CNN Analyst at It Again

Zachary Wolf peddles conspiracy theories about a sinister threat to “Democracy” in lead-up to election.

This bit of political “analysis” by Zachary B. Wolf, a “senior writer” for CNN who doesn’t seem to have many credentials other than a bachelors in English and Poly Sci from UC-Berkeley, is one of the laziest, least thought-provoking commentaries I’ve ever read published by a mainstream news outlet. It is filled with Democratic Party talking points, conspiracy theories, and confusion. 

A GOP senator has gone public against democracy” Wolf urgently warns us. Republicans are “ready to burn down the whole American experiment in representative democracy” and “ignore a defeat by a majority of voters.” 

Weird, that just two years ago, when Democrats gained 41 seats and a sizable majority in the House of Representatives, their new officeholders took their seats without incident. President Trump nefariously allowed his political opponents to win a huge victory and then vote to impeach him a year later. A strange thing for a wannabe fascist dictator to do.

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Reflections from Washington, DC on the Occasion of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Passing

It’s strange how you can get caught up in historic events on an otherwise normal evening. Last night, my wife an I just happened to go down to Washington, DC for dinner and a tour. We ate at Hawk ‘n’ Dove pub on Pennsylvania Ave SE, then we walked down to Starbucks where we waited for the tour guide to show up. Signs of the times were everywhere: people wearing face masks and sitting outside bars on hastily erected tables on the sidewalks. Black Lives Matter signs and professions of support hung in the Starbucks’ window.

We were still waiting around 8pm; Kayla was on the phone with her cousin when I saw an article from NPR on Facebook reporting Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1933-2020) had died. I didn’t believe it at first because every year there are fake articles about Ginsburg’s death or impending death. It fit too well–the kind of fake news story designed to sew outrage and divide people in an already contentious election year. But it was true.

U.S. Capitol Building the Night of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Death in Washington, DC
Flag flies at half-staff outside the U.S. Supreme Court building, with a view toward the capitol.

When the tour guide showed up, he mentioned the news. He was visibly upset, more so by the political implications of Ginsburg’s death. The tour took us past the Supreme Court building, where a crowd was quickly gathering as news spread. Flags were already half-staff at the Supreme Court and capitol building. The vigil was quiet at first, with people paying their respects by laying flowers and lighting candles.

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More Stories from the Illinois Exodus

Friends share their reason for leaving (or planning to leave) the Prairie State.

Last week, I posted stories from what I call the “Illinois Exodus,” an outward migration of Illinoisans to other states. As someone who left Illinois to pursue better career opportunities, I’ve been interested in why so many of my friends and acquaintances have left Illinois for greener pastures. As of December 2019, Illinois as a whole saw six straight years of population loss. This decline has real consequences for the state’s political clout on the national stage, something its elected leaders seem not to have taken into consideration while steering it off a cliff.

As I noted before, Illinois currently has 18 U.S. representatives in Congress. In 1980, it had 24. As a result of the 2020 census, Illinois will likely see that number decline even further. The number of a state’s presidential electors in the Electoral College is also determined by population (technically it’s tied to the number of congressmen). In the 2000 presidential election, Illinois had 22 electors, while Florida (for example) had 25. In 2016, Illinois had 20 and Florida had 29.

Because Florida has seen a massive surge in growth and development over the past few decades, it will have a huge impact on the 2020 election and future presidential elections. Illinois? Not so much.

The trend is clear: the number of people moving out of Illinois is growing while the number of people moving to Illinois is declining. According to population estimates and the Illinois Policy Institute, Illinois lost the equivalent of a large city (223,308 people) between 2014 and 2019. That’s like more than the entire population of Aurora, Joliet, Naperville, or Rockford just up and leaving.

But these are only statistics. To understand why people are leaving Illinois, you have to talk to individuals and families about what is motivating their exodus. One of my friends, Tracey, now a realtor in Florida, told me taxes were a big factor for why her wife and she moved from Illinois to the Sunshine State. “I left because I was tired of the winters and tired of the taxes,” she said. “It was uber expensive and it felt like everything was taxed. Our personal property taxes were a killer… Our taxes are less here for a more expensive house. In 2014 they were $12k. When we moved here in 2015, we paid about $4500.” However, she noted the cost of insurance is nearly double in Florida.

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Stories from the Illinois Exodus

High taxes, crime rates, and lack of opportunity cause residents to flee Illinois and post-industrial cities like Rockford.

I was born in Chicago and raised in the northwest suburbs. I moved to Rockford, Illinois after graduate school in 2008, where I hoped to make a life for myself. As my longtime readers know, I got involved in local politics and worked hard to promote the local community and address its social ills. Even as a student at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, I promoted Midwestern culture and urged my friends to stay in Illinois and fight to make it better. I honestly didn’t think I would ever leave.

Years went by and more and more of my friends and acquaintances moved away for greener pastures. Finally, I did too, enlisting in the Army and seeking to make a difference somewhere else. It became painfully clear I would have to uproot if I wanted to dramatically change my circumstances. The 2020 census will show just how many people joined this mass exodus. According to the latest estimates, Illinois is among the fastest shrinking states in terms of population, and Rockford is 15th in the country for highest percentage of population loss.

Since 2010, Rockford’s population has decreased by 5 percent. It was once the largest city in Illinois outside Chicago… it’s now the sixth. In December 2019, numerous websites reported Illinois as a whole saw six straight years of population loss. Anecdotally, I can name at least a dozen or more friends who have moved to other states over the past ten years, many with their families. I think when the final census data for 2020 is released, it’s going to be bad.

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Forbes Writer Gets a C- in American History

Seth Cohen half-remembers something he read online about the Civil War in order to bolster his argument that modern Americans are heading toward national conflict.

They say “C’s get degrees,” but what happens when an average student in American history grows up to write political columns for Forbes.com? Something like “Rush Limbaugh Predicts A ‘Veritable’ Civil War — Could He Be Right?” by Seth Cohen.

I’ve read hundreds of articles over the past few decades claiming another American Civil War is right around the corner every time we’re faced with a contentious issue. All of them, thankfully, have been wrong (so far…). But it’s not the premise of Cohen’s article I’m concerned with–it’s his distorted retelling of American history, particularly its Civil War history.

“There are some troubling parallels” Cohen claims, between America today and America 160 years ago.

“Back then, the fractious 1860 election was essentially a referendum on slavery and states’ rights, with the northern and southern states at deep odds over the future of the nation. Lincoln, the Republican candidate, claimed an electoral landslide over the three other candidates, yet only won 40% of the popular vote. The election results caused a national rupture, and before Lincoln could be inaugurated, 11 southern states had seceded from the Union. Within weeks, the confrontation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina sparked the Civil War, and the rest is history.”

Unfortunately, Cohen’s summery of these events is almost entirely wrong.

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Will 2020 be the ‘Darkest Winter in Modern History’?

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed a tsunami of dire predictions, conspiracy theories, and fake news, but the worst example of hyperbole and fearmongering I’ve seen so far comes from someone we’re supposed to take seriously as a health expert. 

Multiple news outlets have reported that Richard Bright, a senior adviser at the National Institutes of Health and former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, planned to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health today that “Without clear planning and implementation of the steps that I and other experts have outlined, 2020 will be darkest winter in modern history.”

Um… has he ever read a history book? I’ve written before about the pitfalls of using historical analogies. It makes you look foolish when you try to claim something in the present is “worse than” or analogous to something in the past when you have no idea what you’re talking about.

I guess it depends on what you define as “modern history.” Most historians define the modern period as 1500 to the present, with ‘late modern’ beginning in 1815. Most people probably define ‘modern’ as much more recent, so I’ll be generous and say 1918 to the present. A lot of horrible events have happened over the past century. The 1918 Influenza Pandemic, the Holocaust, the Ukrainian Famine, the Cambodian genocide, the Hutu massacre to just name a few. I’m sure there were a few horrible winters in there.

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Nancy Pelosi was Right about Impeachment

In hindsight, Speaker Pelosi should have stayed the course and not given into her worst instincts.

As the dust settles on our third presidential impeachment in U.S. history with President Donald Trump’s acquittal, we can finally look back and analyze what went wrong. Democrats went into the impeachment process confident President Trump would be convicted and removed from office. After all, that’s the goal of the whole process. With that effort defeated, it looks like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) original reservations about impeachment were correct.

If Pelosi succumbed to her worst political instincts by handing out commemorative pens after signing the authorization to transmit the Articles of Impeachment, she was at her best when trying to restrain the most militant members of her party. Pelosi knew that once impeachment left the House, she had no control over where it would lead. Trump was unlikely to be convicted and removed from office by a Republican majority in the Senate.

After Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in November 2018, there were four failed attempts to launch an impeachment inquiry, on Jan. 3, March 27, May 22, and July 17, 2019, none of which had Speaker Pelosi’s support. Pelosi had publicly come out against impeachment, telling the Washington Post in March 2019: “Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country.”

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States Sue to Include Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution

Three states have sued to force the federal government to recognize the Equal Rights Amendment as an adopted amendment to the Constitution, because denying reality is what we do now when we don’t get what we want.

This week, Virginia did not become the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, as supporters claim, because the deadline to ratify the 1972 ERA expired on June 30, 1982–37 years ago. Additionally, five states that initially voted to ratify the ERA later rescinded their ratification prior to the deadline. In 2017, 2018, and 2020, Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia held symbolic votes to ratify the expired amendment.

Now Democratic state’s attorneys from those three states are suing to force the federal government to recognize the Equal Rights Amendment as an adopted amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Both the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have stated the 1972 ERA has not, and will not be adopted. According to NARA, “The Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has concluded ‘that Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States.'”

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