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Ditch the switch? Call to go on permanent daylight saving time grows



In the days after our chronically sleep-deprived country “springs forward,” costing us an hour of rest, disoriented Americans face a slightly greater risk of heart attack and stroke. There are more car crashes. Workplace accidents increase, too.

For decades, most of the United States has observed daylight saving time, dutifully changing the clocks twice a year. But recently, many have begun to question the semi-annual switch — not only because of the potential dangers associated with it, but because staying on one time year-round could bring benefits ranging from the economic to the emotional, according to those leading the charge to “lock the clock.”

“We don’t have a good reason to do it. Let’s stop,” said Scott Yates, 54, of Denver, an activist who for more than five years has advocated for the elimination of the time change and has testified before state legislatures about it. “Even if it doesn’t kill you, it’s annoying.”

“Even if it doesn’t kill you, it’s annoying.”

It’s a movement that has suddenly exploded in popularity. So far this year, at least 36 states have introduced legislation to end or study the practice, more than any year before. Some bills call for all-year standard time, but most endorse permanent daylight saving time — which would result in an extra hour of evening sunlight for more of the year in exchange for a delayed sunrise in the winter.

The issue has played out on social media with the hashtags #DitchTheSwitch and #LockTheClock, and it has pitted recreational businesses that would benefit from longer days, like golf courses, against groups that worry about the danger of darker mornings, such as parent-teacher associations.

“The positive is obvious: Nobody likes to change the clock,” said David Prerau, author of “Seize the Daylight: The Curious and Contentious Story of Daylight Saving Time.” “You lose an hour of sleep, and nobody likes that.”

But delayed sunrises can be problematic, Prerau said, adding that an experiment with year-round daylight time in the 1970s was “very, very unpopular.”

“People didn’t like waking up in the dark, going to work in the dark, and especially didn’t like sending their kids to school in the dark on dark city streets or standing on the side of rural roads,” he said. “There was a strong negative reaction.”

Nonetheless, so far, legislation to go on year-round daylight saving time has passed in at least seven states, including Delaware, Maine and Tennessee this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Oregon was the most recent, approving year-round daylight saving on June 17.

“After the 2018 time change, I don’t know what happened, but people got grouchy.”

“After the 2018 time change, I don’t know what happened, but people got grouchy,” Oregon state Rep. Bill Post, a Republican who sponsored the bill, told the Oregon Public Broadcasting network.

The grouchiness is not just in Oregon. A month earlier, Washington legislators adopted year-round daylight saving time. California voters have approved the same, and sometime as early as next month, the California state Senate is expected to review the matter, according to state Assemblyman Kansen Chu, a Democrat and the bill’s author.

Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill to make daylight saving time permanent in the state if federal law changes to allow it on May 8, 2019, in Olympia, Wash.Rachel La Corte / AP file

But the state enactments of year-round daylight time are meaningless — for now, at least.

Federal statute says that any state can opt out of daylight saving and elect to go on standard time permanently — which Arizona, Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have done for decades. But states that follow daylight saving time must adhere to the federally set dates for it, which are currently the second Sunday in March through the first Sunday in November.

A push for more sunshine, led by the Sunshine State

Leading the charge to change the federal law is Florida. In 2018, it became the first state to approve year-round daylight time after Greg Steube, a Republican who was then in the state Senate and is now in the U.S. House, filed legislation to stop the clock shift.

Steube said he got the idea one fall after his barber mentioned her young children were having trouble adjusting to the hour-difference. On a whim, Steube decided to look into getting rid of the practice, and polling among constituents revealed an unexpectedly high level of support for sticking to one time all year, particularly daylight time. Steube said he was also bombarded with calls from executives in the tourist industry who felt an extra hour of daylight could help business.

Following state passage of the bill, called the Sunshine Protection Act, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., took the fight for year-round daylight saving time to the federal level, along with Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla. Rubio first proposed it last year, but it stalled in Congress. Rubio and Buchanan reintroduced it in March, arguing it would decrease rates of childhood obesity and improve the economy, among other benefits.

“It has become clear this antiquated practice no longer serves any purpose.”

“It has become clear this antiquated practice no longer serves any purpose,” Rubio wrote in a letter to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the key committee that needs to take up the bill.

The Sunshine Protection Act has bipartisan support, and President Donald Trump has already voiced his approval. In March, after the U.S. moved its clocks ahead an hour, Trump tweeted that permanent daylight time was “O.K. with me.”

Steube acknowledged that this isn’t the most pressing issue facing Congress.

“Yes, this is something that is silly,” he said. But, he added, “This could bring members from both sides of the aisle together and affect the lives of every American.”

How daylight saving time came to be (It wasn’t the farmers)

Daylight saving time began in World War I, when Germany, Britain and other countries implemented it to conserve energy for the war. The United States followed suit in 1918.

Despite the widely held myth, it wasn’t farmers who started it. In fact, farmers have historically opposed it because it costs them an hour of morning sunshine used to move their products to marketplaces. (Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Saving Time,” blames the farmers myth on Lincoln Filene, a Boston department store owner who wanted more daylight hours for shoppers to come in; thinking it would sway the powerful farm lobby at the time, Filene created a “preposterous” list of benefits farmers would enjoy from daylight saving, which spread, Downing said.)

While Benjamin Franklin and a New Zealand bug hunter have been credited with inventing the concept, it was a British man with a penchant for horseback rides at sunrise, William Willet, whose idea of springing the clocks forward an hour caught on in Europe and then in the U.S. in the early 1900s.

When it was first implemented, most people didn’t question it.

“A lot of people thought of it as a war measure,” Prerau said. “In a war, you’re not so picky.”

After the first World War ended, daylight time was officially repealed in America, but continued to be used in some parts of the country. It was then implemented year-round during World War II, and repealed again after the war ended.

But by that point, many Americans had begun to like daylight time. Some entire states enacted it, while elsewhere, individual cities opted in. The result was dizzying: On a bus ride that covered just 35 miles from Steubenville, Ohio, to Moundsville, West Virginia, passengers had to change their watch seven times to accurately keep time.

“It became clock chaos.”

“As it spread more and more in the 1950s and ‘60s, it became clock chaos,” Prerau said.

To quell the madness, Congress passed the Uniform Time Act of 1966, requiring daylight saving time, if followed, to be in effect statewide.

In the years since, Congress has re-examined the start and end dates of daylight time, extending it twice.

The first time, in 1986, Congress voted to extend it from six to seven months, moving up the start date to the first Sunday in April and keeping the end date the last Sunday of October, less than a week shy of Halloween that year; this was a disappointment to lobbyists for the sweets industry, who planted candy pumpkins on the seats of every senator at the time, hoping to sway them to extend daylight saving a little longer so there would be an extra hour of sunlight for trick-or-treating.

The candy sellers got their way two decades later, in 2007, when daylight time was extended on both ends to its current eight-month span.

The arguments for and against year-round daylight saving time

Those against switching the clocks point out that the original purpose of daylight time, to conserve energy, no longer applies (a Yale professor of economics in 2008 found daylight time actually increased energy demand).

Among the proponents of year-round daylight saving are businesses, including convenience stores and golf courses, that would benefit from the extra daylight, and others who see year-round daylight saving as a boon to public safety. A 2015 study in the Review of Economics and Statistics found there was an average of 7 percent less crime overall following the shift to daylight saving time, with a 27 percent drop during the evening hour of gained sunlight.

“Even better, robbery rates didn’t increase in the morning, even though those hours were darker – apparently, criminals aren’t early risers,” the authors of the study wrote in a blog post.

If daylight saving time is enacted year-round, the sun would not rise in December and January until after 9 o’clock in major cities like Detroit, Indianapolis and Seattle, and about 8:30 a.m. in New York and Chicago, according to Prerau.

Sunrises that late could put students in danger, some say.

“These students would be waiting for buses or walking to school in the dark, making them more difficult to see and potentially creating safety issues for our children as they cross streets or wait at intersections,” the Florida PTA said in a statement.

Others worry that dark mornings could affect Americans’ mental health, bringing on more depression and seasonal affective disorder. (This is a point of contention: Rubio and other proponents say permanent daylight time reduces the risk of seasonal depression.)

Regardless, the lack of morning light could take people by surprise, as history has shown.

Amid the Arab oil embargo, President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973 that sprung clocks forward an hour, taking effect in January 1974. Year-round daylight saving time was supposed to be in place for two years, but the following summer, despite the fact that the energy crisis wasn’t resolved, lawmakers scrapped it because Americans missed seeing the sun at the start of their bleak winter days.

“Going to work in the pitch-dark was very unpleasant for a lot of people,” Prerau said. “It’s also colder because you’re getting up in the dark before sunrise.”

A strong push, despite a controversial history

Those in favor of making daylight saving time year-round say there are workarounds to the dark mornings, such as starting school later so kids walk when it’s light out.

And they point to growing interest in ditching the clock switch in other countries, too. Canada’s British Columbia premier has said if Washington, Oregon and California eliminate it, he would follow suit. In the European Union, lawmakers voted this year to eliminate it; each country in the bloc will have until 2021 to choose between daylight saving time or standard time. Australia, too, has debated ending it.

Scott Yates, right, a tech start-up founder who is a leading advocate of the movement to get rid of the seasonal time change, testifies beside then-Rep. Peter Lucido in Lansing, Mich., in 2017.Michigan Legislature

Yates, the “lock the clock” activist, said his blog has gotten a record number of visits this year, and said he has had legislators from both sides of the aisle reaching out to him.

All of it has left him hopeful, he said, that America might “fix this thing.”

“This is such a completely nonpartisan issue, we might actually be able to get it done,” Yates said.

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Elizabeth Warren doubles down on a surprisingly risky pitch: Democratic unity



WASHINGTON — Beto O’Rourke tried it. Kamala Harris tried it. Cory Booker tried it. And one by one, they all flamed out. Now, Elizabeth Warren is pitching herself as the Democratic candidate who can unify the party’s progressive and moderate wings, a play that could lead her down the same bridge to nowhere, unless her message can quickly find some resonance.

The Massachusetts senator has pleaded with voters not to pick a divisive nominee who risks paving the way for President Donald Trump’s re-election, telling a devoted crowd of supporters Tuesday in Manchester, New Hampshire, that she was Democrats’ “best chance” of marshaling “a unified party” to the voting booths come November.

At the same time, Warren’s also feeling pressure from outside allies to return to her old “fighter” persona. After her unity-centric message flopped in Iowa and New Hampshire — where Warren finished in third and fourth place behind left-wing favorite Bernie Sanders and moderate upstart Pete Buttigieg — one operative supportive of Warren told NBC they hoped the results would be a “kick in the ass” for a campaign that’s been reluctant to stray from its “uniter” message.

The early-state struggles put Warren in a strategic conundrum that she is delicately navigating. She wants to demonstrate her combative streak as a “fighter” without appearing divisive, lest she undercut her closing pitch that she’s uniquely suited to unify the party. In recent days she has taken subtle jabs at her main rivals — Sanders and Buttigieg — while reserving her most aggressive attacks for Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire entrepreneur rising in national polls.

The bifurcated message is a gamble that could attract — or alienate — broad swaths of voters.

“The problem that Warren has is all of the Bernie people think she’s a neoliberal shill and all of the centrists think she’s a raging Maoist,” said Sean McElwee, a left-wing organizer and analyst at Data For Progress whose work has been cited by the Warren campaign. “The people who want ‘Medicare for All’ don’t believe she wants it, and the people who don’t want Medicare for All do believe she wants it.”

The Democratic establishment has a long memory and remembers Warren’s successful battles against President Barack Obama on Wall Street-friendly personnel and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. On the other end of the spectrum lies a younger left-wing cohort that became aware of Warren in 2016 when she declined to endorse Sanders, and recently grew skeptical when she softened her support for the Medicare for All policy by saying she’d defer that push to her third year in office.

Uniting those factions is Warren’s goal, and she’s learning that it’s easier said than done.

“We can’t have a repeat of 2016. When we roll into the general election with Democrats still mad at Democrats, Democrats still angry, some Democrats staying home — we need to have a party that is united,” Warren said on MSNBC’s “All In With Chris Hayes,” echoing her message to New Hampshire voters on Election Night.

But she has also offered new critiques of her rivals, however subtle. As voters headed to the polls in New Hampshire on Tuesday, she told reporters in Portsmouth that she was “determined to get things done” after being asked if she was more pragmatic than Sanders. “I’m not going to criticize Bernie, you know I haven’t. But I’ve tried to make clear: The approach I use overall, I believe we ought to try to get as much good to as many people as quickly as we can,” she said.

In front of an Arlington, Virginia, crowd the campaign estimated at 4,000, she lambasted Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, on Thursday night for his past comments attributing the 2008 housing crisis to banks ditching the racially discriminatory lending practice known as “redlining.”

O’Rourke, Harris and Booker all tried to follow a playbook that was successful for Obama — an aspirational message and embrace of progressivism, while steering clear of the most radical ideas on the left in the hope of attracting middle-of-the-road voters. Like Obama, the three endorsed single payer health insurance before backing away from it.

“The other thing that’s happened is the moderates are pretty happy with their choices” between Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Buttigieg and Bloomberg, McElwee said. “And the left is pretty happy with its choices. … Everyone’s incentives are to stay in their corner and try to fight it out.”

Warren gained traction last year with her message of “big structural change” and promises to fight a corrupt establishment where money talks and ordinary voters’ voices are drowned out. She became a favorite of many liberals and briefly eclipsed Sanders, surging in polls both nationally and in the early states as the candidate “with a plan for that.” But as Sanders rebounded from a heart attack and consolidated the left, Warren rolled out a message of unity mere weeks before voting began.

“One thing we’ve seen is that above all, voters are looking for authenticity,” said Aleigha Cavalier, who was the communications director for the O’Rourke and Deval Patrick campaigns. “They are very, very wary when you change your message midcourse. It might be the right message and it might be really appealing to voters, but they need to believe that you believe it.”

And then there’s the messenger.

“Women are held to a very, very, very different standard when it comes to authenticity,” said Cavalier. “When other candidates in the race do this — and I’m thinking of Pete Buttigieg — he has been given the liberty of changing his message midcourse a number of times in a way that Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren have not.”

Buttigieg, a little-known mayor of South Bend, Indiana, when he launched his campaign last April, initially spoke in abstract and aspirational terms that intrigued leftists and establishment Democrats. Later in the year, he re-positioned himself as the moderate alternative to Biden and began actively running against ideas like single payer health care and free public college.

Warren’s struggle is rooted in the fact that the two wings of the party aren’t fond of each other, each believing deeply that one of their own should win. Moderates say a left-wing nominee would alienate swing voters, assure Trump another four years, and cost Democrats the House. Progressives say the moderates’ theory of “electability” has been proven dead wrong by the failed push to elect what they view as milquetoast figures, such as John Kerry in 2004 and Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But Warren allies argue she can marry those two sides in a way that Booker, Harris and O’Rourke could not: By using the “credentials,” as one Democratic operative put it, that she has on the progressive side, plus the good will she’s built up with the more establishment wing.

Her campaign sees it less as a pitch born of being in the middle of two factions, and more as a demonstration of bona fides that can appeal to voters across the aisle. To them, it requires looking no further than Iowa — where Warren won both in liberal Johnson County and (on final alignment) in Sioux County, the state’s most conservative — to see her across-the-party appeal.

Still, so far that appeal has not necessarily translated into votes.

“Warren is somebody who I have respect for, but I have noticed that she slid on her stance on health care. So I’m a little leery,” said Dan Declan of Londonderry, New Hampshire, ahead of that state’s primary.

Kyle Thurman, another New Hampshire voter, said then that he could imagine himself supporting Warren. “I like her a lot. A lot more than Pete,” he said.

Last week, both of them voted for Sanders.

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