Center for American Progress Action
New year, same mess
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This piece was originally published in the January 4, 2021 edition of CAP Action’s daily newsletter, the Progress Report. Subscribe to the Progress Report here.
“This is not rocket science, guys, and it’s certainly not fraud.”
— CNN’s fact checker on Trump’s promotion of election conspiracies
More than 350,000 lives lost. It didn’t have to be like this.
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IN THE NEWS
- 2020 may be behind us, but the pandemic certainly isn’t. The U.S. continues to break its own records in new coronavirus cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. We surpassed 20 million total cases over the weekend. And since America excitedly watched the first few health care workers get vaccinated last month, reports now indicate that the first few weeks of the vaccine rollout have drastically underperformed expectations. With no coordinated national distribution plan and a total leadership vacuum in our executive branch, the U.S. has fallen behind, vaccinating just a fraction of the number of people who were anticipated to have received a vaccine by now and pacing far behind other countries in getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.
- Trump is still publicly denying the fact that he lost an election that concluded nearly two months ago. A disturbing report published last night by the Washington Post details how Trump finally got Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) to answer his repeated phone calls on Saturday, then proceeded to go on a conspiracy-laden, hour-long rant in which he aired his grievances and repeated nonsensical accusations of election fraud in an attempt to get Raffensperger to fabricate favorable votes out of thin air.
- Raffensperger’s reaction on the call largely mirrored his past statements about the outcome of November’s election in Georgia: The election was not stolen, the results are legitimate, and what you’re saying isn’t true. Here’s the report and a full audio recording of Trump’s call with Raffensperger.
- After a recording of the call was released, NBC News reporter Ben Collins made an important point: Nearly everything Trump rambled about to Raffensperger — including the confusing numbers he referenced throughout — can be traced back to specific right-wing conspiracy theories propagated on social media. “The numbers are all made up. It’s all lies,” Collins tweeted. “The QAnon social media pipeline has totally engulfed far-right social media and churns out one new fictitious way for Trump to remain president every day.”
The degree to which right-wing conspiracies have monopolized social media isn’t something to be brushed off. And it’s not going away any time soon — even when Trump’s Oval Office tenure comes to an end later this month.
- So what does this all mean? The bottom line is this: Trump demanded that Georgia officials meddle in the results of an election that Raffensperger himself described on the call as “accurate.” At best, Trump’s actions here are worthy of reprimand. At worst, they might be illegal. And even though his term ends in 16 days, that shouldn’t excuse him from being held accountable.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
- The 117th Congress was sworn in on Sunday afternoon, marking the official welcome of a wave of new members to Capitol Hill. Some, like Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) and Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), commemorated the day by reflecting on their journeys to the halls of Congress and their duty to be fierce advocates for the people they represent. And then there’s newcomer Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) — best known for her alignment with the QAnon conspiracy theory — who was kicked out of the House chamber yesterday after she refused to wear a mask, reportedly sparking a “screaming match” among staffers.
- All eyes are on the Hill this week as Congress prepares to officially, finally (for real this time) finalize Joe Biden’s win. Both chambers will vote on Wednesday to certify the Electoral College tally — the last step in a series of formalities that have only confirmed what we already know: Joe Biden won the election. Thanks to Trump’s persistent but unsuccessful attempts to overturn the election results, these mundane procedural events have drawn more attention than usual this election cycle.
- A handful of Republican members and senators are expected to object to the certification of Biden’s win during Wednesday’s certification vote. This isn’t the first time a member of Congress has objected to the vote certification, although it’s certainly the most egregious and baseless use of this power. Mike Pence will preside over the certification, and he himself is facing pressure from the right to side with the group of pro-Trump congressional Republicans by doing what he can to stall the certification.
- But experts say not to worry. It’s becoming increasingly clear that this is more of a political stunt than a meaningful action. Aside from maybe slowing down the process for a few hours, the objections aren’t expected to make a difference in the final outcome of the vote — not this time, at least. Here’s an overview from the Washington Post of how Wednesday’s vote could play out if these members follow through on their plans.
WHAT WE’RE READING
- We saw important social activism last year. Here’s how to maintain it in 2021. by Deepa Iyer (The Lily)
- Prisons should be COVID-19 vaccine priority: Health experts by Erin Schumaker (ABC News)
- Sarah McBride’s Neighborhood by Brock Colyar (The Cut)
- Rethinking the Intersection of Climate Policy and the Federal Budget by Jacob Leibenluft (CAP)
- She lost her dad and uncle to coronavirus. Trump’s claim that the virus is exaggerated is an insult, she says by Madeline Holcombe and Paul Vercammen (CNN)
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