Mother Jones Magazine

Trump Jr. Gets Booed Out of His Own Book Event as White Nationalists Eat Their Own

Donald Trump Jr. apparently failed to grasp the hypocrisy in refusing to answer questions for an event to promote his new book, Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us, which is dedicated to mocking liberals and their so-called political correctness.

But the president’s eldest son’s missteps were not lost on the audience at UCLA on Sunday, where his own supporters, frustrated with the lack of a Q&A opportunity, filled the event with incessant booing. At one point, Trump Jr.’s girlfriend, the former Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle, scolded the audience before making fun of their sex lives, an apparent dig at incels. “I bet you engage and go on online dating because you’re impressing no one here to get a date in person.” 

The couple abruptly left the event after 20 minutes of booing. But the chaos they left behind did more than expose Trump Jr.’s hypocrisy; it laid bare the increasing tensions on the right, particularly between white supremacists and the conservatives eager to distance themselves from them. The Guardian reports that much of the anger in the room on Sunday came from supporters of Nick Fuentes, a 21-year-old white nationalist quickly gaining prominence with the alt-right crowd, who specifically targeted Charlie Kirk, the founder of the conservative youth group Turning Point USA. From the Guardian

On Sunday, Kirk appeared alongside Trump Jr. and Guilfoyle but said nothing.

Two Fuentes supporters, delighted with the outcome of Trump Jr’s appearance, later told the Guardian the pro-Trump movement was being infected with “fake conservatism” and that the president himself was at the mercy of a cabal of deep state operatives who wouldn’t let him do many of the things he campaigned on.

A similar crisis erupted at a conservative Q&A last month. “White nationalism and anti-gay hatred have no place in our movement,” Benny Johnson of Turning Point tweeted after the event was similarly drowned out by white nationalists. “This is what the Left wants. It’s time to Wake Up.”

But Johnson and similarly defensive conservatives have little to say about their own roles in encouraging hatred, white nationalism, and anti-Semitism for a new generation. The chaos on Sunday is the kind of thing you should expect when young conservatives are trained to be at the front lines of the culture wars, armed with “fake news” chants and hashtag-ready taunts. As my colleague Stephanie Mencimer reported from Turning Point’s student action summit last year:

Spreading like wildfire on college and high school campuses, Turning Point engages in meme battles with lefties, deploying a #BigGovernmentSucks hashtag. It maintains a “watchlist” of allegedly socialist professors while nursing an intense persecution complex that’s on full display in Palm Beach this week.

Students as young as ninth grade are here absorbing the talking points of the conservative movement, learning from the likes of Brexit architect Nigel Farage, former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka,  Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend.

As conservatives continue to try to distance themselves from the right’s ugliest faction, don’t expect the Trump Jr.’s of the world to acknowledge their own direct role in creating it. 

Trump’s Draconian Border Lockdown Has a New Target

For the past year, the bridges that cross from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso have been surrounded by encampments of Central Americans waiting to apply for asylum in the United States. As the Trump administration clamped down even further on asylum over the summer and threatened Mexico with tariffs if it didn’t stop more Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans from reaching the US border, those camps started to shrink—until recently, when the makeshift shelters began to be occupied by a new group of would-be asylees: Mexicans.

On a recent afternoon near the Paso del Norte bridge, I met a petite 23-year-old woman who’s been at the encampment with her husband and three young sons for the past five weeks. They fled the cartel-stricken state of Michoacán to seek asylum and are now sleeping on a sidewalk under a multicolor tarp.

“I wish I didn’t have to be here—it’s tough living here,” she told me while sitting on the sidewalk, keeping an eye on her youngest son. It was starting to get cold, and her kids had already gotten sick. But she couldn’t return to her hometown, she said. Before she headed north, a relative was murdered, his chopped-up remains delivered to the family in a bag. Shortly thereafter, there were whispers that a group in her town was kidnapping children, and when her sister, a police officer, confirmed the rumors and told her to flee, her family left immediately.

Now, with violent outbursts on the upswing across Mexico, there are more than 3,000 Mexican asylum seekers spread out near the three international bridges in Ciudad Juarez.

Around her at the encampment, dozens of tents and tarps lined both sides of the small street leading to the international port of entry. According to lawyers with Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) and the American Civil Liberties Union, the first asylum-seeking Mexican families began settling along the border in Juárez in early September, after being turned away at the port of entry by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Now, two months later—with violent outbursts on the upswing across Mexico—there are more than 3,000 Mexican asylum seekers spread out in camps and shelters near the three international bridges in Juárez, according to estimates from volunteers, NGOs, and the ACLU. (The increase in asylum seekers coincides with an increase in the number of so-called family units from Mexico apprehended along the border: In the fiscal year that ended on September 30, there were 6,004 Mexican family unit apprehensions, up from about 2,200 in both fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2017.)

The thing is, advocates note, US immigration officials are legally obligated to process Mexican asylum seekers at the border. “They’re turning those asylum seekers right back into the country from which they’re fleeing prosecution,” said Shaw Drake, policy counsel with the ACLU Border Rights Center—and that’s in direct violation of US domestic and international laws signed after World War II that ensure that no state turns away refugees fleeing persecution in their home countries. Yet people at the camp say CBP officials send people back across the bridge all the time—a tactic known as metering that limits the number of people asking for asylum on any given day.

The young family from Michoacán found this out the hard way upon arriving in Juárez. On their first night there, they walked up the bridge, ready to petition for asylum at the port of entry. But before they could reach the US side of the bridge, CBP agents turned the family back to Mexico and told them they had to get on a list.

“This is illegal, this is cruel, and this is unfair.”

These waitlists started popping up around summer 2018, when Central American migrants trying to present themselves at legal ports of entry were told to wait in Mexico because CBP claimed it couldn’t process them in large groups. As the number of people requesting asylum grew, and as more and more migrant caravans arrived from Central America, the waitlists became the only way to get in front of a CBP official. It could be months until people’s numbers are called. 

“This is illegal, this is cruel, and this is unfair,” said Tania Marie Guerrero, an attorney with CLINIC who’s working at the camps daily. “Ultimately, it is a judge’s job to decide who get asylum—it’s not up to CBP or Border Patrol.”

Since September, a second set of waitlists has been formed, this one with the names of thousands of Mexican citizens. The afternoon I visited, the list went up to 207 at Paso del Norte. The woman from Michoacán was number 51. If CBP continued calling out only a few numbers each week, she’d still have months to go. Other international bridges in Juárez have longer lists, and since each number is likely to represent a family of three or five, it’s hard to tell exactly how many Mexican citizens are waiting. 

Some 3,000 Mexican asylum seekers are living in camps and shelters near the US-Mexico border in Ciudad Juárez.

Fernanda Echavarri

The camps are growing, and more people are expected to seek asylum in the United States as a result of recent public killings and shootouts across Mexico. Videos of Sinaloa Cartel gunmen shooting at police in broad daylight in a residential neighborhood went viral last month, terrifying the whole country. Last week, in a brutal attack in northern Mexico, nine members of a Mormon family were killed by assailants, who incinerated women and children. President Donald Trump tweeted about the incident, calling drug cartels “monsters” and offering help to Mexico’s president to “wipe them off the face of the earth.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R- S.C.) said he would rather go to Syria than some places in Mexico: “There’s some places over there that are completely lawless.”

Of course, that’s exactly the argument that immigration lawyers have been making for months in response to the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols (a.k.a. “Remain in Mexico”) policy, which has forced more than 50,000 migrants, mostly from Central America, to wait out their court proceedings in Mexico. Not only is Mexico unsafe, they contend, but it’s especially dangerous for these migrants in limbo along the border. 

At an October 29 press conference, CBP Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan attributed the rise of Mexican asylum seekers to smugglers who “started taking out social-media ads and telling Mexican nationals that if you grab a kid it’s your passport to the United States.” That line didn’t sit well with advocates like Guerrero, who visits the camps multiple times a week and holds informational sessions for anyone who will listen to make sense of the newest policy changes regarding asylum in the United States. She constantly hears about the fear and violence families are experiencing across Mexico and about the lack of support from law enforcement. “There’s nothing easy about this,” Guerrero said, pointing to the encampment behind her.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said he would rather go to Syria than some places in Mexico: “There’s some places over there that are completely lawless.”

During his press conference, Morgan said CBP is working with the White House “and trying to develop new initiatives within the current legal framework that we can apply to the Mexican families as well.” Last week, BuzzFeed News reported on a secretive CBP pilot program in El Paso that significantly reduces the time Mexican families have to prepare their asylum case while in custody—making an already difficult process all but impossible to navigate for the vast majority of asylum seekers, many of whom have no access to legal counsel. 

“This places asylum seekers at a complete disadvantage, setting them up for failure,” Guerrero said of the pilot program. In such a short timeframe and without legal representation while in detention, these migrants are “cold, sleepless, hungry, and fearful of people,” yet they are “expected to respond to a series of questions that will determine the rest of their lives.” 

I reached out to CBP for an interview about how the agency is handling the asylum requests from Mexicans in Juárez but did not get a response

On a recent Tuesday afternoon at the border camp, little kids ran around playing with a ball while teens huddled around a cellphone watching videos. The temperature was starting to drop; adults sat on the sidewalks looking bored and defeated. A woman dunked a loofah in a bucket with soapy water, struggling to get her toddler to stand still while she cleaned him up. Most of the Central Americans who lived here earlier in the year are now staying in one of the many shelters that have popped up throughout the city, including a large facility the Mexican government opened in the summer at the request of the United States to help non-Mexican migrants wait out their day in court.

The woman from Michoacán said that if she could’ve stayed in her hometown with her family she would’ve done so. But as I asked more questions about the life she fled back home, she started to avert her eyes and nervously rub her palms together. She explained that families like hers wished they didn’t have to sleep on the streets of Juárez—it’s embarrassing, she said.

“Who would want to live like this? It’s cold, and we go hungry sometimes,” she said. “People walk by sometimes—they call us lazy and dirty.” Her eyes filled with tears. Her oldest son, who’s still just seven, wrapped his arms around her and gently placed his head on her shoulder, trying to comfort her.

House of Cards

In early 1973, As Joe Biden was settling into his new job in Washington, DC, Ralph Nader published a deconstruction of what made the freshman Democratic senator’s state of Delaware, the most anodyne of states, so exceptional. The answer, The Company State explained, had to do with the unique relationship between government and commerce: Delaware was less a democracy than a fiefdom, contorting its laws to meet the demands of its corporate lords.

Preeminent among them was the chemical giant DuPont. Nader took readers to Rodney Square, in the heart of Wilmington. There was the ritzy Hotel du Pont, housed in a building owned by DuPont, next to a theater built by DuPont, connected to a bank controlled by the du Pont family, surrounded by law offices and brokerages—all affiliated in some way with what was known simply as “The Company.” The du Ponts owned the state’s two largest newspapers and employed a tenth of the state legislature. The governor was a former executive. The state’s member of Congress for most of the 1970s was Pierre Samuel du Pont IV.

“General Motors could buy Delaware,” Nader quipped, “if DuPont were willing to sell it.”

Over the next two decades, as Biden rose through the ranks of the Democratic Party, the state’s center of gravity began to shift from the world of chemicals to the big business of other people’s business—banking, accounting, law, and telemarketing. But if the industry had changed, the ethos remained: Delaware was the Company State. It owed its prosperity to its willingness to give corporations what they wanted.

You can also listen to Tim Murphy’s story read aloud:

For more articles read aloud: download the Audm iPhone app.

Though he’s now a millionaire thanks to book sales and speaking fees, Biden has long positioned himself as the champion of the middle class, a scrappy kid from Scranton who’s fought the good fight for decades. His adopted home state is part of that identity too—an unglamorous enclave of scrapple and toll roads, the Acela Corridor’s own Flyover Country. But as he pursues his third and likely final quest for the Democratic presidential nomination, his record haunts him, because the interests of Delaware are often at extreme odds with everyone else’s.

Biden did not create this system, but he used his influence to strengthen and protect it. He cast key votes that deregulated the banking industry, made it harder for individuals to escape their credit card debts and student loans, and protected his state’s status as a corporate bankruptcy hub.

Biden’s career in the Senate placed him on the wrong side of some of the biggest financial fights of his generation and brought him into conflict with some of the same rivals he faces today. If you want to understand how Biden became Biden, you have to understand how Delaware became Delaware.

Delaware is a tiny state, and because it is tiny, it has had to get creative to survive. Small countries sell shipping rights, citizenship, and secrecy. Delaware offers an American variation of the same—a legal and administrative sanctuary that allows businesses to do things there that they could not do elsewhere.

The foundation for the state’s economy began with its 1776 constitution, which created a special venue for the handling of business disputes, called the chancery court. But Delaware’s role as America’s corporate epicenter traces back to 1899, when—with the backing of the du Ponts—legislators passed the General Corporation Law, allowing anyone in the United States who wanted to form a company in Delaware to do so. The number of corporations based in the state grew quickly, and when New Jersey—the OG of lax incorporation laws—decided to crack down on trusts, Delaware welcomed the exiles.

The incorporation law made it easy to set up shop in Delaware, and the chancery court made it convenient to stay. Companies knew they’d get a reliable pro-business forum for their disputes. Today, there are nearly twice as many Delaware-incorporated companies as there are Delaware voters, and incorporation fees constitute the second-largest share of the state’s annual revenue.

But Delaware’s windfall comes at the expense of other states. Corporations can place their profits in Delaware-based holding companies to avoid paying taxes in the places where they actually operate. Delaware LLCs can also be incorporated anonymously via third-party agents, stifling transparency. “Setting up a company in Delaware,” the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says, “requires less information than signing up for a library card.”

When the economy sagged in the late 1970s, the cash-strapped state began looking for ways to supplement its income. In 1981, it passed a new law, written by banking lobbyists and backed by DuPont, with the hopes of becoming, in the words of the governor who signed it (a du Pont, naturally), “the Luxembourg of the United States.” While other states were setting caps on usury rates, Delaware told banks they could charge whatever they wanted in annual interest and late fees; the banks could also foreclose on debtors’ homes if they fell behind on payments. The state even cut corporate taxes.

The result was a corporate gold rush. A dozen companies, including JP Morgan and Chase Manhattan (now JP Morgan Chase), opened offices in Delaware in the first year alone. By the late ’90s, four of the five largest credit card firms in the country had set up in Wilmington, and the industry employed at least 35,000 people. The Company State had pulled off a lucrative turnaround.

Justin Metz;Shutterstock

The state’s decision to turn itself into New Luxembourg ushered in an era of economic prosperity that coincided with a political era of good feelings. The rebooted Delaware was emblematic of the kind of gauzy comity that Biden has sometimes gotten in trouble for waxing nostalgic about. Elected officials from both parties prided themselves on what they called “the Delaware Way”—a willingness to put aside partisanship for the good of the state, which invariably meant aiding its business climate. Revenue from corporate taxes and LLCs kept government coffers full, and the state’s low income tax rates kept voters happy.

For decades, much of the front-line work of championing the state’s industry in Washington was handled by the state’s senior senator, Republican William Roth, a Senate Finance Committee member so absorbed in such matters that there’s a tax-free retirement account named for him. But Biden did his part too.

A letter I found in Roth’s Senate papers at the Delaware Historical Society offered a glimpse of how closely banks worked with the state’s delegation. In 1998, an executive at First USA, a credit card company based in Wilmington, wrote to Roth, asking him to intervene on a proposed rule that would shorten the window in which credit card companies could collect debts from debtors. A few days later, Roth, Biden, and a Delaware representative did just that. “Reducing the collections period for credit card debt by one-sixth would have a direct effect on Delaware banks,” the lawmakers wrote to federal regulators. “Many Delaware bankers are concerned that such a change would unfairly result in substantial losses to their institutions.”

Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, as Biden settled into a comfortable incumbency, banks sought to make the rest of the country work more like their mid-Atlantic refuge—to embrace the least possible amount of regulation so they could grow as big as they wanted. Delaware, for instance, had a loophole allowing banks to sell insurance. Now the banks wanted to do that everywhere. Delaware’s laws made it easy for credit card companies to do business in any states they pleased. Financial firms wanted regular deposit banks to have that ability too.

Biden supported a baby-step deregulatory effort in the early 1980s, and then, in 1994, he backed a very big one: the Riegle-Neal Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act, which eliminated the remaining barriers to where banks could operate. The law passed with overwhelming bipartisan support and was fairly innocuous in some respects, codifying changes that were already happening at the state level. But it opened the floodgates to an era of corporate consolidation. Delaware’s financial institutions got another big boost in 1999, when Biden voted for the Financial Services Modernization Act, which repealed the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law barring banks from owning securities and insurance businesses. By 2016, there were almost 5,000 fewer banks in the United States than there were two decades earlier, and the 10 largest firms controlled half of all banking assets.

The metastasis of America’s financial conglomerates proved catastrophic when those increasingly huge banks began to package subprime mortgages as securities a few years later. (Biden, for his part, opposed the 2000 law that deregulated derivatives.) During the 2008 campaign, even after Biden had been added to the presidential ticket, Barack Obama cited Glass-Steagall’s repeal as a stepping stone to the financial collapse. Recently, Biden has been apologetic, if somewhat cryptic, about that vote. “I’ll be blunt with you: The only vote I can think of that I’ve ever cast in my years in the Senate that I regret—and I did it out of loyalty, and I wasn’t aware that it was gonna be as bad as it was—was Glass-Steagall,” he told the New Yorker in 2014.

Even when Biden was nominally bucking his state’s business interests, he did it gently. In 1991, to the horror of Delaware companies, he supported amending a banking regulation bill to impose a nationwide cap on credit card interest rates. He explained that he had voted for the amendment only because he considered it a poison pill that would force the Senate to pass much narrower legislation. It worked.

But the most controversial item on the banks’ agenda, and the one that would require the most legwork from Biden, was bankruptcy reform.

Senator Joseph R. Biden, D-Del., is seen here at Union Station where most days, after the Senate adjourns, he caught the Metroliner to Wilmington for home.

 Bettmann/Getty

Late in Biden’s 1996 reelection campaign, a consultant working for his Republican opponent pushed a troubling story: The senator had sold his home to an executive from the credit card company MBNA for double its appraised value. MBNA called the story “viciously false,” and Biden pushed back hard enough that his opponent fired the consultant. True, he had sold his house to an MBNA executive—but at its appraised value. Not long after that, though, the company hired Biden’s youngest son, Hunter, and the criticism stuck: Biden became, to his detractors, “the senator from MBNA.” (Hunter’s corporate affiliations have once again become an issue for Biden. His son’s role on the board of a Ukrainian energy company while Biden oversaw the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy has fueled corruption accusations and conspiracy-mongering by Republican critics; Donald Trump’s effort to force Ukraine to investigate the Bidens is now at the center of the impeachment inquiry.)

MBNA, the largest independent credit card company headquartered in Delaware, hardly drew notice at first. In 1982, five employees from a company called Maryland Bank set up shop in an old supermarket a few miles from the state line. They hit upon the idea of pitching credit cards to targeted groups—like sports fans or college students—and did a quarter of a billion dollars of business in just over a year. By 1997, MBNA was mailing 30 million credit card solicitations a month and making 6 million over the phone. Getting people into debt was how the company profited, and it was self-perpetuating. If a debtor missed a car payment to pay a credit card on time, MBNA would raise the person’s interest rate anyway, a practice known as universal default—thereby increasing the likelihood the person would miss future payments.

Because MBNA did all of its work in-house—even telemarketing and customer service—its Wilmington-based payroll dwarfed rival firms’. MBNA employed about a third of the state’s finance workers. The company stockpiled vintage cars (a Duesenberg was parked in its lobby) and began buying up old DuPont properties—office buildings and golf courses—and slapping its logo on new and renovated buildings overlooking Rodney Square. When, in the early 2000s, the chancery court relocated to a bigger building, MBNA bought the old one.

MBNA brought the same largesse to politics. It shelled out nearly $1 million in donations to federal candidates in 1994, the same year an array of pro-business Republicans took control of Congress. These donations came from individual employees, not the corporate treasury, but the Wil­mington News Journal obtained an internal memo from the bank’s chief counsel directing 150 MBNA execs on whom they should contribute to, even asking them to send photocopies of their checks.

Most of the money flowed to Republicans—MBNA employees were George W. Bush’s largest contributor during his 2000 presidential campaign—but Biden was an exception. He brought in more than $200,000 from MBNA employees over the course of his career. And he developed a relationship with the company’s CEO, Charles Cawley. When Biden held a Wilmington fundraiser for his 1996 campaign, Cawley was there. When Cawley received an award for his charitable giving, Biden and Bush appeared onstage with him. A couple years later, Cawley co-chaired an award ceremony for Biden. On the company’s dime, Biden and his wife, Jill, flew to Maine, where the senator spoke at MBNA’S 1997 corporate retreat.

MBNA lobbied for the repeal of Glass-­Steagall, according to the News Journal, and because MBNA’S business model was based on delinquent customers, it lobbied to block reforms meant to help cash-strapped consumers, such as crediting bill payments to the day they are mailed rather than the day they are received. But what it was really after was bankruptcy reform.

Between 1980 and 1997, the number of Americans filing for personal bankruptcy jumped more than 300 percent, affecting 1.3 million households annually. A growing number of researchers, led by a Harvard Law School professor named Elizabeth Warren, believed the fault lay with the accumulating credit card fees, hospital bills, student loans, and mortgages that were placing the squeeze on middle-class families. Their research found that, for debtors, personal bankruptcy was not an escape hatch; it was a lifeline.

A congressional effort to curb bankruptcies might have started with looking at how people were getting into debt. Instead, Congress tackled the problem from the perspective of the creditors, who argued that stricter rules were necessary to forestall abuses of the system and prevent billions of dollars in losses from trickling down to consumers. In 1997, a group of House lawmakers began crafting a bill that would make it harder for individuals to file for bankruptcy by subjecting filers to a means test and giving creditors more opportunities to collect. The credit card companies loved it. After all, they wrote large chunks of the legislation.

Biden voted to make the bill more moderate, and it died. Then he supported an altered version introduced in the next Congress. Bankruptcy reform would go through the judiciary committee that Biden sat on and had once chaired, and, in the words of one lobbyist, he was the “linchpin” of the effort to pass it.

Credit card companies wanted to limit the options of people filing for personal bankruptcy, but that was only one part of the equation. Delaware also had a lot riding on helping corporations file for bankruptcy. For a variety of reasons, including its high concentration of white-collar lawyers and the pro-business reputation of its courts, the state was the venue for a large percentage of the nation’s Chapter 11 cases. It had even come up with a special fast-tracked bankruptcy process. Filing in Delaware allowed companies that were functionally based elsewhere to “escape the obligation to make the process open,” as Warren put it.

Bankruptcy cases made huge gobs of money for Delaware’s legal industry. When reformers introduced language that would force companies to file for bankruptcy in the states where they were actually based—a clause dubbed “the Delaware killer”—Biden used his leverage to defeat it. Ultimately, Biden ended up securing funding for four more bankruptcy judges in Delaware.

In 2002, Elizabeth Warren called out Biden for his “energetic work on behalf of the credit card companies.”

Over time, Biden’s exertions on the bankruptcy bill began to shape his national reputation. “His energetic work on behalf of the credit card companies has earned him the affection of the banking industry and protected him from any well-funded challengers for his Senate seat,” Warren wrote in the Harvard Women’s Law Journal. “This important part of Senator Biden’s legislative work also appears to be missing from his Web site and publicity releases.”

Warren’s criticism of Biden came to a head at a Capitol Hill hearing in 2005, when they sparred over the bankruptcy bill for 15 minutes. Biden appeared exasperated with the expert witness sitting across from him. He found it “outrageous” that she would question the openness of Delaware’s bankruptcy court to small creditors, and he insisted that Warren was aiming at the wrong target. Her focus should be on big structural issues like health care and lending practices, he insisted, rather than the particulars of the bill he was pushing:

Biden: Maybe we should talk about usury rates, then. Maybe that is what we should be talking about, not bankruptcy.

Warren: Senator, I will be the first. Invite me.

Biden: I know you will, but let’s call a spade a spade. Your problem with credit card companies is usury rates, from your position. It is not about the bankruptcy bill.

Warren: But, Senator, if you are not going to fix that problem, you can’t take away the last shred of protection from these families.

Biden: I got it, okay. You are very good, professor.

Biden takes criticism of his bankruptcy position personally, in part because it infringes so directly on his well-cultivated political identity—a middle-class warrior and longtime critic of corporate campaign contributions. In a floor speech just before the bankruptcy bill’s passage, he accused its opponents of “fabricating wild claims” such as the charge that the bill would make it harder for women to collect child support payments from insolvent ex-husbands. The bill did include protections for the collection of alimony and child support—pushed by Biden and endorsed by the National Child Support Enforcement Association—which moved those debts to the top of the pecking order (above credit card bills) in bankruptcy proceedings. In theory, this would save single parents and ex-spouses from having to hound deadbeat exes in court. But the criticisms weren’t unfounded either—by increasing the amount of money that companies with liens could skim off the top prior to bankruptcy, it shrank the overall pot of money to collect from. Henry Sommer, president of the National Consumer Bankruptcy Rights Center, says the idea that Biden stood up for single mothers is “kind of a hoax.”

“Vice President Biden has championed the middle class for his entire career and has a proven track record of delivering on his progressive values,” his spokesperson Michael Gwin said in a statement in response to questions about the bill. “As a Senator, Joe Biden fought to secure critical concessions for working families in the bankruptcy bill.” Biden did advocate for other improvements that made it into the bill’s final version, such as new disclosure requirements for credit card solicitations. The means test at the heart of the law came with a “safe harbor” provision that exempted filers who made less than their state’s median income. And Biden supported a cap on how much money a rich debtor could shield from creditors in the form of real estate.

When the New York Times Magazine asked Biden about bankruptcy reform in July, he was defiant. Contributions from banks didn’t matter to him, he said, because “MBNA could not beat me.” He had worked on bankruptcy reform, he explained, because he knew it was going to pass and he believed he had an obligation to use his influence to make it more consumer-friendly. “I had an opportunity to do one of two things: Vote no, and feel real good about it, or I could make it better.”

But the reform movement was hardly a steamroller. It took five successive Congress­es, and a new president, to finally pass the bill in 2005. Plenty of Democrats in Washington, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, opposed it. Biden’s support was instrumental, and he was deeply invested in its success. “If they don’t [pass it], to hell with them,” he reportedly said of his colleagues in 2002, after the bill stalled yet again. Those weren’t the words of a person who was simply along for the ride. Biden joined a small group of Democrats representing major credit card states to vote with a united Republican bloc against Democratic amendments aimed at moderating the bill’s pro-creditor slant.

No one I spoke with who opposed the bill considered Biden sympathetic to their side. Gary Klein, a former senior attorney at the National Consumer Law Center, which had helped coordinate opposition to the bill, told me his coalition never even got a meeting with the senator or his staff despite repeated requests.

The bankruptcy bill did not, in retrospect, turn into the total catastrophe that its opponents had feared. Senators introduced enough changes that the final version included protections for certain kinds of debtors from certain kinds of creditors. “I think over time that some of the balance we got into the bill has proven effective at allowing people who need the system to get the relief that they need,” Klein said. But, he added, “I still don’t think it was a good bill.”

A 2008 study published in the American Bankruptcy Law Journal found that “credit card companies saved billions because of reduced loan loss rates,” but that none of those savings benefited consumers. Because interest rates and late fees continued to tick upward, “the cost to credit card customers increased 5% to 17%.” And even before the recession hit, Credit Suisse found that the bankruptcy law had “a profound impact on subprime borrowers” and made it more likely that borrowers would fail on their bankruptcy payment plans. “Before that law was passed you could file a chapter 7 bankruptcy for seven, eight, nine-hundred dollars, including attorney’s fees and filing fees, and that’s gone up to more like $2,000,” Sommer said. “It’s made bankruptcy much more expensive, difficult, burdensome, and less effective.” The number of personal bankruptcy filings has fallen by half in 15 years.

“Biden’s banking votes have stuck with him because their effects have stuck with us.”

Biden’s banking votes have stuck with him because their effects have stuck with us. You could draw a reasonably straight line from the bank deregulation votes of the ’90s to “too big to fail,” the housing crisis, and the Great Recession. And plenty of Democrats do. Biden now finds himself locked in a tough presidential primary with Warren herself, who forged her political identity by clashing with the kinds of megabanks Biden had a hand in creating. At an event in Iowa this spring, Warren used the bankruptcy showdown as a point of contrast between herself and the Democratic frontrunner. “I got in that fight because [families] just didn’t have anyone and Joe Biden was on the side of the credit card companies,” she said. “It’s all a matter of public record.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders, another critic of Biden’s banking votes, sometimes asks audiences to rattle off their student loan debts. But Biden, whose state is home to student lenders like Sallie Mae and Navient, cast vote after vote to make student loan debt as hard to escape as credit card debt. Sanders has pushed to cap credit card interest rates at 15 percent and called for the return of Glass-Steagall, whose repeal, he warned in 1999, would put taxpayers on the hook “should a financial conglomerate fail.” In August, he proposed canceling all of Americans’ overdue medical debt (about $81 billion) and repealing portions of the bankruptcy law, which his campaign said “eliminated fundamental consumer protections.”

In 2008, the New York Times reported that Obama aides considered MBNA “one of the most sensitive issues they examined while vetting [Biden] for a spot on the ticket.” Biden’s progressive critics still harbor those concerns. “We saw in 2016 that there were too many people who bought Donald Trump’s fake populism where he pretended to bash Wall Street and pretended that he would clean up corporate corruption and political corruption,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Warren-backing Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said. “We can’t blur the waters on that again. We need to have someone who voters instinctively see as on their side and willing to challenge entrenched interests.” The economic system Warren and Sanders are running against is the one that Biden helped export from his state to the rest of the nation.

Like most of the institutions that call Delaware home, Joe Biden now does much of his work somewhere else. His campaign is headquartered in Philadelphia. His campaign kickoff was in Pittsburgh. His stump-speech lodestar is Scranton. But if its elder statesman has moved on, Delaware hasn’t.

One afternoon in July, I strolled from the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station in downtown Wilmington and walked through the leafy JP Morgan Chase campus to the gleaming new Delaware Chancery Court. A few blocks north, the Hotel du Pont still stands, flanked by the 18-story Citizens Bank and a high-rise that until recently was owned by Bank of America, which purchased MBNA for $35 billion in 2006. The old chancery court has a new tenant too—the state’s largest bankruptcy law practice. The names may change, but the Company State is eternal.

On my way back to the station, I stopped at the Delaware History Museum, a tidy space that opened its doors in a renovated Woolworth in 1995 amid a boom in downtown construction. There, alongside artifacts from DuPont’s labs and a T-shirt from the Punkin Chunkin Festival, was an entire exhibit on the modern Delaware economy. A black-and-white photo depicted the supermarket where MBNA opened its first office. Accompanying text helpfully explained how the 1981 Financial Center Development Act removed “the cap on the interest rates that banks could charge on credit cards…further diversifying the state’s economy.” Wall panels, at kid-level, invited visitors to guess the identity of Delaware-incorporated companies based on short descriptions like “This company’s mascot is a charming green Gecko with a Cockney accent who turns up everywhere in television commercials.”

I wandered out to the gift shop, where I found the bestselling item perched on a shelf along the back wall. “Your long search is finally over,” a sign said. “You have acquired a Joe Biden scented candle.” It cost $22 and smelled like oranges. Before you ask, yes, they take credit.

A Note About Trump’s Tweets

I feel like I need to remind people of this periodically:

Donald Trump’s tweets are not aimed at you and me, and analyzing them as if they were will lead you badly astray. They are aimed solely at his core supporters in the electorate and the media.

In other words: don’t think of them as endlessly outrageous and provocative (“How can he say something like that?!?”). That gets you nowhere because you’re starting from the wrong premise. Think of them instead as routine communiques that Trump thinks are necessary to retain his base support. This allows you to analyze their meaning both more accurately and far more interestingly.

That is all.

California’s Wildfire Policy Totally Backfired. Native Communities Know How to Fix It.

When it came time to set fire to the hillside, Kitty Lynch paused. A 70 year-old retired waitress, Lynch’s job during the controlled burn of a 2,200 acre ranch in Humboldt County, California this June was to keep the fire in check by tamping down small, errant flames with a tool called a McLeod. Lynch had been attending lectures by Indigenous tribes in her region about prescribed fires, blazes lit intentionally to control dry brush and prevent unplanned burns, for over a decade. But she was the oldest person in this group of about fifty, and she worried she wouldn’t be able to keep up.

The effort was organized by the Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association, a grassroots team of wildfire experts, local landowners and community members that hosts hands-on trainings on controlled burns as a method of natural disaster prevention. The Humboldt event united unlikely allies: Trump-supporting ranchers worked side-by-side with retired hippies and back-to-the landers; logging workers hammed it up with the same Save the Redwoods League activists they battled in the region’s timber wars. Academics who studied prescribed burning watched their theory become practice. 

Lynch’s worries were quickly put to rest. The organizers were “very welcoming, and [found] a place for everyone,” she told me on a recent call. Timed for a clear, sunny day with low wind and moderate humidity, the burn successfully cleared medusahead, an invasive grass, from 50 acres of the ranch. “I’m a firm believer in the results [prescribed fire] produces,” said Lynch, “and it’s wonderful to see the whole age spectrum of dedicated people in the community helping.”

Controlled burns like these are becoming more common across the West and especially in California, where uncontrolled blazes have forced the evacuation of over 300,000 people and scorched about 200,000 acres so far this year. As legislators and regulators grapple with how to prevent destructive wildfires and keep the state’s largest energy utility in check, scientists, land management groups, and advocates are pushing another method: fighting fire with fire.

The idea isn’t new. For countless generations, Indigenous people have worked with fire to maintain healthy landscapes that are less prone to massive wildfires. While allowing natural fires to burn, Native Americans in California and elsewhere started some intentionally to clear dry brush, maintain species balance, and create prairies and meadows where animals graze. In the early days of Western settlement, some ranchers also adopted this practice to maintain pastureland for cattle. 

“There is an urgency,” Kolden says. “We are seeing every single year now, highly destructive and sometimes fatal wildfires.”

But in the 1880’s, the US Army began to administer Yellowstone, the first national park, and developed the idea of “fighting” fire. In 1910, wildfires in Idaho and Montana burned millions of acres, destroying communities and killing 86 people. The US Forest Service subsequently adopted a policy of putting out all blazes, which state and federal land management agencies mimicked in an effort to protect timber supplies and human lives. Under these policies, Indigenous people and ranchers alike could be fined for burning their own lands.

In 1968, the National Park Service lifted its fire ban after noticing a decline in giant sequoia trees, which depend on fire to grow. Over the next fifteen years, the Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) gradually re-introduced fire to their landscapes. The Forest Service now admits that suppression backfired; excluding fire created an unnatural build-up of dry brush and overcrowding of trees that’s partly fueling today’s mega-firesScientists and policy makers increasingly agree that under the right conditions, intentionally burning away flammable vegetation is one of the most effective tools for reducing wildfire risk. And research shows that when wildfires do reach lands thinned by prescribed fire, far fewer trees die “even under extreme fire weather,” an effect that can last for up to 15-20 years.

Community members watch the fire line on a controlled burn started by the Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association.

Lenya Quinn-Davidson

Yet we still have a long way to go. A recent analysis of government data titled “We’re Not Doing Enough Prescribed Fire in the Western United States to Mitigate Wildfire Risk,” written by University of Idaho fire scientist Crystal Kolden, found that between 1998 and 2018, the amount of prescribed burning in the Western US remained stable and even decreased in some areas. According to the Sacramento Bee, fewer than 90,000 acres of California were intentionally burned in 2018. Kolden roughly estimates that the state should be burning at least five times that amount.

“There is an urgency,” Kolden says. “We are seeing every single year now, highly destructive and sometimes fatal wildfires. A lot of the solutions,” like retrofitting buildings or restructuring communities, “take a lot of time and a lot of money. [But] prescribed fire is much cheaper. It ends up being this thing that we can do now, if we have the political willpower.”

Part of the problem is the slow process of obtaining the necessary permits to burn on public lands, which make up about half the state’s acreage. Jake Hannan, a Cal Fire battalion chief, told me that burns can take up to 18 months to plan. The process is much easier for private landowners, who can can burn without permits if Cal Fire approves of their experience and methods. Even during the driest months, local Air Quality districts can grant permits for the smoke that results from prescribed fire on private lands. That’s why burns like the one Lynch worked on are emerging as a solution to the West’s wildfire problem.

“We aren’t anywhere near bringing fire back at the scale we need to,” says Lenya Quinn-Davidson, a fire advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension who helped lead that burn. “It’s important to push forward with a grassroots model that empowers people to do the work, instead of having bottlenecks with the agency that’s in charge.”

The Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association, which Quinn-Davidson leads, was the first organization of its kind in the West when it started in 2018, and has already inspired similar groups to start up in northern California’s Plymouth, Nevada, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. These groups bring landowners and neighbors together to provide the manpower that controlled burns require. Quinn-Davidson says she’s hosted 25 lecture and field-based workshops in the past year to increase people’s comfort with prescribed fire, and in the past two years, she’s led 20 burns on private lands.

“We’re bringing fire back to the people, making it more cooperative and accessible,” she says. When it comes to burning on private lands in the West, “the roadblocks are less at the policy level and more at the experience level.”

In 2013, Quinn-Davidson took part in a controlled burning workshop led by the Karuk tribe, which is largely based in Orleans, CA, about 70 miles south of Oregon. Controlled burns are integral to the identity of Karuk and their neighbors, the Yurok, who both live in the northern California mountains amidst millions of trees. Decades of fire exclusion upset a delicate balance that tribes helped maintain; their forests have become monocultures dominated by pine, instead of the colorful mix of oaks and other hardwoods that would flourish with regular burning. But as interest in prescribed fire grows, the Karuk’s expertise is being tapped to help agencies and individuals learn to work with fire, and to follow seasonal rhythms of when and where to burn.

In October, I attended a controlled burn training hosted by the Karuk in Orleans. More than 100 participants, including local landowners, renters, members of the Forest Service and Cal Fire, plus a fire unit from Spain, gathered for a two-day burn of 216 acres of Karuk ancestral lands that are now privately owned. Two days before I arrived for the training, the tribe had burned dozens of acres in a section of the forest they called the Bullpine Unit. Walking through the site, I noticed that nearly all trees survived, but the forest floor, where one might expect a tangle of brush and bramble, was virtually wiped clear, creating a feeling of spaciousness between the tall pines. The area was dotted with thin plumes of smoke, rising from stumps that still smoldered.

At another burn site, a group dripped flames across a tree-covered hill. Others were patrolling the borders of the fire, while the “burn boss” spoke commands into a radio.

“These places are a lot happier when we’re here,” said Vikki Preston, a cultural resource technician with the Karuk Tribe who grew up observing burns and has participated in multiple trainings. “The trees are healthy when we’re tending to them, taking really good care of them.” After burns, Karuk schoolchildren take field trips into the forest to gather acorns and materials for basket-weaving, traditional activities made possible by clearing the forest floor.

Preston explained how they’d chosen the correct conditions for this burn. “We were coming off of it being rainy a couple weeks ago, so it had dried out enough that you could tell [the brush and leaf litter] would burn off. But it was moist enough that we’re not threatened by a wildfire imminently.”

Participants in the Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exercise (TREX) review plans for a controlled burn.

Stormy Staats

Yet not everyone is convinced that controlled burns are scaleable. Terry Warlick, a fire battalion chief with the US Forest Service who works in the Mendocino National Forest and attended the Karuk training, was enthusiastic about the “historical fire regime” modeled by tribes. But, he says not all communities will be.

“They don’t like the smoke, they don’t want to see it—until they have to experience a wildfire,” he told me, as volunteers followed the shin-high flames creeping across the hillside. “It kind of seems like we got to go through, you know, an event to change our thought process.”

“People are scared of any fire application,” says Hannan, the Cal Fire chief. “All they’ve known is these huge fires that burn down houses and sometimes kill people.”

He was referring to recent infernos like the Camp and Carr Fires, but prescribed fires occasionally wreak havoc, too. A controlled burn’s “escape” started the 2000 Cerro Grande Fire in New Mexico, which scorched 47,000 acres and left 400 families homeless. Such incidents can be almost completely prevented, says Preston, by fire crews that have intimate knowledge of the lands they are burning, and follow specific techniques.

After starting a burn, experts from her tribe work with local agencies to monitor it. “All day they’re taking data,” she says, to glean a solid projection of where the fire is headed. When a fire has lingered for too long, or threatens to move past the fire line, crews can spray water or use tools to tamp it down. But under the right conditions—low wind, high humidity—it usually flickers out on its own.

Cal Fire is slowly increasing its prescribed fire targets. By the end of this fiscal year, they intend to burn 25,000 acres, while the Forest Service in California burned 43,000 acres over the past fiscal year. Independent training exercises like the Karuk’s burned about 14,000 acres nationwide in 2018, and over 125,000 in the past decade.

“These places are a lot happier when we’re here,” said Vikki Preston.

Preston and other Karuk tribal members, in line with scientific consensus, believe there should be more prescribed fire throughout the year. The tribe’s plans for this year’s training burns were limited by a “burn ban” imposed all summer and reinstated this fall due to high winds and low humidity across most of California, the same conditions that prompted the utility company Pacific Gas & Electric to shut off power lines across the state, leaving millions without electricity. Yet Preston and others say the conditions in the mountainous region of Orleans were ideal for burning.

“We should be basing these [burn ban] decisions on local factors and not socio-political factors,” says Bill Tripp, a deputy director in the Karuk Tribe’s Department of Natural Resources, implying that burn bans may be intended to limit liability for utilities like PG&E, or to avoid the negative optics of a planned burn while wildfires wreak havoc elsewhere. “The Forest Service and the local [Cal Fire] unit were with us in saying ‘we know this timing is right,’ but the decision is being made in Sacramento,” where Cal Fire is headquartered. The October moratorium prevented the Karuk from burning about 100 of their 300 intended acres.

“We’re not getting to scale,” says Tripp, who would like to see tens of thousands of acres in the tribe’s region burned. “We’ve got people on hand who are ready and qualified, it’s right on our homelands, and we’ve been doing this for millennia. But as long as we’re relying on someone else to make the decision of when to act, I don’t think we’re gonna get there.”

Some Karuk leaders worry about their burn methods being “co-opted” by groups like the Forest Service, who historically infringed on their ceremonies and stewardship of the land. A 2014 report on ecological sovereignty from the tribe argued that “while non-Tribal agencies have attempted to gain access to Karuk knowledge, a far more effective and appropriate action these agencies can take is to remove the barriers their policies put into place”—in other words, stand aside and let knowledgeable tribes burn.

A spokesperson for Cal Fire says that the statewide agency is not considering any changes to the way it implements bans, though some areas may be granted exemptions, and the permitting process for landowners who want to burn is currently being streamlined. 

Yet without the support and education of non-Native communities, loosening state regulations on burning may not do much. “We need strong leadership from the community itself, not coming from the government or Cal Fire, to make the burns successful,” Chief Hannan told me. “The more events that occur in nearby communities, where fires aren’t going out of control, the more accepting people will be.”

In her work training people to safely adopt prescribed burning, Quinn-Davidson finds inspiration in the Karuk approach to fire. “We should be striving for the level of connection and personal reflection that Indigenous cultures have with their landscapes,” she said, describing a holistic mindset that non-Natives may need to learn from to care for lands more sustainably. “We’re in an era when we need to find a meaningful place for everyone to work on this, every kind of community member.” Even a self-proclaimed “inexperienced novice” like Kitty Lynch.

A stump smolders in part of a pine forest intentionally burned during the Klamath River Prescribed Training Exercise.

Delilah Friedler

Appealing to Black Voters in South Carolina, Elizabeth Warren Fires Up White Liberals

Elizabeth Warren came to the South Carolina Lowcountry on Saturday and played all the standards. At a town hall in Goose Creek, about 20 miles north of Charleston, she talked about corporate greed and government decisions that put the wealthy few ahead of the working many, before rounding into her proposals for voting reforms that would strengthen democracy. This was an important part of her message in South Carolina, the crescendo where she could address herself directly to the procedural impediments facing the state’s many Black voters. The crowd was with her, too, cheering wildly when she promised to end the gerrymandering practices that have historically disempowered racial minorities and to “end racist voter suppression.”

The curious part was that, by my count, the audience of 750 or so people was at least 80 percent white. Several attendees I’d spoken with had driven up from Charleston, an ever-gentrifying, ever-whitening coastal city full of transplants who’ve fled colder climates for the Sun Belt. For this predominantly white crowd, some of the day’s biggest applause lines were about ending structural racism against Black people.

In its swing through South Carolina, host of the fourth nominating contest in the Democratic presidential primary, Warren’s campaign has gotten a glimpse of the central dynamic in the so-called “Great Awokening,” the name given to our current era of expanding racial consciousness among white liberals. Pitching herself to Black voters who are essential to winning the state’s primary, Warren finds herself firing up white liberals.

I asked Warren after the Goose Creek town hall why she thought a majority-white audience responded so enthusiastically to the explicitly antiracist parts of her message. “I think people understand that our democracy is broken,” she told me, reiterating her points about why rich people don’t deserve a bigger share of it. She added, “One of the most fun parts about being out and doing this town halls”—Goose Creek is her 160th of the cycle—”is how engaged people are over rebuilding our democracy.”

It’s hard to say whether the Warren campaign might have expected a different mix of folks to show up to see her on Saturday. Goose Creek High School serves a majority-minority student body that’s 40 percent Black, 30 percent white, and 15 percent Latino; the town and surrounding areas hew closer to 70 percent white, though nearby North Charleston—about halfway between Goose Creek and downtown Charleston—is nearly 50 percent Black.

But the town hall was the last stop on Warren’s three-day swing through the Carolinas focused on wooing nonwhite voters and highlighting her racial equality message. It included an appearance at an environmental justice forum aimed at highlighting how communities of color disproportionately suffer the effects of environmental inaction, as well as an education forum in Summerton, South Carolina, a majority-Black town in the state’s “Corridor of Shame,” so called for its history of educational inequality, poor school funding, and low educational achievement. On Thursday, Warren appeared in Raleigh, North Carolina, alongside Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who had endorsed Warren’s candidacy earlier that day.

Warren’s mission set her up for some obvious questions. At the environmental justice forum, moderator Amy Goodman pressed Warren on whether Iowa and New Hampshire—“two of the whitest states”—should be the first states to host presidential primaries. Warren huffed a little and dodged the question, noting she’s “just a player in the game on this one.”

Elizabeth Warren berates Amy Goodman for asking her a reasonable question she refuses to answer, then ends the interview by replying to Goodman's "thank you" with a scoffed "yeah."

Her disdain for the left couldn't be more blatant.pic.twitter.com/CeALdRy4e3

— DSA Otherkin Caucus ❼ (@QueenInYeIIow) November 9, 2019

Following her Goose Creek town hall, a reporter pointed out the majority-white audience and asked what the campaign’s strategy is to diversify its crowds. Warren replied with her own question, asking the reporter if she’d seen the majority-Black audience who gathered in a high school library to see her speak with educators in Summerton. 

“It’s keep showing up and keep reaching out,” Warren said of her approach. “I want to introduce myself to every single voter in South Carolina. And that’s true, regardless of what their race is, what their gender is, what their party affiliation is—2020 is our chance, our chance to turn around a country that’s working great for those at the top and not so much for” everyone else.

At its core, Warren’s campaign poses the question of whom government works for—the answer, of course, being the wealthy and well-connected. But there’s a line she almost always chases that point with. “Why are working families finding the path so much harder than generations ago?” she’ll say, as she said in Summerton that morning and again that afternoon in Goose Creek. “And why, for people of color, is it even rockier, even steeper?”

Warren is acknowledging the entwinement of racial and class inequalities in a way that seemed to energize the white supporters I spoke with at her events in South Carolina. Christine Jasonis, a white retiree and South Carolina transplant originally from Connecticut, says Warren’s education and Medicare for All plans appeal to her, but she feels “very strongly” about Warren’s antiracism. “If I was a mother of a young Black man today, I would be terrified,” she says. “We fought too hard for this.”

Alec Neller, a white twentysomething who recently graduated from college, told me systemic racism was his top voting issue—and a reason he’s drawn to Warren. “Everyone should have the opportunity to succeed and do what they dream. It makes for a stronger United States and a stronger world,” he said. “I think Trump put [racial inequality] on the table by attacking certain minority groups and calling certain countries ‘shitholes.’”

Trump’s oafishness, while emboldening racists across America, has also had the effect of making racism more obvious to the sort of white liberals who might not have been paying close attention. “You have people saying, ‘Oh, I thought racism was supposed to be over, but clearly, it’s not,’” said Jillian Clayton, a white woman who’s backing Warren.

Clayton, who attended the College of Charleston in the mid-2000s and has lived in the area since, sees something similar at work in her own city. White residents witnessing Charleston’s transformation have become highly attuned to gentrification’s effects, she said, even if they’re also reaping some of its benefits. “We see it happening every day,” she said. “People are getting pushed farther and farther away from the city.”     

Back in March, Vox’s Matt Yglesias wrote about the Great Awokening through the lens of researchers and pollsters who have observed a sharp increase in concern among white Democrats about racial inequality and discrimination over the past five years. Yglesias pointed to polling from the Pew Research Center that, back in 2014, found that most Americans didn’t think there was any work left to do to address Black-white inequality. Now, more than 80 percent of self-identifying Democrats say the country needs to make changes to give Black Americans the same rights as whites. Until recently, according to the left-leaning think tank Data for Progress, most white Democrats ascribed racial inequality to a lack of individual initiative. Today, as Yglesias writes, white liberals are now “less likely than African Americans to say that black people should be able to get ahead without any special help.”

The Great Awokening was Yglesias’ coinage, a reference to the religious revival among white Northerners in the years before the Civil War that lent a moral fervor to abolitionist movements. And he predicted similar results for this current moment. “The fundamental reality is that the Awokening has inspired a large minority of white Americans to begin regarding systemic racial discrimination as a fundamental problem in American life—opening up the prospects of sweeping policy change when the newly invigorated anti-racist coalition does come to power,” Yglesias wrote.  

Warren has been steadily rising in the polls of South Carolina, where more than 50 percent of the primary electorate is Black. The Post and Courier’s first poll back in May put Warren at a dismal 8 percent behind Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, and Joe Biden, who received 46 percent of support. The latest Post and Courier survey, conducted in mid-October, found Warren in second place at 19 percent, only 11 points behind Biden. Though pollster Pat Reilly did not directly explain Warren’s rise, he told the Post and Courier that Biden’s drop came “principally from African-American women who are moving to other candidates,” though “none of the top candidates are seeing a decisive jump as a result.”

The rate of conversion suggests that Black women might be moving toward Warren. At the event in Summerton I watched the candidate use her own story to establish a connection. The education forum had been an intimate gathering of a few dozen attendees—among them local elected officials, business owners, and faith leaders, all of whom told me it was too early for them to throw their support behind any of the Democratic candidates. As Warren recounted her familiar anecdote about how, as a preschool teacher in the 1970s, her contract wasn’t renewed when she became visibly pregnant, a number of Black women in the audience nodded knowingly. A few told me afterward that their friends had had similar experiences during that era.

But there was still work to be done, as the demographics of the Goose Creek event suggest. Just before Warren began speaking there, I met Amelia Duvall, who was standing by herself near the back of the gymnasium. Duvall, a Black woman and business owner from nearby Ladson, had attended the town hall alone. She’s supporting Warren, but when I asked her what she thought of attendance, she shook her head. “She’s gotta get more people in here who look like me,” she said.

Turns Out, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Huge in Iowa

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was welcomed to Iowa with a roast. On Friday, while the first-term Democratic congresswoman from New York was introducing Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at a rally in Council Bluffs, the state’s Republican bigwigs took their shots at the Lincoln–Reagan Dinner at a Marriott ballroom in downtown Des Moines.

Doctor Ocasio-Cortez,” state GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann announced, would be in town the next day with “Crazy Bernie.” “She’s got a problem with our cows here!” he said, referring to the Green New Deal she and Sanders had come to Iowa to talk about.

Joni Ernst, the state’s Republican junior senator, brought up the pair again, and again the audience booed. “We know what kind of reception they’re gonna get!”

Did we? At three stops over two days, Ocasio-Cortez was greeted with only a smattering of protests—I saw four people with weird signs on Saturday making fun of her for being a bartender—and large crowds in Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and Coralville. These were her first appearances with Sanders since she endorsed him in Queens last month. Technically, she was here in the first-in-the-nation caucus state to talk up the Green New Deal, the sweeping economic and environmental overhaul she introduced in Congress to combat climate change, now a major plank in the Sanders platform. But more than that, she was here as a sort of proof of concept—living, breathing evidence that the political revolution Sanders had promised wasn’t just happening but evolving.

The centerpiece of Ocasio-Cortez’s visit was a three-hour long climate summit at Drake University on Saturday. People heard from speakers such as Zina Precht-Rodriguez, an organizer at the Sunrise Movement, and the writer and activist Naomi Klein. Panelists discussed chicken farming and water quality and renewable energy while sitting in front of big watercolor panels painted by the artist Molly Crabapple—workers in orange vests putting up solar panels, workers in orange vests working on wind turbines, workers in orange vests…farming, maybe? I could go on about the content of the thing, but the content wasn’t what was revelatory; what was remarkable was the fact that it was happening at all.

“Four years ago when I was running around Iowa and New Hampshire and going all over this country, I talked about climate change, and people nodded their heads and I said, yeah, it’s a serious problem,” Sanders told the crowd in Des Moines. “I was on a national debate [and] a moderator said, ‘What do you think is the great national security crisis facing this country?’ And I said climate change. People kind of didn’t fully appreciate that answer. But the point is that over the last four years, as I go around the country today, people do understand.”

This is a meaningful shift in the United States, driven in large part by a revitalized activist movement. But it’s also a shift in how Sanders approached the issue. Four years ago, Sanders wasn’t avoiding the issue of climate change. (He was talking up “fossil fuel billionaires,” and pushing a climate agenda of his own.) But he wasn’t running on it quite like this, with three-hour summits where people who aren’t running for any office at all talked about the poultry industry, and corporate consolidation of pig-farming, and electrification of freight rail. He wasn’t doing a full weekend of events on the theme, in a state where corn and beef are king. No, this was something new, because in the time since the last campaign ended and this one began, the kinds of idealistic young lefty activists his campaign had counted on in 2016 had latched onto something else entirely and built it into a new organizing force.

And it was being shepherded, to a large degree, by the woman on stage with him—a former campaign organizer who’d protested at Standing Rock, then went and ran for Congress, and then almost immediately introduced the Green New Deal. She is Sanders’ most powerful surrogate in 2020 precisely because her career is the story the movement wants to believe about itself.

Ocasio-Cortez also just happens to be uncommonly good at this, adept at inverting the arguments that have traditionally been wielded against people with politics like hers. “When it comes to a Green New Deal people say—always, always, always with this question of ‘how are you going to pay for it?’” she said. “As if we’re not paying for it now.” She rattled off a list of recent, headline-grabbing shocks—the California wildfires, Hurricane Maria, decreasing crop yields.

“Coal miners are being denied their pensions while coal barons are being bailed out by the federal government,” she said. The message of Bernie 2020 is that you’re already paying for it.

Later that day, Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders spoke to a crowd of a few thousand at a field house in Coralville, near the University of Iowa campus. Sanders gear was in abundance, but he wasn’t the main draw for everyone. Caleigh Stanier, a high school junior, told me she came for Ocasio-Cortez, not Sanders.

“I admire her charisma,” she said. She’d watched the congresswoman’s Netflix documentary, Break Down the House, and seen some of her stuff on YouTube. She was drawn to a young female politician with the “boldness” to push a program like the Green New Deal.

Ditto for Jordan Mehling. Though she’ll be supporting Sanders for the second time next year, Ocasio-Cortez was the impetus to make the trip down from Minnesota. Watching the young Democratic Socialist challenge Washington political types had been an inspiration. “Before AOC came into my view, I cared about these things and I liked Bernie because he was standing up for these things that I also believed in, but”—but—”She’s the one who sort of made me feel if she can do it why can’t I do something as well?” Here was someone her doing the maximum. “I can at least be doing the minimum.”

Jessica Hillman, who had driven out from Chicago to see Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, saw the congresswoman as something like a generational bat signal.

“We all wanted to do something meaningful, we all wanted change, but we didn’t feel like we had any power,” she said. “We couldn’t connect with other people and then when she came out it was almost like a message that was sent out that connected us all together.”

I saw a little girl jumping up and down as Ocasio-Cortez began to talk, and two young women rush into the crowd to get closer. Afterward, supporters flocked to the far side of the hall for handshakes and selfies. I came upon a University of Iowa student named Harry Manaligod excitedly telling a group of friends about shaking the congresswoman’s hand.

“I came for Ocasio-Cortez,” Manaligod told me. “She’s like a completely different league. I feel like there’s so many politicians that have made sacrifices to achieve their goals, and I feel like she’s not the kind of person that’s gonna let one thing fall to the wayside to get her goals accomplished.”

Further down the line, a grown man walked away grinning. “I can’t wash my hand now!” he shouted.

Sanders’ core identity is that he’s a man who doesn’t change—Ocasio-Cortez told the crowd Saturday night that she endorsed him because he had been fighting for people like her before she was born. The consistency is the thing; you hear it again and again. So much so that there is a frustration among supporters that other candidates have profited at his expense by simply appropriating aspects of his agenda.

“Every candidate is saying what Bernie has been saying,” said Robin Ruetenik of Coralville. “It’s a coattail orgy.”

But if this campaign turns out different from the last, it’ll be because of the subtle ways he and his movement have evolved. In 2016, Sanders was traveling around the country, promising a new day in America that you could only faintly begin to discern. In 2020, the revolution he promised isn’t quite so hard to imagine—she takes the stage right before him. That’s its own form of renewable energy.

Trump’s Plot to Kill DACA Arrives in the Supreme Court, and the Protesters Are Here, Too

President Donald Trump’s decision to cancel the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program arrives in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, trailed by the anger of the program’s supporters. Just today, a group of demonstrators arrived in DC after marching from New York City. Thousands more people across the United States are expected to take to the streets on Tuesday, when the court hears a suite of cases challenging whether the Trump administration acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner in canceling the program that shields more than 700,000 young people from deportation.

The Home Is Here marchers, among them one of the plaintiffs in the case, left New York City on Oct. 26 and arrived Sunday morning in DC, chanting and dancing. Supporters from California and other parts of the country also traveled to the nation’s capital, and earlier this week students walked out in support DACA. There’s a national call for students to walk out of school on Tuesday. 

WE HAVE ARRIVED AT THE SUPREME COURT!

230 miles, and we have made it all the way to defend our community! #HomeIsHere pic.twitter.com/OhdW1smKUY

— Make the Road NY (@MaketheRoadNY) November 10, 2019

SCENES: California is HOME to more than 200,000 people with #DACA. The highest number in the U.S.

Today we waved goodbye to a strong delegation of #DACAmented leaders who will represent California at the Supreme Court on November 12.#DACA, California has your back! pic.twitter.com/fYthS6eHtM

— CHIRLA (@CHIRLA) November 10, 2019

Here’s a DACA refresher ahead of the hearing:

On June 15, 2012 after months of pressure from immigration rights groups and in the midst of a heated re-election campaign, President Barack Obama signed an executive order that gave birth to DACA. The program allowed those who at the time were between the ages of 16 and 31, who were brought here as children, and who didn’t otherwise have immigration status, to apply for a two-year work permit that also protected them from deportation. They also had to meet a series of requirements and have no criminal record. Thousands received DACA in the coming years—they’re known popularly as Dreamers, a callback to the failed DREAM Act that offered similar but broader protections—although many struggled with the decision to apply in the first place because it was only a temporary status.

On the campaign trail in 2016 Trump threatened to end DACA, calling it an overreach by the Obama administration. Immediately after Trump’s election, DACA recipients felt scared and confused by their uncertain future. They were particularly vulnerable to deportation in the event that Trump took away their status; the government already had all of their information. Many were also afraid for their undocumented family members, who were now also exposed. 

In office, Trump turned the rhetoric down a bit, saying said he would treat DACA recipients “with heart” and work with Congress on the matter. But in September 2017, the Trump administration announced it would cancel DACA. Courts quickly ruled that the administration did not have the authority to end DACA so abruptly and without adequate explanation, and the government was compelled to renew the program for those who had already been granted temporary protected status.

Since then lower courts have ruled against the Trump administration, saying his move was “arbitrary and capricious.” It’s been two years of limbo for DACA recipients.   

Tuesday morning the Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to wind down DACA is lawful and judicially reviewable. The court is not expected to make a decision until the spring.

Let’s Remember a Trump Official’s Terrible Old Tweet About the Berlin Wall

Hey Monica,

I saw an old tweet of yours resurface on Saturday to mark the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It’s from 2015, when you were a Fox News commentator and not a flack in the Trump administration, though these days is there any difference?

This is a US Govt official praising the GODDAMN BERLIN WALL, the symbol of 70 years of oppression and division under the Soviet boot.

In any other administration, this person would be fired immediately and never work in this town again. What an embarrassment these clowns are. pic.twitter.com/eomvcO63J6

— Molly McKew (@MollyMcKew) November 9, 2019

In so many ways you’re right. Walls do work. The Berlin Wall, for instance, worked for 28 years to sanction oppression, normalize human rights abuses, rob innocent citizens of any autonomy, and reward despots. It divided Germany between the prosperous and democratic west, and the Soviet satellite in the east, where hundreds of thousands of people participated in a security apparatus in which they informed on neighbors, co-workers, family members, even spouses. Did you know that at least 5,000 East Germans tried to escape? And this wall worked so well, 239 people died attempting to cross it, attempting to overcome its barbed wire and soldiers trained to kill.

But here’s the thing. For once, you may have just been a little bit off message with your tweet. It may have slipped your mind back then, in the thrill of being there, that not all walls are created equal. Sure, I get that you totally believe that our wall on the southern border that the president is so determined to build is a good wall. The Great Wall of China is an amazing wall. But somehow, as a loyal Republican with a PhD in international relations from Columbia and a former researcher for Richard Nixon in his emeritus years, you have forgotten that the Berlin Wall was one of those bad walls. One that in 1987, your sainted Ronald Reagan memorably told Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down.” 

You may have missed some of the memorials scattered throughout the city for those who were killed during the Holocaust. Berlin is a city that takes history really, really seriously. Maybe the next time you’re there, you should head out to this residential area in the periphery of heart of Berlin to visit the former Stasi prison, Hohenschönhausen, where men and women were sent after they’d been deemed unreliable members of society because they, say, wrote a letter to a friend in the west, or expressed an opinion that skirted uncomfortably close to criticizing the regime. They were tortured there. Some people lost their minds there. Some people stayed for years without having any idea of why. They were all living in that walled-off part of Berlin. Their crimes and their punishments would not have borne up to much scrutiny in a place where the rule of law prevailed. But in a walled-off country, no problem. 

You are clearly too young to remember this program from the early ’60s called That Was the Week That Was. (To be honest, it’s not like I remember it very well either.) It was a satirical look at current events, and in January 1964, when the Berlin Wall had been functioning for three years and authorities permitted a brief period of visitation for Christmas, they ran this strange hand ballet by puppeteer Burr Tillstrom. The creator of one of the earliest kid’s programs on TV, Kukla, Fran and Ollie, about a little group of adorable puppets who had adventures, Tillstrom in this depicted for American audiences a moment when a couple was finally separated by the wall. A parent and child? A brother and sister? It doesn’t really matter. I don’t remember when I first saw it, but it just has stuck with me in all its weirdness and raw emotion. 

Why is this so strangely affecting? The universality of hands, I think, helps—so free from gender, age, and any other obvious markers. It depicts with such austerity so many human emotions underlying a narrative of unjust separation and a too-brief reunion between the saved and the damned: shyness, rhapsodic moments, sweet generosity, the sheer agony at the unfairness of it all once visiting hours have ended. 

The Berlin Wall didn’t just divide that city. It literalized the image of the Iron Curtain that had descended across Europe after World War II, dividing the continent between the totalitarian communist system and liberal democracy. My family is Hungarian, and I had a quite a few relatives living on the other side of that metaphorical wall. My grandparents lost their home and were deported to the countryside. My grandfather lost his pension. My aunt was first sentenced to death and then life imprisonment for being too friendly with the Americans. My father’s cousin was murdered by the secret police. Walls work, sure, but to say it is only to beg the one question that matters: work for whom

The Standard-Bearer of the Latin American Left Is out of Prison and Ready to Fight

A day after being released from prison, Brazil’s former leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the standard-bearer of the Latin American left, pledged to fight right-wing leaders across Latin America, starting with Brazil’s ecocidal authoritarian president, Jair Bolsonaro.

“I want to tell them I’m back,” said Lula, as he is known, in a 45-minute speech to cheering supporters in front of a metalworkers union headquarters in São Bernardo do Campo.

Sobre reencontros… #equipeLula pic.twitter.com/ElsPMOYh8m

— Lula (@LulaOficial) November 10, 2019

The 74-year-old was imprisoned in 2018 after being found guilty of receiving bribes for public contracts. Lula has denied those charges, saying he was the victim of political persecution. “They didn’t arrest a man,” he said Friday after a judge ordered his release, “they tried to silence an idea and ideas don’t go away.”

 

And then Lula dropped a sizzle reel on Twitter.

Lula Livre pic.twitter.com/EJRrynjJjE

— Lula (@LulaOficial) November 8, 2019

Lula has received support on Twitter from leaders all over the world, including Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. 

As President, Lula has done more than anyone to lower poverty in Brazil and to stand up for workers. I am delighted that he has been released from jail, something that never should have happened in the first place. https://t.co/UNZZqjjMVF

— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 8, 2019

Lula served as Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010 and left the presidency with “sky-high approval ratings.” He won’t be able to run for office until 2025 because of Brazil’s so-called “clean record” law, which prevents candidates from running for public office for eight years if they’ve lost their political jobs because of corruption, but he’s already planning his political comeback.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro asked his followers on Twitter not to give ammunition to “the scoundrel.” 

California Could Have Helped Low-Income Residents Weather PG&E Blackouts. But It Didn’t Happen.

This piece originally appeared in High Country News and appears here as part of our Climate Desk Partnership.

Exactly a year ago, as the devastating Camp Fire swept through the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Frank A. Jr. Funes, a disabled 69-year-old Vietnam veteran, woke in the early morning hours to a phone call. It was his pastor, checking to see if he had evacuated. Immediately, Funes looked outside his window: His neighbor’s house was already burning, and the flames were licking at his own fence. He, his wife and their 4-year-old grandson rushed out the door. “I didn’t have time to grab anything,” he said. “The wind was blowing like crazy, and the fire was just right around the house.”  

That day, Funes lost the house he had lived in for the last seven years. He has since found a new home 15 miles away. But the winds are a constant reminder of how vulnerable he and his neighbors are to wildfires. Already this year in Northern California, the Kincade Fire has burned nearly 78,000 acres and destroyed 174 homes. Now, whenever the gusts kick up, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), the region’s largest utility provider, preemptively cuts power to decrease the likelihood of a sparked transmission line starting a fire, as happened with last year’s Camp Fire. These shutoffs could last through the rest of November and for the foreseeable future, and Funes, like many others, feels helpless without electricity.

When PG&E shut off power in early October, 2.1 million people lost electricity. Amid the darkness and confusion of the next two days, residents caught a glimpse of what researchers call “the climate gap.” Those with solar panels, and more importantly, solar battery storage, fared pretty well during the outages. Tesla electric-car owners, some of whom had home solar systems, boasted about making pizzas in the midst of the blackout, while others watched movies in their parked cars. Meanwhile, those with limited means ended up buying expensive and polluting gas-powered generators at prices ranging from a couple hundred to a few thousand dollars. Many people, including some who rely on food stamps, were forced to throw out spoiled food. Those with medical disabilities—like Funes, who uses an electric wheelchair—worried about how long the outage would last and how much it would cost to keep the generator running. Just moving the generator in and out of storage was a physical challenge for him and his wife.  

The state already has a plan in place to help remedy this disparity. In 2017, California designated funding to help disadvantaged residents and community organizations access new technology like solar batteries, through its Self Generation Incentive Program’s Equity Budget. It sounds like the perfect solution, one that by 2019, had accrued $72 million. The problem is, for residents, not one installation has taken place.

“If we don’t address the upfront cost barrier to adopting the technology, it will not reach low-income families, period. That was the biggest failure of the initial program.”

For years, so-called “early adopters”—people who buy things like electric vehicles, or install solar panels on their roofs—have been rewarded with rebates. But people who cannot afford the upfront costs miss out on the savings and new technology. As a result, by the end of 2017, solar panels were three times as likely to be found outside of disadvantaged communities, per capita, than in them, according to “Distributed Solar and Environmental Justice,” a research study conducted by Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE). Meanwhile, low-income residents pay significantly more for electricity than early adopters do. That’s partly because a larger portion of their paychecks goes to energy costs, says Boris Lukanov, a senior scientist with PSE and lead author of the study—about 7.2% of a low-income family’s paycheck, compared to the average of 3.5% of their more fortunate neighbors pay. But it’s also because in places like California, where solar adoption is high, the cost of moving electricity around the grid falls on those who use more power. That includes disadvantaged residents, whose housing infrastructure might not be the most energy-efficient, and whose access to solar installations is limited, due to the high cost. Working-class communities often have the most to gain from sustainable energy, and not just for financial reasons: Low-income and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by high gas emissions.

Across the country, well-intentioned local and state governments hope to close that energy gap and assist their most disadvantaged residents through programs like the Equity Budget. But they keep running into problems. Stan Greschner, chief policy officer at GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit that works to make clean energy more accessible, said the reason is pretty simple: Low-income residents simply can’t afford any extra expenses. Even if a program like the Equity Budget covers half of the cost of a solar battery, the price is still too high for the struggling residents it’s trying to benefit. “If we don’t address the upfront cost barrier to adopting the technology, it will not reach low-income families, period,” Greschner said. “That was the biggest failure of the initial program.”

Areas with elevated (orange) and extreme (red) wildfire threat would be prioritized for solar subsidy programs.

California Public Utilities Commission

This past September, the California Public Utilities Commission announced sweeping changes to the budget in hopes that more people will be encouraged to apply. The solution, it turns out, is more nuanced than simply having to pay for the upfront cost of solar batteries. Starting in 2020, the program will aim to cover nearly all of the costs for a battery installation for residents who live in a disadvantaged or low-income community.  

Disadvantaged communities, as defined by California, face a “combination of economic, health, and environmental burdens.” In addition, residents who meet that threshold and live in high wildfire-risk zones like Los Angeles or the Sierra Nevada will get their energy storage needs met through yet another initiative, the Equity Resiliency Program, which provides an extra $100 million in funding. Crafted in anticipation of events like this fall’s wildfires and blackouts, it’s aimed at providing disadvantaged and medically vulnerable residents like Funes with greater energy resiliency. Tribal nations will also be eligible for this new funding.  

Some structural improvements make the program easier to apply for. And because funding can now be coupled with existing solar panel incentives aimed at disadvantaged residents, people can take advantage of both programs at the same time. This is good news for renters, too: Forty-three percent of California’s low-income residents live in multi-family housing, which will now be able to pair existing solar panel subsidies with storage options. The savings in solar energy would be passed down to tenants, and the buildings could serve as “resiliency centers” for the greater community whenever an outage hits.

How the utility rolls out the new program “could very well be the key to success or failure of this program,” said Greschner. Disadvantaged communities have often been targets for financial schemes and are understandably wary of flashy incentives. One recent scam, tried to peddle fake solar installations to large Spanish-speaking immigrant populations. And many residents won’t even know about the program unless the marketing materials are available in a language they can read—something that is so far uncertain in the new marketing plan. In Lukanov’s study, the authors stated linguistic isolation was strongly associated as to whether or not residents had solar panels. “In a lot of communities, the heads of households are non-English-speaking,” Greschner said. “They don’t respond to a utility bill insert (in English) that says, ‘Hey, you qualify.’ ” They need to be reached in different ways and in their language, and so far, programs in the state have fallen short in that respect, Lukanov said.

Nonetheless, for people like Funes, who heard he could add battery storage to his house once the new Equity Budget rolls out, the changes couldn’t come quick enough. He got his solar panels last year, but without storage, they are useless during the blackouts. “I am praying for the batteries to go through,” he said. Lately, he’s been distributing pamphlets to his neighbors, telling them about the solar panels and the possibility of battery storage. But for now, he’s left to the whims of the Santa Ana winds, and of PG&E. “(The power) is going to be going out all the way through November,” Funes said. “I read in the newspaper and on the internet that it is going to be this way for 10 years.”

Are Hollywood Franchises Hogging Up All the Movie Screens?

A couple of weeks ago Martin Scorcese declared that Marvel superhero movies weren’t cinema. This prompted the usual tiresome round of social media outrage, even though it was obvious from the start that Scorcese’s point depended entirely on the meaning of “cinema.” Sure enough, the whole affair went pffft when he eventually explained what he meant. His generation of filmmakers, Scorcese said, considered cinema to be high art. “There was some debate about that at the time, so we stood up for cinema as an equal to literature or music or dance.”

Since even ardent fans can’t seriously consider Marvel superhero movies to be high art, that was the end of this little kerfuffle. But then Scorcese said something more:

So, you might ask, what’s my problem? Why not just let superhero films and other franchise films be? The reason is simple. In many places around this country and around the world, franchise films are now your primary choice if you want to see something on the big screen. It’s a perilous time in film exhibition, and there are fewer independent theaters than ever.

In other words, big tentpole movies are taking over the multiplex and leaving no room for small, high-quality films. But this got me thinking. Is it really true that Scorcese’s kind of cinema is being crowded out these days? Here are a few data points to consider. First, the total number of movie screens has increased steadily over the past few decades:

The share of movies that are sequels or adaptations or otherwise part of a franchise has stayed roughly flat over the past decade:

And the number of movies that are big studio releases has stayed about the same since 1995, while the number of indie releases has skyrocketed:

None of this gets us precisely to the problem Scorcese is talking about: namely that franchise movies are taking up all the screens. After all, the number of big studio releases may be the same as it was a couple of decades ago, but they open on more screens than they used to. Without more data, it’s impossible to say for sure how many screen-days are being dedicated to franchises vs. smaller pictures.

Still, given that the number of releases has been stable while the number of screens has doubled, the data suggests that tentpoles and franchises probably aren’t hogging up a bigger share of screens than in the past. Besides, if screens were truly becoming a lot scarcer, it’s hard to explain why the number of indie releases has tripled in the past two decades.

Don’t take any of this as conclusive. It’s just what I was able to find without going too far down a rabbit hole. If anyone knows where to find better data, let me know.

Donald Trump Doesn’t Get Completely Booed at a Big Game. But Did He Jinx the Home Team?

Donald Trump rarely makes public appearances outside of his rallies, but recently he decided to attend a baseball game in Washington, DC. He did not receive a warm welcome.

Full on “LOCK HIM UP! LOCK HIM UP!” chants heard throughout the crowd at Nats Park after President Trump was announced and shown on screen here #WorldSeries pic.twitter.com/1ktVXkHYFy

— Monica Alba (@albamonica) October 28, 2019

Then, he tried a Ultimate Fighting Championship fight at Madison Square Garden in his hometown of New York City. Also didn’t go well.

Trump has entered the building lol #UFC244 #UFC #TRUMP pic.twitter.com/DhQqiU8Z18

— Joe Mastoloni (@JJMast1) November 3, 2019

But today, after traveling on Air Force One all the way to the deep red state of Alabama, Trump finally found a crowd that was, mostly, happy to see him as the University of Alabama hosted rivals Louisiana State University. 

Roaring cheers, chants of “USA,” some booing and crowd shakes their red-and-white pom-poms as the Trumps are introduced at the Bama-LSU game pic.twitter.com/JvIY54l6Jx

— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) November 9, 2019

Trump is sitting in real estate investor Jim Wilson’s box at the Alabama football game today, the White House says. Wilson is a Trump supporter who has helped raise money for the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.

— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) November 9, 2019

In the first few minutes following his introduction, Tua Tagovailoa, the starting quarterback for Alabama, which is ranked number two in the nation and hasn’t trailed in a game at home since 2015, promptly threw an interception leading to an LSU touchdown. On the next drive, Alabama’s punter botched a kick and LSU took a 10-0 lead. They eventually recovered a bit but still trailed at the end of the first quarter. And the final score was crushing for the Crimson Tide; Louisiana won, 46-41.

John Bolton Just Signed a Multi-Million Dollar Book Deal

It remains unclear if House Democrats will be able to get Donald Trump’s former national security adviser John Bolton to testify in their impeachment inquiry. Bolton has said that if a judge rules he can ignore a White House order to keep quiet, he would appear before Congress. But the Associated Press reported on Saturday that Bolton has signed a multi-million dollar book deal. Even if Trump can keep his mustachioed former aide out of the witness seat, it looks like he’s going to join a long list of former White House advisers to tell the inside story.

According to the AP, Bolton got a $2 million advance from Simon & Schuster, and while it’s not clear what he will say in the book, the price tag suggests it will be a pretty juicy story. 

Bolton once would have been an unlikely candidate to be either the Democrat’s potential star witness or the author of a Trump tell-all. For years, he has had a reputation as one of the most conservative and hawkish Republicans in Washington, from his work as ambassador to the United Nations under the Bush administration to serving Trump in the White House. But he and Trump clashed often over Bolton’s mistrust of Trump’s favorite dictators in Russia and North Korea. And Bolton was reportedly horrified at Trump’s attempts to force the Ukrainians to carry his political water. According to other witnesses who have testified before the Democratic impeachment inquiry, after catching wind that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland and White House acting chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney had discussed the plot to pressure Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, Bolton snarled “I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.”

The news of Bolton’s book deal comes the day after his attorney dropped hints that his client knows a lot more about the president’s efforts in Ukraine than has previously been revealed. Bolton was scheduled to give a deposition to House Democrats on Thursday but didn’t show up. The White House has ordered former staffers to not cooperate, but Biden’s attorney has said that Bolton will testify anyway, if a judge settles the dispute between the executive and the legislative branch. 

The Federal Reserve Acknowledged the Reality of Climate Change. That’s Actually a Big Deal.

During a conference on climate change and the economy in San Francisco, one year after the deadly Campfire’s wildfire smoke made the city’s air quality among the worst on the planet, the Federal Reserve announced that it would incorporate climate change into its considerations when making policy decisions. The choice stands in stark contrast with the Trump administration, which maintains that climate change is a hoax despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The announcement was made during a speech by Fed Governor Lael Brainard, who said taking climate change seriously would be central to the future of the US economy.

Ann Saphir reported on the announcement for Reuters:

“To fulfill our core responsibilities, it will be important for the Federal Reserve to study the implications of climate change for the economy and the financial system and to adapt our work accordingly,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said in remarks released at the start of the Fed’s first-ever conference on climate change and economics.

The Fed, she said, will need to look at how to keep banks and the financial system resilient amid risks from extreme weather, higher temperatures, rising sea levels and other effects of the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

And increasingly, she said, “it will be important for the Federal Reserve to take into account the effects of climate change and associated policies in setting monetary policy to achieve our objectives of maximum employment and price stability.”

But what does this announcement mean, in a practical sense? Monolithic financial institutions don’t typically turn on a dime, and according to David Wessel, director of the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institute, this will not result in different actions by the Fed in the near term. The task of implementing new monetary policy is deliberate and incremental, but that doesn’t mean this announcement isn’t notable. “The significance isn’t that it’s gonna change anything on regulation, supervision or monetary policy,” Wessel says. “They stopped pretending that this is someone else’s problem.”

Wessel says there’s serious weight behind a financial institution as large and respected as the Fed weighing in on this issue. “The Fed board of governors in DC has 402 PhD economists,” he says. “Doing something like this does raise the visibility of the issue. It adds to the seriousness: Sober people are taking climate change seriously.” Though sober people within the banking world have been taking climate change seriously for some time. The Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS), a cooperative effort between banks from some of the world’s largest economies—like Germany and England, with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank taking observer status—was established in 2017 to align the financial world with the Paris Climate Agreement. The Fed has been a notable outlier, until now. Along with announcing the bank’s new stance on climate, Brainard expressed an interest in the central bank participating with the NGFS in the future.

The Fed taking those proactive measures is something of an anomaly, Wessel says, noting that the NGFS member banks are all parts of governments that have recognized the urgency of addressing climate change. “I think that’s why other central banks are more ahead,” he says. “They are thinking about this.”

The GOP Just Released Its Own Witness List for Impeachment Inquiries—and It’s All About Biden and Clinton

House Republicans released a wish list Saturday morning of witnesses they’d like to see testify when Congress holds its first public hearings on President Donald Trump’s “perfect” call with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinsky next week. Not surprisingly, most of them have nothing to do with the impropriety of the call itself. 

House Democrats control the impeachment inquiry process but asked for Republican input on potential witnesses last week. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the highest-ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee that will be leading the public impeachment inquiry, sent the list to Democratic chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), along with a lengthy letter complaining about the unfairness of the inquiry to Trump. Nunes, who has long been one of Trump’s most ardent defenders, described the process thus far as “opaque and unfair,” writing, “Your actions have great damaged the integrity of the Intelligence Committee and any legitimacy of your ‘impeachment inquiry.”

While House Democrats have said they want to hear from key diplomatic personnel who may have been involved with the quid pro quo arrangement, in which Trump tried to use the threat of withholding American support for the beleaguered nation in its ongoing dispute with Russia in exchange for the Ukrainian president promising to investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden. After initially objecting to the notion that there was such an arrangement, the GOP has now more or less acknowledged it occurred but insists that it was not improper. Nunes’ proposed witness list seems designed mostly to make the case against Hunter Biden and, of course, Hillary Clinton. 

The whistleblower might make an obvious witness, given all he knows about the phone call, but Nunes’ reasoning is in keeping with the general Republican talking points in defending Trump.

Most noteworthy on the list is the anonymous whistleblower whose concern after hearing Trump pressure Zelensky pushed Democrats into pursuing a possible impeachment. The whistleblower might make an obvious witness, given all he knows about the phone call, but Nunes’ reasoning is in keeping with the general Republican talking points in defending Trump. He states the president should be “afforded an opportunity to confront his accusers”—an allusion to the Sixth Amendment, which covers criminal prosecutions and not impeachment inquiries. Nunes also cites the whistleblower’s alleged “bias” against the president, the evidence of which is apparently that he is a registered Democrat (his attorney denies any political bias). Rather than grilling the whistleblower on Trump’s actions, Nunes’ main interest seems to be changing the subject.

Nunes also wants to hear from Alexandra Chalupa, a former employee of the US Embassy in Ukraine, who was also a former Democratic National Committee staffer. Conservative news outlets have pushed the somewhat muddled theory that Chalupa, while working at the embassy, was researching Paul Manafort’s activities in that country in the early 2010s and may have improperly passed that information to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. Chalupa has denied any wrongdoing, saying she did no opposition research for the DNC. The DNC has also denied any wrongdoing, noting that Democrats were investigating Trump and Manafort’s ties to Russia and Ukraine long before Chalupa was hired. 

Without any hint of irony or further explanation, Nunes cited questions about what Chalupa did or didn’t do in 2016 as the reason she was needed to testify about Trump’s July 2019 call with Zelensky.

“Ms. Chalupa is a prime fact witness who can assist Congress and the American Public in better understanding the facts and circumstances surrounding the Ukrainian involvement in the 2016 election,” Nunes wrote in his letter, highlighting a topic that is notably not part of the impeachment inquiry. 

Nunes’ list also includes Biden’s son, Hunter, and Devon Archer, a former business partner of the younger Biden. Both sat on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian natural gas company, that Trump was pushing Zelensky to investigate as corrupt. Nunes wrote in his letter that testimony from the two men would “assist the American public in understanding the nature and extent of Ukraine’s pervasive corruption, information that bears directly on President Trump’s longstanding and deeply-held skepticism of the country.” Biden and Archer would seemingly fit into a strategy of not denying Trump took steps to pressure Zelensky into investigating a political opponent’s family, but rather excusing and contextualizing Trump’s behavior by arguing that the president’s actions were thoroughly justified because of Ukraine’s history of corruption. 

Read Nunes letter here

This Is What Happened at the First Presidential Environmental Justice Forum

This story was originally published by The Guardian and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Only six candidates turned out for the first ever presidential forum on environmental justice at South Carolina State University on Friday night.

Issues such as lead-contaminated water, food deserts, childhood asthma and proximity to polluting chemical plants and industrial pig farms disproportionately affect low-income communities, tribal nations and people of colour.

The Democratic candidates who participated were Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.); former members of Congress John Delaney and Joe Sestak; the billionaire Tom Steyer; and the author Marianne Williamson.

Warren, who launched an ambitious climate and environmental justice plan last month, said a third of the $3tn she has pledged to spend combating global heating over the next decade would be ring fenced for communities devastated by generations of environmental racism.

She pledged to tackle big corporations including big polluters by introducing anti-corruption legislation on her first day as president.

Asked about Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s recently leaked comment that a Warren presidency would “suck” for the company, she responded: “Boo-hoo.”

Steyer, the hedge-fund manager turned environmental philanthropist who bankrolled an “impeach Trump” ad campaign, said he would declare a state of emergency on his first day in office to tackle the climate crisis.

He compared current environmental inequalities to Jim Crow segregation laws implemented after the abolition of slavery, when people of color and native Americans had inadequate and inferior public services.

“If we’re going to repair these injustices, the people affected have to be at the front of the line for green jobs,” said Steyer.

The Flint water scandal in 2014 propelled environmental inequalities on to the national stage. Since then, it has emerged that thousands of water sources in communities across the US are contaminated with lead. This includes Newark, New Jersey, where Booker was mayor. He pledged to fund a national programme to replace lead pipes.

The New Jersey senator, who founded the first environmental justice caucus, is vegan, because of what he says to the cruel and polluting “corporate animal industry” responsible for massive greenhouse gas emissions and health problems in nearby communities.

Booker defended supporting nuclear power, a position criticized by environmental justice groups given the health risks posed by nuclear waste, arguing that it was the only way to meet climate targets within 12 years.

“Fifty percent of our non-carbon energy producing capacity come from nuclear,” he said. “So I’m a realist.”

Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, said cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 would be impossible under the Green New Deal, a broad social and economic pact supported by high-profile Democrats such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The deal plans legislation to achieve universal healthcare and higher minimum wages as well as clean energy, sustainable infrastructure and green jobs.

Delaney said he wants to cancel fossil-fuel tax subsidies, freeing up money to invest in technology to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The environmental justice forum was hosted by the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and leaders from frontline and tribal communities, civil rights, youth and environmental organizations.

It was moderated by Mustafa Santiago Ali, a former Environmental Protection Agency official, and Amy Goodman from the independent news organization Democracy Now.

The caucus will host a forum on gun violence and mental health next month.

Most Republicans Think Pressuring Foreign Countries to Investigate Political Rivals is Normal

A new poll on how Americans feel about impeachment shows that most of those surveyed—of all political stripes—think impeachment is a necessary tool, and presidential abuse of power is a legitimate reason for using it. But a majority of Republicans say they think that a president trying to use the full weight of America’s international power to attack a domestic political opponent is normal. 

The poll, conducted early this week by Vox/PerryUndem/Ipsos, was somewhat reassuring about the public believing there should be limits on a president in that it found that a large majority of Americans—71 percent—say some way to remove politicians who do wrong is essential. But when the pollsters started asking more specific questions about what constitutes an impeachable offense, Republican respondents started showing increasingly more tolerance for bad presidential behavior. 

For example, 88 percent of Republicans think using the Oval Office to enrich yourself is an impeachable offense (versus 95 percent of Democrats) and  67 percent percent of Republicans think abusing presidential power for political advantage is impeachable (versus 93 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of independents). But what about being dishonest to the American people? Seventy-four percent of Democrats found that impeachable as did 56 percent of independents—but only 50 percent of Republicans. 

And while most independents and 77 percent of Democrats think an American president using his power to force foreign countries to investigate a political rival—as a growing mountain of evidence is showing Donald Trump did with Ukraine this summer—only 22 percent of Republicans thought it was a “high crime and misdemeanor,” and, yes, impeachable.

Only 22 percent. 

Why such a high tolerance for such norm busting that Republicans like Mitt Romney called Trump’s attempts to force other countries to dig up dirt on former vice president Joe Biden “wrong and appalling”? And Romney wasn’t too far out on a limb with that—65 percent of Americans say it’s “morally wrong” to do just thaat. But, here comes the apparent cynicism: According to the poll, a whopping 65 percent of Republicans in this country think it’s the kind of thing presidents “do all the time.” The numbers are virtually reversed for Democrats with 63 percent saying it is not something presidents do all the time; only 37 percent of Independents thought it was normal behavior for a president. 

Online Voting is a Really, Really Bad Idea

Casting votes over the internet—at least for anything more important than a Twitter poll—is not secure.

“This level of secrecy hardly inspires confidence.”

This is not a controversial position. In September 2018, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, alongside some of the foremost election and information security experts in the country slammed the idea, noting that despite whatever illusions of convenience it may provide, it opens the door to a wide range of security vulnerabilities. Their conclusion was simple: “secure Internet voting will likely not be feasible in the near future.” And just this summer, after more than two years of investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report on Russia’s 2016 election interference operations, which included a warning to states to “resist pushes for online voting,” noting that nobody has proven that it can be done safely.

You wouldn’t know that if you listened to representatives from Voatz, an app-based company that claims it can securely administer online elections. The company’s product requires users to upload a government photo ID, and then uses a video selfie along with fingerprint and face scans to verify voters’ identity. The company says it then records the user’s vote on an immutable blockchain, a technology that creates records on a distributed system, making manipulation of the data virtually impossible. Voatz boasts its system stores votes “on multiple, geographically diverse verifying servers,” and claims that their systems have been regularly tested by simulated hackings and audited by independent third parties.

On Thursday, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called the company’s bluff, asking the Department of Defense and the National Security Agency to conduct a cybersecurity audit of the company. In a letter calling for the audit, Wyden says the company won’t release the results of its own security audits, and won’t even identify whoever it hired to conduct them. “This level of secrecy hardly inspires confidence,” he writes, noting the DoD recently joined other federal agencies in issuing a statement affirming that Russia, China, Iran, and other “malicious actors” are actively working to attack US elections.

An NSA spokesperson confirmed the agency had received the letter, but declined to comment further. The Department of Defense also confirmed receipt, saying it would respond to Wyden.

In a statement posted to the company’s blog after Mother Jones asked for a response to Wyden’s letter, the company said that it had not been contacted by the senator’s office but welcomed “any and all additional security audits by the Department of Defense and NSA regarding our platform.”

While it did not respond directly to Wyden’s charge that it’s audit results and auditors remain private, the statement said the company is “committed to providing as much transparency as possible about our system while at the same time needing to protect our intellectual property as one of the youngest election companies in the country.”

The company says it has run “54 successful elections (public and private),” and pilot programs in West Virginia, Oregon, and elsewhere—including a student council race—primarily enabling overseas and military voters. It says “attempts to tamper with the system were actively thwarted” during the 2018 West Virginia pilot, a reference to what was likely a group of election security students looking at the app’s vulnerabilities, and notes that it participates in the HackerOne bug bounty program, which facilitates the reporting of vulnerabilities that the company that the company allows outsiders to test.

That said, the West Virginia officials say they were happy with the program but seem to acknowledge doubts about its security. Last year after the state’s pilot, a state official told the Washington Post in response to questions about Voatz’s vulnerabilities that while the test had gone smoothly and was “very successful,” the secretary of state “has never and will never advocate that this is a solution for mainstream voting.”

If it’s not good enough to use at home, how could it be safe enough to use abroad?

Wisconsin’s Statehouse Is at War Over Its Dairy Crisis

In Wisconsin, one of the nation’s key battleground states for the 2020 presidential election, dairy is big business. But low milk prices and chronic overproduction are squeezing small- and mid-sized dairy farms, which are shutting down at a rate of more than two per day. Massive dairy operations, meanwhile, continue to proliferate, concentrating manure and causing tension with neighbors over putrid odors and fouled water. This week, these twin crises have inflamed a long-simmering squabble between Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and the GOP-controlled Wisconsin Senate.

 In January, Evers’ appointed Brad Pfaff to lead the state’s department of agriculture, trade, and consumer protection. Pfaff, who grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, had previously served as an administrator in President Barack Obama’s Department of Agriculture and deputy chief of staff to US Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.).

But in Wisconsin, the governor’s choices for cabinet posts like ag department chief are subject to approval by the full senate. And Evers faces a senate still stinging from the midterms: In 2018, he narrowly defeated GOP stalwart Scott Walker, who had served as governor from 2011 to 2018, and had gained national fame for his attacks on public-sector unions and his hot pursuit of the anti-tax and deregulatory agenda favored by his financial backers, the Koch brothers.

Still under GOP control, the senate has refused to vote on most of Evers’ cabinet picks, leaving them to serve as acting heads of their departments. And on Tuesday, the senate effectively fired Pfaff. It voted Pfaff out along party lines, 19-14—the first time the legislative body has voted to remove a governor’s cabinet pick in at least three decades. For now, Pfaff’s deputy agriculture director, who isn’t subject to approval by the senate, will run the department.

The Republicans’ complaints with Pfaff were two-fold. In July, Pfaff rebuked the senate for refusing to release $100,000 in allocated state funding for mental health services for farmers. Since milk prices started to slide in 2015, America’s Dairyland (Wisconsin’s official nickname) has seen about a quarter of its dairy farms fold. As the attrition grinds on, calls to a mental-health hotline for farmers have spiked, and there’s evidence of an uptick in farmer suicides (though precise data is hard to come by). “There’s no two ways about it: Republicans have chosen to leave farmers behind,” Pfaff said back in July, after Republican lawmakers declined to release the funds. Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald shot back that Pfaff’s comments were “flippant” and “beneath your position.” The senate ultimately released the funds in September. 

Pfaff had also been pushing through new rules on large dairy farms, forcing them to keep manure pits at least 600 feet from neighbors’ property lines (current regulations require a 350 foot setback). The dairy industry vigorously opposed by the changes, and the senate Republicans declared them “burdensome.” 

The Wisconsin Farmers Union, which represents small- and mid-sized farms, supports manure reform. According to Kara O’Connor, the union’s government relations director, the state’s manure pit regulations have not changed since 2006 and “are desperately in need of an update, because they’re deeply out of touch with the reality that’s unfolding in rural communities.” The number of massive dairies that confine several thousand cows has expanded steadily since the current rules were formulated, and “we have a lot of members who have expressed deep concerns about odor from these operations,” she said. 

The tension between Wisconsin’s governor and his legislature is playing out in the hothouse of national presidential politics. Sen. Fitzgerald, who spearheaded Pfaff’s firing, is now running for Congress. He has denounced impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump as a “political witch hunt” and a desperate attempt to deny Trump a second term.

“Are they struggling? Absolutely. But I think at the end of the day we need to get behind them rather than saying, ‘Ah maybe you should go larger.'”

And a top Trump official has weighed in on Wisconsin’s dairy crisis. Responding to a reporter’s question about the plight of the state’s farms at the World Dairy Expo in Madison in early October, US Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue declared that “in America, the big get bigger and the small go out…I don’t think in America we, for any small business, we have a guaranteed income or guaranteed profitability.”

Days later, Gov. Evers lashed out at Perdue. “He kind of put the pox on small farming in the state,” Evers told reporters, according to the Journal Sentinel. “Are they struggling? Absolutely. But I think at the end of the day we need to get behind them rather than saying, ah maybe you should go larger… I, frankly, resent that the Department of Agriculture secretary from the federal government came in and kind of lambasted them.”

Back in 2016, Trump won Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes. Four years earlier, then-President Barack Obama took the state by more than 200,000 votes. According to New York Times electoral analyst Nate Cohn, Wisconsin is a toss-up for 2020, with former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) holding slim leads in polls over Trump, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) locked in a dead heat with the president. Warren and Sanders  have both called for policies that stabilize prices for farmers, an idea that’s increasingly popular in Wisconsin dairy country. Over the past two years, members of the Wisconsin Farmers Union and the more more industry-aligned Wisconsin Farm Bureau both voted to express tentative support for supply management—an idea embraced by Canadian dairy farmers but widely seen as radical in the United States.   

“Until recently, dairy farmers have been hesitant to support supply management because of this thought that ‘getting government involved’ was going to put them out of business,” O’Connor of the Wisconsin Farmers Union said. “But dairy farmers are walking up to the fact that the economic climate will put them out of business a lot more swiftly and efficiently than any government policy every has.” 

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