Editors’ Blog

Let the Playacting Begin!
UNITED STATES - May 27: Chairman Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., speaks during the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup to vote on pending nominations in Washington on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Photo by Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call)

Today is the day for voting rights legislation, or H1/S1. But we remain in a kind of play-acting drama. Kirsten Sinema remains steadfast in her opposition to ending the filibuster, a position she reaffirmed last night. But she’s a preening clown. More interesting, befuddling, bizarre is the stance of Joe Manchin.

As you’ll remember, a couple weeks ago, Manchin announced he was opposed to the For the People Act (H1/S1). This didn’t turn the tables too dramatically since that really only meant that the bill went from being ten votes short of 60 to eleven votes short of 60. But then a few days ago Manchin came forward with a revised version of the bill which he said he did support.

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Where Things Stand: Dem Calls For GOPers Ouster After Latest Jan 6 Conspiracy Theory Prime Badge
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Democratic Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) yesterday called for the removal of three of his colleagues — Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Paul Gosar (R-AZ) — from Congress over their promotion of the far-right’s latest wild conspiracy theory surrounding the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Moulton told CNN Sunday the trio were “traitors” who are attempting to “whitewash history” by hyping the theory, which makes the case that the FBI was actually the entity responsible for the Jan. 6 attack.

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The Era of Email Newsletters

As you may know we’re in the midst of an burgeoning era of email newsletters. We have two new or upgraded ones ourselves: The Franchise (on voting rights and democracy) and The Weekender. (You can sign up for both here.) There’s also Substack, a newsletter platform which now hosts a substantial number of established journalists (and newcomers) who are striking out on their own as one-man/-woman shops with revenue from recurring subscriptions. There’s even been some controversy in the case of Substack because they have basically fronted a year of guaranteed revenue to a number of journalists with established followings. Substack thinks it will make money on those advances and does so because it wants as many proofs of concept on the platform as possible. Nothing surprising or controversial there, though some think otherwise.

A key part of the newsletter revival is the subscription model, one which I’ve discussed at great length as a key to TPM’s survival and current vitality. That is a key part of their attractiveness. The greatest financial challenge to journalism today is the dominating role occupied by platform monopolies which take from publications their longstanding role as gatekeepers and profit centers for commercial speech. Direct relationships with readers via subscriptions cuts right through that existential challenge.

But it’s not the business model of newsletters that brings me to write about them today. It’s the more intangible or elusive qualities that makes them attractive to readers. The apparently viable business model makes them attractive to independent journalists and publications. But none of it would work if there wasn’t demonstrable demand. And that demand very clearly exists.

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Juneteenth

Read Gregory Downs’ history of Juneteenth, originally published in 2015.

Could the Court Toss a Ban on Partisan Gerrymandering?

Last week I noted that even if Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is watering down the For the People Act, his somewhat diminished version is still very much worth fighting for. Part of my argument is that the ban on partisan gerrymandering is likely the most important part of the legislation. And Manchin appears to be saying that he supports that part of the bill.

Now, a number of you have written in to ask how excited we can be about that given the GOP majority (yes, intentional usage) Supreme Court which is often inclined to use the most facially absurd arguments if they advance conservative ideology or the present interests of the Republican party (yes, this is definitely still true). Or to put it more directly, how likely are those provisions to withstand the scrutiny of this Supreme Court?

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MUST READ

I teased it yesterday, and now it’s live. Josh Kovensky peels back the layers of “ItalyGate” (not familiar? Josh will explain). Along the way, he finds a surprising cameo by a longtime TPM fixture, threads into Iceland and Somalia (no, really), and a cast of characters that will leave you scratching your head. It’s rollicking good fun, but remember this is the crap Trump’s White House chief of staff was pushing the Justice Department to look into. It’s a classic TPM story.

Check Back Tomorrow

We have a Josh Kovensky must-read coming Saturday. You won’t want to miss it, even on a holiday weekend. Trust me: it’s a lot of fun.

Very Important

We’re off to a solid start to our second annual drive for The TPM Journalism Fund. It’s super important for TPM (more details here) and it’s a critical way to keep TPM thriving and focused on original reporting. If you haven’t yet, please consider clicking here to contribute to The TPM Journalism Fund.

Where Things Stand: All The Grievances Prime Badge
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The Senate minority leader is showing a bit more of his cards than usual.

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The Right Isn’t Done With Juneteenth

As I noted below, my first reaction to the news that Juneteenth was becoming a federal holiday was shock. Given all the rightwing freak-outs we’ve seen about BLM, CRT, the 1619 Project and all the rest I was shocked, albeit very pleasantly, by the fact that congressional Republicans voted overwhelmingly in favor of making the day a federal holiday. In his new newsletter (The Uprising), TPM Alum Hunter Walker looks at the fourteen members of the House who voted against the holiday and their various excuses for doing so. There he notes right wing activist Charlie Kirk tweeting that Juneteenth is a kind of effort to cancel July 4th.

“America only has one Independence Day and it’s on July 4th, 1776. If you’re a conservative who is okay with the ‘Juneteenth National Independence Day Act,’ you’re not paying attention to what the left is truly trying to accomplish.”

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Thank You from All of Us

Please see my short note below on the first federal Juneteenth celebrated today. Before that, thank you for getting us off to a great start in our annual TPM Journalism Fund drive. If you’ve planned on contributing but haven’t found the opportune moment, please just click here and make today the day. It’s super important for TPM and your money will be well spent.

Thoughts on the First (Federal) Juneteenth
(RM) JUNETEENTH_KSO_6_14_08327 - Denver's Juneteenth celebration is back as organizers name the event "Juneteenth 2008: The Rebirth. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States as slaves in Galveston, Texas learned that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier. Denver used to have one of the largest gatherings, and this year community leaders- including former Mayor Wellington Webb- worked to bring the festival back. There is a parade along with musical performers and entertainment for the kids. Kathryn Scott Osler, The Denver Post

Yesterday President Biden signed the bill making Juneteenth a national holiday. Today it is being celebrated officially for the first time. Yes, today, June 18th. There are many, many things that can and should be said about this. But here’s one that I’ll focus on today.

Juneteenth will be the second federal holiday focused on the historical role and experience of African-Americans in the American Republic – the other being the celebration of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. It is also the second federal holiday tied in some way to the American Civil War. But in this case it is only barely so. Memorial Day began as a commemoration of the dead of the Civil War, in both the North and the South. (The precise origins are disputed.) But Memorial Day is connected to the Civil War only as a point of origin for a tradition. The holiday explicitly honors the sacrifices of all who died in the service of the armed forces of the United States in every war and conflict. To the extent Memorial Day is tied to the Civil War it is focused on military sacrifice, which is in key respects apolitical. It honors military sacrifice in the service of the American Republic irrespective of the nature of the specific conflicts which made the sacrifice necessary.

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Watch The New Episode Of The Josh Marshall Podcast: Grading Garland’s DOJ
Merrick Garland

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is now live! This week, Josh and Kate analyze the Department of Justice under Attorney General Merrick Garland and its pursuit of accountability (or lack thereof) for the Trump era.

Watch below and email us your theme song submissions and questions for next week’s episode.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Where Things Stand: House Probe Of Trump DOJ’s Eyebrow-Raising Data Seizures Begins Prime Badge
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House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY) just officially requested documents from Attorney General Merrick Garland on the previous administration’s DOJ and its seizure of records of members of Congress and journalists.

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Thanks from Two TPM Readers

I hesitated a bit about publishing this note from TPM Readers MW and CW since it’s a bit rosy-eyed about TPM and me. I can assure you that it is unsolicited. And I share it because it captures why we have community-supported memberships and part of what your contributions to The TPM Journalism Fund accomplishes. As I’ve been mentioning, our drive continues. If today is the day you want to contribute just click here.

With Josh discussing the TPM Journalism Fund lately we would like to present a note of thanks to the TPM community. If it meets with your approval then please pass this on to your subscribers. Thank you!

My wife and I wanted to express our thanks to TPM and the community for reasons I will mention below. I promise I will try to keep it short.

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Manchin’s Voting Compromise

Joe Manchin has put out his own version of a voting right/democracy protection bill. Tierney Sneed has the details here. Broadly speaking it seems like a watered down version of a Voting Rights Act upgrade and a stripped down version of H.1/S.1, the For the People Act. Like everything else with Manchin, it’s hard to know whether it means anything anyway since his baseline is needing 10 Republicans in support and there’s virtually no chance that happens.

But there is one detail which immediately caught my eye.

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Crunch Time on Infrastructure

I wanted to update you on what seems to be the state of play on negotiations for an infrastructure bill.

There appears to be some momentum for a purported deal created by the latest bipartisan “gang”, either called the G20 or the ‘problem solvers caucus’. (The first step of bipartisaning is to come up with a cheesy or cloying name.) This is the deal which is rather incongruously labeled as a $1.2 trillion infrastructure deal with $579 of “new spending.” That sounds like a $579 infrastructure deal to me. But let’s set that aside for the moment.

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Maintaining Access in the Brave New Subscription/Paywall World

Thank you for getting us off to a solid start in our second annual drive for The TPM Journalism Fund. As I explained yesterday, contributions to the Fund provide a relatively small (on a budget percentage basis) but critical part of the budget that allows TPM to remain vital and focused on original reporting about the most important stuff. It’s really important for our future. I explain more about it here and you can click here to contribute.

This afternoon I wanted to tell you about an entirely different thing the Fund accomplishes, how it protects access for all TPM Readers even if they don’t have the financial wherewithal to subscribe.

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This is Who Tom Cotton Is

Here’s a must read story from Josh Kovensky about how Tom Cotton is insisting that China be denied the 2022 Winter Olympics because he says the PRC will use the Olympics to harvest the DNA of the world’s greatest athletes and then use this genetic treasure trove to create a genetically modified race of Chinese super soldiers to dominate the world. I’m not exaggerating or kidding. That’s what he’s saying. Read it here.

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On Those Helsinki Translator Notes

This morning ABC News reported that Democrats are no longer seeking translator notes for President Trump’s notorious meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland in 2018. “The Biden administration is looking forward, not back,” said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Gregory Meeks (D-NY), a phrase which is likely more grating to Democrats than any save “bipartisan compromise”. I will say that I am at best ‘meh’ on the Biden administration’s management of the Trump accountability issue. Not surprisingly, this report is being greeted with pretty intense consternation. But there’s a part of this I don’t think people are figuring on.

Put simply, Biden doesn’t need to seek the transcripts or try to talk to the translator. He already has the transcripts. The moment President Biden took the oath of office he, as President, took possession of all the records of the United States government. That definitely includes the notes of that meeting.

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Where Things Stand: Abbott Is Latest GOPer To Boost Critical Race Theory Hysteria Prime Badge
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on July 8, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed an anti-critical race theory bill into law on Tuesday, and Texas become the latest red state to adopt legislation that bans certain topics on race and racism from being discussed in the classroom.

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What’s Going on on Capitol Hill? Prime Badge

I want to start by thanking everyone who took a moment over the last 22 hours to contribute The TPM Journalism Fund. 310 of you have contributed since we kicked off our drive yesterday. Truly, thank you. And all of us here at TPM thank you. I explained below what the Fund is and why it’s so important. If you haven’t yet, please consider clicking here to become a contributor. More on that later today.

This morning I want to kick off by sharing the Inside Briefing we held yesterday with Adam Jentleson. Adam’s a former Harry Reid staffer and relevant to this present discussion perhaps the most important filibuster reform activist. He’s got a book on it called Kill Switch you can find here. As is usually the case with these Briefings, in addition to wanting to make it informative for readers, I was mainly interested to answer two questions for myself. First, where are we on reforming or ditching the filibuster? and Second, what on earth is happening up on Capitol Hill about passing a big infrastructure bill which is supposed to be the centerpiece of the President’s agenda?

If you’re a member the video of our discussion is after the jump.

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Please Read This Important Post

Okay, let’s do this. If TPM is important to you I would greatly appreciate your taking a moment to read this post.

We have made great strides over the last five years totally transforming the site’s business model from one based almost exclusively on advertising to one based overwhelmingly on membership fees. But it’s not quite enough, at least not yet. That’s where The TPM Journalism Fund comes in. It plays a relatively small (in percentage terms) but still critical role in our budget, allowing us to keep our focus on original reporting and evolve with the changing news environment in ways I will describe here in the coming days.

Today we’re kicking off our second annual TPM Journalism Fund drive. (If you’ve heard enough and would like to contribute, just click here. If not, please read on.)

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On Vaccinating the World

From TPM Reader JL

I wanted to pass along some thoughts on vaccinating the world. I don’t claim any particular expertise or even objectivity on the subject, but I do have a perspective that seems a bit contrarian and perhaps worth sharing for that reason alone.

The gist is that I’m fairly optimistic that the world will get vaccinated in not much more than a year. Let me start with a huge caveat, which is that by the world getting vaccinated I mean that the world as a whole will get close to the point where the US will be in a few months or so—approaching 60% of the population fully vaccinated. If that happens the global situation will be vastly improved but it certainly doesn’t mean the pandemic will be over. How not over it will be will depend on variants, ability/willingness to test & trace, and a myriad of other factors.

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On Infrastructure, What’s the Plan?

One of my subsidiary frustrations in the infrastructure debate and legislative process is how difficult it is even to make sense of what’s going on. I’ve mentioned in a few posts that this is not only a research or reporting problem. It’s hard to have good messaging for what you’re trying to do, build public support or keep supporters engaged, if even those whose job it is to make sense of things, who understand a lot of the jargon and technicalities, struggle to make sense of it. I’ve read a fair amount and discussed it with various people at the highest levels of the process. And I can barely make sense of it.

With that introduction, a few thoughts.

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Will QAnoners Run Out of Patience?

The FBI has released an unclassified intelligence assessment that predicts that some QAnon adherents will soon decide they can no longer “trust the plan” after so many Q predictions have come up short and resort to acts of violence.

You can read the key part of the document here.

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Where Things Stand: McConnell Might Still Be Open To Having A Spine Prime Badge
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Against Trump, that is.

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Two Thoughts on the Fall of Netanyahu

As you’ve certainly seen, Israel got a new government yesterday and the Prime Minister is not Benjamin Netanyahu for the first time in a dozen years. He went out ugly. No storming the Knesset but a lot of heckling from Bibi’s dead-enders, a hot and wild speech from the man himself denouncing the new government as a danger to Israel, invoking the Holocaust, insisting no one can stand up to Biden like him. And then it was done.

I wanted to note two dimensions of the moment that stuck out to me.

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