• Biden Team Can Begin Transition Process, GSA Head Finally Says

    Chris Kleponis/CNP/Zuma

    The General Services Administration informed President-elect Joe Biden that his team could begin the formal presidential transition process Monday afternoon, according to a letter obtained by CNN.

    It was clear long ago that Biden won the election. But Emily Murphy, head of the GSA, stalled on making funds available to help the transition along. Even as it became ever more obvious that President Trump’s outlandish lawsuits could not help him stop a defeat, she waited. Many speculated it was because of political pressure from Donald Trump, especially because Murphy reportedly began looking for her next gig. This led to a backlash summed up neatly by the Atlantic headline: “Why Won’t Emily Murphy Just Do Her Job?

    Today, she did. In a letter, she authorized the transition process.

    You can read it in full here:

    Still, in her letter, she cast herself as the victim, saying she was harassed. Murphy claimed Trump played no factor in the wait to authorize transition. “To be clear,” she wrote, “I did not receive any direction to delay my determination.”

    This is a bit hard to believe. Trump tweeted moments later that he is “recommending” Murphy to start the transition.

    Either way, we’re one step closer to a Biden presidency.

  • Michigan Democrats Are Taking a Stand Against Trump’s Campaign to Steal the State’s Vote

    AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

    Since Election Day, President Donald Trump and his lawyers have filed a torrent of legal challenges in an attempt to overturn the election results in Michigan, where voters sided with President-elect Joe Biden, and despite the total lack of success (not to mention any evidence of fraud), they show no signs of giving up. But Michigan Democrats, who have largely stuck to parrying the Trump campaign’s futile efforts, have begun fighting back on their own terms.

    On Friday evening, for example, lawyers for the city of Detroit asked a federal judge to reprimand Trump’s attorneys for spreading “disinformation.” While attorneys are allowed to make controversial and long-shot arguments, most courts have rules that attorneys must also be honest and obey ethics rules, something Trump’s attorneys did not do, Detroit’s lawyers argue. Specifically, they are complaining about a filing made by the Trump campaign in which the president’s attorneys actually said they were dropping a lawsuit challenging Michigan’s elections; while that would be a win for Michigan Democrats, Trump’s attorneys wrote they were dropping the case because the Wayne County Board of Canvassers had “declined” to certify the election results for the county where Detroit is located. The issue, though, is that that’s not true—after initially deadlocking on the decision to certify, the board eventually voted 4-0 to certify.

    While Trump’s attorneys are welcome to drop their lawsuit, the city argues, “it does not allow them to use a Notice of Dismissal to spread disinformation.” Attorneys can face sanctions for violating the rules, but reportedly the city is only asking that the judge remove the incorrect information from the Trump campaign’s filings. 

    In a similar vein, attorneys for the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in Washington, D.C., federal court late on Friday, arguing that repeated attempts to spread misinformation about vote fraud—in an attempt to pressure public officials into not certifying the election results—constitutes illegal voter suppression. The plaintiffs in the case are three Black voters from Detroit and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization.

    Among other things, their lawsuit cites tweets from Trump that tried to cast doubt on the election results, as well as the invitation to visit the White House he extended to top Michigan GOP lawmakers, which was widely seen as an attempt to curry their favor and convince them to interfere with the vote certification process. 

    Four Michigan Republican lawmakers did visit the White House on Friday, but after leaving indicated they had no plans to involve themselves or try to change the way Michigan’s electoral votes will go. That said, the Washington Post reports that the state’s Democratic attorney general has begun considering whether she can file criminal charges against state and local officials who ignore the election results and try to help Trump flip the state. According to the Post, Dana Nessel, the state’s attorney general, has been talking with legal experts about whether officials who try to undermine the election results “may have violated any state laws prohibiting them from engaging in bribery, perjury and conspiracy.”

  • Big Cash Is Continuing to Flood Into the Georgia Runoffs that Will Determine Senate Control

    Georgia Democratic candidates for US Senate Raphael Warnock, left, and Jon Ossoff, right, during a campaign rally on Nov. 15, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. Brynn Anderson/AP

    Fueled by new tools to easily funnel grassroots dollars to candidates, as well as what’s become known as “fundraging,” the 2020 election was already historically expensive—the federal election alone likely cost near $14 billion—and it’s far from over. Since election night, a renewed battle has been raging in Georgia where both Senate seats are up for a runoff in January because no candidate got more than 50 percent of the vote, and donors are rushing in with wallets wide open. An estimate on Friday by nonpartisan advertising analysis firm AdImpact found that at least $206 million has been spent on political media between the primary and general elections and now the runoffs. And that might be lower than the true number.

    On top of the $206 million in pre-November 3 spending, AdImpact estimates that since November 6—when the Senate race between incumbent Republican David Perdue and his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff was officially sent to a runoff—advertisers have spent at least $80.1 million on the race (and that apparently doesn’t count money flowing to the other runoff race, between Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, which is a special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Republican Johnny Isakson). Democrats have put in slightly more during this period—$42.9 million to $37.2 million. Those sums include spending by the campaigns and major party groups, but AdImpact found that just the Perdue and Ossoff campaigns have already pre-booked another $67 million in spending by January 5—a number which can rise.

    Still, the total spending is likely much higher, as these estimates don’t reflect the money that is being spent on media by outside groups—super-PACs and dark-money groups that don’t disclose their donors—which will likely add tens of millions of dollars more. In the Perdue and Ossoff race, about $113 million has been spent by outside groups (that includes before and after November 3‚ according to OpenSecrets.org). While Democrats seem to hold the edge in the spending by campaigns and by affiliated party groups (like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and its Republican counterpart), the outside spending has favored Perdue, with outside groups spending at least $62 million to barrage Ossoff’s campaign with negative ads. Though outside groups favoring Ossoff haven’t been shy, dropping at least $34.2 million attacking Perdue, they are clearly outgunned for the moment. 

  • Trump Just Fired a Well-Respected Election Security Official for Disagreeing With Him

    Christopher Krebs, director of the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, testifies during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on May 14, 2019. Tom Williams/Congressional Quarterly/Newscom via ZUMA Press

    President Donald Trump fired one of the US government’s most senior officials responsible for cybersecurity and election security in a Tuesday night tweet—a move that’s been widely expected for days, as the official, Chris Krebs, led the effort to loudly debunk some of the president’s most outlandish claims about election irregularities after Trump’s Nov. 3 loss.

    Trump appointed Krebs, a former Microsoft executive, as the inaugural director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in 2018, designating the agency as the focal point for government cybersecurity issues. Election security was a major focus for Krebs and his team over the past two years, and the work largely managed to fly under the radar of a president who is hyper-sensitive to any discussion or action related to election security, for fear that the subject draws focus to the Russian election interference operations in 2016.

    That changed recently as Krebs and other agency officials became more vocal in swatting down inane election-related conspiracy theories and defending the integrity of the November election. A rumor control page from CISA told readers that no, dead people were not, in fact, casting ballots, and the fact that results aren’t available on election night does not make them fraudulent. As noted by Politico, Krebs’ Twitter account was more direct in its rebuttals of election-rigging claims from the president and his allies.

    On November 12, CISA and a group that includes secretaries of state, election directors, and election equipment vendors, issued a statement saying the “November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” and added that “there is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.” This of course was in direct conflict with the president’s baseless and plentiful claims of widespread election fraud. 

    It’s probably no surprise then that in firing Krebs, Trump explicitly referenced this statement, claiming it was “highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud – including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” 

    A spokesperson for the agency did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday night. Shortly after the president’s tweet, Krebs tweeted from his personal account:

    Krebs’ firing was quickly followed by strong reaction from those who watch the election security space. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one of the Senate’s most active members on election security matters, called the firing a “gut punch to our democracy.” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a longtime election security advocate, tweeted thatTrump fired a government official for telling the truth so he can accelerate his lying about the election.” Last week, when Reuters initially reported that Krebs’ job was in jeopardy, Wyden tweeted that Trump was “preparing to spread lies about the election from a government agency.” Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Calif.), the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, called the firing “pathetic, but sadly predictable.”

    Krebs and his team got a lot of credit for their nonpartisan approach to election security coordination between states and local jurisdictions, which actually run elections, and the federal government.

    “It is disheartening that in the dwindling days of this presidency, in the midst of a global pandemic that is surging rather than abating, that the outgoing president is using his time to dismantle government agencies and attack dedicated public servants,” Tammy Patrick, a longtime election administration and security expert, told Mother Jones Tuesday. “The totality of what we are seeing, not just this firing, is dangerous and continues erode our democratic norms. Those who sit idly by and enable this behavior are culpable.”

  • The Trump Official Who Hasn’t “Ascertained” Biden Won the Election Is Looking for a New Job

    President-elect Joe Biden still hasn’t been recognized as the election winner by the General Services Administration because the administrator, Emily Murphy, has not “ascertained” that he won the election.

    Biden did win. The race was called over a week ago. But until Murphy and the GSA certify the win—as Walter M. Shaub Jr. writes in the New York Review of Books—Biden is held back from receiving “$6.3 million dollars to the team, which is funded by public and private money; a loan of expanded federal office space and equipment; access to government agencies that will begin sharing information and records about ongoing activities, plans and vulnerabilities; national security briefings for the president; and other support.”

    That could, you’d think, be helpful for a president walking into office as he deals with a massive economic crisis and a deadly pandemic. Even the most callous partisan should realize that. But Murphy has not budged. What makes her lack of action even scummier is that, as ABC News reported, Murphy seems to have personally ascertained that the Trump administration is indeed coming to an end:

    Emily Murphy, head of the GSA, recently sent that message to an associate inquiring about employment opportunities in 2021, a move that some in Washington interpreted as at least tacitly acknowledging that the current administration soon will be gone.

    Got it? When it helps Republicans, Biden won. But when it helps Biden—and the country—get ready to do the job, let Trump keep ranting.

    Congressional Democrats are none too pleased:

    Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., a senior member of the House Oversight Committee, insisted that Murphy reaching out privately about future employment opportunities “exposes the hypocrisy” of the Trump administration’s position.

    “Here’s somebody who refuses to sign the letter of transition but is self-dealing at the same time,” he told ABC News. “That’s a de facto recognition that there’s an incoming administration, and it’s not called Trump—it’s called Biden.”

    President-elect Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States in 65 days.

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  • Donald Trump Wants You to Know That He Definitely Did Not Just Concede the Election

    Donald Trump, totally not conceding.Evan Vucci/AP

    For a brief time Sunday morning, Donald Trump appeared to accept reality. Nearly eight days after every major media outlet had declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election, Trump took to Twitter and stated that Biden had “won” the race.

    Of course, Trump couldn’t bring himself to admit that Biden had won because the former VP got more votes in enough states to earn a decisive Electoral College majority. Instead, Trump falsely claimed the election had been “Rigged” and attributed Biden’s victory to an array of bogus conspiracy theories. And he did so while promoting a video from Fox News’ Jesse Watters, who told viewers he has a “gut feeling” that the election was fraudulent. “It’s like a feeling a parent gets when something happens to their child when they aren’t there,” Watters said. “You just know it.”

    But still, there it was, clearly stated on the president’s favorite media platform: Biden won.

    And after a week in which Trump and his team had launched an all-out effort to steal the election, this was big news. On NBC’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd reported that Trump’s tweet appeared to be the “beginning of a concession process” and asked Biden’s incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, for his reaction.

    Klain called Trump’s tweet “a further confirmation of the reality that Joe Biden won the election” and added that “if the president’s prepared to begin to recognize that reality, that’s positive.”

    Alas, Trump is not actually prepared to recognize that reality. Clearly angered by the reaction to his words, the current president issued more tweets. “I concede NOTHING!” he declared. “We have a long way to go.”

  • Joe Biden Wins Georgia, Donald Trump Wins North Carolina

    The final results of the presidential election have been called: President Trump won North Carolina, and President-elect Biden won Georgia, turning the state blue for the first time in 28 years.

    The latest results, including Biden’s win in Arizona, give him 306 Electoral College votes, 74 more than Trump’s 232 and well over the 270 needed to win. Biden’s popular-vote lead has grown to nearly 5.4 million, according to the Cook Political Report. (Georgia is currently undergoing an audit of its results, but election officials say it’s unlikely to change the final outcome.)

    Despite Biden’s decisive victory in both measures of the vote, Trump has refused to concede the election. While his legal efforts to throw out votes have failed to gain traction, his refusal to include Biden in intelligence briefings—among other acts of denial of his defeat—has led many Americans to wonder whether a coup is imminent. (The answer, according to the very smart people my colleague Jacob Rosenberg asked, is no.)

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  • The White House Just Can’t Stop Holding Superspreader Events

    It seems like top Republicans are living on a completely different plane of reality than the rest of us.

    They didn’t learn from the Amy Coney Barrett nomination party that potentially infected the president himself. Instead, on election night, they packed into the White House’s East Room, sans masks, to watch the results roll in. Now, Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows; housing secretary and brain surgeon Ben Carson; political director Brian Jack; and senior adviser Corey Lewandowski all have COVID.

    This is the same virus that killed Herman Cain and sent former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the ICU for a week. As Dave Chappelle mused in his very funny SNL monologue this weekend, “What kind of man makes sure he’s okay while his friends fight for their lives and die?” Answer: “A white man.”

    Where’s the lie?

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  • Biden Now Leads the Popular Vote by More Than 5 Million

    Cory Clark/NurPhoto/Zuma

    President-elect Joe Biden’s popular vote lead over President Trump has grown to 5.29 million, according to the Cook Political Report.

    Vote counting is still underway, but Biden thus far leads the popular vote contest by 3.4 percentage points. The former vice president currently has at least 279 electoral votes—more than the 270 needed for victory. With North Carolina likely to go to Trump and Biden leading in Georgia and Arizona (some outlets have already called Arizona for Biden), Biden could see his total grow to 306 electoral votes.

    Biden’s wide margins of victory in both methods of counting renders Trump’s claims of having been reelected particularly ridiculous. And while Biden ultimately won a majority of electoral votes, the close contests in key swing states have further emphasized the advantage that Republicans have in the Electoral College—and have fueled calls for getting rid of that system altogether.

  • “It’s an Embarrassment”: Biden Says Trump’s Refusal to Concede Won’t Stand in His Way

    Carolyn Kaster/AP

    President Trump has refused to concede the election, which, as things currently stand, he’s losing by nearly 4.7 million popular votes and 65 electoral votes. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he won’t accept the election results until the Electoral College meets next month and thinks Trump is justified in trying to sue his way to victory. Most alarmingly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday, “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.”

    President-elect Joe Biden is unfazed. At a Tuesday afternoon press conference, reporters hammered the former vice president with questions about how he would handle Republicans’ refusal to cooperate with the transition. Biden said it didn’t matter; the transition was already underway.

    “I’m confident that the fact that they’re not willing to acknowledge we won at this point is not of much consequence in our planning and what we’re able to do between now and January 20,” he said. As for McConnell’s allegiance to Trump? “I think that the whole Republican Party has been put in a position, with a few notable exceptions, of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president.”

    Still, the White House has showed no sign of standing down, going so far as to begin preparing a budget for the next fiscal year, even though Trump won’t be in office in February, when the budget proposal is set to be issued. Biden refuses to take such gestures seriously.

    “I just think it’s an embarrassment,” he said of Trump’s refusal to concede. “I know from my discussions with foreign leaders thus far that they are hopeful that the United States’ democratic institutions are viewed once again as strong and enduring, but I think at the end of the day, it’s all going to come to fruition on January 20.”

  • Mitch McConnell Won’t Accept That Biden Won the Election

    Yuri Gripas/Abaca/Zuma

    On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused in a speech to acknowledge that President-elect Joe Biden had won the election, echoing President Trump’s suggestion that voter fraud—which is so rare as to barely exist—delegitimized the former vice president’s victory.

    “President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell said in a statement on the Senate floor. But so far, the “allegations of irregularities” lack any evidence. They are so off-base that even one Fox News host refused to air them.

    Trump’s attempts at suing his way to victory are unlikely to work. Biden won both the popular vote and the Electoral College by large enough margins that even the alleged fraud is unlikely to make up the deficit. Still, McConnell is sticking by Trump’s side. His unblinking deference to Trump not only strokes the president’s ego—it allows for a scenario in which Trump could refuse to leave the White House even if he lost, potentially endangering the sanctity of the United States’ democratic process.

    During the Watergate scandal, when a trio of Republicans—House Minority Leader John Rhodes, Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, and Senator Barry Goldwater—told Richard Nixon that he was certain to be impeached, he resigned the next day. Today, conversely, a sizable portion of Republican leadership refuses to accept reality. And rather than packing his bags, Trump is out planning rallies.

  • Joe Biden Won. Now What?

    The most excruciating week in recent memory came to a climactic end on Saturday with Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump. The city streets that four years ago teemed with protesters denouncing the election of Trump over Hillary Clinton now came alive with masked dancers, celebrating a potential return to political normalcy during an extremely abnormal time.

    Joe Biden will take office on January 20. What happens until then?

    President Trump, who refuses to concede, will retain his power for a little more than two months. He’s already fired Defense Secretary Mike Esper and tweeted so many false accusations of election fraud that I haven’t bothered to count how many times the social media site has found it in everybody’s best interest to censor them. He has half a billion dollars of debt coming due in the next few years, and he won’t have the office of the presidency to protect him from any legal repercussions of his shady business dealings. (The New Yorker has a good article about how screwed he is.) But until Biden is sworn in, we’ll have to contend with whatever stunts the lame-duck Trump gets it in his mind to pull.

    And we’ll have to deal with an issue not easily redressed by rejoining the Paris agreement or packing the Supreme Court or defunding the police: the coronavirus pandemic, which in the United States is approaching a third peak far higher than those of the spring and summer. Early data from Pfizer suggests that its trial vaccine could be more than 90 percent effective—and stocks have consequently soared—but the vaccine is still a long way from being fully approved, and even then, governments and health departments will have to figure out how to distribute it.

    It’s going to be a long, strange winter tainted by a lot of death. But at the very least—if we make it to the end of January—we’ll get a brand-new president. Still an old white guy, sure, but one capable of pretending to be normal. That’s enough for me, for now.

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  • Obama Congratulates Biden-Harris on “Historic and Decisive Victory”

    Shortly after news organizations projected that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris had won enough states to clinch the 2020 presidential election, former President Barack Obama congratulated his vice president and the vice president–to–be on their “historic and decisive victory.”

    Read his full statement:

    I could not be prouder to congratulate our next President, Joe Biden, and our next First Lady, Jill Biden.

    I also couldn’t be prouder to congratulate Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff for Kamala’s groundbreaking election as our next Vice President.

    In this election, under circumstances never experienced, Americans turned out in numbers never seen. And once every vote is counted, President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris will have won a historic and decisive victory.

    We’re fortunate that Joe’s got what it takes to be President and already carries himself that way. Because when he walks into the White House in January, he’ll face a series of extraordinary challenges no incoming President ever has – a raging pandemic, an unequal economy and justice system, a democracy at risk, and a climate in peril.

    I know he’ll do the job with the best interests of every American at heart, whether or not he had their vote. So I encourage every American to give him a chance and lend him your support. The election results at every level show that the country remains deeply and bitterly divided. It will be up to not just Joe and Kamala, but each of us, to do our part – to reach out beyond our comfort zone, to listen to others, to lower the temperature and find some common ground from which to move forward, all of us remembering that we are one nation, under God.

    Finally, I want to thank everyone who worked, organized, and volunteered for the Biden campaign, every American who got involved in their own way, and everybody who voted for the first time. Your efforts made a difference. Enjoy this moment. Then stay engaged. I know it can be exhausting. But for this democracy to endure, it requires our active citizenship and sustained focus on the issues – not just in an election season, but all the days in between.

    Our democracy needs all of us more than ever. And Michelle and I look forward to supporting our next President and First Lady however we can.

  • Joe Biden Just Won Pennsylvania—and the Presidency

    Mother Jones illustration; Bebeto Matthews/AP; Luis Santana/Tampa Bay Times/AP

    Former Vice President Joe Biden is projected to win the state of Pennsylvania, according to multiple news outlets, securing his victory over Donald Trump as the 46th president of the United States.

    Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes bring Biden’s Electoral College total up to 273, more than the 270 needed to win the presidency—even as Georgia, North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada, and Alaska are still counting ballots. In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s loss in Pennsylvania marked a turning point at which it became clear that Trump would win the presidency. Democrats attribute Biden’s ability to flip the state to turnout among Black voters in cities like Philadelphia and increased support from working-class white voters in places like Scranton, Biden’s birthplace.

    This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

  • Awaiting Final Count, Biden Says He’s Already Preparing to Fight COVID

    Biden Campaign/CNP/Zuma

    In a late-night address to Americans Friday, former Vice President Joe Biden declared his confidence that the remaining votes to be tallied would confirm his victory over President Trump. He vowed to address the coronavirus pandemic and the related economic downturn as soon as he took office, telling Americans that he was already meeting with public health officials so he could hit the ground running.

    While neither candidate has won the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the presidency, votes tallied throughout the day have given Biden an edge in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. Still, no network has called the race. Without a winner declared, it was unclear if Biden would speak, but at 11 p.m., he took the stage in Wilmington, Delaware.

    “What’s becoming clear each hour is that a record number of Americans of all races, faiths, religions chose change over more of the same,” Biden said, appearing triumphant. “They’ve given us a mandate for action on COVID, the economy, climate change, systemic racism. They made it clear they want the country to come together, not continue to pull apart.”

    Biden promised to make addressing the pandemic his first order of business, and noted that he and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris, had already met with public health experts and economists to discuss a path forward. “We want everyone to know, on day one, we’re going to put our plan to control this virus into action,” he said. “We can’t save any of the lives that have been lost, but we can save a lot of lives in the months ahead.” (Moments after he finished speaking, Bloomberg reported that Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, had been infected with COVID-19.)

    And, like the president under whom he served until Trump took office, Biden urged unity and compassion among Americans of all political parties. “We may be opponents,” he said, “but we are not enemies.”

  • Electoral Gains This Week Show the (New) South Rises—Slowly

    Former gubernatorial candidate and former state Rep. Stacey Abrams waves to the crowd as she crosses the Edmund Pettus Bridge, Sunday, March 1, 2020, in Selma, Ala. Butch Dill/AP

    Progress toward a more just and equal society is not something that will just come and smack you in the face, at least not in the South. It takes time. It’s slow. It’s incremental. Yet, whenever the rest of the country catches onto a campaign down South, there’s inevitably just so much damn handwringing when the results don’t go progressives’ way. Soaring headlines that predict the year of “the new South,” or that the “new Southern strategy” will gain momentum, or that “the (new) South’s gonna rise,” or…insert misguided cliché here, quickly turn sour, (over)selling the disappointment by the same magnitude, Oh, look at that, the South is still pretty damn red. But what so many of these pieces lack is crucial context, specifically the myriad ways in which progressive policy has been stymied for more than a century in the South, especially where it concerns Black voters.

    So this time, before you start shouting about those dumb rednecks (hello, I guess), educate yourselves. 

    Raquel Willis, a Black transgender activist from Georgia, said it best on Twitter: “Y’all better speak precisely when talking about southern states. The most powerful and innovative organizers have been trying to transform the region for generations. Don’t turn your backs on their hard work for a cute, quippy, self-righteous put down.”

    To be fair, on Friday when Joe Biden overtook Donald Trump’s vote share in Georgia, Democrats celebrated—and rightly so. The state is the closest it’s been to going for a Democratic presidential candidate in decades, and both Georgia’s races for US Senate seats will go to a January runoff. One Democrat candidate is Rev. Raphael Warnock, who would be the state’s first Black US Senator if elected.

    But there was also a heap of impressive progress in the state and across the region that’s gotten way less attention. Georgia also elected its first queer state senator, Kim Jackson; Tennessee elected two of the first openly gay candidates to its state legislature; and Florida elected its first Black queer woman to the state House, Michele Rayner-Goolsby, and its first gay state senator, Shevrin Jones. Florida also raised the minimum wage in the state to $15 per hour. Mississippi not only voted to remove a Jim Crow-era provision from the state constitution that was meant to preserve white political power, but it also voted for a new state flag, officially moving on from the former Confederate design that was retired this summer. Alabama too voted to remove racist language from its state constitution, including old Jim Crow provisions banning interracial marriage and racially integrated schools. Virginia voters approved an amendment to form an independent, bipartisan redistricting committee in an effort to make its congressional districts less gerrymandered. And, as Adam Harris pointed out in the Atlantic, 2020 saw the largest number of Black candidates for political office in the South—the Deep South, in particular—since Reconstruction.

    These changes came from grassroots activism that was made possible by a powerful spirit of organizing that has existed in the South since the Civil Rights Movement. And the Civil Rights Movement, of course, was born out of centuries of oppression and the dehumanization and enslavement of Black people. But the South’s history of white supremacy is old and so deeply entrenched in the identity of the place that carefully weeding it all out to allow more room for progress and equality takes time; I’ve written before about how that history lingers in the present day in ways that sometimes make it hard to recognize fully, even as it continues to cause harm. That is why we need to celebrate these small(er) victories when they happen—they are indicative of something much bigger. 

    It’s also important to note that the people who are fighting the hardest for equality in this country, but especially in the South, are also those who are the most disempowered by the infrastructure in place—think gerrymandering, felony disenfranchisement laws, voter ID laws, and voter roll purging, not to mention the vast economic inequalities that people of color face that reverberates through education, health care, and emotional wellbeing. That makes the organizing work being done in the South that is led by so many Black folks all the more incredible—not only should they not need to do this work in 2020 in the first place, but they’re doing it in the face of extreme adversity. I’m talking, of course, about women like Stacey Abrams, who has changed the voting demographics in Georgia through her voter registration efforts, and Nikema Williams, the state senator who was elected to the late Rep. John Lewis’ seat this week and is chair of Georgia’s Democratic Party. I’m thinking about the powerful history of the Black church, and the way Black churches and faith communities continue to lead the march toward justice in the South. There are the organizing efforts of Black Greek organizations; sororities like Delta Sigma Theta, Alpha Kappa Alpha (which counts Kamala Harris as a sister), Zeta Phi Beta, and Sigma Gamma Rho have played a significant role in voter registration, as have fraternities like Alpha Phi Alpha, which Warnock belongs to—his brothers have been at most of his campaign events. There are the Black mayors of the South—Steven Reed in Montgomery, Ala.; Keisha Lance Bottoms in Atlanta; Frank Scott Jr. in Little Rock, Arkansas; Randall Woodfin in Birmingham, Alabama; Vi Lyles in Charlotte, North Carolina; Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi, to name a few. 

    Change comes slow, especially when so many of those fighting for it have been shoved to the bottom of America’s caste system. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening; it’s happening, and each change will continue to build on the one before it as history marches forward. 

  • Biden’s Lead Has Philly Protesters Elated, But “So Much More Work” Remains

    John Minchillo/AP

    The Philadelphia residents who filled the street outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center on Thursday were already a joyful bunch. The scene was even more merry on Friday, as union workers, musicians, activists, and other protesters cheered the news that Joe Biden had taken a lead in Pennsylvania and Georgia and was within striking distance of victory over Donald Trump. 

    More than a dozen progressive groups, including Reclaim Philadelphia and the Movement Alliance Project, staged the block party in response to protests from Trump supporters, who grew in number from Thursday but attracted barely any notice from the progressives, who danced and held signs saying, “Count Every Vote.” A line of police officers on bikes kept the two sides separated. 

    With victory in Pennsylvania seeming likely, the “Count Every Vote” crowd seemed more interested in looking ahead to a possible Biden presidency. “Listen, Biden is aggressively fine for this moment in American history,” said Melissa Dunphy, a musician who joined the rally with a sign—featuring Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty—that read, “Fuck Around and Find Out.” 

    “Compared to what we have right now as president, Biden is going to feel like manna from heaven,” she added. “But there is so much more work to do.”

    Certainly no one would mistake the “Count Every Vote” contingent with a staunchly pro-Biden crowd. The rally’s highest-profile speakers, including Councilmembers Kendra Brooks and Helen Gym, endorsed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, and another speaker, Sergio Cea of Reclaim Philadelphia, expressly described the rally as “pro-people power and pro-democracy,” not pro-Biden. 

    Even as the presidential election has occupied virtually everyone’s attention—and thrust Philadelphia into the national spotlight—local injustices remain paramount in the minds of Philadelphians who took to the streets this week. The death of Walter Wallace, a West Philadelphia man who was shot by police officers last month, led to citywide unrest and a mandatory curfew ahead of the election. The release on Wednesday of 911 audio and bodycam footage related to Wallace’s case sparked protests outside City Hall.

    Wallace’s funeral, which is scheduled for Saturday, could be another event that draws protesters. Biden’s likely victory was, as Dunphy said, a “first step,” but nowhere close to the last gasp for Philadelphia’s progressive movement. 

  • Joe Biden’s Popular Vote Lead Grows to More Than 4 Million

    Jodi Hilton/NurPhoto/AP

    As states continue counting ballots, Joe Biden’s lead in the popular vote has grown to 4,102,314 votes—a margin of 2.7 percentage points over Donald Trump.

    As I wrote yesterday:

    The United States does not determine its president through a direct popular vote, but through an electoral system that weighs votes differently depending on which state they come from. And since the candidate with the most votes in a state wins all of that state’s electors (in most cases), there’s no difference between winning 51 percent of a state’s vote and winning 70 percent of the vote. This makes it possible to win the presidency while losing the popular vote.

    Cries for abolishing the Electoral College have grown stronger following the recent elections of two presidents who lost the popular vote: In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by a margin of 543,895, and in 2016, Hillary Clinton won it by a stunning 2,868,686 votes. Sixteen states—most recently, Colorado—and the District of Columbia have already joined the National Interstate Popular Vote Compact, which is intended to essentially nullify the Electoral College if more states eventually sign on. Still, it remains unclear how exactly the compact would go into effect without congressional approval.

    Biden’s popular vote lead is expected to continue to grow as election officials tally votes from mail-in ballots and urban centers. Of course, Biden is also leading in the Electoral College and appears to be on course to secure more than the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.

  • Trump Supporters Came to Philly to Stop the Vote. Progressive Protesters Met Them With “Radical Joy.”

    Demonstrators dance in the street outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where votes were still being counted on the Thursday following Election Day.Rebecca Blackwell/AP

    Amanda Mcillmurray, sporting a yellow “Voters Decide” mask on Thursday, has seen her share of protests as political director of Reclaim Philadelphia, an activist organization founded in 2016 by former Bernie Sanders campaign staffers. But even she imagined that the scene outside of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, pitting flag-waving Trump supporters against a sea of progressive activists, would be a “more tense protest.” 

    Instead, what she and dozens of reporters and activists found was more akin to a family reunion or block party, complete with music and dancing. “Philly people know how to party,” she told me. “We do this work because we care about each other, we care about our communities. It just makes sense for us to bring radical joy and love into everything that we do.”

    The progressive movement in Philadelphia, with years of experience in coalition-building and mobilization, was ready to hit the streets in an uncertain post-election period with help from national groups and nonpartisan organizations like Election Defenders, whose “Joy to the Polls” effort, which had live music greet voters at polling stations across the country, was central to the musical vibe outside the convention center. Even as the coronavirus pandemic has kept people indoors more than usual, Philadelphia organizers have rallied throughout the summer and fall in protests following the killing of George Floyd and the grand jury decision exonerating three Louisville police officers in the death of Breonna Taylor. Last month, the death of Walter Wallace, a West Philadelphia man who had been experiencing a mental health episode, sparked widespread protests, a citywide curfew, and the arrival of National Guard units.

    A contentious election, held during a pandemic at a time when the national spotlight is on Philadelphia, was just the latest thing demanding attention from activists. “This moment has been a crash course in how our electoral process works,” Bryan Mercer, executive director of the Movement Alliance Project, a Philadelphia activist organization founded in 2005, told the Philadelphia Inquirer last month. 

    Since the first presidential debate, when Donald Trump ominously suggested that “bad things happen in Philadelphia,” the president’s campaign and its supporters have sowed doubt and confusion about the voting process in Pennsylvania and other swing states. On Wednesday, the Trump campaign sued to stop the vote count in Pennsylvania, and Trump ally Lou Dobbs urged viewers of Fox Business show that night to “surround” Philadelphia and apply a “real rigorous, demanding presence” in the rooms where polls were being counted. 

    Several Trump supporters, organized by conservative groups like Tea Party Patriots Action and FreedomWorks, stood outside the convention center waving flags and attracting throngs of attention, while journalists from as far away as Australia lobbed questions at them. Occasionally, the Trump supporters, who were separated from the liberal protesters by a police barricade, traded jeers or, in one woman’s case, loudly yelled “NOT TODAY, SATAN!” through a megaphone. But mostly the crowds ignored each other and, as the afternoon went on, the crowd of Trump supporters dwindled

    At around 2:15 p.m., several organizers carried eight Domino’s pizzas over to the intersection of 12th and Arch streets, outside the convention center. Next to the pizzas, Robin Hynicka, lead pastor at nearby Arch Street United Methodist Church, a close partner to the city’s progressive movement, handed out masks, water, and mini-bottles of hand sanitizer. “We’re holding on to a block party atmosphere so that every vote gets counted in Philadelphia,” he told me. 


    One Trump supporter who stood outside the barricade was Dion Cini, a New Yorker best known for viral stunts where he displays a Trump flag in public locations. He used his popular Facebook page to urge Trump supporters to “stop the steal” in Philadelphia, Detroit, and Phoenix, but seemed reticent to draw a comparison with his work and the type of protesting by liberals that Trump supporters often decry as violent or hostile. “I’ve never protested in my life,” he told me. “I rally. Big difference.” Pointing to the group of progressive protesters, he said, “They protest and their protest turns into violence and then, somehow, some way, they win.” 

    That caricature certainly doesn’t apply to Thursday’s protesters, but also fails to capture how remarkably organized and collaborative the progressive movement has become in Philadelphia. Kendra Brooks, one of the speakers at Thursday’s rally, was elected to the City Council last year as a member of the Working Families Party, the first time a council seat reserved for non-Democrats had been filled by anyone but a Republican. One of several marquee progressive victories in Philadelphia—along with the election of reformist district attorney Larry Krasner in 2017—Brooks’ rise to political prominence crystallized the waning impact of the mainstream Democratic establishment that has held sway in the city for decades.

    For Brooks, the movement to shield the vote count from political interference has less to do with Biden—who virtually none of the organizing groups endorsed in the Democratic primary—and more to do with protecting the political interests of voters disillusioned with politics and marginalized by the two major parties. “We drove so many people to the polls by pushing, pushing, pushing young folks to vote, folks who aren’t usually involved in the process to vote,” she told me. “And we need to show them that we will stand with them and make sure that their vote is counted.” 

    Before entering politics, Brooks and Helen Gym, another council member who spoke on Thursday, were active in activism around public education—a particularly potent issue in Philadelphia, the poorest big city in the United States. They are fluent in the language of movement building and activism that sees injustice across social, economic, and racial lines as unmistakably interconnected.

    Not even the post-election chaos could be divorced from Philadelphia’s existing problems. On Wednesday night, city officials released bodycam footage taken by the officers who killed Wallace, sparking more protests.  “I had meetings all morning about police reform,” Brooks told me. “The city is still running, regardless. I still have my city responsibilities. But on the other side, I have a responsibility to my constituents and that’s why I’m out here.”

  • Trump Just Spoke. He Was Dishonest, Desperate, and Dangerous.

    Evan Vucci/AP

    To call the speech President Trump gave at the White House Thursday evening a “news conference” wouldn’t be right. For 17 minutes, he repeated dangerous lies about the legitimacy of the election results—claims so outrageous that even the conservative New York Post called them “baseless.” Fox News anchor John Roberts noted that the president we saw tonight “believes that at the end of the day…the election is not going to go his way” and is trying to plan an “alternate route” to retain the White House. 

    “If you count the legal votes, I easily win,” he began. “If you count the illegal votes, they can try to steal the election from us.” To be clear, there is no deadline by which votes must be counted, and a person is more likely to get struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud. The president is, again, lying.

    Trump also claimed that he won the state of Pennsylvania, which has not yet called a winner. His margin of victory in the state did get “whittled down”—his words—following the initial reporting of results, but that’s because the state is still continuing to count mail-in votes, which have largely favored Biden. And it’s no wonder mail-in votes aren’t a boon for the president: Trump has spent the last several months trying to delegitimize mail-in ballots, which offer a safer alternative to voting in person amid a pandemic.

    After he wrapped up, Trump refused to take questions from the press, slinking out of the briefing room:

    Trump’s comments are as dangerous as they are dishonest—a sitting president attempting to undermine the legitimacy of an election while votes are still being counted is unprecedented in United States history. CNN’s normally understated Anderson Cooper summed it up: “That is the most powerful person in the world, and we see him like an obese turtle on his back flailing in the hot sun, realizing his time is over, but he just hasn’t accepted it, and he wants to take everybody down with him, including this country.”