Gun Control after Three Mass Shootings

Liberal Democrats set their sights on gun control

The Story:

Three gun massacres in quick succession — at a garlic festival in California (July 28), at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas (August 3), and on a busy downtown street in Dayton, Ohio (August 4) — have pressed the issue of gun control to the front of US politics at every level.

Background:

Every mass shooting has its own profile and raises a number of distinct questions. For example, the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012 raised issues not only about the shooter’s possession of several firearms, but about his developmental and mental health problems, the reasons he may have targeted Sandy Hook, and school security needs in general.

In the unique case of the July-August cluster of killings, the rapid sequence has caused other elements in each of the three cases to fade into the background, so that public discussion is more focused than usual on one point: the easy availability of firepower to civilians in the United States.

The Thing to Know:

Ohio’s Governor, Mike DeWine (R), who has a reputation as an opponent of gun control, sought to address a vigil after the Dayton shooting. The crowd picked up on a chant, “Do something! do something!” The following day, DeWine announced his support for a universal background check system. The chant may well represent the attitude of the contemporary electorate broadly.

Rep. Hurd Not Running for Reelection

The Story:

On August 1, Representative William Ballard Hurd, from Texas’ 23d district (in the southwest part of the state, along the border with Mexico), announced that he will not be running for reelection next year, so that his current (third) term will be his last.

Background:

The 23d district is changing of late. It is becoming more challenging for Republicans, all along the ballot. Though Mitt Romney won this district in 2012, when he was the GOP candidate for President, Hillary Clinton won it in 2016, as the Democratic candidate for the same post.

Incumbents always have advantages in campaigns: visibility, name recognition, an established network of supporters, the good they can do their districts on the basis of increasing seniority, and so forth. But with Hurd leaving, the GOP will have to try to hang onto his seat without running an incumbent, and that may be tough.

The Thing to Know:

Hurd’s announced retirement is not unique. He is among a sizable group of Republicans in the House who have decided that this is a good time to return to the private sector.  It seems that the job has become a good deal less fulfilling for Republicans since the Democrats took over the leadership roles this January.

South Texas Mayor Is Arrested on Election Fraud Charges, Fueling Bitter Political Fight

Joel Martinez/The Monitor, via Associated Press

[Read the latest edition of Crossing the Border, a limited-run newsletter about life where the United States and Mexico meet. Sign up here to receive the next issue in your inbox.]

EDINBURG, Tex. — The mayor of a South Texas border city was arrested Thursday on charges that he orchestrated an illegal voting scheme in which he asked residents of nearby towns to change their addresses so that they could cast votes for him.

The arrests of Richard Molina, the mayor of Edinburg, and his wife, Dalia Molina, came amid a bitter political fight in Texas over election fraud, and were made in a region with a long history of voting improprieties and public corruption scandals. The Molinas turned themselves in on Thursday morning.

Ken Paxton, the state’s Republican attorney general, whose office oversaw the investigation of Mr. Molina, has aggressively prosecuted voter fraud cases, even as a recent attempt by the state to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls was plagued by problems and inaccuracies.

Mr. Molina, 40, won the November 2017 election by 1,240 votes, and for nearly all of his tenure has been dogged by accusations of cheating. Municipal elections in Texas are nonpartisan.

Nearly 20 people have been arrested since last year in connection with the fraud case. Prosecutors said the scheme — involving Mr. Molina, his wife and paid campaign workers — was largely carried out by having numerous voters who did not live in Edinburg claim they were residents, including many who stated they lived in an apartment complex Mr. Molina owns.

According to court documents, Mr. Molina and his wife were both registered as volunteer voter registrars in the 2017 election and were authorized to help people fill out voter registration applications. Several of those with false addresses were signed by Mr. Molina and included his voter registrar number, according to the criminal complaint.

In that election, Mr. Molina, a former police officer, pulled off an upset victory by defeating the incumbent mayor, Richard Garcia, who had been mayor for 11 years and had been running for re-election.

“I feel that he didn’t steal the election away from me — he stole the election away from the community,” said Mr. Garcia, a lawyer. “The suspicions arose, when you started seeing, in checking the lists on the last days of the election, you started seeing a lot of names with the same address. There was one little house — it’s a 400- or…

‘Dangerous People Are Coming Here and the Good People Are Dying,’ Trump Warns in Texas Visit

Erin Schaff/The New York Times

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. — President Trump said on Wednesday that migrants pouring across the border with Mexico are dying in great numbers while other gang members arriving from Central America are marauding and threatening American ranchers.

The president used a high-dollar fund-raiser here to call attention to a situation that he said has been ignored in the media: the plight of migrants who cross illegally into the United States and then die of thirst or hunger.

“This never comes out in the fake news,” Mr. Trump said as he recounted the stories about migrants that about a dozen donors told him privately at his first stop in a visit to Texas that will take him to Houston later in the day. At Mr. Trump’s urging, several of the donors described finding the bodies of migrants — including pregnant women and children — in the vast brush of their property.

The president said that he had never heard the stories of migrants dying, even from his top immigration and border patrol officials. In fact, migrant advocates have for years documented the grim fate of some migrants who grow sick and die attempting to make it into the United States. The advocates say Mr. Trump’s policies have made the problem worse by limiting the number of migrants who can legally claim asylum at ports of entry, pushing more migrants to cross at remote areas of the border.

Several of the donors also told of how afraid they have felt when migrants from Central America, dressed in black, turned up at their homes.

“Dangerous people are coming here and the good people are dying,” Mr. Trump said, adding that the donors had all told him that the answer to the problem was to build his wall along the border with Mexico.

The president, who was joined at the round table with donors by Brad Parscale, his 2020 campaign manager, denied that the unscheduled remarks to reporters about the border were part of a campaign message. But moments later, as he attacked Democrats for failing to address border security, Mr. Trump said that immigration would be a tremendous issue for him and other Republicans in the 2020 campaign.

“I think they are going to pay a very big price in 2020,” Mr. Trump said. “I think the border is going to be an incredible issue. They want to have open borders.”

The issue of immigration and border security has been at the center of Mr. Trump’s political life for years. Fifteen days before the 2018 midterm elections, he held a rally in Texas to deliver dire warnings about immigration that helped Ted Cruz, the embattled Republican senator, win his campaign for a second term.

In the five months since he barnstormed the country declaring that an “invasion” of dangerous migrants was imminent, Mr. Trump has intensified his focus on immigration. He and his strategists believe that no issue better fires up his core supporters and proves that he has kept his campaign promises. The issue is certain to be at the center of the president’s case for a second term in the Oval Office.

In the last several days, Mr. Trump has forced out Kirstjen Nielsen, his Homeland Security secretary, and several other top immigration officials for being too timid about shutting down the border and changing asylum rules to deny entry to migrants seeking protection in the United States. A top administration official said Tuesday that the staffing changes were designed to make way for more aggressive immigration actions.

As…

Beto O’Rourke: just how green is the Texas Democrat?

Beto O’Rourke, who received $476,000 from oil and gas sources in 2017-18, comes from a state that leads the country in both global warming pollution and renewable energy.

It was not hard for Beto O’Rourke to seem like a champion of green issues during his eye-catching Senate campaign in America’s 2018 midterm elections – after all, he was up against Ted Cruz, a climate change denier.

Now, as the former US congressman vies to be the Democratic candidate to run against Donald Trump in the 2020 race for the White House, he faces much closer scrutiny on the subject.

Environmental advocates and experts wait to see if – as O’Rourke pivots from an election in a conservative-led oil state to a national primary race heavily influenced by left-leaning Democratic candidates – he will have more latitude and desire to put progressive green policies at the heart of his strategy.

Sign up for the US morning briefing

“He didn’t really emphasise climate change and global warming very much when he was running against Ted Cruz, but he’s got a field that is absolutely filled with people who are making it a campaign item for voters to consider, and I think he’s going to have to adjust his narrative when he’s out on the trail,” said Robert Forbis, an assistant professor of political science at Texas Tech University. “He’s going to have to take a pretty strong stand.”

The seeds of a decisive and urgent approach were visible in his first campaign visits to Iowa in March, when O’Rourke praised the radical climate change-led proposals in the Green New Deal, citing his home state’s struggles with extreme weather such as droughts and hurricanes.

“Storms like Harvey are only going to become more frequent and more severe and more devastating and ultimately they’ll compromise the ability to live in a city like Houston, Texas,” he told the audience. O’Rourke signalled support for reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels and investing in green technology to reach net zero emissions.

“Some will criticise the Green New Deal for being too bold or being unmanageable. I’ll tell you what: I haven’t seen anything better that addresses the singular crisis we face, a crisis that could at its worst lead to extinction,” he said. “Literally the future of the world depends on us.”

Cruz held his Senate seat with a narrow win over O’Rourke last November. The Republican has dismissed climate change as a “pseudoscientific theory” and wrote an opinion article in 2017 urging Trump to rip up the landmark Paris climate agreement.

O’Rourke, meanwhile,…

A changing Texas means shifting political priorities for all [Opinion]

The Texas flag waves downtown Tuesday Sept. 18, 2018 in Houston.

The 2020 presidential election will tell us much about the future political direction of Texas. The nation’s political future runs through our state and the other booming southwestern states that are changing just as speedily.

But ours is a newly softened political battleground, and candidates of all stripes are trying to make uncommon impacts as soon as they can. Last month, President Donald Trump visited El Paso to build support for the proposed border wall in an effort to shore up his support among the more conservative voters of our state. News networks broadcast Trump’s speech on a split screen with former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, who objected vociferously to the president’s plans at a rally across town, all while teasing a presidential run. Since then, he has jumped into the 2020 presidential race. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro announced his candidacy for president at his home in San Antonio. Howard Schultz, Starbucks founder and a prospective independent candidate for president, spent the whole week in Texas just a few weeks after he participated in a CNN town hall meeting in Houston. Other 2020 presidential candidates such as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, a Republican, were in Austin to speak at South by Southwest.

Though Texas has given its Electoral College votes to the Republican candidates in every election the past four decades, the convergence of candidates here may not be as surprising as some might think.

The Lone Star State is changing rapidly, and with it, its politics. Our population has surpassed 28 million people — 3 million more than a decade ago — and the Office of the State Demographer predicts the number of Texans will almost double over the next 30 years. These changes highlight our state’s explosive growth in diversity as people from all over the country migrate here. These rapid changes also portend serious challenges that need to be met with consensus leadership. Texas is a place where common-sense politics can prevail. Building…

Beto Supporter Tries To Dodge Identity Politics Moments After Attacking GOP For ‘Old White Guys’

DraftBeto co-founder Nate Lerner asserted that people should look past former Democratic Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s whiteness and look into the issues that matter, in a Friday interview with Tucker Carlson.

Lerner asserted that the Republican Party consisted mostly of white men and that the Democratic Party was better because it was more diverse.

“The problem is when you have the Republican Party as a great example when you look at a picture of Paul Ryan’s interns, and it’s all just a bunch of white guys, that’s not a great look,” Lerner said. “It was the same thing with the Republican Party in 2016: it’s all a bunch of white guys. Look at Congress 10 years ago—it’s all old white men. That’s not our country, and it doesn’t make sense.”

Carlson followed up to…

Political events becoming more prominent at SXSW

As another South By Southwest festival kicks off, political events have become more commonplace among the film, technology, and music events.

CBS News Political Correspondent Ed O’Keefe says these events are opportunities for candidates and other political hopefuls.

“If there’s anything a presidential candidate needs, it’s to get in front of a crowd, whether it’s an early primary state, or a potential swing state like Texas, so I think they see this as a real opportunity to come, road test some messages,” O’Keefe said.

Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez echoes this. He was among the figures at the DNC’s fundraiser and meet-and-greet Friday evening.

“It’s become an iconic national event, and I wanted…

Germany’s New Political Divide

Jan Woitas/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

They call Bavaria the Texas of Germany, and not only for its beautiful countryside and roaring economy. Like Texas, Bavaria has been historically divided politically, with traditionally minded conservatives in its small towns and liberals and progressives in its cities.

That is, until state elections last year. The center-right Christian Social Union held onto power, though its grip slipped, while the center-left Social Democrats were nearly wiped out in Bavaria’s cities. The Social Democrats have weakened everywhere lately, so their catastrophic showing in Bavaria wasn’t a surprise. The shock was who replaced them: the Greens.

The rise of the Greens — they have a nearly 20 percent support in recent polls, close to a record high — is not unique among the country’s smaller parties. After being barred from the Bundestag in 2013 because they didn’t reach the 5 percent threshold of support, the Free Democrats, a pro-business, libertarian-minded party, have rapidly regained voters under their dynamic 40-year-old leader, Christian Lindner.

While the Free Democrats are less popular than the Greens — they get about 10 percent in most polls — their parallel rise over the last few years, coming alongside significant drops in support for historically dominant parties, points to the possibility of a wholesale realignment of German politics.

In the second half of the 20th century, the great fault line in German politics ran between the conservative Christian Democrats (and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union) and the liberal Social Democrats. The right was generally against government spending, except on the military, and held “traditional” values on abortion and marriage; the left supported a more beneficent welfare state and a more open German culture. Above all, they divided on class: the middle class on the right, the workers on the left.

That all changed in the 21st century. The new divide is between two groups that the British author David Goodheart terms “anywheres” and “somewheres.” The anywheres are the highly educated, urban and socially liberal; the somewheres live in the countryside, have a lower level of education and hold more traditional notions of family and society.

The growing popularity of the Greens bears witness to this trend. The party’s core theme remains ecological, but it is increasingly taking…

House climate-change hearing adjourns after not enough Democrats show up

U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

House Republicans on Tuesday claimed a small victory over the Democrats’ climate change agenda by holding a rare successful vote as the minority to end an oversight hearing, saying that the subject of global warming was outside the committee’s jurisdiction.

The Republicans in the Natural Resources Committee’s oversight panel won in a 4-2 vote to end the hearing, simply because there weren’t more than two Democrats present.

Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, the top Republican on the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee,…