Republicans have spent weeks criticizing the response to the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, lobbing attacks at any target close enough for something to stick. Seldom have they directly confronted the clear-as-day culprit: corporate-bought deregulation. The charade has now hit another milestone, as Republicans line up behind a party-wide push to deregulate water protection in the United States.
On Tuesday, the Republican-led House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted to reverse a Biden administration rule on water protection—which would affect communities contaminated by disasters like the one in East Palestine.
In 2015, the Obama administration announced a rule that expanded the definition of what kinds of bodies of water can be covered under the Clean Water Act, the now 50-year-old law tasked with overseeing water pollution and protecting the integrity of the country’s waterways.
In 2020, the Trump administration rolled back Obama’s changes, letting polluters off the hook and leaving regulators with less jurisdiction over protecting waterways. The approach limited federal protection to cover only “permanent” bodies of water and not other smaller but still impactful waterways, like streams of water that flow only part of the year. As a result, Trump’s rule deferred to states to determine what would and wouldn’t be protected by the Clean Water Act. In a case like Ohio, where the local government has been slow to respond to the contamination of water, such limits could make communities worse off.
In January, the Biden administration issued a rule overturning former President Trump’s limited scope of water protection, instead moving toward Obama’s more inclusive framework. Biden’s rule would allow waterways or wetlands that display a significant connection to more established waterways to be regulated. Biden’s water rule also aims to set a “durable” standard that more concretely defines when a waterway in question “significantly affects the chemical, physical, and biological integrity” of other already-established protected waters.
In East Palestine, the train derailment implicated numerous scales of waterways—some that interlink with adjacent smaller streams and wetlands. Contaminated local stream Sulfur Run flows into nearby stream Leslie Run, which flows into the nearby Bull Creek, which flows into the North Fork Little Beaver Creek, which flows into Little Beaver Creek, which empties, finally, into the Ohio River.
Still, scores of Republicans—lawmakers in Congress, state attorneys general, and Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices—are threatening to make it harder for the federal government to protect waterways.
On February 2, just one day before the East Palestine derailment that polluted numerous community waterways, all 49 Senate Republicans and 152 House Republicans signed on to a challenge against Biden’s rule, clamoring to deregulate water protection. And on February 16, 24 Republican attorneys general—including Ohio’s—announced a lawsuit against the EPA, complaining about federal overreach as the world witnessed Ohio bungling the protection of its own community’s waters and stubbornly refusing to accept federal help.
While Republicans push for the resolution over the coming weeks, they just need to win a simple majority vote. Biden will have the ability to veto the bill, and likely would not face a two-thirds overruling from Congress blocking his veto power. Republicans just aim to dare him to veto it, if they can pass it at all.
Meanwhile, Sackett v. EPA, a concurrent Supreme Court case, deals with the question of assessing waterways’ significance; the case was heard in October 2022 and the opinion is now pending. So the case of water protection is subject to both a conservative-stacked court and a broader Republican Party committed to dulling the government’s ability to act on behalf of its people.
Of note is that Biden’s rule is a self-proclaimed effort to achieve a “middle ground” between the Obama and Trump rules, and in fact mirrors much of the degree of regulatory jurisdiction settled before Obama’s updates. Nevertheless, Republicans still cannot stop themselves from hollowly railing against “federal overreach,” even while their counterparts are operating in a fairly conciliatory manner.
And still, Republicans pretending to care about the people of East Palestine and their waterways have signed on to a party-wide effort to roll back water protections. Their guiding mission to deregulate the economy trumps all sense, welfare of people or the environment be damned. All while companies like Norfolk Southern funnel millions into lobbying and buying favor from politicians, leading to as few as four Republicans collecting almost half a million dollars in less than two presidential election cycles.
The interconnectedness and fluidity of the flow of our water necessitates a granular and careful water protection, not a flippant and relaxed one; Republicans are working yet again to maintain the latter.
Since the East Palestine, Ohio, train derailment, Republicans have continued their campaign of pretending to care about working people, environmental damage, infrastructure, and community welfare generally. But a select group of them—Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and Ron Johnson—have consistently raked in cash from the top four American railroad companies. Since the 2016 cycle, these four Republicans alone have collected at least $472,000 from rail giants BNSF, CSX, Union Pacific, and Norfolk Southern.
The rail companies have contributed to other Republicans of course, and to Democrats as well. But Senators Rubio, Cruz, Johnson, and Hawley have gone above and beyond in pretending to care about rail workers and the people of East Palestine.
Rubio, Hawley, and Cruz were among a handful of Republicans last December who signed on to Bernie Sanders’s bill that would have added seven days of paid sick leave to the rail workers’ contract. The bill fell short, which may explain the famously anti-labor Republican senators’ willingness to support it.
Since the East Palestine train derailment, Rubio has spent a significant amount of time calling for Pete Buttiegieg’s resignation. But since 2016, Rubio himself received at least $54,500 from the big four rail giants, while his PAC has received at least $107,000.
Cruz has said he hopes that after Ohio, policymakers will “address the derailment’s root causes rather than simply advance narrow political interests.” (He issued this statement one day after posting a Twitter video celebrating low regulation.) But you don’t have to look far to determine which Cruz is which: Since 2016, Cruz has received at least $32,500 from the big four rail giants, while his PAC has received nearly $100,000 from them.
And Cruz has done his best to earn the corporate cash. In 2021, he co-sponsored legislation narrowing the amount of time agencies have to complete environmental reviews of proposed federal action, and assigning penalties to agencies that don’t comply with those timelines. Cruz also pushed a bill in the same Congress, alongside Senators John Kennedy and Kevin Cramer, to prohibit the Department of Transportation from issuing any regulation to limit the transportation of liquefied natural gas by rail.
Nearly two weeks after the East Palestine train derailment, Hawley sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency expressing his supposed concern for “the health, safety, and well-being” of those affected. He has since complained about corporations, the EPA, and Buttigieg. Meanwhile, his Fighting for Missouri PAC received $3,000 from the aptly named Norfolk Southern Corporation Good Government Fund and $10,000 from BNSF before the 2020 election. Hawley also received a personal $2,000 donation from Norfolk Southern board member Thomas D. Bell Jr., during the 2018 cycle. As Missouri attorney general, Hawley was among the Republican officials who helped weaken Obama-era water protections.
Johnson has sent out multiple fundraising emails about the East Palestine derailment, feigning concern for the community before shamelessly asking voters to pay off his campaign debts. And again, since 2016, Johnson received at least $53,500 from the big four companies, while his PAC pulled in $114,000 from them.
One of the few rail-related bills Johnson co-sponsored was backed by the Association of American Railroads and sought to delay the industry-wide implementation of a monitoring system to help prevent train collisions and derailments.
Again, these Republicans aren’t alone. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who has still refused to declare a statewide emergency or disaster, has received at least $29,000 from Norfolk Southern since 2018, as well as another $2,000 from CSX.
And as TNR has reported, rail corporations’ influence is also cross-partisan. Hakeem Jeffries, the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition’s PAC, Joe Manchin, Jim Clyburn, and Sean Patrick Maloney were among the many 2022 election recipients of funds from Norfolk Southern’s “Good Government Fund.”
But Republicans’ guilt is particular, insofar as their purported concern for the derailment lies in direct opposition to their fundamental ideology of cutting regulation. While corporate greed pervades both parties, conservative regulation-cutting ideology is much more foundational to the Republican political project.
Accordingly, if Democratic leadership wants to genuinely present the party as an alternative to Republicans beset by the ills of regulatory capture, they ought to prove which party is more interested in carrying out governance.
And the contrast is already on display. Representatives Ro Khanna and Chris Deluzio have introduced legislation to expand the definition of “high-hazard flammable trains” and ensure reforms like Obama-era braking updates would apply to trains like the derailed one in East Palestine. Meanwhile, conservatives are by and large offering no solutions beyond lip service to the people, and favors to the corporations lining their pockets.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee says he plans to sign a law banning drag performances, just days after a photo of him dressed as a woman in high school was shared online, leading many to call him a hypocrite.
Tennessee lawmakers passed the country’s first ban on drag shows last week, one of more than 20 similar bills working through state legislatures. The bill, which if signed will go into effect on April 1, bans “male or female impersonators who provide entertainment that appeals to prurient interest,” meaning of a sexual nature, either in public or if there is a minor present. The language is vague and makes no distinction between drag performers and transgender people.
Strip clubs, which also provide “entertainment that appeals to prurient interest,” are still legal in the state.
Lee told reporters Monday that he plans to sign the drag ban into law, as well as another bill that would prohibit gender-affirming care for minors. A reporter then asked him about the photo, which was posted to Reddit Saturday night.
The photo shows a young man wearing a wig and a cheerleader’s uniform. It is captioned “Hard Luck Woman.” The original poster said it appears to be Lee. A spokesperson for Lee’s high school told NBC that the photo is from the 1977 yearbook and “appears to be Bill Lee,” but there’s no other information to confirm it.
Governor Bill Lee is believed to be standing second to left in this 1977 yearbook photo.
Franklin High School/Ancestry.com/RedditLee was livid when asked about the picture. “What a ridiculous, ridiculous question that is. Conflating something like that to sexualized entertainment in front of children,” he said.
Some drag performers in Tennessee have called Lee’s decision to sign the ban into law hypocritical. “He’s saying, ‘It’s OK for straight people to do it, but not the gay community,’” Denise Sadler, who has been a drag performer in Nashville for more than 20 years, told NBC.
Like any performance, drag can be tailored to be appropriate for any audience. Seeing drag performances can actually be beneficial to the young people Lee claims he wants to protect, especially younger LGBTQ people, because it shows them that they are not alone. Unfortunately, Tennessee’s bill is part of a major backlash against the increasing visibility of the LGBTQ community. Drag performers have become a particular target for Republicans and right-wing extremist groups, who accuse them of being pedophiles.
“Discriminating against drag performances based on the content of their expression is a direct contradiction of a fundamental principle of our democracy: our First Amendment right to express ourselves on and off the stage,” the ACLU of Tennessee said, the day the drag ban passed. “So, let’s call this what it is—a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life.”
A Texas Republican lawmaker has introduced a bill that would compel internet providers in the state to block websites that sell or provide information on how to obtain abortion pills.
The Women and Child Safety Act, which was introduced late last week, would require that websites such as Plan C and Aid Access be cut off. It would also allow individuals to bring civil lawsuits against the people who maintain such sites. Abortion funds and their staffers could face criminal penalties for helping someone get an abortion even if they travel out of state, as could individuals who manufacture and distribute abortion pills in Texas or who provide information on how to get the drugs.
Washington Post reporter Caroline Kitchener noted that this bill appears to be the first in the United States to go after online abortion pill providers, which are considered a crucial resource in maintaining widespread access to safe abortions.
As far as I know, this is the first bill of its kind — and represents a potential whole new front for the antiabortion movement. Link to the bill text here: https://t.co/w79naMy384
— Caroline Kitchener (@CAKitchener) February 28, 2023 Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Texas has banned abortion after six weeks, before many people know they are pregnant. There are no exceptions for rape or incest, and only a few to save the life of the pregnant person. Individuals are also allowed to sue anyone who provides abortion care or helps someone get an abortion, in what’s known as the state’s chilling vigilante law.
Medication abortions, which consist of taking the two drugs mifepristone and misoprostol, make up more than half of all abortions in the United States, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Taking away access to the pills would have a severe negative impact on people’s health and ability to get care.
Texas has been a front-runner in cracking down on abortion rights and access, even before the nationwide right to the procedure was rolled back. The increasingly restrictive laws run counter to what most state residents actually want too: A study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 57 percent of Texans think abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
It’s deeply ironic that Texas’s latest bill is called the Women and Child Safety Act, considering that decreasing abortion access is actually detrimental to people’s health. This and other bills being introduced in state legislatures will only serve to hurt the people they claim to want to protect.
Georgia, Kentucky, and Alabama are all considering bills that would classify abortion as homicide, while South Carolina representatives introduced a bill that would make abortion punishable by the death penalty.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, known for always acting appropriately and civilly, decried the loss of “respect” for others with different political views after being yelled at in a restaurant.
The Georgia representative wrote on Twitter Monday night that two people screamed at her and her staff while they were out to dinner. She did not say what the people were screaming about nor what restaurant it was.
“People used to respect others even if they had different views,” Greene tweeted. “But not anymore. Our country is gone.”
I was attacked in a restaurant tonight by an insane women and screamed at by her adult son.
They had no respect for the restaurant or the staff or the other people dining or people like me who simply have different political views.
They are self righteous, insane, and… https://t.co/cJWLIAKiyp
— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) February 28, 2023 Greene, of course, does not really have a leg to stand on when it comes to lecturing others on respect. She heckled President Joe Biden during his State of the Union address to the point that even her new ally Kevin McCarthy appeared to shush her.
Before she was elected to Congress, Greene came to Washington, D.C., and harassed gun control advocate and school shooting survivor David Hogg in 2019, peppering him with conspiracy theories and taunts. The year before, she began repeatedly suggesting executing prominent Democratic lawmakers.
Greene doesn’t just hold “different” political views, but views that actively seek to suppress human rights. Just Monday night, she was one of two representatives to vote against a resolution mourning the loss of life in Turkey and Syria due to the recent earthquakes and condemning the Assad regime in Syria for exploiting the disaster to evade accountability.
She has spread conspiracy theories and antisemitic, homophobic, and transphobic rhetoric. Last week, she called for a “national divorce,” by which she really meant installing a white supremacist, single-party authoritarian government.
Republicans have become notorious for not being able to handle what they dish out. Sarah Huckabee Sanders was livid when comedian Michelle Wolf said at the 2018 White House Correspondents’ Dinner that the then-White House press secretary “burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smokey eye.” Sanders was also upset that same year when she went to dinner at a restaurant in Virginia called The Red Hen and the owner asked her to leave.
“Faced with the prospect of serving a fine meal to a person whose actions in the service of our country we felt violated basic standards of humanity, we balked. We couldn’t do it,” the owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, said in a 2019 op-ed in The Washington Post. Wilkinson said her request was discreet and polite, and Sanders responded in kind. But the next day, Sanders called the restaurant out by name on Twitter.
Civility, of course, swings both ways. After Sanders tweet, Wilkinson said that she and her staff had their personal information published online and were inundated with hate mail. The restaurant phone line was hacked, the Yelp profile was flooded with fake bad reviews, and people made reservations and never showed up.
Another restaurant called Red Hen, an unaffiliated business in Washington, D.C., also became the target of similar vitriol after Sanders supporters mixed up the two establishments. Sanders is now the governor of Arkansas.
Progressive Democratic Representatives Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania and Ro Khanna of California have challenged the rest of Congress to put their actions where their words are. On Tuesday, the duo introduced the Decreasing Emergency Railroad Accident Instances Locally (DERAIL) Act to tighten rail safety regulations by expanding the definition of what classifies as a “high-hazard flammable train,” or HHFT.
“For too long, railroads have prioritized profit ahead of public safety and their workers,” Deluzio said in a statement. “And it is time to regulate the railroads.”
The bill would deem trains carrying so-called Class 2 flammable gases, such as vinyl chloride, to qualify for HHFT classification, and would give the transportation secretary the authority to designate other materials warranting classification as well. The Department of Transportation currently considers an HHFT to be a train carrying hazardous materials in at least 20 consecutive cars, or 35 cars total. The bill would lower that threshold to at least one railcar carrying a Class 3 flammable liquid or Class 2 flammable gas, or again, any other material the secretary may deem especially hazardous.
The first bill on the matter introduced this Congress is also the first of Deluzio’s career.
In expanding the definition of what qualifies as a high-hazard flammable train, Congress would also expand which trains warrant higher safety standards. After the disastrous train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, earlier this month, there has been a lot of focus on former President Donald Trump’s decision to overturn an Obama-era rule that mandated updated electronic braking systems for trains carrying hazardous materials. In reality, however, the Obama-era rule would not have applied to the train in East Palestine, as Obama regulators acquiesced to lobbying interests that sought to limit the definition of HHFTs. Had the East Palestine train had updated brakes, it might have been able to stop much quicker and cause less damage.
With Deluzio and Khanna’s bill, those errors would be remedied; the bill would ensure trains like the one in East Palestine would be held to higher safety standards and qualify for changes like updated rail cars and braking equipment, as well as stronger audits and cargo reporting. It would be an essential foundation before any of the necessary reforms to hopefully follow. The bill also pushes for stronger information-sharing, requiring carriers to report to the National Response Center and state, local, and tribal officials within 24 hours after a train carrying toxic chemicals derails.
Members of both parties have expressed concern for the train derailment; while they rightly call on the federal government to act, they now also have the chance to take action themselves. Deluzio and Khanna’s bill holds necessary provisions for an actually coherent regulatory framework to oversee the rail industry. So if Congress is going to do anything, it starts with this bill.
“This is a moment where we need political leaders from all parties and from across the country to speak out loudly for better safety regulations and to acknowledge what so many Americans are going through,” said Khanna.
Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch admitted he knew his organization was spreading lies about the 2020 election results in a deposition for a lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems made public Monday.
Dominion sued Fox News Networks and parent company Fox Corp in 2021 for $1.6 billion for defamation. The electronic voting system company accused the television network of spreading lies that Dominion machines were used to rig the 2020 election against Donald Trump.
Court documents released Monday revealed that not only did Murdoch know his network was spreading falsehoods, but he also continued to allow the hosts and guest speakers to appear on screen.
Murdoch acknowledged that multiple popular Fox News hosts such as Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro were “endorsing” the conspiracy that the election had been stolen.
He also said he knew regular guests such as Trump lawyers Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani and My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell were spreading the election lies, but he continued to allow them on air. His reason, as he explained in Lindell’s case, was that “it is not red or blue, it is green.” What is democracy compared to dollars, apparently?
On January 5, 2021, Murdoch considered releasing a joint statement with Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham saying some variation of “The election is over, and Joe Biden won.” They didn’t, and the next day, hundreds of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol to try to stop the certification of votes and potentially to capture and kill lawmakers.
Fox News has long been accused of peddling Trump’s falsehoods and toadying to the former president. Hannity and Carlson have appeared at Trump rallies and acted as unofficial advisers. In further proof that Fox and Trump were unethical bedfellows, Murdoch also said that he gave Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and chief adviser, private access to supposedly confidential information about Biden’s campaign ads before it was published.
This isn’t the first bombshell Dominion has dropped regarding its lawsuit, which is expected to go to trial in April. Earlier this month, the company released a trove of messages and deposition excerpts from Fox News hosts, including Carlson and Ingraham, in which they admitted they knew the election conspiracies were false and the Trumpist lawyers spouting them weren’t credible. But they continued to have these guests on their shows anyway.
Fox has gone mum about the Dominion lawsuit since that initial court document release, even prohibiting its media correspondent, Howard Kurtz, from covering the case.
Fox has argued that its post-2020 election coverage was newsworthy and thus protected by the First Amendment. But Murdoch’s deposition just further drives home the fact that they knew what they were doing, and it wasn’t journalism.
Idaho conservatives introduced a bill Monday that would ban drag performances from public places and target Pride celebrations, making it the latest in a long line of states trying to limit LGBTQ rights.
The president of the Idaho Family Policy Center, a conservative Christian organization, introduced the bill, which would allow parents to sue event organizers and promoters who allow minors to be present at shows that feature “sexual conduct.” It would also prohibit such shows from taking place in public spaces like parks.
Blaine Conzatti said the bill had been prompted by the 2022 Pride Month celebrations in Idaho. “It does not matter whether we’re talking about a sexually explicit striptease or a sexually explicit drag show,” he told the House State Affairs Committee Monday. “Neither belongs in a public park, a public facility, or other places where children are present.”
The bill defines sexual conduct as dances or movements with “accessories that exaggerate” sexual characteristics and acts.
Conzatti has previously called homosexuality “sinful,” “an abomination,” and “immoral.” He issued a statement in September urging Idaho lawmakers to ban drag in public, calling the performances “appalling displays of sexual deviancy” and comparing them to strip clubs or adult movie stores.
Idaho has now joined the list of more than 20 bills nationwide that are seeking to ban drag performances in public, ostensibly to protect children from being exposed to obscene material. These laws could be challenged in court on the grounds they violate the First Amendment. Marjorie Heins, a First Amendment lawyer, told Middle Tennessee State University’s First Amendment Encyclopedia that a law that bans both protected expression, such as drag, and unprotected expression, such as obscenity, is too broad and therefore unconstitutional.
While proponents of these bills say they are trying to protect children, it’s becoming increasingly clear they are really just targeting LGBTQ people. The Idaho House passed another bill targeting Pride last week. The bill would restrict state agencies from sponsoring nongovernmental organizations and events such as Boise Pride. Instead, state agencies would have to get approval from the governor to give financial support to a nonprofit or NGO.
Tennessee became the first state earlier this month to pass a drag ban bill, also prompting concerns about an attack on trans people and Pride celebrations more generally. Governor Bill Lee has yet to sign or veto it.
“Discriminating against drag performances based on the content of their expression is a direct contradiction of a fundamental principle of our democracy: our First Amendment right to express ourselves on and off the stage,” the ACLU of Tennessee said the day the bill passed. “So, let’s call this what it is—a malicious attempt to remove LGBTQ people from public life.”
Tennessee Representative Andy Ogles appears to have lied about his background, making him the latest freshman member of Congress to come under fire for apparently fabricating parts of his résumé.
The Republican says he studied “policy and economics” at Middle Tennessee State University, but an investigation by NewsChannel 5 has found that may not be the case at all.
The Nashville outlet found a copy of Ogles’s college transcript that he submitted as part of a job application 10 years ago. They also found a résumé from 2009, on which Ogles said he majored in international relations, not economics.
According to the transcript, Ogles enrolled in the university in 1990 and finally graduated in 2007. During that time, he took only one economics class, in which he got a C. He also got a C in American history, and he flat-out failed the nine political science courses he took during his college career. Ogles did get an A in theater appreciation, though, which could explain his apparent penchant for dramatic embellishment.
When he finally graduated, it was with a bachelor’s in liberal studies, a generalized degree for people who do not pick a specialized major.
Last week, a NewsChannel 5 investigation cast doubt on other aspects of Ogles’s résumé, revealing that he exaggerated a career in law enforcement and as an expert on international sex crimes. Ogles claimed that he worked with anti–human trafficking group Abolition International in 12 countries. But Abolition International did not have operations in 12 countries during his time working for them.
Ogles released a statement Sunday night saying that he thought he had fulfilled a political science and international relations major, and it wasn’t until he saw his official transcript last week that he realized he had majored in liberal studies.
But Randy Stamps, the former political director for the Tennessee Republican Party, slammed Ogles for the “level of deception” the congressman was willing to go to.
“If he is willing to run around and say, ‘Hey, I’m an economist,’ who knows what else he is going to tell you that is not true,” Stamps told NewsChannel 5. Stamps had broken with his party and endorsed the Democratic candidate during the 2022 midterms because he said he found Ogles so untrustworthy.
Ogles isn’t the first—or frankly, even the most out-there—instance of a member of Congress seemingly making up parts of their background. By this point, everyone has heard about George Santos and his web of falsehoods, from saying his mother survived 9/11 (she was not even in the country) to seemingly lying that his grandparents fled the Holocaust and four of his employees were killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting. Florida Representative Anna Paulina Luna has also claimed Jewish heritage, but not only does she appear to have no ties to Judaism, her grandfather may have served in the Nazi army.
On Monday, Democratic Representative Elissa Slotkin announced her candidacy for outgoing Senator Debbie Stabenow’s Michigan seat. Slotkin is the first Democrat to enter what may be among the most highly contested and expensive Senate races in 2024.
In her announcement video, Slotkin highlights working for the Central Intelligence Agency and her experience working in the White House under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Today, I’m announcing my run to be Michigan’s next U.S. Senator.
We need a new generation of leaders that thinks differently, works harder, and never forgets that we are *public servants* pic.twitter.com/L8cLgEUwnA
— Elissa Slotkin (@ElissaSlotkin) February 27, 2023 One primary focus of Slotkin’s announcement video was the tragic loss of her mother to ovarian cancer; the loss came following financial pang after pang, her mother grappling with the diagnosis without health insurance and even being forced to declare bankruptcy.
“We seem to be living crisis to crisis,” Slotkin said. “But there are certain things that should be really simple,” she continued, listing things like increasing domestic production, protecting children from gun violence, and protecting democracy.
Slotkin first entered Congress in 2019, riding the Democratic wave spurred in backlash to Donald Trump. She narrowly won, becoming the first Democrat to represent Michigan’s eighth district since 2001, when the seat was held by Stabenow herself. Slotkin was again narrowly reelected in 2020, after becoming one of the forefront voices to call for Trump’s impeachment. And in 2022, Slotkin ran in the seventh district, in what was among the most expensive House races of the year; in this race, Slotkin became the first ever Democrat endorsed by Liz Cheney.
The Michigan Senate seat is part of a larger challenging map for the Democrats. They’re defending 23 of the 33 seats up for reelection. Some, like Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia, are ones that Trump won by no small margins; others, like Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin, are pivotal swing states whose results will reveal how strong a message the party really has.
But the moment is more than just about tough political races; it’s the consequences of the races that matter the most, of course. And the times—of cross-partisan-tolerated corporate greed leading to disaster, of mass shooting after mass shooting, of conservative attacks on everything from the basic humanity of LGBTQ people and migrant workers to Social Security and Medicare—require Democrats willing to go up to bat on each and every one of those battles.
While Slotkin has positioned herself to be a liberal in good standing (she has voted 100 percent of the time with Biden, was a leading voice on Trump’s impeachment, and has won close races while standing true to basic liberal ideals around abortion and health care), she also embodies parts of the Democratic establishment wedded to conservative impulses.
Slotkin opposed student debt assistance on a vote supported by 93 percent of the caucus, voted against 85 percent of her caucus on whether the United States should even study the impact of its sanctions on other countries, voted to overturn locally enacted criminal justice and voting rights reforms in Washington, D.C., and even voted against 94 percent of her caucus to bar security clearance from anyone who has used cannabis.
Slotkin also does not openly support Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, or abolishing the death penalty.
Primaries are meant for debate and for candidates to earn the support of their parties. Slotkin has led impressive wins before; while some candidates have bowed out of running, the party would do best to welcome, and not discourage competition. Previous attempts to anoint moderates in consequential races—from Kyrsten Sinema to Hilary Clinton—have not gone well.
Other potential candidates, like Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Representative Debbie Dingell, and former Representative Andy Levin, have not outwardly indicated their intentions yet. Slotkin is a proven formidable candidate. May she will have to continue proving herself—and whether her politics are the ones for this moment—against a field of candidates, rather than an open path.