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426 posts
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
  • Election 2018
The Democrats narrowly won control of the House on Tuesday. They now have a chance to change the tone of Washington.
The Democrats narrowly won control of the House on Tuesday. They now have a chance to change the tone of Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press)

In the end Tuesday’s election results went about as expected, though not nearly as well for the Democrats as they had hoped. The took back control of the House, yes, but by a slim margin, and lost a couple more seats in the Senate. As waves go, well, it wasn’t exactly good for surfing.

So what now? The Democrats are in a position to effect change, but not necessarily in the manner they had hoped. With a split Congress, voters can expect little to get accomplished on significant issues. Immigration reform? Stalled. Repealing or adding tax cuts? Nothing doing. Changes to the Affordable Care Act? No prescriptions available.

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  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
Local soda taxes, such as one in Seattle, will be banned if voters in Washington State pass a ban on "grocery" taxes on Tuesday.
Local soda taxes, such as one in Seattle, will be banned if voters in Washington State pass a ban on "grocery" taxes on Tuesday. (Lisa Baumann/ Associated Press)

Voters in Oregon and Washington State will decide today whether they want to ban local soda taxes, such as the one that Seattle adopted in January.

Oh, some may not realize that’s what they are doing, given that the measures pretend to be about keeping greedy local governments from slapping taxes on food. But there’s a reason that soda companies have spent millions on these measures: the “groceries” that are protected from new taxes include sugary drinks like soda.

Local soda taxes have been bubbling up all over the country as studies trickle in from places like Berkeley indicating that soda taxes really do decrease soda consumption. That’s good for public health advocates hoping to curb the rising rates of obesity and diabetes.

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  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
Elise Hall, the author's niece, votes for the first time in Los Angeles County.
Elise Hall, the author's niece, votes for the first time in Los Angeles County. (Carla Hall / Los Angeles Times)

I spend a lot of time urging people to vote. But it occurred to me (on Monday) that I had never delivered that message to my niece, Elise Hall, who turned 18 in July. Was she even registered to vote?

Elise graduated from high school this past spring and now juggles a job and classes at a local college. I knew she was civic-minded; in high school, she volunteered her time and expertise doing hair and makeup for women in homeless shelters. But I had a feeling that voter registration might not have been on her to-do list. 

Turns out that she had registered online — good for her! — or at least she tried to. She got back a form saying she still had to sign something. I looked her up on lavote.net and she wasn’t listed as registered. That didn’t surprise me. Maybe her name hadn’t made it into the system yet.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
President Trump's immigration enforcement policies have pushed the court backlog to more than 1 million cases.
President Trump's immigration enforcement policies have pushed the court backlog to more than 1 million cases. (Jabin Botsford/Washington Post)

You have to give credit to the Trump administration when it’s due. The increased pace of arrests of people living in the country illegally, combined with the order to reopen suspended cases, has pushed the backlog of pending immigration court cases to nearly 1.1 million, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

That’s more than double the backlog when Trump took office, and comes despite a 30% increase in the number of immigration judges.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
The post-apocalyptic landscape of Wasteland Express Delivery Service.
The post-apocalyptic landscape of Wasteland Express Delivery Service. (Pandasaurus Games)

President Trump has conducted the midterm election like a game of Wasteland Express Delivery Service, a post-apocalyptic vision of commerce in America.

In Wasteland Express, players buy and sell goods at various outposts to generate the profits they need to win. But once they sell something to any given outpost, they can’t go back with their next truckload of goods — the transaction was so acrimonious, the buyers won’t do business with them.

In recent weeks, the president has said things about individual Democrats and the Democratic Party in general that suggest he won’t be doing business with them next year. Take, for instance, these three tweets he made Saturday, then retweeted Tuesday morning:

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Voters in Washington state will decide whether to charge large industrial emitters a carbon pollution fee to address climate change.
Voters in Washington state will decide whether to charge large industrial emitters a carbon pollution fee to address climate change. (Associated Press)

With Washington, D.C., unlikely to act on climate change any time soon, voters in Washington state Tuesday are deciding whether to impose the nation’s first carbon tax.

Initiative 1631 would charge a “fee” (basically a tax) on large emitters of greenhouse gases, such as oil companies and electric utilities. The money raised from the fee would be used to develop renewable energy, electric vehicle infrastructure, energy efficiency programs and other projects designed to reduce carbon emissions. The state could eventually raise $1 billion a year by 2025 — money that could help transform the state’s infrastructure and economy. 

This is the second time voters in Washington have considered a carbon tax. Voter rejected a 2016 initiative that would have levied a higher carbon tax on fossil fuels but refunded all the revenue through tax cuts and rebates. 

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • The Swamp
  • Election 2018
Expect to see some fast vacancies in the Trump administration after the election.
Expect to see some fast vacancies in the Trump administration after the election. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

I tend not to make too many predictions about elections because it’s too easy to be wrong, too hard to be right, and in the end it doesn’t matter because the elections will turn out the way they’ll turn out (give or take a Russian thumb or two on the scale).

So let’s move to the second-most interesting thing tied to the election: who President Trump will fire, and when.

  • Opinion
  • Election 2018
Connie Fooge hands out "I Voted" stickers as voters submit their ballots at an early-vote center in Minneapolis on Nov. 5.
Connie Fooge hands out "I Voted" stickers as voters submit their ballots at an early-vote center in Minneapolis on Nov. 5. (Craig Lassig / EPA/Shutterstock)

As I got out of the YMCA pool early Monday morning, the lifeguard — a young man most likely still in college — said he was still bothered by Sunday’s shift from daylight saving time to standard time. So, I asked, you’ll be voting for Proposition 7 tomorrow?

Evidently, this was the first time anyone had mentioned that proposition to him. From the look on his face, I wondered if he realized that Tuesday was election day.

Regardless, after I told him that the measure would let the Legislature vote to end the time changes and put us on daylight saving time permanently, with Congress’ approval, he had the zeal of the converted. As I dripped my way to the locker room, I heard him calling out to other swimmers getting out of their lanes, “Vote yes on Prop. 7! Vote yes on Prop. 7!”

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  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
Even as President Trump has vilified him on other grounds, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has worked to transform immigration courts.
Even as President Trump has vilified him on other grounds, Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions has worked to transform immigration courts. (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

One of the more overlooked aspects of President Trump’s attacks on the government he was elected to run is the slow and steady reshaping of immigration courts by Atty.Gen. Jeff Sessions. That also points up one of many anomalies of this administration: Sessions has found himself in the odd position of being Trump’s punching bag for recusing himself from the Mueller probe, while simultaneously doing exactly what Trump wants in making it harder for people to fight deportation or seek asylum.

Trying to force more people out of the country plays directly into Trump’s anti-illegal-immigration campaign, including his fake caravan crisis at the southern border. But it also reflects Sessions’ long-held opposition to immigration of all stripes. As a member of the Senate, he was one of the sturdiest roadblocks to enacting comprehensive immigration reform while seeking to reduce legal immigration.

  • Trump
  • Opinion
  • Rule of Law
  • The Swamp
President Trump at a recent rally in Illinois. He has tried to use immigration as a fear lever in Tuesday's vote.
President Trump at a recent rally in Illinois. He has tried to use immigration as a fear lever in Tuesday's vote. (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

One of the more depressing aspects of President Trump’s flood of lies about the immigration system and immigrants themselves is that so many of his supporters are willing to believe what’s patently untrue.

The president was back at it Thursday, speaking from the Roosevelt Room in the White House, when he ranted against illegal immigration — it is a problem, but much less so than in the past — and characterized the northbound dwindling caravan in southern Mexico as full of “tough people” — the migrants pushed through Mexican police seeking to stop them — and obliquely suggested they included rapists, a persistent theme with Trump.