Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: Election news is court news and vice versa

The New York Times:

Top Court Clears Path for Democrats to Redraw House Map in New York

The ruling could allow Democrats to tilt anywhere from two to six G.O.P.-held seats leftward. Republicans vowed to challenge any gerrymandered map.

The case in New York was one of the final disputes outstanding across the country in an unusually active round of legal challenges stemming from last year’s decennial redistricting cycle. Based on past voter trends, the outcome now appears likely to give Democrats a slight national advantage over Republicans.

The Supreme Court and other federal judges had already ordered several Republican-led states to redraw maps that had diluted the power of Black voters. The changes could net Democrats two to three seats in the Deep South.

But Tuesday’s ruling could also offset recent Republican redistricting gains in North Carolina, where a new conservative majority on the state Supreme Court cleared the way for an aggressive gerrymander that could net Republicans three to four seats.

Election analyst Logan Phillips of Race to the White House:

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Whether you think gerrymandering is just politics or a bad thing, you can’t have just one party playing that game. 

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Michelle Goldberg/The New York Times:

A Texas Case Shows That Abortion Ban Exemptions Are a Sham

Soon after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, horror stories started emerging of women denied medically urgent abortions for pregnancies gone dangerously awry. In response, the anti-abortion movement developed a sort of conspiracy theory to rationalize away the results of their policies.

Abortion rights activists, they argued, were deliberately misconstruing abortion laws, leading doctors to refuse to treat women who obviously qualified for exceptions. “Abortion advocates are spreading the dangerous lie that lifesaving care is not or may not be permitted in these states, leading to provider confusion and poor outcomes for women,” said a report by the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute. The Catholic conservative Richard Doerflinger accused “pro-abortion groups” of spreading “false and exaggerated claims in order to ‘paralyze’ physicians and discredit the laws.”

Whether this argument stemmed from genuine denial or a cynical desire to mislead the public, a shattering case in Texas shows how absurd it is. Late last month, Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two, learned that her latest, much-wanted pregnancy was doomed because of a severe genetic disorder. If the pregnancy continued, she was likely to have a stillbirth, and if she didn’t, the baby had virtually no chance of surviving long outside the womb.

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Puck News:

Biden’s Hope & Change

Professional Democrats are split between those with a near-religious conviction that Biden’s problems are overblown, and those who believe the freakout is justified. The polling is hard to wish away, but focus group testing suggests the reality isn’t so simple, either.

Ben Coffey Clark, a partner at the communications firm Bully Pulpit Interactive, who is close to the White House, compared it to picking out a Halloween costume. Sure, you might wear a George Santos costume to a Halloween party this year, he said. But you wouldn’t do that next year—because it wouldn’t be relevant anymore. “Every election cycle, the same thing is true; some people only decide when they are asked to make a choice,” Clark told me. He pointed out—correctly—that the majority of Americans aren’t following the daily churn of political news, and that includes voters who don’t even know who the nominees will be. “There are millions of people who don’t know that the choice in 2024 will be a Trump versus Biden rematch,” Clark said. “A large reason they don’t know today is because the campaigns aren’t running massive advertising operations to make that choice clear. But next year those campaigns will launch, and you will see movement in the swing states as more folks become aware of the candidates.”

Biden’s team is also aware—and annoyed—that Trump is basically coasting to victory in the Republican primary while simultaneously avoiding the usual scrutiny that comes with the campaign trail, by minimizing his campaign events and skipping the debate circuit. Unlike 2020, Biden is the incumbent—and right now he’s on the receiving end of public blame and negative press attention for everything going haywire in the world. But next year, as the Biden camp sees it, voters will eventually wake up not only to Trump’s legal challenges and toxic personality, but also his unpopular positions on issues that favor Democrats, like healthcare and abortion. The election simply won’t be as abstract as it is today. And by then, we’ll also know which of the third-party candidates being named as choices in polls today will actually be on the ballot.

The Washington Post:

Inflation drops to 3.1 percent as Fed kicks off final meeting of 2023

A steady stream of encouraging news all but guarantees that the Federal Reserve won’t raise interest rates this week

A year after prices soared to four-decade highs, inflation for all sorts of goods and services has fallen considerably. The shift still leaves actual prices for eggs, bread, rent and other basics higher than just a few years ago. But costs aren’t rising at such a dizzying, rapid clip — bringing stability and predictability to household budgets and the economy at large.

Fresh data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Tuesday showed that prices rose 3.1 percent in November over the year before, and about 0.1 percent compared with October. That’s still higher than normal, but a vast improvement since the consumer price index peaked at 9.1 percent in June 2022.

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The Associated Press:

Biden goes into 2024 with the economy getting stronger, but voters feel horrible about it

Pollsters and economists say there has never been as wide a gap between the underlying health of the economy and public perception. The divergence could be a decisive factor in whether the Democrat secures a second term next year. Republicans are seizing on the dissatisfaction to skewer Biden, while the White House is finding less success as it tries to highlight economic progress.

“Things are getting better and people think things are going to get worse — and that’s the most dangerous piece of this,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who has worked with Biden. Lake said voters no longer want to just see inflation rates fall — rather, they want an outright decline in prices, something that last happened on a large scale during the Great Depression.

Dan Froomkin/Press Watch:

Here’s what news organizations need to tell the public about the 2024 election

If I were in charge of a major newsroom, I’d assign a legion of reporters to write daily about the stakes of the 2024 election, eventually putting together a special section that we’d encourage the usual audience to share with non-readers who may be under-informed or misinformed.  

The Atlantic magazine, to its great credit, did something like this in its December “If Trump Wins” issue. It was superb — but too erudite and writerly, and was preaching to the converted.

The New York Times also deserves kudos for its occasional series of alarming lookaheads by Jonathan Swan, Maggie Haberman and Charlie Savage. But even those stories are full of weak language like “critics call such ideas dangerous.”

And more generally, elite reporters almost always skip over what they consider the “obvious” parts – like an explanation of why the rule of law is so central to our democracy, or the importance of the separation of powers, or the value of civil rights.

What’s needed is simple explanatory journalism.

Brian Beutler/”Off Message” on Substack:

“What Happened On January 6 Is Not Good For Republicans, Full Stop”

Ryan Reilly, author of Sedition Hunters, on GOP efforts to rewrite the insurrection, and why Mike Johnson may have just stepped in it

I cited Ryan Reilly’s new book Sedition Hunters in Wednesday’s newsletter, because he has a unique vantage point on the effort by House Speaker Mike Johnson and other Republicans to rewrite the history of January 6, and help insurrectionists evade justice.

He thinks they have their work cut out for them.

(Disclosure: Ryan and I were coworkers at TPM from 2010-2012. Still, I recommend his book unreservedly, and not just in a “my friend wrote this book” sense. It stands apart from nearly all Trump-era political nonfiction by bringing colorful new characters and new kinds of information to light, rather than, say, confirming for the hundredth time that Trump is just as batshit behind the scenes as you’d imagine. It’s surprisingly funny, too—the right touch of comic relief for a topic this weighty.)

Tony Michaels with Cliff Schecter:

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