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Trump gears up for war with his own party

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Trump gears up for war with his own party

According to three people familiar with the planning, Trump will soon begin vetting candidates at Mar-a-Lago who are eager to fulfill his promise to exact vengeance upon incumbent Republicans who’ve scorned him, and to ensure every open GOP seat in the 2022 midterms has a MAGA-approved contender vying for it.

Trump already has received dozens of requests from prospective candidates seeking to introduce themselves and nab his endorsement, and formal meetings with them could begin as early as March. Now that Trump has survived his second Senate impeachment trial, he has shifted his focus to post-presidential activism — a venture mostly bankrolled by his new leadership PAC, Save America, which had $31 million in its coffers at the start of this month.

Earlier this week, Trump met with his former campaign manager Brad Parscale to discuss online fundraising components to support his efforts and how he can utilize social media despite his ban from popular websites like Twitter. Trump also met with House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), and his eldest son Don Jr. earlier this week.

“We are in the process of putting together a more formal schedule for candidates who want to come get his endorsement,” said senior Trump adviser Jason Miller, noting that Trump’s meetings so far have been limited to golf friends, Mar-a-Lago members and “folks with the ability to contact him themselves.”

The planning for Trump’s coming revenge tour comes as other top Republicans try to cajole him into working with the party’s apparatus ahead of next year’s midterm elections, rather than recruiting rival candidates whose bids could complicate primaries and cost the GOP critical seats. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is expected to meet with Trump over the weekend to discuss his upcoming plans, including the former president’s desire to push for voter reforms at a time when the topic of election integrity has created a major split among elected Republicans.

Others in Trump’s orbit have encouraged him to wait and see if Republicans who’ve crossed him and are up for reelection next fall, such as Govs. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Brian Kemp of Georgia, attempt a peace offering before he launches a serious search for possible primary challengers.

“I’m more worried about 2022 than I’ve ever been. I don’t want to eat our own,” Graham told Fox News on the heels of a blistering statement Trump released this week accusing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of jeopardizing GOP candidates with his “lack of political insight, wisdom, skill, and personality.”

In the statement, Trump vowed to recruit insurgent candidates “who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America first” wherever he feels such challenges are necessary. The former president has already set his sights on ousting Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican, and Fred Upton of Michigan, if he forgoes retirement. Both Cheney and Upton voted to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol. Rep. Peter Meijer, a second Michigan congressman who voted for impeachment, already faces a primary challenger from an Afghanistan veteran and self-declared Trump supporter.

Whether Graham can make a team player of the bitter ex-president largely depends on who else Trump is in contact with, and how often. He still speaks weekly with his former chief of staff Mark Meadows and continues to seek counsel from a host of former aides and political confidants whose appetites for revenge and disdain for the political establishment mirror his own. Recently, Trump hosted former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, and ex-campaign advisers Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie for dinner, all of whom remain influential fixtures within the MAGA movement.

“If you’re Trump, you don’t gotta play nice with these people anymore. You don’t have to do the whole fake political thing where you pretend to like people you don’t actually like,” said a person close to the president, suggesting that Trump is unlikely to seek feedback from Republicans who disagree with his approach.

Some rank-and-file Republicans have encouraged the party’s leaders to tread carefully as they attempt to distance the party from Trump while he remains exceedingly popular among GOP voters. A POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted after Trump’s acquittal in the Senate found that nearly six in 10 Republican voters want him to maintain a powerful role in the party moving forward.

“A Republican Party that seeks to erase President Trump and fails to understand his appeal to working class voters is destined to lose elections in 2022, 2024 and beyond,” Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chair of the conservative Republican Study Committee, tweeted on Wednesday.

So far, Trump’s backing has gone to two of his most loyal allies, Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, who received a recorded endorsement for her re-election bid, and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a candidate for Arkansas governor who was given a glowing stamp of approval via his Save America PAC. Since then, he has used the political arm to bash McConnell, share a polling memo touting his popularity, and provide a readout of his recent meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

He has refrained from endorsing other Trumpian candidates who have already entered races, waiting instead to roll out a series of endorsements later this spring and summer, according to a person familiar with the timeline.

In the meantime, Trump has appeared to enjoy transitioning into his post-presidency life. He has revelled in the news splash his rare statements have made, according to aides, but is otherwise spending his days like many of his wealthy Palm Beach peers: catching up on the news, making calls, taking leisurely meals and hitting the golf course with friends.

“He’s really doing what all the other guys his age with that kind of net worth do,” said one Florida Republican operative close to the Trump family. But then, the person noted, Trump was spotted on his golf course Wednesday with Kid Rock.

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New Virginia PAC forms to diversify state’s political landscape

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New Virginia PAC forms to diversify state's political landscape

As Rathod sees it, these are “the candidates most receptive to diversity in their staffing, not only within the campaign, but if they become governor, how are they going to staff — especially at cabinet and senior level positions — [with aides] that are more reflective of the diversity of the commonwealth,” he said.

Lack of diversity within campaigns has been a longstanding issue in both Democratic and Republican politics. While the 2020 cycle saw a historically diverse number of women and racial minorities pursue public office, those managing their races did not reflect the sea change. People of color represent less than 1 percent of all political consultants. There are also a number of structural barriers to entry — long hours, low pay an exclusive networks — that make it more difficult for potential staffers of color to join campaigns.

It’s part of the reason why both Rathod and Kasey formed the PAC, which also includes a fellowship program they hope will create a corps of young political operatives of color who can quickly join a campaign or governors’ office in a top position.

“Most of the time, on campaigns and in politics in general, these positions go to people who already know people in their organizations, and so it leaves a lot of people out,” Kasey said. “We want to create networks of support.”

The group is launching in the heat of Virginia’s crowded and diverse gubernatorial primary. Three Black Democrats, Jennifer McClellan, Jennifer Carroll Foy and Justin Fairfax all announced plans to run, as has former governor Terry McAuliffe, who is the highest-fundraising candidate in the race thus far.

Their ultimate goal, Kasey said, is for the state’s political landscape to become so diverse that groups like theirs are obsolete.

“There’s sort of two Virginias that are fighting each other right now,” Rathod said, referencing the state’s history of electing the first Black governor in the country juxtaposed against the events of Charlottesville in 2017. “And a lot of the old Virginia still kind of permit permeates the politics in the commonwealth.”

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We asked governors what they want from Biden. Here’s what they told us.

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Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey

In his inaugural address, Biden issued an appeal for “unity” and a revival of functional government. The weeks since — with an impeachment trial and gaping differences over the size of a pandemic relief package — have made clear the low probability in the near-term of changing the relentless partisanship of the nation’s capital.

But a POLITICO survey of select governors, which collectively represents a quasi-symposium, suggests the revival of the practical-minded center Biden extols might be attainable for his administration. Its path likely would run though places like Montgomery and Trenton, as well as Montpelier and Salt Lake City and Olympia, before finally arriving (if at all) in Washington, D.C.

It is not that polarization and grievance don’t exist in the states. No one following the way that Republican state parties in multiple locations have been taken over by Trump acolytes — who have passed resolutions denouncing Republican lawmakers who show insufficient fealty to the former president and his bogus claims that he won the election — could harbor that illusion.

But the survey respondents did illuminate a kind of steady, practical-minded focus that crossed both partisan and geographic divides.

Democrats, not surprisingly, are more eager than Republicans for the new administration to robustly expand government’s role in fighting the pandemic and its economic and social consequences. Several Democrats wish for a national mask mandate from Washington, for instance, while no Republicans do.

More striking, however, is the relative blurring of ideology in the answers. All seven governors who participated in POLITICO’s queries expressed concern about the condition of their state’s economy. Most said assistance from the federal government is necessary for their state governments to meet the demands of the moment, though a couple said they would make do without it.

The survey had two parts. In the first, governors answered multiple choice questions with the understanding that answers would be described cumulatively but the answers of individual governors would not be shared by name. The second part of the survey invited governors to expand on their views and experiences with on-the-record answers.

Both sections highlighted a sense of urgency — and in some cases, a sense of precariousness — that governors perceive about the condition of a pandemic-stricken country as Biden begins.

Their concerns were in every instance about what might be called material politics — that is, problems and remedies which have a tangible manifestation, from job rates to infection rates to energy supply and transition to low-carbon alternatives. In no case did the answers gravitate to the cultural issues — from concern about race relations, or “cancel culture,” or even the all-consuming debates about Trump — that have animated so much of national politics over the past 12 months or the past four years.

Almost certainly, this reflects the nature of a governor’s job, rather than that these particular politicians are somehow wired differently in their interests. But the answers do suggest a way that Biden might transcend a style of politics that often defaults toward remorseless personal and ideological conflict and away from problem-solving. It is by organizing his own administration — as by most appearances he seems to be doing — around material politics. These types of issues by nature tend to reward concrete results rather than rhetorical appeals, and allow for a degree of practical difference-splitting on the way to those results.

What follows are excerpts of the on-the-record portion of the survey results.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Republican

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Striking a balance between protecting people’s personal health and their livelihood has been the primary goal of mine throughout the pandemic. Alabama went from a pre-pandemic record low unemployment rate to now being in recovery mode. I look forward to regaining that momentum, while helping distribute a successful vaccine to people in all 67 counties.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

Continually investing in our infrastructure is important to Alabama. Throughout the Trump Administration, we have put Alabama and America first, which has launched business and industry forward. Alabama is a great example of the rebuilding and strengthening of the manufacturing sector. When you prioritize business, you are prioritizing middle America.

Maine Gov. Janet T. Mills, Democrat

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Making life and death decisions and decisions that affect the economy, schools and people’s livelihoods; making sure people have confidence in the decisions our public policy and public health officials are making. What disturbs me most about recent events, including the election and the effect of the pandemic, is the widening gap between the haves and have-nots, the learnings gap in our schools and the earnings gap in our working communities, things that the vaccine alone will not cure.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

Taking measures to combat and mitigate the effects of climate change — rejoining the Paris Climate Accord; enforcing CAFE [Corporate Average Fuel Economy] standards, mercury and ozone emission regulations and appliance efficiency standards; providing incentives for energy efficient and safe homes and buildings, renewable energy sources, electric vehicles and home heating apparatuses such as heat pumps.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Democrat

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

As we navigate the second wave, what worries me is the many hard decisions that are ahead if the pandemic continues to worsen. This pandemic has left Governors with options that can only be described as bad and worse. [Last] March, I made the immensely difficult decision to shut down our state, a decision many other Governors around the country made as well. While this was the right choice, it had a massive economic impact on our state, and the struggles that New Jerseyans, whether they are essential workers, small business owners, students, or anyone else, are going through are always at the top of my mind.

We must also continue to serve low-income residents and our communities of color. These residents have been amongst the hardest-hit by this pandemic, not only in terms of the death toll, but also in terms of the economic impact. Food insecurity and demand for essential social services are at all-time highs and we need as much federal aid as we can get to protect the most vulnerable among us.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

New Jersey serves as a gateway to New York City and Philadelphia, the first and sixth largest cities in the United States. As such, infrastructure is critical to our state. Hundreds of thousands of our residents are employed in New York and Philadelphia, and rely on mass transit to get to their jobs. We have made meaningful progress on portions of the Gateway Program, but we must complete this project in order to avoid economic catastrophe, not just for our region, but our nation. The area covered by the Northeast Corridor rail line is responsible for 20 percent of the GDP of the United States.

The North River Tunnel [that runs under the Hudson River] is in need of imminent repair, and if shut down without a replacement tunnel, will cause immense damage to the state, regional, and national economies, something that the country could not afford before the pandemic, but certainly won’t be able to after. It is of immense importance that the … administration and Congress fund the Gateway Program. We are fortunate to have a [president] that understands more than almost anyone else in government, the importance of a functioning Northeast corridor, and I am more hopeful than I have ever been before that we … have a true partner in the White House.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Republican

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

There are many things that have kept governors up at night these past nine months, but one of the most serious challenges we face is the amount of COVID-related misinformation and denial we see, fueled by online conspiracy theories and fact-free ideological websites.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

There is no shortage of problems the Federal government must address: COVID-19, the cost of healthcare, infrastructure, the debt, the economy, restoring global alliances, etc. But one of the most impactful initiatives they should pursue is a major federal effort to expand rural broadband across the country. States have worked hard and struggled for years to expand coverage with some success, but we simply cannot get to the last mile without federal help. The digital divide between urban and rural parts of our country has seriously hampered rural economic development in a 21st Century economy increasingly dependent on reliable connectivity. And the pandemic has demonstrated just how critical this need is for rural states.

We have faced a similar problem before and must pursue a similar solution. In the early 20th Century, the urban-rural divide was electricity. Recognizing the importance of electrification to the economy and quality of life in rural America, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act (REA), which helped states like Vermont get to the last mile. Our country needs an REA-type approach to broadband to help grow our economy, which will help states raise revenue organically to invest in other critical areas.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Democrat

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Answering in December, before cases began falling: The growth of COVID-19 cases throughout my state and the ability of our health care system to serve all who need care. We must slow the spread of new cases, hospitalizations and death. I remain deeply concerned about the economic impact of the virus on workers and businesses.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

Congress: Financial assistance to help individuals, workers and businesses who have been impacted by the virus.

Next president: Stronger direction and coordination from the federal government, the states have been left to their own devices for the past year and strong federal leadership would have saved lives and protected health.

Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon, Republican

Gordon chose not to answer most of the on-the-record portion, but he did respond to this question:

For the sake of your state’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis, what’s the most urgent unsolved problem to address?

Supporting businesses so that they are able to survive through the winter months, particularly given the uncertainty surrounding [an] additional relief package.

Former Utah Gov. Gary Richard Herbert, Republican

Herbert left office shortly after completing this survey.

What about your job worries you the most right now, and why?

Economic development in rural Utah.

From your perspective as governor, what one major policy area do you want the president and Congress to address? Why?

They should focus on balancing the budget.

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You Need to Take the Religious Left Seriously This Time

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You Need to Take the Religious Left Seriously This Time

What I know about trauma is that when you’re in the middle of a trauma, it’s much more difficult to process it than it is once even a modicum of safety has been established. I anticipate that as the pressure of the pandemic begins to lessen, the reality of the trauma that we’ve been through [will sink in]. We have some pretty hard days ahead of us as the fact of what’s happened begins to come out of us and come into the public. You think that it can’t get much worse than it has been, but in fact, some of the hardest days with respect to conflict and pain are ahead of us, as we get the space to grieve and mourn and feel the rage of what we’ve been through.

You referenced coming to terms with your grandparents’ participation in a lynching. I can imagine that would be a horrifying, gut-churning revelation — one most people would not be inclined to talk about if they discovered. How did you unearth that bit family history, and why did you decide to go public with it?

In my case, it came quite unexpectedly: I came upon a postcard of a lynching of a young woman named Laura Nelson that happened in 1911 in Okemah, Oklahoma — a small town where my family basically comprised half the population. [In the photograph,] many of the people in town were standing on the bridge off of which Laura and her son were lynched.

I was horrified. And I don’t have any direct evidence of who in my family was involved, but it’s impossible to imagine that they weren’t. I grew up knowing that my grandfather was quite a racist. He didn’t try to hide it. And I also know that Woody Guthrie, who grew up next door to my grandfather, has written about this particular lynching extensively, and even wrote a song about his father’s role in leading the lynching mob.

I decided to go public with it because when it comes to looking at white supremacy and the legacy of chattel slavery and Jim Crow, it’s something that far too many white people project into the far past [instead of] part of the reality that you are still living in. That shift is not going to happen until people realize how close — and still in the middle of those legacies — we still are. Until more white people start telling these stories and unearthing them, it’s going to continue to be repressed.

I’m wondering how you reconcile the love that you perhaps feel for your family members with the reality of their participation in a lynching.

That’s a very hard question. In my case, the grandfather who would have been most directly connected to it, there was no love lost between us.

Being tied to those legacies of terror does have a corrupting effect on people’s souls. Even if it’s hidden or never spoken of, it’s not something that you can ever forget with regard to who you conceive yourself to be and the evil that you’ve done.

That said, this is where my faith comes in. I believe that human beings in general are a mixture of the glorious things they’re capable of and the horrible things that they’re capable of. None of us can claim to be pure. And the more honest one can be about one’s brokenness and the sins one has been responsible for, the more freedom one finds from that. I never have a pure understanding of who anybody is — most especially myself, but definitely my family.

In the U.S., the history that we — particularly white people — have told ourselves about our past has been much too pure for it to be real. Reckoning with its horrors is only going to make it more real. And history, as it becomes real, shows us the path to healing.

On the topic of history, I’ve heard you say that you see a massive cultural shift underway around the globe, and have likened it to what happened 500 years ago during the Reformation. First, what specifically do you see? And second, the Reformation happened in part because of the advent of Gutenberg’s printing press, and was followed by decades and decades of religious wars throughout Europe. Do you think that what we’re seeing now is a result of the advent of the Internet — the printing press of our era — and if so, should we expect a few hundred years of religious wars in our future?

When the Reformation happened, we had new technology — the printing press allowed anyone who knew how to read to pick up a book and read. We had the emergence of the nation-state, new political alignments. We had the emergence of nascent capitalism, so we had a shift of economics. You could just go on and on.

These types of seismic shifts in how the world is ordered are manifest in profound spiritual shifts. When the world gets reordered, your imagination with respect to the reality of the divine, transcendent and who you are gets recomposed. That’s happening now: The old orders are breaking down, and our imaginations are being forced to think of the transcendent in new ways and to tell new stories about who we are.

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