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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Messaging Votes in the House and Senate

Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics.  Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.  House and Senate leaders try to influence these elections by staging messaging votes, which usually do not result in laws.

Tina Nguyen at Puck:

Perpetually embattled House Speaker Mike Johnson appears to have found an unlikely unifying message on one of the most polarizing issues of our time: Israel’s war in Gaza. In recent weeks, Johnson has pushed a flurry of legislation aimed at bolstering support for Israel while combating antisemitism, including non-binding resolutions as well as a bill outlining prosecutable antisemitic hate crimes. Last month, of course, Johnson also went to Columbia University, the epicenter of the debate over antisemitic speech on college campuses. He followed up that culture war pilgrimage by empowering multiple congressional committees to investigate antisemitism in academic institutions across the country.

Johnson, according to those close to him, hasn’t launched this campaign cynically. A pedigreed member of the Christian Right, Johnson has long been a righteous believer in the concept that defending Israel and the Jewish people is a mandate from God, as I’ve written about recently. But there’s no question that Johnson’s pro-Israel crusade has also had the added benefit of putting his enemies on defense, both on the left and on the right.

House Democrats, for example, are consistently voting against the antisemitism bills, whether because of a perceived First Amendment issue, or language that equates any criticism of Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing government with antisemitism. Nevertheless, one senior Democratic aide told me he’s been working overtime to reassure constituents that yes, his boss does support Israel’s right to exist. “What was it Barney Frank said?” he asked rhetorically. “If you have to explain yourself, you’re losing.”

On the G.O.P. side, Johnson’s Israel advocacy has also helped box out the hardliners gunning for his job, such as far-right Christian nationalist Marjorie Taylor Greene (who voted against an antisemitism bill because she was worried it would prevent Christians from saying that Jews killed Jesus) and Paul Gosar, who had signed on to Greene’s attempt to vacate Johnson (and has an unfortunate habit of hiring people fond of antisemitic conspiracy theories). Other Johnson antagonists who have since found themselves on the wrong side of AIPAC and the Republican Jewish Committee, which are deploying many tens of millions of dollars this cycle, include Bob Good and Thomas Massie.

Carl Hulse at NYT:

In losing big votes, Senator Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat and majority leader, believes his party stands to win.

Despite certain defeat, Mr. Schumer has scheduled a floor vote for Thursday on a bipartisan border security measure that collapsed almost as soon as it was made public in February, when Donald J. Trump torpedoed it as “lunacy” and “a gift to Democrats.”

Mr. Schumer sees his maneuver as a way to remind voters upset about chaos at the southern border that it is Republicans who are blocking a solution, even after they reached a deal with Democrats that could solve the problem. He insists that the potential political benefits to Democratic candidates in tough races in Ohio, Montana and elsewhere are merely a bonus.

“It’s good for the country,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview, about the legislation. “But obviously, look, if it has electoral consequences, so be it.”

With most of the heavy legislative lifting done for the year and the election that will decide control of Congress fast approaching, Senate Democrats are turning to the “electoral consequences” part of their agenda, and messaging votes will be a regular feature. Mr. Schumer, who has long played a central role in mapping his party’s political strategy, has a two-pronged plan that will unfold in the coming weeks with a focus on abortion rights and border security.

“In the next two months,” Mr. Schumer said, “we have a sword and shield.”