Don Walton: The death penalty, faith and partisan politics

The annual death penalty debate in the Legislature always is solemn, dramatic and revealing.

It’s an issue that ought to be deeply personal, and it is. For many people it is faith-guided or faith-based.

An issue that Chambers says ought to particularly challenge Catholic senators who take a position contrary to last year’s action by Pope Francis changing the Catechism of the Catholic Church to state that “the death penalty is inadmissible.”

It’s an issue that really shouldn’t be used as a partisan political instrument, but it is. Everything is today.

And so that was a big part of the debate last week with threats of political retaliation injected and the vote of the people to overturn the Legislature’s previous repeal of capital punishment employed as a cudgel.

Hey, Sen. Adam Morfeld protested, so how about the 2018 vote of the people to expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 90,000 Nebraskans who have no access to health care coverage and…

The Many Reasons to Run for President When You Probably Don’t Stand a Chance

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

There is no discernible mass groundswell for an Eric Swalwell presidential campaign.

The case against: He is a 38-year-old California congressman of little legislative distinction. He would appear to have minimal running room in a deep and accomplished Democratic field expected to grow to 20 or so — large enough to fill two baseball starting lineups, with another contender or two left to heckle from the dugout.

The case for: Why not?

“We don’t have time for vanity things,” Mr. Swalwell insisted in an interview this past week, the morning after he announced his candidacy on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” pledging to anchor his bid in a call for greater gun control. “We’re doing big things.”

That remains to be seen. But at the very least, if recent history is a guide, a run is likely to yield better things, perpetuating the victory-in-defeat incentive structure endemic to modern presidential politics.

Today’s primaries tend to produce one nominee but many winners. Beyond the long-shot candidates effectively auditioning for cabinet positions or building a profile (and donor base) for future races, there are prospective books to sell and television contracts to sign, boards to join and paid speeches to paid-speak. Any setback is temporary, any embarrassment surmountable.

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“There’s just absolutely no downside and only upside,” Antonia Ferrier, a longtime Republican strategist and former senior aide to Senator Mitch McConnell, said of quixotic presidential runs. “It is an industry of self-promotion. What better way to self-promote than run for president?”

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, has leveraged two losing presidential campaigns into an empire of folksy conservative ubiquity across television, radio and print. Ben Carson transitioned from renowned neurosurgeon to national hero of the right during a 2016 run that included an extended midcampaign hiatus to promote his book. His efforts were rewarded with a job in President Trump’s cabinet.

Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker, clawed back to national prominence seven years ago despite posing little threat to take the nomination, turning the protagonist of his wife’s children’s book — a fictional elephant named Ellis — into a kind of campaign mascot available for voter consumption.

“It gives you a certain stature the rest of your life, kind of like having once been speaker of the House,” Mr. Gingrich said in an interview. “They introduce you, and then they say, ‘… and former presidential candidate!’ It’s not bad.”

It is not. And underdog entrants have grown skilled at presenting their campaigns in altruistic terms, suggesting that finding a platform for a worthy cause is a reward tantamount to winning.

[Who’s running for president in 2020? Keep up with who’s in and who’s out with our candidate tracker.]

Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaii congresswoman barely registering in most polls, has presented herself as the “peace” candidate opposed to military intervention overseas, though her willingness to visit President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has attracted wide scrutiny. Andrew Yang, a businessman and political newcomer,…

Bernie Sanders fast facts: 5 things to know about the Vermont senator

Sanders on Fox News town hall: It's important to talk to Trump supporters
Sanders on Fox News town hall: It’s important to talk to Trump supporters

Bernie Sanders made waves as a presidential candidate in 2016 — with supporters backing the Vermont senator’s call for a “political revolution” and repeating the popular campaign phrase “Feel The Bern.”

And though Hillary Clinton ultimately defeated him to become the Democratic party’s nominee, the 77-year-old is making quite a comeback.

Sanders has already hauled in a whopping $18.2 million since launching his 2020 campaign in February, surpassing his 2016 numbers. He appears to be miles ahead of his competitors, making at least $6 million more than his closest fundraising opponent, California Sen. Kamala Harris, who has pulled in at least $12 million in donations.

Sanders will join Fox News Channel for a Town Hall co-anchored by Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum on Monday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. ET in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.


Name recognition has apparently worked in Sanders’ favor this time around.

His name remains on the top of polls, typically behind former Vice President Joe Biden who has stayed silent about his 2020 plans thus far. In an early March Monmouth poll, Sanders sat just 3 percentage points behind Biden. Weeks later, in a Fox News poll, Democratic primary voters once again voted him as their second choice — with Biden at 31 percent and Sanders at 23 percent.

Before Sanders discusses his political record, economic policies and ideas on stage during Fox News’ Town Hall next Monday, take a look at five fast facts to know about the self-described Democratic socialist.

He’s the longest-serving Independent member of Congress in U.S. history

Bernie Sanders calls Democratic socialism a 'vibrant democracy'

Sanders has served as Vermont’s senator since 2007. Before that, he spent 16 years as a lawmaker in the U.S. House of Representatives. His combined years of service in the government makes him the longest-serving Independent member of Congress ever, according to his official bio.

His political career kickstarted in 1981 when he was elected mayor of Burlington by just 10 votes. Sanders often points to his narrow mayoral victory as an example that every vote…

Daphne Bramham: Millennials have the means, if not the will, to alter politics and reshape public policies

The next federal election will be held on Monday, Oct. 21.

No group is better positioned than millennials to dramatically reshape politics and parties’ election platforms in what promises to be a desperate and chaotic federal election in October.

Yes, them. Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials are frequently described as lazy, self-centred, unfocused and lacking in basic life and workplace skills. They have been blamed for “killing” everything from bar soap to credit cards to Hooters to golf to dating to car ownership.

These much-maligned “kids” are also potentially the biggest voting bloc, accounting for 35 per cent of eligible voters. Yet right now, they are almost voiceless in parliament and legislatures, and nowhere are they so remarkably unrepresented as in British Columbia.

It’s important to acknowledge the less-remarked-upon things that have shaped this generation. They are better educated than previous generations, which has saddled them with debt that piled up because of higher tuition costs.

Many have had trouble finding jobs because they graduated during a global recession and a period of stagnant wages. They’re making do by living with parents longer and delaying having children. Those with jobs work harder than previous generations because most families need two incomes to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table.

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Not since the return of Second World War veterans have young Canadians faced such a difficult housing market. Affordable rental housing is scarce, and home ownership is mostly beyond their reach, even for two working professionals.

Necessity has downsized dreams of home ownership to high-rise apartments from single-family houses with yards. Even then, home ownership often depends on having access to the Bank of Mom and Dad and/or Childcare by Grandma and Grandpa.

When the oldest millennials were born, the average house price was about six times the annual average salary, or just under $204,000 in 2016 dollars, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. By 2016, the national average price was nearly $507,000, or 14.8 times average annual wages. In Metro Vancouver, the average house costs $1.4 million.

More than any generation since the advent of Old Age Security and the Canada Pension Plan, the…

Pete Buttigieg wants to make some changes to the Supreme Court, Electoral College, and congressional districts

Pete Buttigieg spoke to Northeastern University students Wednesday in the Blackman Auditorium in Boston.

Pete Buttigieg says young people who think the political process is “rigged” are “not wrong” — even if it isn’t in the way that President Donald Trump claims.

“But when nine out of 10 districts in the Congress are totally uncompetitive because they’ve been drawn in such a way that the politicians actually choose their voters, rather than voters choosing their politicians, in a very naked, transparent, and inarguable way, that election is rigged,” Buttigieg told a crowd of mostly Northeastern University students on their Boston campus Wednesday, referring to the effects of partisan gerrymandering.

“And what could be less inspiring, when you’re deciding whether to go vote in an election, than if you know the election is rigged,” he said.

The South Bend, Indiana mayor — who is expected to officially launch a Democratic presidential campaign on April 14 — said a similar rational applies to the way the country elects its presidents.

“The Electoral College is a dumb idea,” Buttigieg told the audience, arguing that it was hard for him to convince someone in a deep-red state, such as Idaho, or a deep-blue state, like Massachusetts, that their vote mattered in a presidential election.

Buttigieg is hardly the only 2020 contender in the Democratic primary field who supports nonpartisan redistricting and getting rid of the Electoral College. While he supports ambitious action to address climate change, health care, and a transforming economy, Buttigieg has explicitly argued that “a package of Democratic reforms” should be the top priority for the next president.

And unlike his competitors, the 37-year-old mayor says those reforms need to include a restructuring of the Supreme Court. Buttigieg contends that it wouldn’t be as radical as it seems.

“The number of Supreme Court justices has already changed,” he said, referring to the Republican-controlled Senate’s unprecedented blockade of Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland in 2016.

“They changed it to eight,” Buttigieg said. “And then they changed it back after they won.”

Buttigieg says arguments…

Nancy Pelosi urges Joe Biden to keep his hands to himself

Nancy Pelosi said of Joe Biden’s behavior with women: ‘What’s important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it.’

Nancy Pelosi – widely seen as the most powerful woman in Washington – has some advice for Joe Biden: keep your hands to yourself.

As Biden, the former vice president, scrambles to contain any political damage over his past behavior with women, the House speaker said at an event in Washington that her fellow Democrat and other male politicians should keep their distance during encounters with women and restrain from being touchy-feely.

“Join the straight-arm club with me,” Pelosi, who is the first female speaker, said of Biden during a live interview with Politico on Tuesday. “He’s an affectionate person, to children, to senior citizens, to everyone, but that’s just not the way.”

Over the past week, Biden – who has long been expected to launch a bid to be the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2020 any time now – has been the subject of damaging news reports after two women accused him of inappropriate behavior towards them.

Pelosi said the two allegations of unwelcome contact should not keep Biden from running for the presidency in 2020.

“I don’t think it’s disqualifying,” she told the event on Tuesday. But she added that Biden “has to understand that in the world we are in now, people’s space is important to them and what’s important is how they receive it, not necessarily how you intended it”.

The former Nevada lawmaker Lucy Flores described in an essay for the Cut her discomfort when Biden kissed her on the head during a campaign event in 2014. She has since said the episode is disqualifying and that he should not run.

Trump’s 2020 Campaign: A Traditional Operation With a Wild-Card Candidate

Jason Andrew for The New York Times

WASHINGTON — On a former trading floor in an office tower in Rosslyn, Va., with sweeping views of the Potomac River, the Trump 2020 campaign is settling in. It has about 40 staff members and counting, reported $19.2 million in cash on hand in its last report and has spent $4.5 million on online ads since December.

It is a long way from Mr. Trump’s first presidential race, which came together in the summer of 2015 and was run as a taped-together operation, with a few desks strewn across an unfinished floor of Trump Tower.

But one thing is missing from the high-powered but traditional campaign operation underway in Rosslyn: a candidate who abides by tradition.

In a speech to a conservative group this month, as Mr. Trump described what he had in mind, he made a point of recounting “how I got elected, by being off script,” adding, “If we don’t go off script, our country is in big trouble, folks.” And at a rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday, Mr. Trump illustrated what he meant, delivering an 80-minute stemwinder in which he lashed out at familiar targets who fostered “the collusion delusion” and offered the in-depth rehash of his 2016 victory that is a staple of his rally speeches.

“We won a lot,” he said, after explaining where “Crooked” Hillary Clinton went wrong. “We won 306 to 223.” (Mrs. Clinton’s total was actually 232.)

Mr. Trump has made it clear that he wants to run on the same anti-immigration, anti-Islam, fear-mongering tropes that lifted him to victory in 2016, denouncing old enemies like Mrs. Clinton and adding new ones, even as his aides try to emphasize his accomplishments in office like the economy and the rout of the Islamic State. Advisers say privately that he has been distracted by the Mueller report, which he regards as a clear political victory, and has not focused on message for the coming months.

As the campaign tries to build a traditional re-election operation, which officials often compare to President George W. Bush’s 2004 race, the tension may build between campaign officials and Mr. Trump, who trusts his gut above all else.

“President Trump has always had his finger on the pulse of the nation and he understands what it is that the American people want, and that is why he won in 2016 and that has not changed,” said David Bossie, a former campaign adviser who, alongside the former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, attended the rally with Mr. Trump on Thursday night. “He is his best political barometer.”

Incumbent presidents running for re-election always come with built-in advantages: money, time, the stature of the office and the opportunity to define the terms of the race, while an inchoate field of opponents fight among one another.

The Trump campaign is building an organization aimed at capitalizing on all of those advantages, crafting a conventional structure around a candidate whose nature is to buck against it. “There are lots of differences between being part of a bruising primary versus being the incumbent,” said Tim Murtaugh, the campaign communications director. “One of the differences is time. We have a big advantage on the Democrat field in that, and we intend to use it.”

But the wild card is Mr. Trump himself.

“It’s easy to build a beautiful operation,” said Robby…

Even Liberal Democrats Can’t Quit Wealthy Donors and Their Big Checks

Audra Melton for The New York Times

Senator Cory Booker spun through a San Francisco fund-raiser hosted on Friday afternoon by high-tech titans and wealthy venture capitalists, including the investor Ron Conway. That evening, in New York, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand gathered donations at the Upper West Side home of Matthew Mallow, a vice chairman of the investment giant BlackRock.

And on Sunday night, Senator Kamala Harris is set to mingle with Hollywood luminaries at the home of the president of the MGM Motion Picture Group, Jonathan Glickman.

The race for cash in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary is reaching a frenetic peak this weekend with a dozen fund-raisers on both coasts, as presidential hopefuls rush to vacuum up $2,800 checks — the maximum amount individuals can give for the primary by law — before the first quarterly fund-raising deadline of the campaign at midnight on Sunday.

But the candidates don’t want to discuss any of this.

They are instead trying to pull off a delicate balancing act. Publicly, the 2020 hopefuls are all about attracting low-dollar donors, trying to prove their grass-roots appeal and populist bona fides by touting large numbers of small donations — an ascendant force in Democratic politics. But privately, most Democrats also badly need the big checks and are still going behind closed doors to woo the wealthy, whose money is critical to pay for campaign staff, travel and advertising.

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As a result, a traditional part of presidential races early on — candidates trumpeting big-money and well-connected contributors as a show of political strength — has gone virtually underground, the invisible primary turning truly invisible. The jockeying for major donors remains as intense as ever, but the usual campaign announcements of powerhouse finance committees and boldfaced bundler lists have all but disappeared. Even some online R.S.V.P. pages for fund-raisers don’t identify the wealthy backers anymore.

Amy Dacey, the former chief executive officer of the Democratic National Committee, said the donor dynamics this cycle are “fundamentally different” than before.

“Candidates talk more about how many different donors they have and how many states they’re in,” she said. “It’s more about the donor amounts than the dollar amounts.” But, Ms. Dacey added of big donors, “They still need them.”

Two prominent candidates, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have disavowed the traditional money circuit entirely — a safe bet for Mr. Sanders, whose online donor network amply funded his 2016 run, but a far riskier gambit for Ms. Warren, who has a far smaller base of low-dollar contributors.

Beto O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, began calling some donors to seek support before he entered the race this month, but he is expected to lean heavily on a small-donor network that netted more than 100,000 contributions and $6.1 million in his first 24 hours. He has held no fund-raisers so far and has none planned yet in the future, according to his campaign.

[Keep up with the 2020 field with our candidate tracker.]

Unlike in 2016, when the Democratic donor class rallied to Hillary Clinton, or 2008, when givers lined up with Mrs. Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, many of the party’s wealthiest figures remain firmly on the sidelines, serving as perhaps the biggest check on the role of big money in 2020 to date.

That has given an advantage to Mr. O’Rourke and Mr. Sanders, who are banking on small donations. Those two, plus Ms. Harris, who has a strong small-donor network and has been aggressively courting larger contributors, are widely expected to raise the most in the first quarter.

Several 2020 hopefuls have spent recent weeks canvassing the country, from Dallas to Miami, Chicago to Los Angeles, to raise the money needed in a crowded primary that is expected to easily cost hundreds of millions dollars.

At fund-raising events,…