Posted on January 26, 2018 in Countdown

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DREAMers Countdown: It’s been 143 days since President Trump moved to end DACA, and Congress has yet to save it. TWEET THIS

Gang of Hate

The quant days of 2013, where a bipartisan group of eight senators actually worked on immigration reform, are long gone. While not perfect, the Gang of Eight sought credible reform to our immigration system and at least supported pathways to citizenship. Instead, in 2018 we have Chuck Schumer and the Democrats leaving DREAMers in limbo because Mitch McConnell pinky promised to allow the Senate to vote on immigration by February 8th. No word on whether any Democrat checked if McConnell was crossing any fingers behind his back. They were preoccupied with the talking stick.  With the fate of millions of law-abiding DREAMers balancing on the ethical discretion of a man who held a Supreme Court seat vacant for over year for Trump to fill on day one, the immigration debate has shifted from concerns of fairness, compassion, and humane governance to “chain migration”, “non-merit-based immigration”, and English language skills. To add to the fun, last night the White House released an “immigration framework” which grants protections to some DREAMers, but limits legal immigration and requires funding for Trump’s big, beautiful wall. Predictably, the plan has angered conservative anti-immigration groups and Hill Democratsalike. Nonetheless, when reform proposals require breaking up families making legal immigration more difficult, we go beyond a policy discussion of immigration and squarely into questioning the kind of nation we want to be and our place in the world.

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Gerrymander Reprimand-ers

In preparation for the weekend, we’re giving you an obscure fact to share at your next dinner party, and guess what, it’s about a dinner party! So meta, we know. Historians ascribe the term “gerrymander” to a Boston shindig back in 1812, where guests likened a misshapen senatorial district, signed into law by Governor Elbridge Gerry, to a salamander. “No, a Gerry-mander,” one of them quipped, and the rest was history. While the story might be obscure, it’s not totally irrelevant. Just this week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the state’s redistricting plans as unconstitutionally in favor of Republicans. According to the ruling, the state legislature will have to redraw the maps before the 2018 midterms, so this decision could have a significant impact in the near future. Other redistricting cases have also made the news as of late, including a decision to strike down redistricting plans in North Carolina, which according to a federal court, constituted a violation of the First Amendment, the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, and Article I of the Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court temporarily blocked the ruling last week, but stay tuned, as we await decisions on similar cases in Maryland and Wisconsin. In the meantime, we thought we’d remind you that the interim chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has made a career defending state redistricting plans charged with “racial gerrymandering.” If only we felt better about his potential successor.

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Eyes on the Races

The November mid-term elections are 284 days away (yes, we're counting), but important results are already emerging in several states, thanks to special elections. In what is seen as a sign of shifting tides, Patty Schachtner won Wisconsin's 10th Senate District special election, marking the first time in 17 years a Democrat won that district. Schachter campaigned on universal issues framed through a local lens, calling for increased education spending in school districts decimated by Governor Walker's budget cuts. To the relief of many, Schachtner hardly mentioned Trump, who won the district by 17 points in 2016. This makes Schachtner part of a growing movement in campaigning: ignore the distraction-in-chief, and make local races just that—local.  This strategy is proving effective in Pennsylvania's upcoming special election for the 18th Congressional District, too. The race between Republican State Rep. Rick Saccone and Democrat Conor Lamb has become competitive in a reliably conservative district. While Lamb is focused on local issues, like the heroin epidemic, Saccone has welcomed Trump's support and spends more time on rhetoric than policy details. Saccone's extreme views on multiple issues are, frankly, terrifying (didn't we agree a long time ago that torture wasn’t cool?). Whether these races prove to be bellwethers for the midterms is yet to be seen and all that talk is missing the point. We are keeping an eye on whether focusing on local concerns will continue to shake local elections.

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More Trump Threats to Palestine

We told you on the last Countdown about Trump cutting UNRWA’s funding by half, and that was apparently just the beginning of Trump’s attempt to bully Palestinians into submission to Netanyahu’s vision of “peace.” This week, Vice President Mike Pence visited Israel and gave a deplorable speech to the Knesset that made absolutely no mention of occupation or settlements (you know, just the main problems obstructing peace), and the Palestinians refused to meet with him during his trip. On Thursday, Trump said this Palestinian refusal to meet Pence “disrespected us,” and threatened to cut off all aid to the Palestinians and abandon peace-promoting efforts altogether if the Palestinians didn’t return to a negotiating table that’s obviously tilted against them. And just in case there was any doubt about how tilted the table was going to be, Trump reiterated that he “took Jerusalem off the table, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore.” Then came the most Orwellian point of all: “I can tell you that Israel does want to make peace, and [the Palestinians] are going to have to want to make peace too” if they wanted US aid. Of course, if the president were to escape Bizarro World and return to earth, he would know that cutting aid to the party that doesn’t want to seriously negotiate peace would mean cutting US aid to Israel. But there is no escaping Bizarro World for any of us; not for a while at least.

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Unexpected Pep Talk

Being squeezed from all directions, the Palestinians could really use a pep talk right now. Well, can you guess who actually did give them a pep talk? No, it’s not the first 80,000 people you thought of, It’s actually John Kerry, the previous US Senator from Massachusetts and Obama’s Secretary of State. Get this: He reportedly told Palestinian leaders to “stay strong” and “play for time,” speculating that Trump might not be in the White House for too long, and that the Palestinians should basically resist his attempts to bully them into submission. Kerry even had a piece of advice to Palestinians, urging them to present their own peace plan, presumably to counter the narrative that they reject peace efforts, and even offered to help them gain international support. This is incredibly kind of Kerry, but do you know when all of this would’ve been more helpful? WHEN HIS ADMINISTRATION WAS IN POWER! Sorry for the yelling, but when people who regularly deal with “Arab time” think you’re late, you’re probably REALLY late.