional district.) 

Listen and subscribe to Daily Kos Elections’ The Downballot podcast with David Nir and David Beard

Note that the presidential results we include after each district reflect how the 2020 race would have gone under the new lines in place for this fall—except in Texas’ 34th, which is being conducted using the existing boundaries. (The state held its regularly-scheduled primary for the new district earlier this year.) And if you'd like to know how much of the population in each new district comes from each old district, please check out our redistribution tables.

Our live coverage will begin at 7 PM ET at Daily Kos Elections when polls close in South Carolina. You can also follow us on Twitter for blow-by-blow updates, and you’ll want to bookmark our primary calendar, which includes the dates for primaries in all 50 states.

South Carolina

Polls close at 7 PM ET. A June 28 runoff will take place in any contest where no one takes a majority of the vote.

SC-01 (R) (54-45 Trump): Freshman Rep. Nancy Mace infuriated Donald Trump last year when she blamed him for the Jan. 6 attacks, and he responded by endorsing former state Rep. Katie Arrington's primary campaign in February. The winner will go up against pediatrician Annie Andrews, a well-funded Democrat who has no primary foes in a seat along the state's southern coast that Republican map makers made more conservative.

Mace, who has the support of former Gov. Nikki Haley, has pushed back against Arrington’s attempts to portray her as disloyal to the GOP by touting her own conservative values. She’s also reminded voters that Arrington denied renomination in 2018 to then-Rep. Mark Sanford, only to lose the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham, arguing the challenger would jeopardize the seat again. (Mace herself unseated Cunningham, who is now running for governor, two years later.)

The incumbent has enjoyed a huge financial advantage, and a pro-Mace group released a late May poll showing her ahead 44-24. That survey still put Mace below the majority she’d need to avoid a runoff, which is a real possibility since a third candidate named Lynz Piper-Loomis remains on the ballot even though she dropped out weeks ago and endorsed Arrington. Trump, though, seems pessimistic about beating Mace, as Politico recently reported he’s avoided returning to the state out of fear that Arrington is about to lose.

SC-07 (R) (59-40 Trump): Rep. Tom Rice shocked political observers last year when he became one of the 10 House Republicans to vote to impeach Donald Trump, and he now faces six primary opponents in a northeastern South Carolina seat that changed little after redistricting.

Trump's endorsed candidate is state Rep. Russell Fry, whom Rice’s side has argued isn’t actually the conservative he presents himself as. The field also includes former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride, Horry County Schools Board of Education Chairman Ken Richardson, physician Garrett Barton, and pharmacist Spencer Morris, who have all attracted far less attention than Fry but could each take enough of the vote to force a runoff.

Maine

Polls close at 8 PM ET. While Maine will host competitive races for governor and the 2nd Congressional District this fall, there's little action in the primaries: Former Gov. Paul LePage has the GOP nod to take on Democratic incumbent Janet Mills sewn up, while former Rep. Bruce Poliquin is all but certain to face Democratic Rep. Jared Golden in a rematch of their 2018 race.

North Dakota

Polls close at 7 PM local time, which is 8 PM ET in the eastern part of the state and 9 PM ET in the western part of the state.

Texas

Polls close at 8 PM ET / 7 PM local time.

TX-34 (special all-party primary) (52-48 Biden): Democratic Rep. Filemon Vela resigned from this Rio Grande Valley constituency earlier this year to take a job at a lobbying firm, and two Democrats and two Republicans are competing to replace him in an all-party primary taking place under the old district lines. A runoff would be necessary if no one takes a majority of the vote, though a second round won't be scheduled unless it's actually needed. 

The Republican frontrunner is Mayra Flores, who is already the GOP nominee for the new version of the 34th District. (The redrawn 34th is significantly more Democratic at 57-42 Biden.) The Democrats have consolidated behind former Cameron County Commissioner Dan Sanchez, who is not running for a full two-year term anywhere. The other two contenders, Republican Janie Cantu-Cabrera and Democrat Rene Coronado, have gained little notice.

While this battle won’t directly impact control of Congress, Republicans hope a victory will demonstrate that Trump’s 2020 gains in heavily Latino areas like this were no fluke. Flores could also benefit from a few months of incumbency going into her general election contest against Democratic Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who represents the existing 15th District. Flores and her allies have spent over $1 million, while the first Democratic commercials came during the final week of the race when House Majority PAC began a $120,000 ad campaign tying Flores to the Jan. 6 rioters.

Nevada

Polls close at 10 PM ET /7 PM local time.

NV-Sen (R) (50-48 Biden): While Trump’s endorsed candidate, former Attorney General Adam Laxalt, remains the undisputed frontrunner in the Republican primary to take on Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, the 2018 gubernatorial nominee has had to deal with an unexpectedly expensive primary against Army veteran Sam Brown.

Brown, who's framed himself as a political outsider, has faulted Laxalt for waiting too long to file litigation trying to overturn Biden's win in 2020. Laxalt’s allies at the Club for Growth appear to be taking this contest seriously, since the group has spent over $1 million to boost him. A poll for the nonpartisan Nevada Independent found Laxalt ahead 48-34 just ahead of the primary. 

NV-Gov (R) (50-48 Biden): Republicans have a crowded contest to take on Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak, but Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo had long looked like the frontrunner even before Trump backed him in April. North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, a former conservative Democrat who defected to the GOP last year, has outspent Lombardo on the airwaves, but the sheriff’s allies have made up the gap by spending $3 million to promote him. The Democratic Governors Association, meanwhile, has invested about $2.5 million on ads aimed at stopping Lombardo from advancing, or at least hoping to weaken him for the general election.  

However, the Nevada Independent’s poll finds Lombardo well-positioned to win the nomination by defeating attorney Joey Gilbert, a former professional boxer who has bragged that he was "definitely on the Capitol steps" on Jan. 6, 34-21. Both Lee and former Sen. Dean Heller, who lost a very competitive re-election bid in 2018, were in third with 10% each, while venture capitalist Guy Nohra trailed further behind.

NV-01 (D & R) (53-45 Biden): Democrats in the legislature made this seat in the eastern Las Vegas area considerably more competitive in order to make the 3rd and 4th Districts bluer—enraging Democratic Rep. Dina Titus in the process. The congresswoman, who represents just over half of the redrawn seat, now faces notable primary and general election opposition after a decade of easy wins.

Titus’ lone intra-party foe is progressive activist Amy Vilela, who ran in the 4th in 2018 and took third place in the primary with 9%. Vilela, who is arguing that the incumbent has done little to advance priorities like Medicare for All, has brought in a credible sum of campaign cash, while a group called Opportunity for All Action Fund has spent $240,000 to promote the incumbent. 

Eight Republicans are competing to take on the winner. The one with the most national name recognition is former 4th District Rep. Crescent Hardy, who won that seat in a 2014 upset before losing competitive races there in 2016 and 2018. Only about 4% of the new 1st’s denizens live in Hardy’s old constituency, though, and the former congressman has barely raised any money for his latest comeback attempt. The other notable contenders are conservative activist David Brog, Army veteran Mark Robertson, and former Trump campaign staffer Carolina Serrano.

NV-02 (R) (54-43 Trump): Republican Rep. Mark Amodei is seeking renomination in a reliably red northern Nevada seat that changed little under the new map against a field of four challengers led by the one and only Danny Tarkanian. Tarkanian has lost bids for the Senate (2010) and the House (2012, 2016, and 2018), not to mention two campaigns for state office in the aughts plus an abortive run for the Senate and the state board of regents.

But Tarkanian, who was a longtime resident of the Las Vegas area well to the south, finally ended his legendary losing streak in 2020 by winning the job of county commissioner in his new rural home of Douglas County. Amodei, of course, is still portraying his opponent as an interloper. The incumbent’s allies at the Congressional Leadership Fund, which is the main super PAC of the House GOP leadership, have spent $240,000 on ads slagging Tarkanian as a perennial loser, while a group called the Police Officers Defense Alliance has invested $860,000 on pro-Amodei spots; the With Honor Fund has also come to the congressman’s aid with $260,000 in support.

Tarkanian, who has received little outside help of his own, is using his personal funds to largely finance his latest campaign. The challenger has gone after Amodei for showing some openness to impeaching Trump in 2019 and for blaming the GOP's master for the Jan. 6 attack, though the congressman never voted for impeachment in either situation.

NV-03 (R) (52-46 Biden): Democratic legislators sought to protect Rep. Susie Lee in this southern Las Vegas area seat by extending Biden’s margin of victory up from just 49.1-48.9, but her five Republican foes are betting she’s still vulnerable. The frontrunner is attorney April Becker, who narrowly failed to unseat state Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro last cycle and has the support of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Becker has also far outspent her intra-party rivals, though Army veteran Noah Malgeri and self-funder John Kovacs each also deployed a notable amount.

NV-04 (R) (53-45 Biden): Three Republicans are campaigning to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford, whose constituency in the northern Las Vegas area became bluer under the new map. The only elected official of the trio is Assemblywoman Annie Black, who attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally that preceded the attack on the Capitol.

Sam Peters, an Air Force veteran and businessman who took second place in the 2020 primary to face Horsford, is also trying again, and he’s touted support from two of the far-right's loudest members of Congress, Arizona Reps. Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar. The third contender is Chance Bonaventura, who works as an aide to another far-right politician, Las Vegas Councilwoman Michele Fiore (Fiore herself is campaigning for state treasurer), but has raised very little money.

NV-AG (R) (50-48 Biden): Democrat Aaron Ford made history in 2018 when he became the first Black person elected to statewide office in Nevada, and two Republicans are now campaigning to unseat the attorney general. For months, the only candidate was Sigal Chattah, an attorney who has sued to undermine the state's pandemic response measures and who has complained that the attorney general has done a poor job investigating (baseless, of course) voter fraud allegations.

February, though, saw the entrance of Tisha Black, who lost a 2018 race for Clark County Commission and who founded a cannabis industry trade group. Chattah has attacked Black for a donation she made to now-Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in 2015, a contribution Black has denied making despite the unambiguous evidence that she had. A Democratic group has run radio ads slamming Black over her donation while calling Chattah a "MAGA conservative." (Unlike similar efforts by Democrats elsewhere seeking to choose their opponents, these ads don't merely "attack" Chattah in a backhanded way but openly call for her election.)

NV-SoS (R) (50-48 Biden): Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske, who was the only Nevada Republican to prevail statewide during the 2018 Democratic wave, is termed out, and Republicans are likely to nominate an extremist in the race to succeed her. The GOP nominee will go up against former state Athletic Commission member Cisco Aguilar, who has no Democratic opposition. A recent GOP primary poll for the Nevada Independent showed a 21-21 deadlock between former Assemblyman Jim Marchant and developer Jesse Haw, with former Judge Richard Scotti far back at 8%.

Marchant, who was the 2020 nominee against Rep. Steven Horsford, is a QAnon ally who has said he would not have certified Joe Biden's 2020 victory; he's also attracted notoriety allying with conspiracist candidates in other states running to become chief election officials. Haw, who briefly served in the state Senate for a few months in 2016, hasn’t focused nearly as much on the Big Lie, but he’s very much alluded to it by saying that last election “had a lot of shenanigans and potential fraud.”

2020 was an election theft dry run for Republicans. Next time, they could succeed

Every election starting now and into the foreseeable future is going to be the most important election of our lifetime. Until the Republican Party as we currently know it is ground to dust, scorched, and the earth on which it stands is salted, the threat of white nationalistic fascism will remain. Right now, in 2022, Republicans are running explicitly on undermining representative democracy, from the smallest local positions up through the state legislatures and all the way to Congress. They are converging behind the Big Lie and promising that they are going to fix it so that they don’t lose any more elections. So that Donald Trump (or his stand-in) will take the 2024 election.

They’re not even trying to be subtle about it—it’s explicit in so many campaigns for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state in plenty of battlegrounds, including the states that Trump tried to contest in 2020.

“What we’re seeing right now is unprecedented,” Joanna Lydgate, co-founder and CEO of States United Action, told CNN’s Rod Brownstein. “To see candidates running on a platform of lies and conspiracy theories about our elections as a campaign position, to see a former President getting involved in endorsing in down-ballot races at the primary level, and certainly to see this kind of systemic attacks on our elections, this spreading of disinformation about our elections—we’ve never seen anything like this before as a country.”

RELATED STORY: Republican state legislators are laying the groundwork to overturn the next election

Brownstein reports on a study released last week—commissioned by the groups States United Democracy Center, Protect Democracy, and Law Forward—which determined that 13 states have already approved laws to make sure there will be partisan control over election administration, laws to intimidate election administrators, and laws requiring audits of the 2020 election, as if that is a thing. That’s beyond the orgy they’ve been having for the past decade with voter suppression laws, which hasn’t ended either. Thirty-three states have another 229 bills related to denying the results of the last election, and to limiting the electorate and predetermining the outcome of future elections.

“Taken separately, each of these bills would chip away at the system of free and fair elections that Americans have sustained, and worked to improve, for generations,” the groups concluded. “Taken together, they could lead to an election in which the voters’ choices are disregarded and the election sabotaged.”

“In the leadup to the 2020 election, those who warned of a potential crisis were dismissed as alarmists by far too many Americans who should have seen the writing on the wall,” Jessica Marsden, counsel at Protect Democracy, told Brownstein in an email. “Almost two years later, after an attempted coup and a violent insurrection on our Capitol, election conspiracy theorists—including those who actually participated in January 6—are being nominated by the GOP to hold the most consequential offices for overseeing the 2024 election.”

“It’s all connected,” Lydgate said. “The playbook is to try to change the rules and change the referees, so you can change the results.”

They’ve got a very powerful referee on their side in the form of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

A casual observer might reasonably conclude that Ginni and Clarence Thomas are working in tandem to lay the groundwork for the next coup—with Ginni taking up the politics and Clarence handling the legal side. The symmetry between their work is remarkable. https://t.co/wUh5TiHk4q pic.twitter.com/tooRedMQJk

— Mark Joseph Stern (@mjs_DC) May 23, 2022

Thomas won’t recuse himself from any of these cases, and as of now, a Democratic Congress doesn’t seem particularly interested in trying to force him to via the threat of investigation and impeachment.

“What’s past is prologue, and what was done sloppily in 2020 is being mapped out by experts for 2024,” Slate’s Stern and Dahlia Lithwick write. “It didn’t work in 2020 because the legal and political structures to support it weren’t in place at the time. Those pieces are being put into place as we type this.” That’s the story Brownstein is also trying to get to Democrats and the rest of the traditional media—anyone who will listen and can do something about it.

There are answers. There are ways to fix this. They start with electing enough Democrats to state offices to make sure the damage the fascists can do is limited. We can also elect enough Democrats to the House and to the Senate to make the two Republican-friendly, obstructionist Democratic senators irrelevant.

Then it’ll be a matter of convincing that Democratic majority and a Democratic president that none of this is blogger hysteria, but a very real threat to our freedoms that has everybody else’s hair on fire. Saving our representative democracy means expanding and reforming the court.

RELATED STORIES:

Border Report: Worst December Numbers In History, Nearly 2 Million Illegal Immigrants Since Biden Took Office

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics showing the worst December numbers at the border in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) history.

According to the report, there were 178,840 illegal immigrants apprehended at the border in December, breaking the previous record under DHS for that month by over 100,000.

All told, nearly 2 million illegal immigrants have been apprehended at the border since Biden took office just over one year ago.

The numbers also show an increase in illegal border crossing from November which saw 173,620 illegal immigrants apprehended.

RELATED: Biden Calls Fox News Reporter ‘Stupid Son of a B*tch’ At Press Conference

Numbers Show Out Of Control Border

News of the record number of border crossings come as Fox News has obtained exclusive footage of a mass release of single adult illegal immigrants into the country.

“Fox News footage shows several federally contracted buses dropping off dozens of mostly male migrants at a parking garage in Brownsville, Texas,” they report.

After being dropped off at the garage, taxi cabs allegedly arrived and transported the illegal immigrants to a nearby airport where they claimed they were being sent “to destinations including Miami, Houston and Atlanta.”

Fox News reporter Bill Melugin states that CBP is not involved in the release shown in the video.

“CBP tells me they had no involvement with these releases,” he tweeted. “An ICE source tells me these were ICE releases.”

Melugin adds that he is waiting on confirmation.

RELATED: Newt Gingrich Says Some Members Of January 6 Committee Could Face Jail Time – Cheney, Kinzinger Fire Back

No Control

The latest staggering border numbers show that a full year into his term, President Biden is making absolutely no headway in addressing the ever-expanding humanitarian crisis.

In an interview earlier this month, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Heston Silbert described Biden’s border crisis as “untenable” and “not manageable.”

“Border Patrol’s overwhelmed,” he explained.

Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) described the latest numbers as a “record-breaking (border crisis)” created by “record-breaking incompetence.”

Vice President Kamala Harris is again opting to skip a visit to the southern border and will be traveling instead to Honduras later this month for the inauguration of President-elect Xiomara Castro in an effort to “address the root causes” of illegal immigration.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently argued that the border crisis and the current administration’s “decision to just defy immigration laws” are grounds for impeachment.

“I think there are potentially multiple grounds to consider for impeachment,” Cruz has said. “Probably the most compelling is the utter lawlessness (of) President Biden to enforce the border.”

The post Border Report: Worst December Numbers In History, Nearly 2 Million Illegal Immigrants Since Biden Took Office appeared first on The Political Insider.

Border Report: Worst December Numbers In History, Nearly 2 Million Illegal Immigrants Since Biden Took Office

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released operational statistics showing the worst December numbers at the border in Department of Homeland Security (DHS) history.

According to the report, there were 178,840 illegal immigrants apprehended at the border in December, breaking the previous record under DHS for that month by over 100,000.

All told, nearly 2 million illegal immigrants have been apprehended at the border since Biden took office just over one year ago.

The numbers also show an increase in illegal border crossing from November which saw 173,620 illegal immigrants apprehended.

RELATED: Biden Calls Fox News Reporter ‘Stupid Son of a B*tch’ At Press Conference

Numbers Show Out Of Control Border

News of the record number of border crossings come as Fox News has obtained exclusive footage of a mass release of single adult illegal immigrants into the country.

“Fox News footage shows several federally contracted buses dropping off dozens of mostly male migrants at a parking garage in Brownsville, Texas,” they report.

After being dropped off at the garage, taxi cabs allegedly arrived and transported the illegal immigrants to a nearby airport where they claimed they were being sent “to destinations including Miami, Houston and Atlanta.”

Fox News reporter Bill Melugin states that CBP is not involved in the release shown in the video.

“CBP tells me they had no involvement with these releases,” he tweeted. “An ICE source tells me these were ICE releases.”

Melugin adds that he is waiting on confirmation.

RELATED: Newt Gingrich Says Some Members Of January 6 Committee Could Face Jail Time – Cheney, Kinzinger Fire Back

No Control

The latest staggering border numbers show that a full year into his term, President Biden is making absolutely no headway in addressing the ever-expanding humanitarian crisis.

In an interview earlier this month, Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Col. Heston Silbert described Biden’s border crisis as “untenable” and “not manageable.”

“Border Patrol’s overwhelmed,” he explained.

Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) described the latest numbers as a “record-breaking (border crisis)” created by “record-breaking incompetence.”

Vice President Kamala Harris is again opting to skip a visit to the southern border and will be traveling instead to Honduras later this month for the inauguration of President-elect Xiomara Castro in an effort to “address the root causes” of illegal immigration.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) recently argued that the border crisis and the current administration’s “decision to just defy immigration laws” are grounds for impeachment.

“I think there are potentially multiple grounds to consider for impeachment,” Cruz has said. “Probably the most compelling is the utter lawlessness (of) President Biden to enforce the border.”

The post Border Report: Worst December Numbers In History, Nearly 2 Million Illegal Immigrants Since Biden Took Office appeared first on The Political Insider.

Ted Cruz is trying to discredit the prosecution of violent seditionists. Any guesses why?

Sen. Ted Cruz has been beating pro-seditionist conspiracy theory drums since before the Jan. 6 insurrection ever took place. It's still a bit novel to see Cruz use his pro-sedition conspiracy theory as a campaign fundraising gimmick, though.

But here we are, and the man who once ran for president—only to be crushed by Donald Trump, then subsumed into the fold of Trump's most obsequious boot-polishers—is using the newest Republican hoax to raise money from pro-sedition members of his base. The hoax Ted Cruz is promoting is the "Ray Epps" theory:

"Who is Ray Epps? Was Ray Epps a federal agent or informant?" asks Ted. Because "We know the FBI has been misused in the past to target President Trump" and just "look at the Russia Collusion Hoax" and "Peter Strzok" and "Merrick Garland won't answer questions" and "What are they trying to hide now about the events of January 6, 2021?"

If it sounds like any other Republican fundraising letter, down to the buzzwords and linked conspiracy theories and warnings of an "extreme-left agenda," it's because the party's vocabulary has dwindled down to a mere 500 words or so, all of them focus-grouped to the last serif, and half of those are references to theories that exist only in the Fox News universe. Literally any Republican in the party could send this same letter with only a sentence or two changed to fit their current position. Whatever individuality Ted once had, back in the days when he was known mostly for being the least pleasant person to be around even in Washington, D.C., has been smoothed out in favor of Generic Pro-Trump Conspiracy Guy.

Same fundraising language, same conspiracies, same blanket defenses of the most bumbling and crooked president of the modern era as being the fault of whatever enemies Donald has a personal grudge against.

The "Ray Epps" theory is, short version, a conspiracy theory being peddled by Republican sedition backers (including, of course, Trump backers who participated in the day's violence) that supposes that actually, the crowd that Trump and Trump allies scrambled to assemble on that day and hour were goaded into mounting a violent rebellion by the FBI. Or by antifa. Or by somebody. But the important point, in the theory, is claiming that the seditionists attempted to overthrow the government only because the government egged them into doing it, and so everybody should go free and once again we really should be investigating Trump's enemies, not the people doing grotesquely illegal things on Trump's personal behalf.

Sure, the crowd attacked police officers. Sure, there were deaths. But you see, some guy was seen outside the Capitol on that day but hasn't yet been charged by federal agents, ergo that guy must have been a plant and not a real Trump supporter, ergo the crimes don't count and none of this ever happened.

Ted Cruz has some personal stake in this, of course, given that Ted Cruz was one of those who attempted to nullify an American election that day, erasing the new administration rather than obliging Trump to hand over power. Ted can't well claim that the FBI goaded him into supporting an attempted autogolpe on the Senate floor, but as federal prosecutors target individual insurrectionists with "seditious conspiracy"—the first in-court acknowledgement that individuals in the violent crowd planned their actions as a serious effort to bring down the nation's government—it is to his advantage to argue that the only coup attempt that day was his own effort and that those people were doing something else entirely.

It's not true. Both efforts were linked, as documents from inside Trump's band of schemers have now shown. Republican lawmakers and Mike Pence were supposed to challenge the election's results as corrupted and invalid; Trump and allies had organized the large crowd to "march" to the Capitol grounds at exactly the same moment to intimidate waffling lawmakers into going along—and, under the assumption that violence would break out when Trump's crowd met "antifa" opponents that never appeared that day, provide grounds for using the Insurrection Act to summon the military, declare the election nullified, and promise a "do-over" election that might or might not have ever happened.

Ted Cruz did his part on that day, and the crowd of Trump supporters did theirs. The plan failed only because Mike Pence did not go along, and the expected counter-demonstrators never appeared—which meant there was no plausible deniability for the pro-Trump militia members and others who committed violence that day.

Cruz and his seditionist allies in the House and Senate near-immediately began inventing new theories to explain why the violence was actually the fault of antifa or other "anti-Trump" forces regardless of what we saw and heard on our televisions; one of the catch-all theories has been that the FBI staged the whole thing themselves, or at least helped plan it, or at least were the people goading Trump's frothing supporters into storming the Capitol and attacking people.

It was a theory invented in real time on pro-insurrection television programs and among pro-sedition lawmakers. It was based on nothing—another hoax in the now endless stream of pro-Trump hoaxes.

In real life, Ray Epps is a longtime militia member who was once president of the Arizona branch of the Oath Keepers, one of the two militias whose members are now facing seditious conspiracy charges due to their actions before and during the coup. He was in the pro-Trump crowd for the same reason as the others: to back Trump's attempt to remain in power regardless of the election's actual results. He has so far not been charged with criminal acts for a rather mundane reason: Epps appears to have never entered the Capitol building himself, and while there is footage of him encouraging others to go inside, there is so far no footage of him telling the crowd to be anything but "peaceful."

That makes him a small fry, when it comes to prosecution efforts. Courts and prosecutors are already overburdened with insurrection cases, and even those who did enter the building are not necessarily facing much punishment unless they manage to stack up other illegal acts as well. Prosecutors aren't targeting Epps because it's a harder case to prove than the others and his violations were less severe. So far.

If Ted Cruz is going to claim that every member of the pro-Trump crowd who hasn't been charged with crimes has not been charged with crimes because they're working for the FBI, he's welcome to go nuts with that. But he'd obviously be lying—and he's obviously lying now.

The last remaining bit of this farce hinges around the question that Cruz and other seditionists demand be asked: What if Epps was an FBI informant at some point? What if he did cooperate with investigators?

Okay, Ted, you've got me. What of it? Let's say this guy talked with the FBI and squealed as squealingly as a squealer could squeal—let's say he, or somebody else in the militia movement, sat down in front of a computer screen with three FBI agents named Edward, Thaddeus, and Bifftholomew and spent 10 solid hours going through security footage, naming every last face he recognized.

So then what? Oh my goodness, somebody cooperated with law enforcement to name people who attacked police officers, ransacked offices, or threatened to hang the vice president.

That's your conspiracy theory, Ted, so tell us what that would mean. Don't snivel like a seditionist little coward and suggest that something like that might be true; come out and tell us what the actual outrage would be.

Is it that somebody, somewhere might be cooperating with law enforcement to bring Trump's most violent supporters to justice? Is that what has you so upset?

Are you suggesting that those who stockpiled weapons and who planned their actions on that day so that they would have the best possible chance of toppling constitutional government should be set free, because somebody in the crowd is a snitch?

How very odd. But it's a pattern we've seen from Cruz and the near-entirety of Republicanism over and over again; whenever Donald Trump or someone close to him gets caught doing something that would have been grounds for immediate impeachment, removal, and likely prosecution during any previous administration, the Republican Party immediately launches an all-out war against whatever public official discovered the corruption. Every last time. The Republican enemies list is now just an unending list of names of government workers, foreign diplomats, top journalists, law enforcement agents and others who have reported or testified that Donald Trump did something corrupt.

Merrick Garland is now on that list because Ted is outraged Garland's Justice Department is charging people who attacked police officers and went hunting for lawmakers with crimes. That says a lot more about Ted Cruz than it does about anything else.

There's no mastery as to what is happening here. Ted Cruz was part of a far-right effort to nullify a United States election based on a fraudulent hoax dreamed up by conspiracy theorists and seized upon by his whole party as convenient excuse. He, personally, was accessory to an attempt to erase an election rather than recognize its results. It was all a lie, and Ted Cruz was one of its chief spokesmen.

But it failed, and now Ted and the other lawmakers who engaged in that seditious conspiracy are attempting to throw up whatever barricades they can between themselves and those who are investigating the day's events. They stonewalled congressional investigation—as in, the premise that there should even be one. They have supported architects of the day's events as those figures have defied congressional subpoenas demanding their testimony. They have tossed out countless new conspiracy theories intended to discredit law enforcement investigations of the people who were caught, on camera, attacking and injuring hundreds of police officers.

Ted would rather everyone who attacked police officers and ransacked offices that day go free, so long as that means federal and congressional investigations of who sent them there are stopped in their tracks.

Why?

Because Ted Cruz was part of a seditious conspiracy himself. And however large his part is known to be, it's very, very clear that it's Ted and his fellow lawmakers who are "trying to hide" the "full truth" of what happened that day.

What do you have to hide, Ted? What's so important that you're willing to shove conspiracy theories out to your base, attempting to discredit the entire federal investigation?

Just how low do you intend to sink, buddy?

Voting Rights Roundup: Alaska court upholds new top-four primary and ranked-choice general election

Leading Off

Alaska: A state trial court has upheld the constitutionality of Alaska's new law that created a "top-four" primary followed by a general election using ranked-choice voting (aka instant-runoff voting). The ruling rejected arguments by the plaintiffs, who consisted of the right-wing Alaskan Independence Party and members of the Libertarian and Republican parties, that the law approved by voters in a 2020 ballot initiative violated political parties' rights under the state constitution to freely associate.

One of the plaintiffs, former Libertarian legislative candidate Scott Kohlhaas, said he and the other plaintiffs would likely appeal. However, Alaskan Independence Party chairman Bob Bird expressed skepticism that they have much of a chance at success before the state Supreme Court, which has a 4-1 majority of justices appointed by Republican governors.

Consequently, Alaska remains on track to become the first state in the country to implement a "top-four" primary with ranked-choice voting in the general election after Maine in 2016 became the first state to adopt ranked-choice voting overall; Maine's law differs in that it maintained traditional party primaries. By contrast, Alaska's variant of this system will require all the candidates for congressional, legislative, and statewide races to face off on one primary ballot, where contenders will have the option to identify themselves with a party label or be listed as "undeclared" or "nonpartisan."​

Campaign Action

​The top four vote-getters regardless of party will advance to the general election, where voters will be able to rank their choices using instant-runoff voting. The law will also institute ranked-choice voting in presidential elections, though traditional party primaries will remain in effect for those races. The law further sets up new financial disclosure requirements for state-level candidates.

The implementation of the new top-four ranked-choice voting system may play a key role in next year's Senate election, where Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is facing a tough challenge from the right by former state cabinet official Kelly Tshibaka after she voted to convict Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial earlier this year. Tshibaka has been endorsed by the state GOP and Trump himself, but rather than face the constraint of needing to win a Republican primary dominated by Trump diehards to advance to the general election, Murkowski is all but assured of making it to the general election ballot under the top-four system.

However, the new voting system is hardly a guarantee that Murkowski will win another term in this conservative state. If Democratic voters consolidate around a Democratic candidate whom they rank ahead of Murkowski, the incumbent could end up getting squeezed out of the ranked-choice process in the general election; if she is many voters' second choice but few voters' first choice, she could be eliminated before a Democrat and Tshibaka. Thus, Murkowski will likely need some measure of initial support from Democratic and independent voters in addition to more moderate Republicans if she's to make it to the final round of the ranked-choice voting process.

Redistricting

2020 Census: Mark your calendars: The U.S. Census Bureau will release the population data essential for redistricting at a press conference on the afternoon of Aug. 12. The deadline was originally set for April 1, but it was delayed because of the disruptions from the pandemic.

Colorado: Colorado's state Supreme Court has agreed to extend the deadline for the new independent congressional redistricting commission to complete its work because of the delay in the release of the Census Bureau data needed to conduct redistricting until Aug. 16; the commission now plans to pass a final map by Oct. 1 instead of Sept. 1. Commissioners previously unveiled a preliminary map in June drawn using data estimates.

Voting Access Expansions

Guam: Democratic Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero has signed a law that permanently adopts in-person absentee voting after the Democratic-run legislature temporarily adopted it last year due to the pandemic, effectively allowing voters to vote early in-person.

Maine: Democratic Gov. Janet Mills has signed a law that will allow voters to register online beginning in 2023. With Maine's adoption of online registration, every state where Democrats control the state government has passed such laws. Only seven states that require voters to register have not allowed full online registration, all of which are run by Republicans, and Texas is home to roughly three-fourths of the people living in those states, who constitute roughly one in eight Americans.

Massachusetts: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker has signed a bill passed by the Democratic-run legislature with bipartisan support to extend pandemic-era voting access measures through Dec. 15 so that they will remain in place for upcoming local elections (such as Boston's mayoral contest) while lawmakers decide whether to make them permanent. The provisions in question include expanded early voting and no-excuse mail voting.

Voter Suppression

Georgia: Republican legislators have taken the first step toward a potential state takeover of election administration in Fulton County after key GOP lawmakers signaled their support for a "performance review" of the county, which could eventually lead to the GOP-run State Board of Elections temporarily replacing the officials in charge of elections in the county. Fulton County is a Democratic stronghold with a large Black population that is home to Atlanta and one in ten state residents, making it Georgia's largest county.

An eventual state takeover is possible under a law Republicans passed earlier this year that contained several new voting restrictions, which prompted a national backlash of condemnation and numerous lawsuits that argued it was a way to make voting harder for key Democratic-leaning groups and enable GOP officials to overturn election results after Trump's attempt to do so with the 2020 elections failed. Georgia is just one of several states where Republican lawmakers have passed legislation to give partisan GOP officials more control over election administration ahead of the 2022 midterms and 2024 presidential election.

Texas: Democratic Party organizations and civil rights advocates have reached a settlement with Republican officials in Texas that will see the latter permanently implement a limited online voter registration system after a federal court last year ruled that Texas was violating federal law and ordered the state to establish partial online registration. The court found that Texas had violated the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, commonly known as the "motor voter" law, by failing to offer online registration updates for eligible voters renewing their driver's license or updating their address with the DMV online, and roughly one million voters have registered online since the court's ruling.

InfoWars mob terrorizes mothers and small children arriving at a Catholic Charities facility

Remember Alex Jones? He is the guy that runs InfoWars, the conspiracy-smothered, fact-free dreck-machine that people like Donald Trump and the Republican Party rely on to confuse and obfuscate reality for them. Unlike Fox News’ Tucker Carlson—who spews very similar BS—Jones comes in a repellent package that embodies the hedonism, corruption, and narcissism of the conservative movement in our country. 

On Wednesday, Jones and his InfoWars sociopaths decided to try and one-up the Republican Party’s anti-immigrant publicity stunts by staging one of their own. According to the Daily Dot both Jones and Drew Hernandez—a self-described investigative reporter who believes Black Lives Matter is a “Marxist terrorist organization”—released video of themselves stopping child trafficking! Whoa, that’s big news! Except it’s the opposite of that. What the two men and their film crews did was in essence terrorize three mothers and their children, along with a man driving them from the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley in the city of McAllen, Texas, to the Human Respite Center, also in McAllen.

In video that was posted by Hernandez and subsequently taken down on many sites, Jones can be seen in the middle of the afternoon on a McAllen street, standing and screaming at the occupants of a white minivan. Jones calls for the police while Hernandez points out that the children aren’t wearing seat belts and don’t have car seats. “No car seats. What organization is this? I want to know who the hell this is,” he demands. The Daily Dot reports that later in the video, in classic charlatan nonsensical histrionics, Jones yells, “If I drove around with three of my kids in the back of the car, I’d get arrested.” That’s not the law in Texas, to be clear. Also, Alex Jones not being allowed to drive with children might be more related to the fact that he’s had questionable judgement when driving. 

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of the Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande, released a statement to reporters saying the video misrepresented what was happening. These children were not being “smuggled” anywhere; they were being driven from one place to another to receive some help from an organization that works to ameliorate poverty conditions for families. Pimentel did, however, say that the children should have been wearing seatbelts, but “unfortunately, this was not the case.”

“I urge you to look past the fear-mongering and mischaracterizations,” said Pimentel. “Remember to actually see the human beings fleeing persecution and their need for human dignity, which mirrors our own.”

Jones has long wrestled with clear personal issues. He is a bad person who has frequently preyed upon families in order to make his money. In recent years he has lost lawsuits filed by parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School for promoting the truly horrific conspiracy theory that the whole thing was made up and the parents were “crisis actors” pretending for years and years to have lost their children. To be Alex Jones is to be lost in the heart of darkness. Donald Trump’s mediocre mind and his popularity among the conservative movement created fertile ground for Jones and others to exploit the more openly white supremacist members of the right wing.

Ted Cruz is the poster boy for disaster capitalism, but then, he always has been

All it took for Ted Cruz to displace Bernie Sanders’ mittens at the top of the national meme board was a display of callous indifference so grand that the writers of the new Cruella de Vil movie are wondering if they can incorporate Ted’s move without it seeming too cartoonish. With the Republican-designed disaster capitalism power system leaving millions of Texans in the cold and dark, Ted decided to just skip the whole scene and take in the sun in Cancun. Because somehow, Cruz, with the most identifiable mini-mullet on the planet, thought he’d just slip through a Texas airport and collect a few beach days and no one would notice.

Cruz then hastily booked an abrupt return flight just seventeen hours later, then proceeded to lie about it, claiming this had always been the plan. Then he fell back on blaming his 10- and 12-year-old daughters, and admitted that he had intended to stay through the weekend to help them relax after a “tough week.” It was all such a display of over the top sneering at the people he is supposed to be serving, smeared with a frosting of rich-person privilege, that even Ted Cruz realizes it was a mistake. And that’s saying something.

Meanwhile, Beto O’Rourke made over 150,000 wellness checks on seniors left in the cold during the blackout, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez helped raise over $1 million in relief funds through ActBlue. Do you get it yet, Texas?

Ted Cruz is not actually the Texas mayor who told his constituents to stop calling him for help because, “No one owes you or your family anything; nor is it the local government’s responsibility to support you during trying times like this! Sink or swim, it’s your choice! … Only the strong will survive and the week will perish.” That mayor was forced to resign for his words. All Ted Cruz did was demonstrate those statements through his actions.

Rather than stay to help the people who elected him, Cruz left that to O’Rourke and AOC. Instead he decided a little beachside massage and umbrella drinks was the appropriate response to a crisis. Which means that Cruz’s reception on his return to his home state has been about as warm as the average Texas water pipe at this point. 

People at Ted Cruz’s house, waiting for him to get home. pic.twitter.com/3juZZ7nIa5

— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) February 19, 2021

Even Cruz’s “I had intended to stay over the weekend” is underselling his action considerably. His family absconded to Mexico on Wednesday. What he meant was he was actually taking a whole week off in the middle of a crisis that has turned deadly for his state. And his only real excuse seems to be that he’s worthless anyway, so why bother to stay? In fact, Cruz’s intrinsic lack of any purpose was the main defense provided to him by his pals at Fox News, who indignantly huffed on Thursday about how, if Cruz stuck around, it wasn’t like he was going to do anything.

As The Washington Post eloquently puts it:

“Nobody likes Ted Cruz. This was the place that Ted Cruz was starting from earlier this week. Then he went to Cancun. He went to Cancun, where it is mostly sunny and in the low 80s, while many of his ice-blasted constituents were without heating and plumbing, watching their ceilings collapse, huddling in warming centers, defecating in buckets, and generally not packing for a few days on the Yucatán Peninsula.”

To make it even more damning. This is also the Ted Cruz who voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy. The Ted Cruz who mocked California for much less severe rolling blackouts by saying the state “is now unable to perform even basic functions of civilization.” And the Ted Cruz who not only has announced his opposition to President Biden’s COVID-19 relief bill, he voted against the last COVID-19 relief bill. This is the Ted Cruz who thinks nothing of paying for a week at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun and airline tickets bought on a whim with no advance discount, but believes that Americans don’t deserve a $2,000 relief check. That’s a lot of baggage, even for a spiffy bit of brand-new rolling luggage. 

And, oh yeah, this would also be the same Ted Cruz who helped to incite, support, and defend a deadly insurgency that smashed into the halls of the Capitol on January 6 and sought to murder members of Congress. It’s also the same Ted Cruz who openly and smugly conferenced with Donald Trump’s legal team to give them advice on the best way to escape justice in the Senate. 

On Friday, temperatures in Texas are up, and while hundreds of thousands are still purposely without power as the overstressed electrical grid puts itself back in order. All over the state, Texans are discovering that their homeowner’s insurance will not cover the damage caused by bursting pipes, even when that led to collapsing floors and ceilings.  

And now Ted Cruz is back to his real job, which is appearing on Fox News to join in the endless lies about how the problems in Texas are actually all Democrats’ fault, even though Republicans have been running the system for decades. That’s because, as MSNBC host Chris Hayes has noted, Cruz sees himself as “Rush Limbaugh with a Senate office.” He’s not there to do anything. He’s not there to do anything for the people of his state. He only exists to make snide remarks and attack democracy.

On Friday, the Houston Chronicle summed Cruz up in an editorial as hot as the state’s been cold.

Take our advice, senator, and resign. Seems like you could use a break and we could, too, from an ineffective politician who, even in crisis, puts his personal itinerary before the needs of Texans.

Ted Cruz's vacation and the Mars rover landing coincide in a meme https://t.co/at3uefsdAl pic.twitter.com/dE8HO0w9KP

— Mashable (@mashable) February 19, 2021

Caught vacationing in Cancun during a pandemic as Texas voters froze, Ted Cruz blames his kids

All right, we have to do it. We have to spend a few moments celebrating these new accomplishments by the forever hapless but somehow still-sociopathic Sen. Ted Cruz, a man who once had presidential aspirations but who now spends his days humiliating himself and those around him, chipping away at his own integrity in what appears to be a spirited game of Dog Turd Jenga.

Oh, Ted. What are you, even?

As we all now know, Ted Cruz was caught taking a flight to the resort town of Cancun, Mexico, during (1) a massive natural disaster in his home state that caused much of the state to lose power and is now resulting in citizens dying in their homes and (2) a global pandemic that has killed 500,000 Americans, closed schools, shuttered businesses, and prevented many Americans from seeing their friends or loved ones for something approaching a full year now.

When caught, Ted blamed his young children. "Like millions of Texans, our family lost heat and power too," says Ted. "With school cancelled for the week, our girls asked to take a trip with friends. Wanting to be a good dad, I flew down with them last night and am flying back this afternoon."

You've heard of the general edict between politicians and press to "leave the children out of it." This is the other edict: When in political danger, throw your youngest daughter at reporters and bolt.

Now, there are sev-er-al problems with Cruz's statement up there, and that's being generous. Cruz previously said that his home did not lose power, suggesting he was selflessly hosting the neighbor children who were not so fortunate. The airport pictures show Cruz with a rather significant amount of luggage for a supposed one-night stay, but we will be good sports and presume that he is merely moonlighting as a Texas drug mule or that he never, ever leaves the country without a two week supply of his favorite canned soups.

Fine. But then there's the rather bigger problem of Ted Cruz, a United States senator, willingly declaring that despite a deadly global pandemic, his kids got bored during a school break and insisted daddy spirit them off to Mexico for funsies, which he of course did, but of course he had to shepherd them there himself before, um, turning right around and coming back. Really now? Really? The rest of us are conducting half our lives over Zoom to keep ourselves and our neighbors safe during a plague while the senators ostensibly in charge of these things are letting their daughters organize their own international superspreader events? Outstanding. Just outstanding.

By far the biggest flaw with Ted's claims here, however—and it is a doozy—is that an airline-knowledgable reporter was quickly able to check with a source and reports that Cruz's original United Airlines tickets originally had him booked to return Saturday. Ted Cruz is, apparently, just brazenly lying his confederate beard off on this one.

I realize that does not really come as a surprise to anyone, given that the current crop of propaganda-spewing Republicans quite literally uses lying as means of governance and therefore lies about absolutely everything, all the time, but it still needs to be said that this yellowbellied Texas lungfish blamed a weekend Cancun vacation on his kids, then lied to everyone in his state about how Actually he was just tagging along to show them how to work the hotel vending machines.

Nope. It seems Cruz had, among senators, a very particular reason for being outraged at the notion that the Senate might have to hear evidence in the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump for longer than a few days. Cruz had an international beach trip planned for the Senate break, and didn't intend to let a probe of whether a former president attempted to have his vice president and a good chunk of the presidential line of succession killed in a coup attempt interfere with that.

Oh, and apparently he didn't even tell his staff where he was going, which was the reason his staff had no immediate response when pictures began flowing in of their boss leaving the damn country. The last time that happened we learned that a certain Republican governor had an Argentinian mistress, but not before his staff had piped up with a cover story claiming he was off hiking the Appalachian Trail on—shoulda done a little research on that one, kids—National Nude Hiking Day.

You may, at this point, be almost close to maybe having a microscopic bit of sympathy for Ted Cruz in the form of at least being embarrassed on his behalf for being such an amazingly craven little sea squirt. Don't bother. Once the Jan. 6 seditionist had been caught and had to book a quick flight back to Texas in order to pretend that he gave two biscuits about his voters freezing to death in their homes, one of the things his staff quickly made sure of was to contact the Houston Police Department to arrange for their "assistance" at the airport when he got back.

Sure, it's not like anyone in Texas has anything better to do right now. Surely there're some spare officers available to guide Cruz through an airport terminal and fend off anyone who wants to ask for more details about his international pandemic superspreader sleepover.

Cruz has managed to be a truly amazing human being these last few years, and that should not be taken as praise. He has managed to throw every member of his family, from his father to his wife to his children, under ye olde tour bus in his various attempts to slither through a political career. He has both Trump's sociopathic unwillingness to stick to the truth and a personality so magnificently awful that he could save 10 orphans from a burning orphanage and still somehow come out of it more hated than he was when he went inside. Above all, he somehow managed to maneuver himself into playing a central role in the biggest seditious anti-government conspiracy since the actual Civil War, all in service to an incompetent blowhard and gasbag, under the apparent impression that what the nation really needs these days is to just nix elections outright and put tax-dodging rapists in charge.

Did he support the nullification of an election because his kids and their friends were bored and wanted to play insurrection, or was that one on him? If any of us could still stomach even hearing this mulletfaced Gulf treasonfish bubble at us any longer it might make for a fascinating story, but if Texas voters still have a drop of dignity left maybe they'll run Ted out of town—the roads are slick, so a pair of skates and a little push is probably all it would take—and appoint a particularly irritable rat snake to fill out his term.