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Who’s comfortable — and who’s uneasy — with a changing American culture?



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WASHINGTON — America has always had its culture wars, and they’re only intensified when news events big and small are filtered through the prism of Donald Trump. (The latest debates over the Census question on citizenship, the transgender military ban, the Laura Ingraham vs. David Hogg conflict and even the popularity of the “Roseanne” reboot are just a handful of recent reminders.)

And the continuing divide over a changing American culture shows why the wars continue to rage. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 54 percent of Americans said that they are comfortable with American society becoming more diverse and tolerant of different lifestyles, gender roles, languages and other experiences, while 25 percent said that the changes make them uneasy.

But the geographic, generational and — yes — partisan differences over the changing culture also show us some of the broad outlines of the two party coalitions.

Here’s a closer look at who’s comfortable and who’s uneasy with a changing culture.

Most comfortable

  • Clinton voters: 80 percent
  • Liberals: 80 percent
  • Prefer a Democratic Congress in November: 77 percent
  • Democrats: 74 percent
  • Whites with a college degree: 64 percent
  • Millennials: 64 percent
  • Urban dwellers: 62 percent

Most uneasy

  • Prefer a Republican Congress in November: 45 percent
  • Trump voters: 44 percent
  • Republicans: 43 percent
  • Conservatives: 43 percent
  • Rural dwellers: 35 percent
  • Whites without a college degree: 32 percent
  • Baby Boomers and older: 31 percent

On abortion and Planned Parenthood

Another key finding in the newly-released data showed that support for abortion rights has hit a new high. Fifty-five percent of Americans now say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 43 percent say that it should be illegal in all or most cases. Also hitting a new high: The popularity of Planned Parenthood, which is now rated positively by 52 percent of Americans, compared to 25 percent who rate it negatively. (That’s up from 45 percent positive/ 30 percent negative in July 2015.)

Here’s a subtle but interesting disparity between those two numbers, by the way, that provides some insight into how the politics around funding for Planned Parenthood aren’t the same as the politics around abortion generally.

On the issue of whether abortion should be legal, there’s little daylight between whites and nonwhites (who favor legal abortion in all or most cases by a net 11 and 13 percentage points, respectively.) But when it comes to favorability for Planned Parenthood, nonwhites are significantly more positive than whites. Nearly six-in-ten (59 percent) view the organization positively, while just 13 percent view it negatively; among whites, it’s 49 percent positive, 30 percent negative.

The difference is even more stark among those with lower levels of education. Among those with a high school education or less, a majority — 54 percent — say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases, compared to 42 percent who say it should be legal all or most cases. But in the same subgroup, Planned Parenthood has a net positive rating by a big margin, with 48 percent viewing it positively and just 25 percent viewing it negatively.

“This is a reminder about the role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care services and who those services are being directed towards,” said Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducted the poll along with Democratic pollster Fred Yang.

New VA pick is getting pummeled on qualifications. That could be tough to recover from

The first 36 hours for new Veterans Affairs nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson have been, well, a little bumpy. Congressional Republicans and veterans groups are being very cautious (at best) about his unexpected selection. And most of the coverage has focused on how he would be walking into a leadership position in the government’s second-largest bureaucracy without any meaningful management experience.

Controversies for incoming nominees over policy, past statements or potential conflicts can be tricky — but also surmountable for many candidates if they handle them the right way. But skepticism over inexperience can be one of the hardest questions to overcome. (Remember Harriet Miers?) We know that this president is loath to change course, but if this level of criticism keeps up, it wouldn’t be shocking to start seeing some leaks about some second thoughts from the West Wing.

Trump to Putin: ‘If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win.’

Here’s NBC’s latest reporting on how Trump has urged aides not to tout moves to crack down on Russia, from NBC’s Carol Lee, Courtney Kube and Kristen Welker: “President Donald Trump’s national security advisers spent months trying to convince him to sign off on a plan to supply new U.S. weapons to Ukraine to aid in the country’s fight against Russian-backed separatists, according to multiple senior administration officials. Yet when the president finally authorized the major policy shift, he told his aides not to publicly tout his decision, officials said. Doing so, Trump argued, might agitate Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the officials….

“Officials said the increasingly puzzling divide between Trump’s policy decisions and public posture on Russia stems from his continued hope for warmer relations with Putin and stubborn refusal to be seen as appeasing the media or critics who question his silence or kind words for the Russian leader.”

More: “Behind the scenes, however, Trump has recently taken a sharper tone on Putin, administration officials said, but the shift seems more a reaction to the Russian leader challenging the president’s strength than a new belief that he’s an adversary. Putin’s claim earlier this month that Russia has new nuclear-capable weapons that could hit the U.S., a threat he underscored with video simulating an attack, “really got under the president’s skin,” one official said… Two officials said Trump told Putin during a phone call last week after Putin’s re-election: ‘If you want to have an arms race we can do that, but I’ll win.’”

Russia test-fires another missile after expelling dozens of U.S. diplomats

Of course, these Trump-Putin revelations come as Russia claims that it has test-fired a missile of the type that Putin bragged about (when he “got under the president’s skin.”) … *And* as Russia is retaliating for the expulsion of 60 of its diplomats from the United States by expelling 60 American diplomats from its own country. … *And* as POLITICO is reporting that Russian ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov has been pleading with Sen. Orrin Hatch for help securing meetings with U.S. lawmakers and officials who have refused or ignored his requests.

On the TODAY show, Antonov said of the current tensions: “It depends upon us to decide whether we are in Cold War or not. But … I don’t remember such [a] bad shape of our relations.”

Sessions won’t name a second special counsel to probe alleged FBI bias

Earlier this month, we noticed that some noteworthy members of Republican leadership were joining the call for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to appoint a special counsel to look at allegations of political bias in the FBI. Yesterday, we got our answer from Sessions: No dice. (although he does say that the U.S. attorney in Utah is also probing the issue, in addition to the DOJ inspector general.)

Here’s more from NBC’s Pete Williams: “Appointing a special counsel, Sessions said Thursday, is “by design, reserved for use in only the most extraordinary circumstances.” He noted that since the special counsel rules were established in 1999, they’ve been invoked only twice. In the meantime, Sessions said, the Justice Department ‘has successfully investigated and prosecuted many high-profile, resource-intensive matters.’”

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Familia feud? Latino Biden supporters in Miami push back on pro-Trump relatives



MIAMI — After several discussions with his mother-in-law over the upcoming presidential elections, Henry López, 49, said he now only receives texts from her.

Many of them contain social media posts with misinformation about how the United States will be on the brink of socialism if Joe Biden is elected president, including how Democrats want to take money from the rich to give to the poor.

Lopez’s in-laws fled Nicaragua after the 1979 leftist Sandinista revolution. His mother-in-law supports President Donald Trump and sees him as an anti-socialist crusader who will prevent the ideology from taking over the United States.

López, like other Biden supporters in Miami, is in a bizarre situation of trying to repeatedly explain to relatives and friends that he — and Biden — are not socialists.

“I explain that we have checks and balances in this country, that Trump is not really a Republican and has taken over the party,” López, who works in tech, said. “Trump is a narcissist and it’s all about him.”

This election year, the excitement among Latinos in Miami who support Trump is palpable, amid rallies, massive caravans organized at a grassroots level and a Trump salsa song that has gone viral. It’s a stark change from the more timid tone his supporters took in 2016 — and frustrating for Miami Democrats who point out Trump’s lack of a coordinated response to fight Covid-19 or his attacks on the Affordable Care Act.

Polls show Trump is doing better in Democratic leaning Miami-Dade County than he did in 2016, which worries Democrats. Hillary Clinton won the county by about 300,000 votes. Today, it feels more like a red county.

Around 70 percent of the population is Latino, and a common thread among many Trump supporters is that they come from countries that have been impacted by communism or socialism, such as Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The Trump administration’s constant messaging that a vote for Biden will eventually lead to socialism in the U.S. has been extremely effective.

One reason for the enthusiasm among Latinos over Trump is due to the “extraordinary level of attention the administration has given Cuban Americans and other Latino groups,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a Florida International University political science professor.

Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and former national security adviser John Bolton have traveled to Miami in the past to announce measures and sanctions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

“This is a community that appreciated being courted, and for good or evil, the president has done it,” Gamarra said.

Democrats including Biden have been pushing back, pointing out that Trump has not given temporary protected status to Venezuelans or moved the needle on human rights in Venezuela or Cuba.

But Gamarra said there’s a perception among Latino Trump supporters that although Biden won the Democratic presidential nomination, the agenda that “won” is that of the party’s more leftist candidates, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. Though this may be hard to understand, “this mobilizes this population,” he said.

Also stirring voters is the Spanish-language disinformation going around social media and WhatsApp groups — some from outside the U.S. — that links Democrats and their supporters to global socialist conspiracies. This disinformation is widely shared through Facebook, YouTube and family texts.

Family gatherings — and politics

For Maria Corina Vegas, a Venezuelan American Biden supporter, fighting against the socialism branding has become routine with her family.

The 53-year-old attorney said she constantly receives text messages from relatives on WhatsApp full of conspiracy theories, including QAnon.

When it comes to the Trump supporters in her life, Vegas said, “It’s really hard to talk to them from a rational point of view.”

She said she recently attended a small family gathering at her cousin’s house and quickly noticed the Trump sign outside as she arrived with her Biden bumper sticker.

She said they discussed politics the entire time.

“They think Biden is a centrist, but they think he’s too old and it will be Kamala Harris in control,” said Vegas, who volunteers with the Venezolanos con Biden support group.

Vegas pushes back by telling her family that she sees parallels between Trump and Hugo Chávez, the late authoritarian socialist leader of Venezuela. Democrats like Vegas have been pointing out Trump’s disregard of independent government agencies and, more recently, his refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election.

Vegas’ mother-in-law left El Salvador’s political turmoil, which saw a long civil war that pitted a leftist guerrilla group against the United States-backed Salvadoran right-wing government. She sees Democrats as socialists who want to raise taxes on the wealthy. Some of her friends from Guatemala and other countries are married to Cubans, and they are all Trump supporters. Vegas said she will sometimes get into discussions with them.

“I think my mother-in-law is embarrassed about me,” she said.

Democrats have been holding their own pro-Biden caravans, which recently reached over 1,000 cars, every weekend, as well as periodic rallies.

Last weekend, when Donald Trump Jr.’s anti-socialist bus tour made its final stop in Miami, the Miami Freedom Project, a progressive organization aimed at encouraging voting and civic participation, joined other organizations and held a candlelight vigil nearby in honor of the more than 200,000 people who have been killed by Covid-19 in the United States.

Florida for All, a coalition of progressive organizations, installed two billboards in the city of Doral, the heart of the Venezuelan community, with one saying, “Tufo a tirano,” or, “It smells like a tyrant,” in reference to Trump.

Also in Doral, the coalition covered over a dozen benches with pro-Biden banners in several locations including bus stops and public parks. Some the banners say in Spanish, “They make more noise, but we are more.” Other banners say, “Don’t let them bully you.”

“Venezuelans are being bullied if they support Biden. They are often accused of being socialists by other Venezuelans,” said Natalia Jaramillo, communications director for Florida for All.

Vegas said it goes beyond family discussions: “I know Venezuelan business owners who are afraid to say they support Biden because they feel it will hurt their business.”

Follow NBC Latino on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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BBC's Katya Adler exposes how Angela Merkel's Brexit wish was instantly shut down by Boris



BBC’s Europe Editor Katya Adler has explained how Boris Johnson’s dramatic no deal warning on Friday shut down German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Brexit plan.

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State legislative races take on added importance in 2020 as redistricting looms



WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to allow the Trump administration to stop the census count, coupled with the high court’s announcement Friday that it would hear arguments in a case that could leave undocumented immigrants out of the final count, have raised the already-high stakes for November’s state legislative elections that will play a large role in shaping the nation’s political battleground for the next decade.

A focus of intense efforts from both parties — aided by names like former President Barack Obama and former House Speaker Paul Ryan — the drive to win these local races has taken on even more importance as states brace for losing or gaining U.S. House seats and the fallout that comes from that.

The census findings are used to divide federal funding among states, reapportion seats in the House of Representatives and redraw congressional boundaries — a process handled by state legislatures in a majority of states and one that “reverberates for the next 10 years,” according to Tim Storey, executive director of the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Critics of the court’s decision argue that ending census data collection amid challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic could lead to an undercount in populations and have long-term effects on their representation — and the makeup of Congress.

State legislators can use the count to draw congressional district lines for their partisan advantage, a practice known as gerrymandering. In 34 states, the party that controls the state House, state Senate and governorship can craft congressional districts that boost its chances of winning the most U.S. House seats for the next decade. The Supreme Court declined to outlaw partisan gerrymandering last year.

“In some states, the fight for legislative control could mean the difference between a party having unfettered ability to draw the boundaries to their own advantage for the next decade or the other party having a check on their ability,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, and an NBC News contributor.

“In one-party states, the risk of obliteration for the minority party is quite real,” he added.

In the 2010 cycle, the last census year, Democrats lost nearly 700 state legislative seats and 20 state chambers, allowing Republicans to redraw more than four times as many congressional districts in 2011 and win more U.S. House seats than their share of the major-party vote in 2012, 2014 and 2016 — “the most lopsided redistricting process in modern history,” Wasserman said.

The National Democratic Redistricting Committee is looking to shift that balance this time. Led by former Attorney General Eric Holder and backed by Obama, the group has endorsed 200-plus state candidates and invested about $2 million into the contests.

“We need to be and are much better prepared for the redistricting process than we were 10 years ago,” Patrick Rodenbush, the group’s communications director, said.

On the other side, the National Republican Redistricting Trust is coordinating the GOP’s redistricting strategy with former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s support.

Republicans aim to maintain and grow their 59 state legislative chamber majorities while Democrats want to build on their 39, with both parties pumping in financial resources. Democratic super PAC Forward Majority is investing $15 million into the most competitive districts that “have a dramatic impact” on national politics, co-founder Vicky Hausman said.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has pledged to spend $50 million this cycle (five times its 2010 expenditure), while the Republican State Leadership Committee has touted record-breaking fundraising, including a $23 million haul in the last quarter (triple that of 2016).

Democrats’ top targets include Texas, Florida and North Carolina, which are all expected to gain one or more U.S. House seats after reapportionment and where one-party control over congressional redistricting is at risk. Texas and Florida are both GOP trifectas, while North Carolina has a GOP legislature with no gubernatorial veto power over redistricting. A state court scrapped Republicans’ congressional maps there in 2019, deeming them invalid partisan gerrymanders.

“It’s critical that we invest the money now into these state legislative races in these target states if Republicans want to have power in Washington in the House of Representatives at any point in the next decade,” RSLC President Austin Chambers said. As few as 42 legislative seats could swing as many as 136 seats in Congress, he stressed, an estimate shared by Storey, of the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures.

Both parties are also spending in states that don’t rely on legislatures for congressional redistricting. Arizona and Michigan use independent commissions, and even though the 2020 contests will not significantly alter the states’ maps, the outcomes still matter.

“Redistricting isn’t just about creating a lever of Democratic power in a Republican state,” DLCC President Jessica Post said. “It’s also about creating Democratic trifectas of state governments and making sure that existing redistricting processes in nonpartisan-commission states are upheld by securing levers of power in the legislature.”

Republicans are spending to protect their majorities but are on offense elsewhere in the country with party bigwigs like former Speakers of the House Paul Ryan, John Boehner and Newt Gingrich bolstering them. The RSLC is investing in Nebraska and Ohio to strengthen the party’s dominance there and in New York to install more conservatives in the legislature.

National politics are expected to trickle down-ticket this year with state candidates appearing on the same ballot as President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who is regularly ahead in most polls.

Democrats have reclaimed 10 chambers since Trump was elected and believe the political backdrop surrounding the presidential election will benefit them.

“I think Republicans in the states have really tied their fates to President Trump,” the DLCC’s Post said. “The environment provides a big advantage for us because of just the absolute lack of action on Covid-19 from the Republican Party.”

The RSLC argues Trump’s momentum is on Republicans’ side and believes they can flip the 115-plus target seats held by Democrats where the president won in 2016. National Republican Redistricting Trust Executive Director Adam Kincaid said he is “actually encouraged by his ability to carry Republicans across the line” in state legislatures.

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