Suppressing the Black Vote. And Bragging About It.
Plus: Biden's time in the barrel
“We can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.” — Wisconsin Republican official Robert Spindell
In today’s Morning Shots: Joe Biden gets his special counsel; our piecemeal Ukraine policy; why the GOP may be stuck with Santos; and waiting for DeSantis.
But let’s start with this gobsmacking story from my home state of Wisconsin. Some background:
Robert Spindell is longtime GOP activist in Wisconsin, one of those ubiquitous figures who shows up at every Lincoln Day dinner, fundraiser, and meetings of the Republican Bowling and Macrame Club. He is also the chairman of the GOP’s 4th congressional district in Milwaukee, and was one of the fake electors who claimed that Donald Trump won in Wisconsin. Spindell faces three lawsuits for his role in that attempted fraud.
Longtime conservative commentator James Wigderson recounts the latest bombshell:
[Getting] away with being a part of Trump's coup attempt wasn't enough for Spindell. In the email, as reported by Urban Milwaukee, Spindell wrote:
“In the City of Milwaukee, with the 4th Congressional District Republican Party working very closely with the RPW, RNC, Republican Assembly & Senate Campaign Committees, Statewide Campaigns and RPMC in the Black and Hispanic areas, we can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”
Indeed, as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, “Milwaukee had the biggest proportional decline of any municipality in the county… Some 17% fewer ballots were cast in the city than in 2018, a drop off bigger than other communities in the county.”
Spindell wanted to take credit for the decline — especially the decline in Hispanic and Black areas — claiming that it was the result of a “well thought out multi-faceted plan,” that included:
“Biting Black Radio Negative Commercials run last few weeks of the election cycle straight at Dem Candidates…
A substantial & very effective Republican Coordinated Election Integrity program resulting with lots of Republican paid Election Judges & trained Observers & extremely significant continued Court Litigation.”
Spindell emphasized why discouraging voting in places like Milwaukee was a sound strategy: “In a Democrat City or Democrat County where up to 80% of the people are voting for the Democrats - that’s a good thing and helped insure that Sen. Johnson got over the goal line."
Writes Wigderson: “It's as if the cruelty is the point. If Spindell had been in charge of elections during Jim Crow, he would've bragged about literacy tests and poll taxes suppressing the Black vote.”
Despite writing an email celebrating the suppression of black votes, Spindell is now denying that he wanted to suppress black votes, telling the AP, "I will not stand for that… The last thing I want to do is suppress votes."
Despite suppressing black votes, of course, and then bragging about it in print.
Wigderson reminds us that Spindell’s comments are hardly a one-off:
It's worth remembering, too, that Spindell's fellow Republicans tried in 2020 to throw out thousands of votes in Dane and Milwaukee Counties. Now Spindell is boasting about efforts that accomplished in 2022 what Republicans could not accomplish in the courts in 2020, effectively disenfranchising Democratic voters.
But here is the real kicker: Robert Spindell is a member of the Wisconsin Election Commission, the state body that is supposed to oversee election integrity in the state. The commission consists of three Republicans and three Democrats.
“Ironically,” writes Wigderson, “Republicans like to pretend they're for election integrity, but Spindell's mere presence on the Election Commission isn't just hypocrisy, it's a statement by the GOP that our election laws don't matter.”
Yes. But, it’s also a statement about the degree of election fakery and outright racism that the state’s GOP is willing to countenance.
The locally based Black Leaders Organizing for Communities called for the State Senate’s GOP leader to rescind Spindell’s appointment to the Election Commission.
"It is incredibly racist to brag about lowering Black and Brown turnout, it is also unacceptable to have these comments and views held by an election official," the group said in a statement. "His comments show blatant bias. Bob Spindell and his allies are the only ones who are intentionally undermining our democratic process."
Ann Jacobs, a Democratic member of the Commission, also called for Spindell’s resignation.
But, as of this writing, Spindell remains in place.
Happy Friday the 13th.
Biden gets his time in the barrel
It was the docs in the garage, next to the Corvette, that triggered the naming of a new special counsel. At that point, Merrick Garland, who took years to name a special counsel to investigate Donald Trump, had no choice but to name another one to investigate Joe Biden.
NBC News: “Multiple Biden aides have been interviewed by federal law enforcement in classified document review.”
CNN’s analysis: “Biden’s document scandal eats away at efforts to hold Republicans accountable.”
Here’s a Wapo explainer: “Where Biden classified documents were found, what led to investigation.”
The NYT’s explainer: “How Biden’s discovery of classified files compares with the Trump case.”
Semafor FAQs: “Everything you need to know about Biden’s new special counsel.”
Politico Playbook: “Joe Biden’s gift to Jim Jordan.”
The optimist’s take on all this:
Adam Kinzinger: “Kevin’s a piece of shit…
… And let's just be honest about this, because he will say whatever you need to say to stay in power. I'm not even saying that gratuitously to be mean to him. It's just a fact."
ICYMI: I had a spicy chat with the former congressman on yesterday’s podcast.
Our piecemeal Ukraine strategy
While I’ve been willing to give the Biden Administration high marks for its handling of the war in Ukraine, I haven’t been willing to go full fan-boy. National Review’s Jim Geraghty pinpoints some of my nagging concerns.
Have you noticed that the possibility of sending a particular U.S. weapons system to Ukraine is usually considered unwise, unhelpful, and even escalatory and dangerous . . . right up until the moment the Biden administration changes its mind? And then all of a sudden, sending those weapons is absolutely the right thing to do?
We first saw this in the back-and-forth about sending Ukraine some of the MiG-29s that our NATO partners had. Poland was up for it, and the Biden administration initially approved it and then reversed its position and opposed the transfer. Eventually, the U.S. approved the sale of some old MiG-29s not in flying condition to be stripped for spare parts. Last month, Slovakia announced it was ready to send Ukraine its eleven remaining MiGs. (The Slovak Air Force is shifting over to F-16s.)
The Biden administration was opposed to sending a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, concluding that it would take too long to train Ukrainian personnel to use the systems . . . until the Russian missile attacks on cities intensified and the Biden team apparently changed their minds.
Throughout much of last year, Biden resisted sending Ukraine missiles that could reach into Russia. “We’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia,” he told reporters in May. But Ukraine is using drones — apparently not American-made — to attack targets deep in Russian territory, about 300 miles from the Ukrainian border. Weapons systems are somewhat fungible; if you’re using one new set of weapons from the U.S. in one place, it frees up other weapons to use elsewhere. The U.S. can’t stop Ukraine from striking targets in Russia if the Ukrainians determine that the best way to win the war is by striking targets in Russia.
Now the U.S. is sending Ukraine Bradley fighting vehicles. I’m sure the Ukrainian army would have liked to get their hands on these armored vehicles at any point in the past eleven months. Apparently sending them would have been escalatory . . . right up until the minute it wasn’t escalatory.
If you want to help these guys, then help these guys. Stop doing it piecemeal. Stop sending arms over in dribs and drabs.
In other words, if we want Ukraine to win, we need to send the the stuff they need to actually win. And do it now.
Ron DeSantis, grownup? Don’t count on it.
In his Dispatch newsletter Nick Catoggio asks: If the House GOP’s fiscal brinkmanship is heading for a financial cataclysm will the GOP’s leader-in-waiting stand athwart the madness and cry STOP?
No chance. Arguably no one, Trump included, understands better than Ron DeSantis that popularity within the Republican Party requires relentlessly confronting the right’s domestic enemies. As such, it’s unimaginable that he’d discourage House Republicans from a politically and economically ruinous fight over the debt ceiling just because having that fight would be politically and economically ruinous.
Especially since, more so than most Republican politicians, DeSantis is hypersensitive to populist opinion. This is a guy so intent on staying on the good side of MAGA voters that he’s repositioned himself as a vaccine skeptic to win their favor. He surely knows by now that a majority of Republican voters oppose raising the debt ceiling. He’s not going to side against them and with Democrats by backing a clean debt-ceiling hike, especially while Trump is hooting at the House GOP to fight, fight, fight.
There go the people. He must follow them, for he is their leader.
1. Stuck With Santos
For Santos, the threat of FEC action on the CLC’s complaint carries only monetary fines, which his magical funding source could presumably cover. But the Department of Justice has authority to prosecute violations of the federal election statutes criminally, as well, if the offenses were committed “knowingly and willfully” and involve certain monetary thresholds. Too bad that for Kevin McCarthy and his cast of January 6th enablers who remain in Congress, the commission of crimes is not an impediment to carrying out the duties of federal public office, including House members who vowed under the Constitution’s express terms to “be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.”
2. How American Jews Helped Shape the American Idea
Since the founding of the United States, American Jews have developed an influential movement that I call the “New Covenant”: a responsibility for working to renew the American story as part of a continuous project to deepen and expand democracy for ever-growing numbers of people from everywhere. As in the Hebrew song L’dor V’dor, from generation to generation, these Jews committed to propagating an American narrative that expresses the ideals and values of a vital liberal democracy. From early writers of the immigrant experience to current political leaders and advocates in the battle against authoritarianism, Jews in the New Covenant have persisted in proclaiming the ethical and moral basis of the American story. With the fervor of modern American Jeremiahs, they have instituted a rhetoric of liberal democracy that compels defending, maintaining, and advancing the very ethical and moral demands of the narrative itself. Today in the New Covenant movement, writers, artists, public intellectuals, civic leaders, political figures, film and media personalities, and ordinary citizens take up the challenge of articulating the spirit and meaning of American democracy in the face of illiberal forces at home and abroad.