On today's BradCast, Democrats, liberals, progressives and non-wingnut legal experts who actually care about the rule of law breathe a huge sigh of relief. And how you --- yes YOU --- can help save American Democracy beginning right now in YOUR home town! [Audio link to full show is posted below this summary.]
First up, after many --- including one of our favorite guests, Salon legal journalist Mark Joseph Stern --- had been furious at the end of last year's Supreme Court term, when 83-year old Justice Stephen Breyer did not announce his retirement, he finally did so on Wednesday. He'll be leaving at the end of this term over the Summer. If all goes as hoped, that should prevent another situation where there is a vacancy on the Court with a Democrat in the White House and an obstructionist Republican majority in the Senate. As Stern told us last July on this program, Breyer's reticence to step down at the time could easily have led to a case where, once again, Republicans change the number of seats on the bench for as long as they need to until another Republican is in the White House. In fact, as Stern argued on that program last year, he does not believe a GOP-controlled Senate will ever fill another vacancy on either SCOTUS or the federal Appeals Court if the nomination is made by a Democratic President.
Today, we discuss Breyer's legacy as a longtime pragmatic centrist on an increasingly ideologically split Court, and the likely nominees to replace him --- presuming Lord Manchin and Lady Sinema deign to offer their approval. If all Dems unite behind President Biden's nominee, they can now seat whoever they like with only a 50 vote majority, given that Republicans killed the Senate filibuster rules for Supreme Court appointees during the Trump Presidency in order to steal and pack the Court's majority with three hard-right Trump nominees. Biden has long vowed to appoint the first black woman to the High Court and we discuss some of those likely nominees today.
Next, a quick followup on a story we covered yesterday. Late on Tuesday, after we got off air, a federal judge in California rejected a lawsuit filed by John Eastman, the wingnut Trump Campaign attorney who wrote the memos arguing that Vice President Mike Pence could simply nullify Joe Biden's Electoral College victory on January 6th, 2021. Eastman had sued to block the release of some 19,000 emails written on his Chapman University email account while he (unbeknownst to the school) was secretly working for Trump. The emails had been subpoenaed from the university by the bipartisan U.S. House Select Committee investigating the deadly attack on the Capitol and the former President's efforts to steal the 2020 election. The federal judge forcefully defended the Committee's right to review those emails and rejected Eastman's attempt to block them.
With failure after failure for the Trump MAGA Mob in courts across the country, all the way up to SCOTUS, in both their efforts to steal the 2020 election and, subsequently, block the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, rightwingers have turned their focus to undermining elections before they get to the courts.
But, this year, Democrats and Republicans are keenly focused on races for elections officials, with the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State announcing a record fund-raising haul of $4.5 million in 2021. That's three times more than they raised in the entire 2018 election cycle. That, following Trump's efforts to steal the 2020 election and the GOP focus on replacing chief state election officials with Trump loyalists willing to suppress voting rights and subvert election results.
It's not only states' top election officials who play a critical role in protecting the right to vote and American democracy itself, however. There are, literally, thousands of races for elections administrators on the ballot across the country this year. At the same time, Trumpers have been focusing on those races, as well as other locally elected positions from school boards to city councils to county health boards and many others. Meanwhile, our guest today has been working successfully over the past two election cycles to counter such efforts by finding young, progressive, often minority candidates to run for many of those same local positions. And, this year, her organization is stepping up their efforts to focus particularly on election administrative roles in all 50 states.
AMANDA LITMAN, co-founder and executive director of Run for Something, is our guest today. She is also the author of Don't Just March, Run For Something: A real-talk guide to fixing the system yourself. Her group has had remarkable success since launching in 2017, in the wake of Hilary Clinton's 2016 disaster, in recruiting young, diverse progressives for local office.
"We have helped elect 637 people across 48 states, mostly women, mostly people of color, about a fifth LGBTQIA+, all forty years old or younger," she tells us. "They have done things like expand early voting here in New York, where I live. They've helped 50,000 Floridians access unemployment benefits down in Orlando. The Waterloo City Council in Iowa now has a paid leave policy for people experiencing pregnancy loss. In Harris County, Texas, they've ended cash bail, did a number of really important things around budgeting thanks to Lina Hidalgo, the Harris County executive and Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee. So we have seen, over and over again, young people can run, they can win, they can make a difference on the local level that makes life so much better for people in a way that really matters."
Those efforts continue as the 2022 mid-term cycle gets under way, and she is urging folks again to not just be angry or buried in despair about what is happening to our nation right now, but to take action by running for something instead! "It is not too late to get started for this year. Most states have their filing deadlines in March, April, May," Litman explains. "Even if you're just now thinking maybe I want to do this, especially for these local elections, you can run. We will help you get your campaign set up, we'll help you figure out how to get on the ballot, and we'll make sure you have everything you need to succeed."
The group has created a simple tool at RunForWhat.net that will allow you to plug in a few simple pieces of information, like your location, to inform you about which local ballot positions need filling this year where you live. "We have a network of people all across the country who want to help you," she tells me. "They're here to support you as a candidate --- for free!"
"It's really important to know that these elections are happening all the time. They are year-round. They are determined in some places by a really small number of voters. And they are affordable. 75% of school board races in years past cost $1,000 or less, 85% cost $5,000 or less. It's totally attainable for someone who has never run for office before to run for and win one of these positions," Litman explains.
As to the group's specific focus this year on election-related positions, Run for Something has kicked off a multi-million dollar effort to contest those jobs in particular. And there are a LOT of them to be filled! "We're doing a bunch of target work there, making sure that in the nearly 2,000 races like these across the nation this year we've got as many candidates as possible. There are at least 2,000 of them that touch elections in some way on the ballot in 2022. Another 1,000 in 2023, and close to 4,000 of them on the ballot in 2024."
But, if Democrats object to the Trump/Bannon/QAnon efforts to fill election administrator rolls with loyalists, how is Litman's effort any different from what the GOP is doing? "We're not in favor of Democrats," she counters, "we're in favor of democracy. That's a really important distinction," argues Litman, before going into more depth on that distinction today.
"We are trying to talk to every person we can, and make sure everyone knows you can and should think about running for office," she continues, explaining that her organization will also help folks who may not specifically fit the profile of the type of candidate that Run for Something might personally end up choosing to endorse. In that case, she says, they will help point you to others who can help as well.
"We need people from all walks of life. We need folks, yes, who are lawyers and businessmen. But, really, we need teachers, we need parents, we need artists, we need scientists, we need refugees, we need first- and second-generation Americans, we need Chipotle burrito-rollers and people who have worked in fast food and retail. Our government will work better when it reflects the people it is trying to serve. So we need you to run! If you're listening to this, we need you to run!"
And, yes, Litman implores, "your democracy needs YOU!"...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)