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Tensions between centrists and progressives in the Democratic Party are flaring — and they are going to get worse.
One accelerant is the fact that President Biden’s legislative agenda is slowing and could soon stall. This is fueling impatience on the left with the president’s consensus-seeking approach.
On top of that, next year’s midterm elections are starting to loom, upping the stakes in the debate over where the White House — and the party — should go between now and then.

Corbin Trent, co-founder of a progressive political action committee and a former communications director for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), drew a parallel between the “stagnation” of the current political moment and getting stuck on a subway train on a hot day.
It’s not long before small tensions turn into bigger squabbles, he said.
“Anytime you don’t have a big project to work on and you are not making progress, you start to argue about your differences,” Trent said. “Those differences went by the wayside during the pandemic, when we were hustling to get things in place. Now, we’re stuck, just sitting here, not getting anywhere — and so the finger-pointing starts.”

His diagnosis seems to fit the symptoms seen in recent weeks.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her fellow members of the progressive “Squad” were pitted against a dozen Jewish House Democrats in recent days.
The fracas began after Omar listed the United States and Israel along with Hamas and the Taliban as guilty of past “unthinkable atrocities.” Her internal opponents accused her of false equivalency and raised the possibility of “deep-seated prejudice.”
An uneasy peace was eventually reached, with the involvement of Democratic congressional leadership.

Earlier in the week, Ocasio-Cortez rebuked Vice President Harris after Harris used her first international trip to tell would-be migrants from Guatemala, “Do not come.”
Ocasio-Cortez said the vice president’s language was “disappointing” and emphasized that claiming asylum in the U.S. is a legal right. The New York congresswoman made a broader point too, arguing that the U.S. bears significant culpability for instability in Latin America because of past and present policies.
Most of all, though, progressives and centrists are digging their respective trenches on three vital issues that look different but are in fact intertwined: Biden’s effort to pass an infrastructure bill, the future of the Senate filibuster and the need to safeguard voting rights.
The filibuster looks like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-W.Va.) opposition to weakening it. His position also dooms the most expansive effort to protect voting rights, the For The People Act. Manchin himself does not back it, and it has no chance of getting support from enough GOP senators to break a filibuster.
Biden has mostly trodden with care around Manchin, knowing that the success or failure of his push for an infrastructure deal likely lies in the West Virginian’s hands.

The left is openly skeptical of efforts to hatch a bipartisan compromise on infrastructure — or anything else. Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the idea that Republicans would ever sign on was “a hustle” by the GOP. Democrats are “burning precious time & impact” by even trying, she said.
Time will tell if her argument is borne out. Five Republican and five Democratic senators reached an agreement on the outlines of an infrastructure deal on Thursday. But it’s far from certain that enough additional GOP senators will back that proposal to get it over the finish line.
In any event, those battles are part of a larger internal war among Democrats. The million-dollar question in the party remains the same as it was in the immediate aftermath of November’s election — are we too far left or not left enough?
Back then, Democrats exhaled with relief that former President Trump was on his way out of the White House but were dismayed by disappointing performances in congressional races and state legislatures.
A principal reason the party came up short outside the presidential race — according to the centrists — was overly left-wing rhetoric.

The slogan “Defund the Police” often tops the list of missteps. But there was a broader sense Democrats had left themselves too open to being branded as socialists because left-wing voices had become so prominent on everything from immigration to taxation.
In a remark that has become semifamous in Democratic circles, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), a moderate, said on a party conference call right after the election, “We need to not ever use the words ‘socialist’ or ‘socialism’ ever again.”
David Shor, a prominent data scientist who worked on then-President Obama’s 2012 campaign, identifies in his personal politics as a leftist. But he differs sharply with hard-liners in that faction when it comes to how to actually win elections.
“They think that the way to win is to be bolder and make clear that you want more policies to happen. And I think that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the electorate,” Shor told this column.
He noted that the median voter is a 50-year-old without a college degree and that most voters who are winnable by either party “do not want radical policy change.” If swing voters held the kind of firm ideological views that would make them amenable to fiery left-wing appeals, he noted, they wouldn’t be swing voters in the first place.
Shor is particularly animated on the point because, to his mind, the data is unambiguous.
“It’s not like their strategy has never been tried!” he said with exasperation. “House candidates who embraced ‘Medicare for All’ did about 2 percentage points worse on average, when you control for all the variables. Ilhan Omar underperformed Joe Biden by something ridiculous, like 20 points!”
The difference was actually 16 points — Biden got 80 percent of the presidential vote in Omar’s district, while the congresswoman was reelected with 64 percent — but Shor’s point stands.
A recent report from two well-known Democratic operatives into the party’s 2020 performance has added more fuel to the internal fires.
The study by Marlon Marshall and Lynda Tran, released in May but revealed by The New York Times on June 6, asserted that “Republican attempts to brand Democrats as ‘radicals’ worked” last November.
“Last year, when the conversation became about ‘Defund the Police,’ we were stuck on defense instead of telling a proactive story about necessary systemic changes,” the authors argued.
They also faulted the party’s approach to nonwhite voters and communities, arguing that Democrats too often believed people of color were nearly guaranteed to be in their camp and it was just a matter of getting them out to vote.
The report’s authors said that many Democratic candidates who spoke to them believed the attempt to tar the party as socialists “hurt campaigns in states and districts with immigrant populations that fled socialist governments, including among Venezuelan, Cuban, Vietnamese and Filipino voters.”
But those views have not dimmed the appetite for many on the left for change.
They argue it is the Democrats’ relative failure to stand for a clear agenda and be responsive to its grassroots — “embrace the base,” as the progressive slogan puts it — that makes the party vulnerable to attacks from the GOP and its media allies.
Those disputes are given new salience as eyes begin to turn toward the midterms. If Democrats end up with a net loss of just one Senate seat and five House seats, Republicans will return to full control of Congress — likely dooming Biden’s agenda for the remainder of his first term and potentially making the gradient steeper for his reelection.
But there will be plenty of battles before that. And some on the left still hold out hope of mounting enough pressure to turn Manchin around on the filibuster — the one change that could alter everything.
That won’t be done by playing nice, Trent warned.

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“The problem right now is it looks like fun. Joe Manchin is getting all this press — his name is in lights, like he’s on Broadway. The king of the Senate!” Trent said.
“People ask me, ‘What would you do?’” he continued. “What I would do if I was, say, [Sen.] Bernie Sanders [I-Vt.], who has access to money and organization, is I might do an event or two in West Virginia shitting all over Manchin. And then I’d do a poll there and see how Manchin would do if he ran for governor in 2024.”

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CDC

Florida Governor DeSantis signs order letting parents decide if kids wear masks in schools

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Ron DeSantis Florida Governor signed an executive order on Friday to “protect parents’ freedom to choose” whether their children wear masks in schools. 

“The federal government has no right to tell parents that in order for their kids to attend school in person, they must be forced to wear a mask all day, every day,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Many Florida schoolchildren have suffered under forced masking policies, and it is prudent to protect the ability of parents to make decisions regarding the wearing of masks by their children.”

The order bars school districts from forcing students to mask up, despite new guidance from the CDC, and as COVID-19 cases climb in the state like never before. This week, the CDC said masks should be required of everyone inside K-12 schools.

District school boards that are “unwilling or unable to comply” with DeSantis’ law, the executive order states, will be susceptible to losing state funding. 

In a notice about the executive order, the governor’s office said the action is in response to Florida school boards considering or implementing school mask mandates. The office also falsely claimed the Biden administration has issued “unscientific” recommendations about school-aged children wearing masks. 

The executive order states that “forcing students to wear masks lacks a well-grounded scientific justification” and that there is “no statistically-significant evidence” suggesting that counties with mask mandates fared better than those without in the previous school year. 

The CDC says, however,that mask wearing is a critical step people can take to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19. Studies have shown their effectiveness. In one recent study — a peer- reviewed study of mask adherence and COVID transmission across the U.S. that was published in April — researchers found that 14 of the 15 states that had no mask policy for the public from April to September 2020 had a high rate of COVID-19. Eight states had at least 75% mask adherence during that time frame, the study found, and of those, none reported a high rate of the virus. 

COVID-19 is primarily spread through respiration, which is why officials have pushed for people to wear masks. The U.S. is also now facing the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant.

DeSantis argued in his executive order that masks could “inhibit breathing,” and lead to a buildup of “bacteria, parasites, fungi and other contaminants.” 

But the American lung Association says masks do not cause low oxygen levels, and that “there is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system.” 

“Proper laundering of cloth masks removes any viruses, bacteria or respiratory secretions that may build up on the mask,” johns Hopkins says.

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DeSantis’ order comes as Florida is experiencing its highest numbers of daily COVID cases to date. On July 30, the state had 110,724 new cases of COVID-19, a record high, and 409 deaths, according to John Hopkins university. 

More than 160 people in the state 29 years or younger have died from COVID-19, including seven children under the age of 16. The Florida Hospital Association said on Wednesday that the “average age of individuals hospitalized with COVID-19 is younger than previous peaks.” 

“The virus has a new target: the unvaccinated and younger people,” said Florida Hospital Association President and CEO Mary C. Mayhew in a statement. “Previously healthy people from their teens to their 40s are now finding themselves in the hospital and on a ventilator…What you heard last year and last spring about this virus mostly targeting seniors and those with pre-existing conditions is not true today.”

More than 95% of those hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida are people who are not fully vaccinated, the association said. As of July 30, there were 9,329 confirmed COVID hospitalizations in the state. 

Some of the most prominent supporters of DeSantis’ actions are Republican state legislators. State House Speaker Chris Sprowls said in a statement Friday they “demonstrate his faith and trust in our fellow Floridians.” 

“While there are some public officials who will seek to use the power of government to compel uniformity and adherence to their preferred course of conduct, that approach is not in keeping with Florida values,” he said. 

Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said, “I trust Florida parents to decide” if their children should wear a mask, adding that he’s “grateful” for DeSantis’ “steady leadership at every stage of this pandemic.” 

Many, however, have criticized the move, including the Florida Education Association, the statewide teacher’s union. 

“Schools should be the safest place in Florida. No matter if we live in urban South Florida, in the rural Panhandle or somewhere in between, we all want our children to be healthy and safe, and for learning to continue uninterrupted for every child,” the union said in a statement. “…Unfortunately, through his words and actions, Gov. DeSantis has made it clear he does not respect the freedom of locally elected officials to do what they feel is best for their communities.” 

On Thursday, the Florida Chapter of the American academy of paediatrics said it supports use of masks in schools. 

“Since children under 12 years of age are still not yet eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and the vaccine will most likely not be available for this age group until winter of 2021,” the group said, “most children are still at risk for Coronavirus infection and transmitting the infection to others.”

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Border Crisis

[VIDEO] Dems, GOP call to replace Kamala Harris with Jeh Johnson as border czar

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Former acting DHS deputy secretary Ken Cuccinelli criticizes the Biden administration’s handling of the border crisis as the migrant surge grows.

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Mask mandate

[VIDEO] ‘Madam Speaker, Come And Get Me’: GOP Rep. Nancy Mace Flouts Pelosi’s Reinstated House Mask Mandate

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On Thursday following Speaker Pelosi’s reinstating of a mask mandate in the House of Representatives, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) recorded herself walking maskless and dared the Speaker to “come and get me.”

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